Monday, November 30, 2009

"Jesus Is Here"

From Justin Taylor...

A video chapter from the Jesus Storybook Bible, read by David Suchet.

Free from self....Jesus is all

"Let us look at our lives in the light of this experience [in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10] and see whether we gladly glory in weakness, whether we take pleasure, as Paul did, in injuries, in necessities, in distresses. Yes, let us ask whether we have learned to regard a reproof, just or unjust, a reproach from friend or enemy, an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us, as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honor are nothing, and how humiliation is in very truth what we take pleasure in. It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.”

-- Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness, page 83.
HT: Ray Ortlund

Sunday, November 29, 2009

"Hast Thou Heard Him, Seen Him, Known Him?"

(The antidote to idolatry...)

Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him?
Is not thine a captured heart?
Chief among ten thousand own Him;
Joyful choose the better part.

Idols oft they win thee, charm thee
Lovely things of time and sense;
Gilded thus does sin disarm thee,
Honeyed lest thou turn thee hence.

What has stripped the seeming beauty
From the idols of the earth?
Not a sense of right or duty
But the sight of peerless worth ...

...Not the crushing of those idols
With its bitter void and smart [pain],
But the beaming of His beauty
The unveiling of His heart.

Who extinguishes their taper [candle]
Till they hail the rising sun?
Who discards the garb of winter
Till the summer hath begun?

‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw;
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw.

Draw and win and fill completely,
Till the cup o'erflow the brim;
What have we to do with idols
Who have companied with Him?

Chorus: Captivated by His beauty
Worthy tribute haste to bring;
Let His peerless worth constrain thee,
Crown Him now unrivaled King!
----------------------------------------------

-Miss Ora Rowan (1834-1879)

The 'Algorithm' of the Gospel

“He that believes in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved, be his sins never so many. But he that does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ must be damned, be his sins never so few.”

- Thomas Brooks


If that sounds right to you, then I think you've understood the true gospel and the only way of salvation. If it sounds wrong, I am afraid you probably haven't.... (cp. Rom. 5:20-21).

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Father and his wayward children

Do you believe, truly believe, that if you had been the prodigal, that the Father would have come running down the lane to welcome you?

(Luke 15:11-24)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Gift and Duty of Thanksgiving

Mark Galli's essay on "The Impossibility of Thanksgiving"

"The Manhattan Declaration"

The Manhattan Declaration
A Call of Christian Conscience

from their introductory page:

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:
1. the sanctity of human life
2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

You can read and download the declaration, and view the list of religious leaders who have signed it (and add your own signature) at their website.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Fill Your Affections with the Cross of Christ"

“When someone sets his affections upon the cross and the love of Christ, he crucifies the world as a dead and undesirable thing. The baits of sin lose their attraction and disappear. Fill your affections with the cross of Christ and you will find no room for sin.”

- John Owen, quoted by C. J. Mahaney in Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2008), 34.
"Of First Importance"

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Stone Will Be Rolled Back for Each of Us

"He came back.

"After that brutal Friday, and that long, quiet Saturday, he came back. And that one intake of breath in the tomb changes everything. It changes the very reason I drew breath today and the way I move about in this world because I believe he’s coming back again. The world has gone on for more than two millennia since Jesus’ feet tread the earth he made. What would they have said back then if someone had told them that some two thousand years later we’d still be waiting? They would’ve thought back to that long Saturday and said, ‘Two thousand years will seem like a breath to you when you finally lay your crown at his feet. We don’t even remember what we were doing on that Saturday, but let me tell you about Sunday morning. Now that was something.’

"These many years of waiting will only be a sentence in the story. This long day will come to an end, and I believe it will end in glory, when we will shine like suns and stride the green hills with those we love and the One who loves. We will look with our new eyes and speak with our new tongues and turn to each other and say, ‘Do you remember the waiting? The long years, the bitter pain, the gnawing doubt, the relentless ache?’ And like Mary at the tomb, we will say: ‘I remember only the light, and the voice calling my name, and the overwhelming joy that the waiting was finally over.’"

The stone will be rolled away for each of us. May we wait with faithful hearts."

