Another beautiful series of music videos by 20 Schemes Music that exalts the Saviour. The music comes from various talented individuals who fellowship as Gracemount Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Another beautiful series of music videos by 20 Schemes Music that exalts the Saviour. The music comes from various talented individuals who fellowship as Gracemount Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Steve Gallagher is the founder of Pure Life Ministries which helps individuals deal with sexual addiction.
In this short video, he addresses the question of whether there is a hell or not. Too many in the emergent church (like heretic Rob Bell) are decrying the reality of the very place Jesus Christ warned against for those who have not placed their faith in Him alone.
One of our contributors, Sony Elise, recommends Steve’s Bible studies and carries four of them in her online bookstore. You can find these studies at Sony Elise Christian Books.
John MacArthur brings the truth of God’s judgment to the forefront. God Himself is the greatest threat to the life of any human being apart from the intercession of Jesus Christ.
Pastor John MacArthur continues with a Biblical explanation of the sovereign gospel. His first message introduced the doctrine and now expands on that teaching on Grace to You. His passage comes from Romans 9-11.
As we prepare for collective worship over this weekend, may we remember that all the glory may go to Christ. Our times of meeting should be to remind us of the joys that will come when we share eternity together.
Our precious Savior said the following words in Matthew 11:28-30.
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
It echoes the words from King David in Psalm 130.
A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Proverbs 27:5-6 Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Proverbs 29:5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.
As I peruse the internet, listen to people chat, watch interaction between people with each other, as well as interaction within the church, I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in this age that seems to lend itself to credibility even from Scripture.
I’m sure we have all seen this to some extent or other and maybe even agreed with it to a certain extent.
It is the “Get rid of all those negative relationships that don’t build you up” meme or quote.
It’s interesting how this generation views negativity. When I was younger, quite a bit more than I am now, there was nothing wrong with negativity, to a certain extent. If we look in the Bible at Exodus 20, we will find that God was negative towards His people and demanded complete perfection. Seven of these commandments say, “You shall not,” and one says, “You will have no…” The other two were about the Sabbath and obedience to parents.
I used to think, every time I saw one of these, “Yeah! I can see what they’re saying. You don’t want someone pulling you down to sin and do things wrong before the Lord. Those are negative people and, as such, you need them out of your life.”
As I’ve studied people’s responses towards things they want to do, my eyes have been opened, through the years, into what was really being said. Years ago, we lived in England and I became friends with someone through the internet. She homeschooled her children, just as we homeschooled ours. One day, out of the blue, she contacted me to tell me her child was looking to become an actress and had the availability to act in one of the newer style family movies which in the early days was not of the quality they are today.
She told me how much they were doing and then began complaining about other people who had been friends and, “…were so negative towards me about this that I had to cut them off.” I was troubled by the fact that people would give her a rough time over it so I started sympathizing with her. After a few days, she began giving me a detailed schedule of what would be happening and, it was at this point I realized the people who were supposedly negative may not necessarily have been.
I struggled to know what to say to her while wondering if what I was going to say would make her think I was being negative, as well. As I had very few friends, anyway, I didn’t want to lose her friendship and kept quiet for a time. The more I thought about her ‘predicament’ (my understanding) the more I became concerned over the situation and how it would affect them spiritually.
I eventually shared with her to be careful that she guard her time with her daughter and their time with the Lord so they didn’t fall by the wayside spiritually. She said she was was stunned and accused me of being negative. At that point she cut me out of her life and refused to talk with me for many years. Eventually, she did speak with me again but only for a short time. The evidence of her new life was painfully apparent in her dress, her speech, and her lifestyle.
As I think of other similar times that this has happened, I’m saddened by what is considered positive influences and what isn’t. I’m also very concerned when people try to use the Word of God to make all this seem as if it were credible.
The truth of the matter is, if you only want yes individuals within your life to give you the nod over whatever it is you want to do then you are headed down a dangerous path. You see, we are sinful creatures and we sin. When we only allow people to advise us who refuse the truth how can we expect they will give us godly advice?
Psalm 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
We, as true believers and children of the Sovereign Lord, are expected to share the truth, in love, with each other. We cannot expect others to give us what we want to hear no matter how much we want it. The truth of the Scriptures is the only way we can know how to do what is right. If we choose the right way that means we have to keep our eyes on Scripture regularly and know what direction we must go. If we don’t follow the Lord, He will discipline us to bring forth the peaceable fruit of righteousness and to keep our feet on the right path. Heb 12:11.
If you find someone willing to share the truth with you, don’t cut them out of your life. Proverbs 9:8 makes it clear that if you rebuke a scorner, he will hate you but when you rebuke a wise man that person will love you. If every time someone seeks to give you godly advice and you cut them out of your life the question must be asked, “Are you a true believer?” If you are then why aren’t you listening to godly advice? If you aren’t then today is the day of salvation!
Contentment…this can be a difficult subject both in learning and in life. This is something the Lord wants each of His children to learn, it is also something we should be willing to take great pains to learn. What is even harder but should be concerning to each of us who are the children of God is contentment in the midst of trials. You see, contentment in the Lord seems to be simple enough.
The Lord uses each situation for us to learn dependence on Him and a desire to fulfill His will. Yet, in the midst of that, as the backdrop of life, the trials we face are there for us to learn to be contented in the midst of that specific trial knowing Who is in control and the plans He has or us is not only for His honor and glory but also for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
The Lord clearly told His disciples that the servant is not above the Master and if the world hated the Master and treated Him horribly then it would treat His servants just as bad, if not worse. As we grow in the grace of the Lord we find that life does not get easier but harder. Each trial or tribulation we face is that much harder than the last but, for each one, we are given the grace and strength to get through.