—Andrew Peterson CD liner notes for Resurrection Letters Volume II (Centricity Music: 2008)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Some Things I Think Evangelicals Can Learn from Catholicism

What's printed below is the gist of the lesson I taught today, as part of the series, "Always Being Reformed by the Word of God"

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…” 2 Tim.3:16

Christians and churches should always want to please the Lord in all things by discerning what is best which includes examining everything, holding on to the good, avoiding all that’s bad (Col. 1:10; Phil.1:10; 1 Thess.5:21;-22). In order for that to be true, we must continually allow the Word of God in Scripture to ‘reform’ our beliefs, values and practices – not only as individual Christians, but as a church together. (1 Tim.3:14-15; cp. Matt. 28:18-20).

The Protestant Reformation was triggered as Martin Luther and others began to examine beliefs and practices of the (Catholic) Church in light of the teaching of God’s Word, centered in the true Gospel. That led them to reject some beliefs and practices, to revise others, and to add others.

As Protestant, evangelical Christians, we believe the Roman Catholic Church is fundamentally and seriously mistaken about key doctrines such as justification by grace alone through faith alone, and the unique authority of Scripture. But because the Catholic Church has been influenced by Scripture, there are still things we can learn from the Catholic (and ‘high church’) stream of Christianity. To say it another way, we as evangelicals need to be continuously opened to being ‘reformed’ by the Word of God as well, including in the areas described below.

What we can learn from Catholics (and other ‘high church’ traditions):

-- reverence, sense of transcendence – Heb. 12:28-29; John 4:23-24; 2 Cor. 7:1.
*When was the last time you experienced a sense of ‘awe’ and deep reverence in relating to God? What were the causes for this? How can things like music and even architecture play a role in this?

-- respect for the Church universal, its nature, ‘authority’, and it’s place in salvation as the ordained by God for proclaiming his message and carrying out his work (Matt.16:16-19 ; Acts 2:41; Eph. 3:10-11; 4:4-6, 11-16).
*In the New Testament, it’s unimaginable that a professing Christian would not be baptized, and not be joined to the church. Why do you think baptism and church membership are considered ‘optional’ by so many professing evangelical Christians today?
*When are ‘parachurch ministries’ (e.g. a youth ministry like ‘Youth for Christ’) helpful, and when are they unhelpful?


-- the importance of ‘catechizing’
Catholic (and Lutheran and Presbyterian) churches have traditionally taken the task of ‘catechizing’ very seriously, as a means for teaching and passing on the Christian faith to new believers. Why should ‘catechizing’ be especially important to evangelical Christians and churches? (Deut.6:4-9; Matt.28:18-19; Col.1:28; 2 Tim.4:2-4)

-- The use of ‘imprimatur’ (a bishop’s granting permission to publish approved books for ‘the faithful’ to read) -- cp. Jas.3:1ff.; Tit.1:9; 2 Pet.3:16ff.)

-- benevolent service to ‘parish’ and a commitment to ‘social justice’ in the right sense (for example, in opposing abortion and in defending traditional marriage) – Matt.5:16; 1 Tim. 6:18; 1 Pet.2:11-17)

For further study: “Holy Ground: Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic” by Chris Castaldo


“Nothing in My Hand I Bring: Understanding the Differences Between Roman Catholic and Protestant Beliefs” by Ray Galea (you can read the first chapter online at http://www.matthiasmedia.com.au/Samples/nimh/nimh_sample.pdf)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Chris Castaldo's book, "Holy Ground"

I am very glad to recommend Chris Castaldo’s book, “Holy Ground – Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic,” by participating in his blog tour. Chris serves as Pastor of Outreach and Church Planting at College Church in Wheaton, IL.

One of the things I most appreciate about the book was learning from Castaldo that the factors and influences leading people to journey from Catholicism to Evangelicalism are much more varied and complex than matters of belief and doctrine alone.

Still, the questions that lingered in my mind did in fact relate to doctrine and theology. What follows are Chris’s illuminating, thought-provoking answers to those questions.

1. How do people like Francis Beckwith, who seem to affirm the compatibility of at least the core of Protestant/evangelical belief with Catholic teaching, view matters like Catholic beliefs regarding Mary (immaculate conception, assumption into heaven, etc.)?