When we fight the Lord, instead of gracefully letting Him have His way, we find that the way is so much more difficult than it should be. Fighting only brings anger and frustration our way instead of the peace that passes all understanding. It becomes easy to fume and fret about what we have to face in life. Instead of having a quiet spirit that comes from the Lord, we then have a complaining and fretful spirit. This brings us to a point of having to be disciplined by the Lord.
As the trial or tribulation comes into our lives we begin fretting and fuming that we don’t want it to happen. We were content for things to be as they were and yet it takes those trials to make us more like the Lord Jesus Christ, to grow in faith.
Many times we are like the child that grows impatient and demands their own way when things are not done exactly the way they want them. They sulk and throw temper tantrums because they think that all should be exactly as they would have it, not as the parents know is best for them. They want the candy, the fruit, the dessert, the sweets, the play time, the whatever the case may be instead of spending their time studying, or wanting to eat the proper and healthy foods the parents know they should have so they will grow up strong and wise.
The Lord knows exactly what we need in our lives to make us wise and strong believers. To fret against His wise bestowments (wise even in the midst of our trials) tells Him that we love this world more than Him. How can we desire the world above Him? Is wealth, comfort, life, health, friends, entertainment, sports, family, or anything else more important than Him? To put anything before Him is to worship the created thing more than the Creator, who gave His only begotten Son for our worthless souls.
As each trial comes into our lives let us be willing to thank the Lord for what He taught us already in the past trials and be willing to trust that “God is good all the time and all the time God is good.”
We live in a society where people won’t receive advice from those who haven’t “walked in their shoes.” The older I get, the more I realize that experience is not always necessary.
Whether I have been married or not, I know how husbands and wives are to treat each other. Whether or not I ever have children, I know a few things about what works and what doesn’t work in raising children. I also realize that all children are different, so what works for one may not work for another. Basic principles can be the same though.
The Bible has clear guidelines as to how a person is to live. It really doesn’t matter what I would do if I were going through your circumstances. There is still a right way to handle a situation and a wrong way.
I believe part of the reason people get defensive is that they do not want to be judged for bad decisions they are making. If you are living in any way contrary to the Word of God, you are judged already. No one should be unwilling to receive input, regardless of the source.
For many years, I have periodically counseled people on marriage, parenting, and other issues. I often felt unqualified, but people needed help so I prayed and asked God for wisdom. Between Scripture and things I have learned from reading, praying, and watching others, I believe God used me during those times.
Too many times, people use excuses to do what they want to do. They are not interested in what the Bible says; they want to do what feels good in the moment. Because of this, children are hurt by parents divorcing. Selfishness reigns so that there is constant heartache and strife. God gave instructions for a reason. He loves His children and desires them to live a peaceful, holy life that He can bless. There is a reason that he condemns greed, envy, unforgiveness, hatred, etc. Those things cause us to do things that we will live to regret … if we live long enough.
Maybe I haven’t gone through what you are going through, but I know we serve a loving God. I know that His plan for you is good and not evil … IF you follow His ways.
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles (Matthew 5:39-41).
I love the Sermon on the Mount, as this is where Jesus taught His followers to not merely obey the law but to go the extra mile in serving God, experiencing life with Him instead of just doing the bare minimum (the Pharisee way).
Although the Bible is the guideline for every true Believer, the above verses are ones I never hear taught. I hear more people who are concerned about being taken advantage of, and whose focus is on defending themselves and their “rights.”
Jesus went on to say:
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (Matthew 5:46).
I agree that evildoers should be punished, and Scripture affirms that, but Jesus taught us to go the extra mile in order to live at peace as much as possible and to love those who do us wrong.
Maybe part of the problem is that we think of love as warm, fuzzy feelings toward a person when, in reality, love is something that comes from the heart. It is refusing to be angry and bitter no matter how much of a right you have to be so.
I realize this is easier said than done, but this is where the Holy Spirit comes in. James 5:16 tells us that “the effectual, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” I am testimony to the fact that, if you desire desperately to have a clean heart toward someone who has wronged you, God will answer that prayer.
My bottom line is this: Do you respond to situations like Jesus would? There is a time to speak and a time to be silent. There may be a time to defend yourself, but I believe that it’s often pride that causes our flesh to become defensive and retaliate. We need to stand for truth, but our focus should be on Christ and glorifying Him. If that is not your motive, pray for wisdom before you do anything other than what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
The last few nights, I have not slept well. Last night, I was really tired but I expected it was going to be another long night. I was thinking of different things I could do to help me relax and rest my mind. I was thinking of turning on some music when I thought of Times Square Church. I used to listen to their messages when I couldn’t sleep but I’ve not done so in a while. I went to my website and saw the title of Pastor Carter Conlon’s message, “Finding the Will of God.” I knew then that it was definitely God who directed me, and I highly recommend this message to everyone who is willing to take 45 minutes to hear a message from the Lord.
Recently, I have been evaluating my life: laying hold on what I know is God’s will and praying for wisdom in areas I’m not sure about. Sometimes I think I am so obsessed with knowing God’s will and scared of stepping outside of it that I become paralyzed and end up wasting time that I could spend just following Him. That probably sounds stupid if you’ve not experienced that feeling, but a couple years ago, I realized God’s will is not always as complicated as I think it is. Last night, I was reminded that God’s Word is very clear what His will is for His people. It may not tell us where we are to work or who we are to marry but it tells us how we are to live. If I am not doing that, I am kidding myself to think that God will entrust me with greater things. If I am living the life He has commanded me to and drawing near to Him on a daily basis, I must trust Him to direct me. Until He does, I continue to do what I know He has called me to, at least for the time being.
I think one of my concerns is that it’s easy for me to get in a rut and do things just because that’s what I’ve been doing. I do not like change and so I tend to fight it. God has brought me a long way in the 23 years I’ve been serving Him but I am still constantly learning and hopefully changing. I desire to take the whole written Word and apply it to my life so that I can hear His voice when He desires to redirect my personal life.
I encourage you to focus on this too. No task is too small. “Little is much if God is in it.” If you’re doing what He has called you to, it is important, and all He requires of you is to do the best job you can. Your calling may be to raise children who are going to impact the Kingdom in a powerful way. It may be to do the behind the scenes work for a ministry that God is using in a mighty way. Maybe you are not the one speaking and writing but you handle the schedule, filing, mail sorting, whatever. This is not small in God’s eyes. It takes the whole Body working together to accomplish God’s work.
The world measures success by how well you’re known, how many degrees you have, etc. God measures success by how faithful you are in the work He gave you to do. That is what He has equipped you for. Nothing else is important to Him, and He is the only one you have to please.
Take some time this week to study what the will of God is for every Believer. If you have been wondering what God’s will is for your life, this is a great place to start. If you are settled in knowing that you are doing God’s will, it still won’t hurt to make sure you are in His will in every area of life.
A wonderful look at Christian gratitude from a dear friend of mine. You can read more of his work here: By Way of Reminder.
Taste and See!
A review by Stuart Brogden
Barry Cooper has written a short but most excellent book, entitled Can I really trust the Bible? And other questions about Scripture, truth and how God speaks. While many very good and expansive apologetics books have been written, this small volume provides the reader an accessible wealth of information and insight as to the nature of the collection we call the Bible. Cooper gives us 5 short chapters, answering three questions, “Does the Bible claim to be God’s word?”, “Does the Bible seem to be God’s word?”, and “Does the Bible prove to be God’s word?” from 5 different perspectives:
Our author introduces his book with a short look back at Winnie the Pooh and his penchant for honey – and how Pooh proved honey. The jar had a label claiming it was honey, but could the label be trusted? The contents looked like honey, but you can’t tell for sure by looking. The only way to be sure the jar contained honey was to taste it and see!
In explaining how the Bible is trustworthy, Cooper reminds us that the Bible does not claim to contain all knowledge about God – but that it contains all we need to know about God. And, still in chapter one, he points out Jesus’ attitude towards Scripture – He does not differentiate between the words of God and the word He caused men to write. The inspired word is trustworthy – not all any human author of Scripture wrote is inspired, only that which God intended and caused to be included in the canon of Scripture. In explaining the need we have of God’s written word, our author explains that giving it to us in writing allows God’s people to be sure and definite of knowing God’s word. If someone comes along claiming to speak for God, God’s word tells us how to respond – as the Bereans did, by searching the Scriptures to see if things are true; to test all things and cling to that which is good. Having God’s word in writing provides us this defense.
And since the Bible is the word of God, it is reasonable that He provided for its protection, preservation, and its identity as His word. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it decided what was in the canon of Scripture. Some evangelicals have been put off or discouraged by these claims. But Cooper rightly points out that the early church (hundreds of years before anything recognizable as the Roman Catholic Church) “didn’t willfully “declare” certain books to be from God; they could only recognize what was already apparent.” If God is God, sovereign over all He created, why should we be surprised when He uses His creation to produce, preserve, publish, and declare His word?
In chapter 4, Cooper gives us 7 quick arguments to refute claims that the Bible has errors:
Lastly, our author exhorts us to taste the Scriptures, to see if they are sweet to our souls as honey is to our tongues. Since the Spirit of God is the Author of Scripture, and since He lives in everyone who has been born of God, He will work in each child of God to develop our taste buds and give us understanding as we read and ponder the Word of God. Cooper warns us, the Bible “hasn’t been given to us so that we can know about God. It has been given to us so that we can know God.” He then quotes A.W. Tozer:
The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts.
This, dear reader, is the bottom line: Those who have been made alive in Christ will experience what Cooper and Tozer wrote about. Those who have not been born again will not be able to. Our goal is not to convince unbelievers the Bible is true. Our goal is to know the Bible is true by our our knowledge of the Word Himself – and make noise about Him and His gospel to those who are not of His sheepfold, trusting that He will bring all the sheep home that the Father has given Him. This is what His word tells us – and His word is trustworthy.
The following practical and theological items, although they apply to every believer regardless of their particular theological tradition, are especially directed to those who adhere to Reformed/Calvinistic theology.
I. Recognize that Salvation is Broader than the Calvinist Camp.
1. All of us, at one time or another, were Arminian in our thinking. A professing Arminian may be just as unregenerate as a professing Calvinist, but one’s adherence to Arminian theology does not necessarily exclude them from the kingdom of God. It is disturbing to hear some Calvinists assign all Arminians to the lowest abyss while conveniently forgetting that they too, at one time, were Arminians. Although the great 18th century evangelist, George Whitefield, had his differences with the staunch Arminian John Wesley, he was able to see the hand of God in Wesley’s ministry and count him as a brother in Christ. Thus, we must be patient with our brethren and recognize that both ethical and theological maturity takes time. In fact, there are some truths that, for whatever reason, we may not yet be ready to receive – as Jesus told His own disciples, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now” (John 16:12).