When Frank Beckwith was asked this basic question at Wheaton College’s Penner Forum in September (which I moderated), he expressed his commitment to Marian doctrines as part of the Great Tradition. In Frank’s words (elsewhere on the topic), “Like marriage to one’s spouse, when one enters into communion with the Catholic Church, he is responsible to embrace all of its teaching (no exceptions). Just as when I married my wife, I married a whole rather than a collection of parts (e.g., I can’t say, ‘You know, I’d like to marry her, but that third knuckle on her right hand is odd’), I can’t be a ‘Catholic’ and pick and choose based on differing levels of plausibility of different parts of the Catechism isolated from the whole.”

In Holy Ground I posit a historical example of the “evangelical Catholic” in the person of Cardinal Gasparo Contarini. In the year 1511, Contarini experienced a moment of illumination that was likened to Luther’s epiphany, where he was fully convinced that salvation could not be won by any human act but was God’s free gift; and, as in Luther’s case, this conviction was accompanied by a perception that the monastery could not, for himself, procure an eternal blessedness. Like Luther, Contarini found in the contemplation of Christ’s sacrifice the solvent of his fears and the resolution of his anxious striving for perfection. This fresh discovery of Jesus’ passion forged an affinity with Luther’s doctrine of faith alone and motivated Contarini to proclaim the sufficiency of the cross among Catholics. However, years later when it was time for Contarini to choose a side at the Colloquy of Regensburg between the papacy and Scripture alone, he chose the pontiff. At the end of the day his religious identity was Catholic, not Protestant.

This is the light in which I see people like Frank Beckwith. They argue for some evangelical Protestant tenets; yet, they do so as Catholics who consciously weave Catholic threads into their theological fabric, threads which from my perspective don’t fit, but somehow they put it together. Sitting down with Catholic friends to discuss these differences in a clear, objective way is important, but it’s of equal importance that we do so with genuine courtesy and respect (1 Pet 3:15-16).

One practical implication from this observation is the importance of understanding religious identity—our own and the person’s with whom we speak. Theological discussion is most fruitful when we understand where our conversation partner orients himself in the doctrinal/ecclesial universe, since such positioning naturally influences how we read texts, use language, relate to tradition, and a host of other such commitments. If we want to listen, learn, debate, persuade, grow, and glorify God in our interaction, (and not simply talk past one another) we must be attentive to such realities.

2. In light of the Decrees of Trent, wouldn’t we still have to say that official Catholic doctrine on the matter of justification rises to the level of error so serious that it amounts to ‘another gospel’ – thus warranting an apostolic anathema (Gal.1:6-9)?

The most helpful book I’ve read on this topic has been Justification by Faith in Catholic-Protestant Dialogue: An Evangelical Assessment by Anthony Lane, Professor of Historical Theology at London School of Theology. Tony Lane is a fine scholar (it’s a T&T Clark book, so if you buy it, do so when you still have a sizable chunk in your book budget). Here are a couple of Professor Lane’s conclusions, which I agree with and have found helpful.

Is the positive exposition of the Tridentine decree compatible with a Protestant understanding?

“No. When the difference in terminology is taken into account and when allowance is made for complementary formulations the gap turns out to be considerably narrower than is often popularly supposed, but a gap there remains.”

Do the Tridentine canons condemn the Protestant doctrine or only parodies of it?

“Many of the canons do not directly touch a balanced Protestant understanding, but a number clearly do. The verdict of The Condemnations of the Reformation Era (a joint ecumenical commission which met in the early 80’s) is as much a statement about the intentions of the churches today as a statement about the intentions of Trent and the Lutheran confessions.”
According to Lane’s conclusion, disagreement between the Catholic and Protestant understanding of justification remains, although it may not be as profound as we tend to think.

Still, giving the binding nature of Trent’s decrees, evangelical Protestants remain in the crosshairs of the Catholic Church’s anathematizing canons. To the extent that Catholics operate according to this Tridentine framework (i.e., defining their position over and against justification by faith alone), they appear to be skating on the same thin ice as Paul’s Galatian interlocutors and in imminent danger of falling into the frigid water of “another gospel.”