2. God commands us to accept one another in Christ, in spite of our differences (Romans 14:1; 15:7). If Christ has accepted our Arminian brethren, who are we to reject them? The 19th century Baptist preacher, C.H. Spurgeon, once said:
We give our hand to every man that loves the Lord Jesus Christ, be he what he may or who he may. The doctrine of election, like the great act of election itself, is intended to divide, not between Israel and Israel, but between Israel and the Egyptians – not between saint and saint, but between saints and the children of the world. A man may be evidently of God’s chosen family, and yet though elected, may not believe in the doctrine of election. I hold there are many savingly called, who do not believe in effectual calling, and that there are a great many who persevere to the end, who do not believe the doctrine of final perseverance. We do hope that the hearts of many are a great deal better than their heads. We do not set their fallacies down to any willful opposition to the truth as it is in Jesus, but simply to an error in their judgments, which we pray God to correct. We hope that if they think us mistaken too, they will reciprocate the same Christian courtesy; and when we meet around the cross, we hope that we shall ever feel that we are one in Christ Jesus (New Park Street Pulpit [London: Passmore & Alabaster, Vol.6] p.303).
In another place, he also said:
Far be it from me to imagine that Zion contains none but Calvinistic Christians within her walls, or that there are none saved who do not hold our views (cited in Iain Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon [Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1966] p.65).
3. Most Arminians reject the Doctrines of Grace out of gross ignorance, misunderstanding, or misrepresentation on the part of sincere, but misinformed Calvinist’s. Thus, often they are not rejecting genuine Calvinism, but distortions of it. One’s heart may be right, while one’s head may be wrong.
4. Calvinism is not the Gospel. One is not saved by a proper understanding of election, Divine sovereignty, or the extent of the atonement. These issues, no doubt, are important, but they are not the core of the Gospel; they indirectly relate to the Gospel (as do many other Biblical teachings), but are not the essence of it. The puritan, John Bradford, stated: “Let a man go to the grammar school of faith and repentance, before he goes to the university of election and predestination.” In the same way that it is wrong to detract from the Gospel message, so it is wrong to add to the Gospel message one’s particular theology. Once again, this is not to deny that the five-points of Calvinism are not important matters; but simply to point out that the minute one makes mandatory for salvation a correct understanding of election, effectual calling, or the extent of the atonement (regardless of how true they might be), they are guilty of adding to the Gospel. This is usually the error of young, zealous Calvinists (although not always), but to use the words of James, “My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (James 3:10).
II. Don’t Make the Mistake of Accepting Everything “Reformed” or “Calvinistic.”
1. Scripture alone is the final standard of authority for doctrine and practice (Isaiah 8:20; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21), not Luther, Calvin, Owen, or any other great Reformed theologian. This is not to deny that these men – and men from other theological traditions – have made great spiritual contributions to the church, but only that they are not the final arbiters of truth. I know that many Reformed people would assent to this, but how many truly practice it? If we accept everything under the banner of “Reformed” or “Calvinistic,” without serious scriptural investigation, are we truly practicing “Sola Scriptura”? Let us not make a pope out of Calvin, Luther, or any other mere mortal (Jeremiah 17:5).
2. Be very careful about accepting entire systems of theology (e.g., Covenant theology, Dispensationalism). Most often, the truth is found somewhere in the middle – and usually, a system of theology contains a part of the truth, but not the whole of it. It appears that God has spread His truth throughout various theological traditions (Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, etc.) so that we might not put our trust in men or institutions, but in the testimony of God’s Word.
3. The truth is, some aspects of Reformed theology are erroneous.
A. Infant Baptism. For a thorough evaluation and refutation of this doctrine, see Paul K. Jewett, Infant Baptism & The Covenant of Grace (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1978); T.E. Watson, Baptism Not For Infants (Worthing, England: Henry E. Walter, 1962); Alexander Carson, Baptism: Its Mode and Subjects (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications [Reprint]); Greg Welty, A Critical Evaluation of Infant Baptism (Fullerton, CA: Reformed Baptist Publications, n.d.).
B. The Covenant of Grace. For a critique of this view, see Jon Zens, “Is There A ‘Covenant of Grace’?” Baptist Reformation Review (Autumn – 1977, Vol.6/No.3), pp.43-53; Richard L. Mayhue, “Hebrews 13:20: Covenant of Grace or New Covenant: An Exegetical Note,” The Master’s Seminary Journal (Fall – 1996, Vol.7/No.2), pp.251-257.
C. The Reformed View of the Law. For an evaluation and critique of the traditional view of the Law and its relationship to the believer under the New Covenant, see Douglas J. Moo, “The Law of Christ as the Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View,” [Chapter 5] in The Law, The Gospel, and the Modern Christian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993); “‘This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!’: The Foundation for New Covenant Ethics and Ecclesiology,” [ed. Jon Zens] Searching Together (Summer – Winter, 1997, Vol.25/1,2,3); Fred G. Zaspel, “Divine Law: A New Covenant Perspective,”Reformation & Revivial [Journal] (Summer – 1997, Vol.6/No.3); Stephen Westerholm, Israel’s Law and the Church’s Faith (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1988); John G. Reisinger, Tablets of Stone (Southbridge, MA: Crowne Publications, 1989).
D. Theonomy. In fairness, not everyone who is Reformed accepts Theonomy or Christian Reconstructionism. I have noticed, however, that many who embrace the Doctrines of Grace, make the unfortunate mistake of accepting Theonomy. For a critique of this unscriptural system, see Jon Zens, “Moses in the Millennium: An Appraisal of Christian Reconstructionism,” Searching Together (Vol. 17:2,3,4 – 1988); [eds. William S. Barker & W.R. Godfrey] Theonomy: A Reformed Critique (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990).
E. The Protestant Reformers Persecuted the Anabaptists and Catholics as Well as Sanctioned the Use of the Sword Against their Opponents. The Reformers had no scriptural authority to malign, persecute, and even kill such groups as the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics. While this is no longer a practice among those who are Reformed, there were many prominent Reformation theologians who thought it was perfectly acceptable – even to the point of citing Scripture for its justification (e.g., Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, et al.). This, once again, demonstrates how important it is to not accept everything that comes from the pen of our Reformation heroes since, not only did they err in their interpretation of Scripture at points, but they sometimes engaged in great acts of sin. The late historian, William Warren Sweet, was correct when he said:
There is a widespread notion among Protestant groups that the separation of church and state, and thus religious liberty, was one of the immediate products of the Reformation, that the early Protestants were advocates of a large tolerance, and that religious liberty was but the logical development of the principles held by all the Reformers. Just where this notion arose is difficult to say, and no reputable historian of our times would endorse it. The fact is that the rise of Protestantism was accompanied by an unprecedented outburst of intolerance (Religion in Colonial America, p.320).
J.C. Ryle, a favorite author among many Reformed people, was quite candid in stating:
Any religion, like that of Mahomet, who made converts with the sword, is not from above but from beneath. Any form of Christianity which burns men at the stake, in order to promote its own success, carries about it the stamp of an apostasy. That is the truest and best religion which does most to spread real, true peace (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Vol.4], pp.387-388).
In light of these statements, one wonders what Ryle, and even Reformed people today, would think of Calvin, who had Michael Servetus burned at the stake, or of Zwingli’s complicity in the drowning of the Anabaptists? These men, indeed, should have known better than to commit such evil deeds against other humans – particularly in the name of the Prince of Peace! But, as the old adage goes, “The best of men are men at best.” For more on this, see Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1964); Leonard Verduin, The Anatomy of A Hybrid (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1976); William R. Estep, The Anabaptist Story (Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans [Revised], 1996).
F. Rigid Clericalism/Unscriptural Ecclesiology. The Protestant Reformers as well as most Reformed churches today, have been unable to break with the strict clericalism which they have inherited from both Rome and Constantine. The Reformers were right in their soteriology (doctrine of salvation), but wrong in their ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). They rediscovered the Gospel, but were unable to fully recover the ecclesiology of the New Testament. Thus, in many respects, the Reformation was only a partial reformation. Not only did the Reformers fail to break with the rigid clericalism of their past (including the error of infant baptism), but church attendance in Protestant territories was compulsory. Thus, believers and unbelievers were forced to gather together under the same church membership:
It is one of the incredible paradoxes of history that the Reformers, who so boldly and effectively recaptured the Gospel of grace from its medieval distortion and restored the central message of justification by faith, should have retained the mass church of the mixed multitude, the territorial church of the Constantinian compromise, in which real faith was not a requirement for membership (H. Bender, These Are My People, p.70).
Unfortunately, much of the ecclesiology within our historic Reformed denominations is fraught with practices and cherished traditions which run counter to the New Testament. For further study, see Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership (Littleton, CO: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1986); William A. Beckham, The Second Reformation (Houston, TX: Touch Publications, 1995); Greg Ogden, The New Reformation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990); Frank A. Viola, Rethinking the Wineskin (Brandon, FL: Present Testimony Ministry, 1997); Alex R. Hay, The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary (Published by the New Testament Missionary Union, 1947).
III. Don’t View Any Period of Church History as Perfect (e.g., the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century), Nor Any Particular Group of Christians (e.g., the Reformers, Puritans, Anabaptists).
1. We must value the spiritual contributions of different men and different periods of time within church history, but never idolize them.
2. We must be willing to look at both the good as well as the faults of our spiritual and theological heroes.
3. We must seek to guard ourselves from the error of a party-spirit as well as from making a virtual pope out of Calvin or Luther – something which, by the way, the apostle Paul explicitly told us not to do (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-6; 4:1).
4. When we fail to realize the faults of our spiritual/theological heroes, or when we are guilty of idolizing the past, we end up:
A. Making man the measure or standard of righteousness, instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. We fail to see the progression of church history and end up chained to the past – not recognizing that each period of history has its own unique contribution and blessing (including ours in the twenty-first century).