Yet, we must realize that many Catholics, including Pope Benedict himself, don’t understand justification in this Tridentine light. For instance, in the Pope’s sermon on justification in Saint Peter’s Square on November 19, 2008 he said, “Being just simply means being with Christ and in Christ. And this suffices. Further observances are no longer necessary. For this reason Luther’s phrase: ‘faith alone’ is true, if it is not opposed to faith in charity in love.” A week later on November 26 in the Paul VI Audience Hall the pontiff continued this emphasis, “Following Saint Paul, we have seen that man is unable to ‘justify’ himself with his own actions, but can only truly become ‘just’ before God because God confers his ‘justice’ upon him, uniting him to Christ his Son. And man obtains this union through faith. In this sense, Saint Paul tells us: not our deeds, but rather faith renders us ‘just.’”

Lest you think the Pope’s statements were an out of turn, momentary flash in the pan, you can also read them in his recent book Saint Paul (Pope Benedict XVI. Saint Paul. [San Francisco: Ignatius Press], 82-85). This same note is hit by many Catholic theologians, particularly those like Beckwith who identify as evangelical Catholic.

Of more immediate concern to me is the penetration of the biblical gospel—the message of divine grace accessed through faith alone—into the hearts of Catholic people who haven’t a clue why Jesus died, much less how salvation is appropriated. Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft describes this problem:

“There are still many who do not know the data, the gospel. Most of my Catholic students at Boston College have never heard it. They do not even know how to get to heaven. When I ask them what they would say to God if they died tonight and God asked them why he should take them into heaven, nine out of ten do not even mention Jesus Christ. Most of them say they have been good or kind or sincere or did their best. So I seriously doubt God will undo the Reformation until he sees to it that Luther’s reminder of Paul’s gospel has been heard throughout the church” (Peter Kreeft. “Ecumenical Jihad.” Reclaiming The Great Tradition. Ed. James S. Cutsinger. [Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997]. 27).

This is the concern of Holy Ground—that the grace of God in salvation remains central. When talking with Catholics, there are myriads of potential rabbit trails. We may enter into a conversation to talk about how Jesus provides life with meaning and suddenly find ourselves enmeshed in a debate about the apocrypha or Humanae Vitae. Sometimes it’s right to broach these subjects, but too often we do so at the expense of the gospel. This is tragic. What does it profit a person if he explicates a host of theological conundrums without focusing attention upon the death and resurrection of Jesus? In all of our discussion with Catholics we must consider, celebrate, and bear witness to the splendor and majesty of our Savior, the one who died, rose, and now lives.
---------------------------------------
In my mind, Chris’s careful, comprehensive replies raise additional questions (e.g., if Trent’s Decrees are “binding” how does that fit with the assertion that “many Catholics, including Pope Benedict himself, don’t understand justification in this Tridentine light”?) – but those questions notwithstanding for now I again want to highly recommend this irenic, empathetic book. It is one of those rare resources that not only would benefit interested evangelicals, but could be confidently shared with Catholic friends as well.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Martin Luther on Prayer

"We must be careful not to break the habit of true prayer and imagine other works to be necessary which, after all, are nothing of the kind. Thus at the end we become lax and lazy, cool and listless toward prayer. The devil who besets us is not lazy or careless, and our flesh is too ready and eager to sin and is disinclined to the spirit of prayer."

-- Martin Luther, “A Simple Way to Pray, 1535,” in Luther’s Works (ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehmann; 55 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1958–86), 43:194; D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe (Weimarer Ausgabe) (127 vols.; Weimar: Böhlau, 1883–1993), 38:359.30–35.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Michael Wittmer on the Subordination of the Son

Mike Wittmer's post is intellecutally challenging, but he raises important questions for those who object to a linkage between complementarianism (in the roles of men and women) and the Son's subordination to the Father.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Law and Gospel

"The law cannot create faith because it tells us what is to be done. It can only announce to those who transgress it what they have not done; consequently, it brings despair in its wake.

"The promise [of the gospel], by contrast, tells us what has been done by someone else. That is why it brings life.

"Once the law's just sentence has been satisfied in Christ, it is no longer our executioner, but instead plots the course for our gospel-driven life...."