Romanticizing the past (“the good-old days”). We end up viewing history from a romanticized perspective, rather than from reality, which includes both great achievements as well as great down-falls. If even the Bible records the failures and sins of the greatest saints (e.g., David, Peter, et al.), why should we then ignore the faults of lesser saints throughout church history (e.g., Calvin, Luther, et al.)? Perhaps one of the major reasons why God allowed the failures of various biblical characters to be recorded, is so that we would not idolize such persons nor form theological parties around them. For those willing to look at the faults of our Reformation and Puritan heroes – not for the purpose of discrediting them, but for the purpose of seeing a true picture – I recommend the following: Thomas N. Smith, “The Perils of Puritanism,” Reformation & Revivial [Journal]: Puritanism I (Spring – 1996, Vol.5/No.2), pp.83-99; Jon Zens, “What Can We Learn From Reformation History?” Baptist Reformation Review (Autumn – 1978, Vol.7/No.3), pp.1-13; Leonard Verduin, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren(Grand Rapids: Wm.B. Eerdmans, 1964).
IV. Because We Have Been Given Greater Scriptural Insight, Calvinists Should Be the Model of Humility and Love.
1. Consider the grace and blessings which God has lavished upon you: He could have chosen to create you into a mouse or even a cockroach but, instead, chose to make you into a member of the human race; He could have chosen to plant you in the most remote and harshest place on this planet but, instead, chose to plant you in the free and prosperous land of America; He could have left you in sin and darkness but, instead, chose to redeem you and adopt you as His child through Christ Jesus; And He could have left you in your Arminian confusion but, instead, chose to graciously reveal the Doctrines of Grace to you. Therefore, do you have any excuse for pride or arrogance toward others – particularly toward our Arminian brethren? As the apostle Paul says, “For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).
2. Because of the tendency to become prideful over the Doctrines of Grace (1 Corinthians 8:1), we must continually remind ourselves of the words of our Lord: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; cf. John 15:12,17; Romans 12:3,10; 1 Corinthians 13:4,13; Ephesians 4:1-3,32; Philippians 2:1-4; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:8; 1 John 3:14-18; 4:11). For further study, I highly recommend: Jonathan Edwards, Charity and its Fruits (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust [Reprint], 1969).
3.Seek to cultivate and improve such spiritual characteristics as patience, kindness, and non-retaliation. Robert Chapman, whom Spurgeon considered to be the most saintliest man he ever knew, once said: “There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ. My great aim will be to live Christ” (Robert L. Peterson, Robert Chapman: A Biography [Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1995] p.29). This, likewise, should be the goal of the Calvinist (or any believer for that matter).
4. The only way to reverse the common assumption that Calvinists are haughty and proud, is to simply not behave in this way.
5. Although those who adhere to the precious Doctrines of Grace should be ready always to articulate and explain their beliefs, we must be careful to not go looking for debates or disputes with our Arminian brethren – as Paul reminds us in Philippians 4:3, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Let us also remember that we do not always have to have the last word, nor is it necessary to always “win the debate” – as Spurgeon wisely warned his own students at The Pastor’s College:
In all probability, sensible conversation will sometimes drift into controversy, and here many a good man runs upon a snag. The sensible minister will be particularly gentle in argument. He, above all men, should not make the mistake of fancying that there is force in temper, and power in speaking angrily. A heathen who stood in a crowd in Calcutta, listening to a missionary disputing with a Brahmin, said he knew which was right though he did not understand the language – he knew that he was in the wrong who lost his temper first. For the most part, that is a very accurate way of judging. Try to avoid debating with people. State your opinion and let them state theirs. If you see that a stick is crooked, and you want people to see how crooked it is, lay a straight rod down beside it; that will be quite enough. But if you are drawn into controversy, use very hard arguments and very soft words. Frequently you cannot convince a man by tugging at his reason, but you can persuade him by winning his affections (Lectures to My Students [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1977] Vol.1, p.188).
6. Christian love, however, does not exclude a proper and humble boldness. Proverbs 28:1 reminds us that “the righteous are bold as a lion” (cf. Acts 4:29,31; Philippians 1:14).
V. Don’t Major on the Minors. Be very Careful Where You Plant Your Flag.
1. There are some issues or controversies not worth getting involved in – at least not to the point of disrupting the unity and peace of the church.
2. If you end up majoring on things not truly essential, you will either ignore those that are important and worthy of your efforts – or – people will tend to not take you seriously on vital matters because of your propensity to make a big deal over insignificant issues. This would be the spiritual or theological counterpart of “crying wolf.” I am amazed at how many Christians are obsessed with reclaiming America as a “Christian Nation” or who spend most of their available time warning other Christians of the threat of secular humanism or the latest conspiracy theory, yet cannot define the doctrine of justification (Martin Luther believed that justification was the article by which the church stands or falls). Many of these same people want the Ten Commandments to be the moral basis for our country, yet cannot even name them! Quite frankly, if the Devil can divert you to endlessly chase unedifying or non-essential issues, he has won the day.
3. Don’t allow others to drag you into their personal theological controversies.
In many cases, those who are in constant friction with others over relatively minor theological issues, do so because: (1) They are spiritually immature; (2) Lack discernment in recognizing what is essential or non-essential; and (3) They engage in unimportant disputes because they’re not truly engaged in genuine spiritual warfare. It’s akin to soldiers, during peace-time, who concentrate on the relatively petty details of shining shoes or making certain that their uniforms are always starched because there’s no real war to fight. Thus, they spend much of their time concentrating on insignificant duties. Actually, the Christian who pursues “fruitless discussions” (1 Timothy 1:3-7) stands under the disciplining hand of God since, unlike the soldier who serves during peace-time, our war is not over, but continues to rage on until Christ returns (2 Corinthians 10:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 Peter 5:8-9).
VI. Recognize That You Can Learn From Those Who Are Outside of the Reformed Camp.
A number of years ago, a young Calvinist fellow told me, “I only read Reformed authors!” My immediate response was, “Why limit yourself?” Apparently, he thought that God only teaches those who are Reformed or that they are the only ones who have anything worthy to say. The truth is, God can use the lowliest or most uneducated saint to teach us His truth – including our Arminian brethren. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to agree with everyone we converse. It does mean, however, that we must be willing to listen to those outside of our theological tradition and to accept that which agrees with Scripture and reject that which doesn’t. Don’t limit the avenues which are available for your instruction and sanctification.
VII. Seek to Be A Man/Woman of the Text of Scripture.
That which separates the men from the boys, theologically speaking, is the ability to define and defend one’s theology from the biblical text. Some Christians argue their case from philosophy or general theological assumptions, but the Christian who is able to articulate his views from Scripture itself will stand head over everyone else because, not only does he have a proper starting-point, but his arguments will carry greater weight because they come from God’s Word. Instead of speaking in vague generalities about spiritual or theological matters, they are able to precisely and exegetically support their opinions because they are daily studying the contents of Scripture. To his own students, Spurgeon wisely advised:
There is one book which you all have, and that is your Bible; and a minister with his Bible is like David with his sling and stone, fully equipped for the fray. No man may say that he has no well to draw from while the Scriptures are within reach. In the Bible we have a perfect library, and he who studies it thoroughly will be a better scholar than if he had devoured the Alexandrian Library entire. To understand the Bible should be our ambition; we should be familiar with it, as familiar as the housewife with her needle, the merchant with his ledger, the mariner with his ship. We ought to know its general run, the contents of each book, the details of its histories, its doctrines, its precepts, and everything about it . . . A man who has his Bible at his fingers’ ends and in his heart’s core is a champion in our Israel; you cannot compete with him: you may have an armory of weapons, but his Scriptural knowledge will overcome you; for it is a sword like that of Goliath, of which David said, “There is none like it” (Lectures to My Students[Vol.1], pp.195-196).
VIII. In Purchasing Books, Be Selective and Purchase Only the Best.
A man’s library is a good indicator of his thinking and theology. The wise believer, therefore, should not waste his money or time on the sensational and shallow. Although the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:12 are true (“the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body”), this does not undermine the value of securing profitable books which help to inform our minds and clarify the meaning of Scripture (2 Timothy 4:13).
IX. The Calvinist, Above All Others, Should Seek to Be Productive in His Walk For Christ.
1. Knowledge brings accountability. The more knowledge that one has of the Word of God, the more accountable they are to live in obedience to it and to manifest the fruits which spring from that knowledge. Thus, there is no excuse for an unproductive and lazy Calvinist. Don’t be a spiritual fat cow!
2. Don’t settle for low levels of grace within your life. Seek to excel in your Christian walk – as Paul urges us in Romans 12:11, “not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10; Hebrews 6:10-12).
3. Practice disciple-making. It amazes me how many people grow in the Doctrines of Grace and who excel in their grasp of God’s revelation, but who never make any effort to disciple others. Think of the many experienced and older Christian men who never impart their wisdom and knowledge to younger men. In my opinion, this is a waste of the rich spiritual and intellectual resources which God has given to each one of us, as well as disservice to the body of Christ. For more on mentoring and disciple-making, see Paul D. Stanley & J. Robert Clinton, Connecting (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1992); Bill Hull, The Disciple Making Church (Grand Rapids: Fleming H. Revell, 1990).
4. Be optimistic about your future and service unto Christ – as was William Carey, the founder of modern missions, who said: “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”
5. The Calvinist should seek to be the model of hospitality and charity (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).
6. Be generous and liberal in your giving to others (Deuteronomy 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:1-4; 9:7). William S. Plumer, “He who is not liberal with what he has, does but deceive himself when he thinks he would be more liberal if he had more.” Henry Ward Beecher, “In this world it is not what we take up but what we give up that makes us rich.”
X. Develop A Theology of Listening.
1. So often, when we converse with other believers, we tend to talk past each other because we have not learned the value and discipline of listening. James 1:19 tell us, “But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”
2. I am persuaded that most of our doctrinal controversies throughout church history could have been solved or perhaps eased had Christians been more willing to listen carefully to one another.
3. Learn to be patient with the verbal blunders of others – “For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well” (James 3:2).
4. As hard as it may seem, learn to value the criticism that you receive from others. Spurgeon wisely advised his own students at the Pastor’s College in London to not view criticism as necessarily a bad thing:
You must be able to bear criticism, or you are not fit to be at the head of a congregation; and you must let the critic go without reckoning him among your deadly foes, or you will prove yourself a mere weakling. It is wisest always to show double kindness where you have been severely handled by one who thought it his duty to do so, for he is probably an honest man and worth winning . . . The best of people are sometimes out at elbows and say unkind things; we should be glad if our friends could quite forget what we said when we were peevish and irritable, and it will be Christ-like to act towards others in this matter as we would wish them to do towards us . . . A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week to week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand undiscriminating admirers if you have sense enough to bear his treatment, and grace enough to be thankful for it. When I was preaching at the Surrey Gardens, an unknown censor of great ability used to send me a weekly list of my mispronunciations and other slips of speech. He never signed his name, and that was my only cause of complaint against him, for he left me in a debt which I could not acknowledge. I take this opportunity of confessing my obligations to him, for with genial temper, and an evident desire to benefit me, he marked down most relentlessly everything which he supposed me to have said incorrectly. Concerning some of these corrections he was in error himself, but for the most part he was right, and his remarks enabled me to perceive and avoid many mistakes. I looked for his weekly memoranda with much interest, and I trust I am all the better for them (Lectures to My Students [Vol.2], pp.169-170,175).