-- Michael Horton, "The Gospel-Driven Life" p. 139 (Baker Books 2009)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Whole-souled Devotion to Christ

“As a soldier follows his general, as the servant follows his master, as the scholar follows his teacher, as the sheep follows its shepherd, so ought the professing Christian to follow Christ. Faith and obedience are the leading marks of real followers, and will always be seen in true believing Christians. Their knowledge may be very small, and their infirmities very great; their grace very weak, and their hope very dim. But they believe what Christ says, and they strive to do what Christ commands.

“Christianity like this, receives little praise from man. It is too thorough, to decided, too strong, too real. To serve Christ in name and form is easy work, and satisfies most people; but to follow Him in faith demands more trouble than the generality of men will take about their souls. Laughter, ridicule, opposition, persecution are often the only reward which Christ’s followers get from the world.”

~ J.C. Ryle
Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: John, volume 2, 378, 379.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Supreme Way to Worship God

"...faith glorifies God because it acknowledges that life must be lived in complete dependence on him.... The supreme way to worship God is not to work for him (Rom.4:4-5) but to trust that he will fulfill his promises."

-- Thomas Schreiner, commenting on Romans 4 in "Romans (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the NT)" p.238 (Baker Academic: 1998)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"An Earnest Call For Evangelical Leaders To Recover The Gospel..." by Ray Ortlund, Jr.

"A wave of authentic revival sweeps over the church when three things happen together: teaching the great truths of the gospel with clarity, applying those truths to people’s lives with spiritual power, and extending that experience to large numbers of people. We evangelicals urgently need such an awakening today. We need to rediscover the gospel.

"Imagine the evangelical church without the gospel. I know this makes no sense, for evangelicals are defined by the evangel. But try to imagine it for just a moment. What might our evangelicalism, without the evangel, look like? We would have to replace the centrality of the gospel with something else, naturally. So what might take the place of the gospel in our sermons and books and cassette tapes and Sunday school classes and home Bible studies and, above all, in our hearts?

"A number of things, conceivably. An introspective absorption with recovery from past emotional traumas, for example. Or a passionate devotion to the pro-life cause. Or a confident manipulation of modern managerial techniques. Or a drive toward church growth and “success.” Or a deep concern for the institution of the family. Or a fascination with the more unusual gifts of the Spirit. Or a clever appeal to consumerism by offering a sort of cost-free Christianity Lite. Or a sympathetic, empathetic, thickly-honeyed cultivation of interpersonal relationships. Or a determination to take America back to its Christian roots through political power. Or a warm affirmation of self-esteem. The evangelical movement, stripped of the gospel, might fix upon any or several of such concerns to define itself and derive energy for its mission. In other words, evangelicals could marginalize or even lose the gospel and still potter on their way, perhaps even oblivious to their loss.

"But not only is this conceivable, it is actually happening among us right now....

"When we think of the gospel, we may have a feeling that 'We already know that. Ho-hum.' We assume the gospel as a given. We assume that the people in our churches know the gospel, and we are anxious to move on to more 'relevant' and 'practical' topics. The gospel is being set aside in our minds and hearts in favor of a broad range of issues, as broadly ranging as evangelicalism is fragmented, while the heart and soul of our faith is falling into obscurity through neglect.

"The holy mysteries of the incarnation, cross, resurrection, ascension and heavenly reign of our Lord, the great themes of election, propitiation, justification and sanctification, the power and deceitfulness of sin, the meaning of faith and repentance, our union with our crucified, buried and risen Lord, the infinitely superior value of our heavenly reward compared with anything this life has to offer (including the Christian life), the final judgment and eternity—these glorious themes which lie at the very center of our faith, which made the church great at her greatest moments in the past and which can do the same again for us today if only we will recover them and exploit them confidently, prayerfully and biblically, these infinitely precious treasures are being bypassed in favor of legitimate but secondary matters of concern. We must guard the centrality of that which is central.

"We should not think, 'Well, of course we have the gospel. The Reformation recovered it for us.' Such complacency will cost us dearly. Every generation of Christians must be retaught afresh the basic truths of our faith. The church is always one generation away from total ignorance of the gospel, and we today are making rapid progress toward that ruinous goal. Rather than carelessly assume the gospel, we must aggressively, deliberately, fully and passionately teach and preach the gospel. All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ. If we do not intentionally search them out, we will miss them....