5. Criticism Will:
A. Keep you humble. Criticism helps to deflate swollen-egos.
B. Inform and educate you.
C. Keep you dependent upon your heavenly Father.
D. Help to confirm that you are not a man-pleaser – as Jesus warned His own disciples: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).
XI. Don’t Allow Your Past Failures to Hinder Your Service to God.
1. It’s important to remember that the greatest of men within redemptive history have had their short-comings and failures, yet we still used by God. Therefore, “Let us press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1; cf. Philippians 3:12,14).
2. Don’t allow yourself to fixate on the failures and sins of your Christian life, but look to the greater work of sanctification that God is doing in your life. Soldiers don’t quit! John Owen, “Think of the guilt of sin, that you may be humbled. Think of the power of sin, that you may seek strength against it. Think not of the matter of sin . . . . lest you be more and more entangled.”
3. While it is granted that a Christian may act hypocritical at times, a genuine believer will not continuously live a life of hypocrisy (1 John 3:9-10). Henry Scudder, in his classic work, The Christian’s Daily Walk, writes:
Uprightness being part of sanctification, is not fully perfect in this life; but is mixed with some hypocrisy, conflicting one against the other. It has degrees, sometimes more, sometimes less . . . A man is not to be called an upright man, or a hypocrite, because of some few actions wherein he may show uprightness or hypocrisy: for a hypocrite may do some upright actions, in which he does not dissemble, though he cannot be said to do them in uprightness; as Jehu destroyed the wicked house of Ahab, and the idolatrous priests of Baal, with all his heart (2 Kings 10). And the best man may do some hypocritical and guileful actions, as in the matter of Uriah, David did (1 Kings 15:5). It is not the having of hypocrisy that denotes a hypocrite, but the reigning of it, which is, when it is not seen, confessed, bewailed, and opposed. A man should judge of his uprightness rather by his will, bent, and the inclination of his soul, and good desires, and true endeavors to well doing in the whole course of his life, than by this or that particular act, or by his power to do. David was thus esteemed a man according to God’s own heart, no otherwise; rather by the goodness of the general course of his life, than by particular actions: for in many things he offended God, and polluted his soul, and blemished his reputation (pp.159-160).
XII. Recognize That Your Greatest Power is Found in Prayer.
E.M. Bounds once said, “To give prayer the secondary place is to make God secondary in life’s affairs.” In his book, The Weapon of Prayer (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Reprint, 1991), he further stated:
The men to whom Jesus Christ committed the fortunes and destiny of His church were men of prayer. To no other kind of men has God ever committed Himself in this world. The apostles were preeminently men of prayer. They gave themselves to prayer. They made praying their chief business. It was first in point of importance and first in results. God never has, and He never will, commit the weighty interests of His kingdom to prayerless men, who do not make prayer a conspicuous and controlling factor in their lives. Men who do not pray never rise to any eminence of piety. Men of piety are always men of prayer. Men who are not preeminently men of prayer are never noted for the simplicity and strength of their faith. Piety flourishes nowhere so rapidly and so rankly as in the closet. The closet is the garden of faith (p.33).
Written by Darryl M. Erkel (1998)
There is perhaps no greater duty in the life of a Christian parent than to raise one’s children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It is our first and most important ministry, for God has placed these little ones in our care. If we fail to evangelize and catechize our children, yet diligently share the gospel with the world, we have failed to be obedient to Lord we proclaim as Savior. To that end, I would like to share a wonderful article I read from Pastor Geoff Kirkland who author’s the blog Vassal of the King. Please take time to read through what I believe are biblical and practical steps to raising up your children to fear and love the Savior.
“Teach Your Children to Fear the LORD
The primary teachers that God gives to children to teach them the words, ways, and works of God is their parents. One of the highest duties that parents have is the delightful privilege and lofty duty to teach their children the fear of the LORD.
It should be noted that in Psalm 34:11, the psalmist gathers the children (“come”) and then commits to teaching them verbally (“listen to me”). This here lays forth a helpful model for parental instruction of children. Parents should gather the children and verbally instruct the children daily.
The book of Proverbs reveals why this is so important as it is the fear of the LORD that is wisdom (1:7-8). If a child stores up the words of God within him then he will know the fear of the LORD (2:1, 5; 3:1, 7). Wisdom calls out and begs for the naive to understand wisdom (8:4-5).To know God is understanding and to fear God is wisdom and this is the fundamental building block of all biblical wisdom, knowledge, and learning that parents must instill in their children’s hearts and minds (9:10).
So the question is asked, how do you teach a child to fear God? Here are a few practical suggestions to help.”
Read the rest of the article here.
As you browse the sermons available online, on the television, or on the radio, have you grown tired of the drivel that passes itself off for ministry of God’s holy, infallible, inerrant Word? Far too many so-called preachers of today are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, and they are seeking only to tickle the ears of men.
In my own ministry of the Word, I have appreciated what I have learned from Alistair Begg. This message is part of his available series entitled, “The Pastor’s Study, Volume 2.” While it is labeled as part of a series for pastors, this message is convicting and challenging for all true believers. Your sermon of the week for January 15th is The Centrality of the Cross.