And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in scarlet,
that you deck yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you; they seek your life.

– Jeremiah 4:30

"O desolate evangelicalism, what do you mean by your stylish fads and restless search for ever new “relevance”? Why are you so insecure that you long for the world’s approving recognition? They despise everything you hold dear! “All things to all men” is no license to cater to the whims of the consumer. Christ alone is Lord. Or have you yourself forgotten his majesty? And why are you so boastful of your numbers and dollars? How poor you really are! Come back to the gospel. Come back to the wellspring of true joy and life and power. Sanctify Christ again as Lord in your hearts. Wake up! Strengthen what remains, for it is on the point of death. But if you will not return to the centrality of the gospel as God’s power for the church today, then what reason does your Lord have for not abandoning you altogether?"

-- from Ray Ortlund’s book, A Passion for God.
You can read the entire "Afterword" here.

HT: Jared Wilson; Justin Taylor

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For Veteran's Day...

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Lord's Tender Mercy

“Never, never let us curtail the freeness of the glorious Gospel, or clip its fair proportions. Never let us make the gate more straight and the way more narrow than pride and the love of sin have made it already. The Lord Jesus is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.

“He does not regard the quantity of faith, but the quality. He does not measure its degree, but its truth. He will not break any bruised reed, nor quench any smoking flax. He will never let it be said that any perished at the foot of the cross. ‘Him that cometh unto Me’, He says, ‘I will in no wise cast out’ (John 6:37).”

~ J.C. Ryle

Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle,

“Assurance”, 210, 211.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The 'Five Solas' of the Reformation

Five ‘Solas’ of the Reformation (Lesson review and questions)
Last Sunday: Reformation Day/Sunday (Oct. 31)

Sola’ is the Latin word for ‘alone’
1. Sola scriptura ("by Scripture alone")
2. Sola fide ("by faith alone")
3. Sola gratia ("by grace alone")
4. Solus Christus or Solo Christo ("through Christ alone")
5. Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone")
Sola Scriptura functions to protect and preserve all the others.

Roman Catholicism believes in each of the above, but not in the sense given when you add the idea ‘alone’. E.g, re Scripture – they added ‘Tradition’; to faith and grace as the means of salvation they added ‘works and human merit’.

KEY IDEA: The motto/principle that came out of the Reformation: "The Church always/continuously needs to be reformed by the Word of God…"
---------------------------------------------------
The Protestant Reformation [of the Catholic/universal] Church was triggered by Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the door of the university in Wittenberg. Martin Luther wrote his 95 theses in 1517 as a protest against the selling of indulgences. An "indulgence" is 1 : a remission of part or all of the temporal and especially purgatorial punishment that according to Roman Catholicism is due for sins whose eternal punishment has been remitted and whose guilt has been pardoned.


And so the Reformation was begun as a ‘protest’ (à "Protestant") against ministry practices in the Church that did not line up with Scripture and were not consistent with the meaning of the Gospel.
---------------------------------------------------------------
Compare Gal.1 :6-9. In this passage Paul sternly condemns preacher who proclaim any other Gospel than the one he preached.
1. Why is Paul so severe in his condemnation of preachers of ‘another Gospel’?
2. Read Romans 11:5-6. What happens to ‘grace’ if you try to blend ‘works’ with it?
3. Read 2 Chron. 34:14-21, 29-33.
--What had God’s people lost?
--How is it possible for the Word of God to be ‘lost’ in an evangelical, Bible-believing church today?
4. What would it look like to apply the principle of letting the Word of God continually ‘reform’ the church in our own day?
5. What trends and ideas in evangelical Christianity today seem suspect in light of your understanding of God’s Word?


For further study: "Holy Ground – Walking with Jesus as a Former Catholic" by Chris Castaldo (Zondervan)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Gospel and Authentic Christian Experience

“Spiritual experience that does not arise from God’s word is not Christian experience. . . . Not all that passes for Christian experience is genuine. An authentic experience of the Spirit is an experience in response to the gospel. Through the Spirit the truth touches our hearts, and that truth moves our emotions and effects our wills.”

- Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2008), 31.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Amazing, Saving, Unconditional Grace

“To preach the Gospel of the unconditional grace of God in that unconditional way is to set before people the astonishingly good news of what God has freely provided for us in the vicarious humanity of Jesus.

"To repent and believe in Jesus Christ and commit myself to him on that basis means that I do not need to look over my shoulder all the time to see whether I have really given myself personally to him, whether I really believe and trust him, whether my faith is at all adequate, for in faith it is not upon my faith, my believing or my personal commitment that I rely, but solely upon what Jesus Christ has done for me, in my place and on my behalf, and what he is and always will be as he stands in for me before the face of the Father.

"That means that I am completely liberated from all ulterior motives in believing or following Jesus Christ, for on the ground of his vicarious human response for me, I am free for spontaneous joyful response and worship and service as I could not otherwise be.”


- TF Torrance
"Of First Importance"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Two Essential Aspects of Authentic Conversion

“It ought always to be remembered that there are two distinct things which the Lord Jesus Christ does for every sinner whom He undertakes to save. He washes him from his sins in His own blood, and gives him a free pardon: this is his justification. He puts the Holy Spirit into his heart, and makes him an entirely new man: this is his regeneration.

“The two things are both absolutely necessary to salvation. The change of heart is as necessary as the pardon; and the pardon is as necessary as the change. Without the pardon we have no right or title to heaven. Without the change we should not be ready to enjoy heaven, even if we got there.”

~ J.C. Ryle
Regeneration, 22.

http://jcrylequotes.com/

Martin Luther's Allegiance to the Word of God

From his speech at the Diet (assembly) of Worms (a small town in Germany). Martin Luther was used by God to lead in the Protestant Reformation.

HT: Martin Downes

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Reformation Sunday: "The Gospel of Jesus Christ...."

In honor of Reformation Sunday, here is the preamble of an important recent summary of the Gospel, written in the context of affirming the importance of the continuing differences between evangelical Protestantism and Roman Catholicism:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.—John 3:16

Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world.—Isaiah 12:5

Preamble

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is news, good news: the best and most important news that any human being ever hears.

This Gospel declares the only way to know God in peace, love, and joy is through the reconciling death of Jesus Christ the risen Lord.

This Gospel is the central message of the Holy Scriptures, and is the true key to understanding them.

This Gospel identifies Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, as the Son of God and God the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, whose incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension fulfilled the Father's saving will. His death for sins and his resurrection from the dead were promised beforehand by the prophets and attested by eyewitnesses. In God's own time and in God's own way, Jesus Christ shall return as glorious Lord and Judge of all (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matt. 25:31-32). He is now giving the Holy Spirit from the Father to all those who are truly his. The three Persons of the Trinity thus combine in the work of saving sinners.

This Gospel sets forth Jesus Christ as the living Savior, Master, Life, and Hope of all who put their trust in him. It tells us that the eternal destiny of all people depends on whether they are savingly related to Jesus Christ.

This Gospel is the only Gospel: there is no other; and to change its substance is to pervert and indeed destroy it. This Gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches.

All Christians are called to unity in love and unity in truth. As evangelicals who derive our very name from the Gospel, we celebrate this great good news of God's saving work in Jesus Christ as the true bond of Christian unity, whether among organized churches and denominations or in the many transdenominational co operative enterprises of Christians together.

The Bible declares that all who truly trust in Christ and his Gospel are sons and daughters of God through grace, and hence are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

All who are justified experience reconciliation with the Father, full remission of sins, transition from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, the reality of being a new creature in Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. They enjoy access to the Father with all the peace and joy that this brings.

The Gospel requires of all believers worship, which means constant praise and giving of thanks to God, submission to all that he has revealed in his written word, prayerful dependence on him, and vigilance lest his truth be even inadvertently compromised or obscured.

To share the joy and hope of this Gospel is a supreme privilege. It is also an abiding obligation, for the Great Commission of Jesus Christ still stands: proclaim the Gospel everywhere, he said, teaching, baptizing, and making disciples.

By embracing the following declaration we affirm our commitment to this task, and with it our allegiance to Christ himself, to the Gospel itself, and to each other as fellow evangelical believers.



You can read the entire statement here.