Wednesday, August 31, 2011

MacArthur on real and ongoing reformation....

"...real Reformation is not about slavish subscription to one particular set of seventeenth-century confessional standards—as if the magisterial Reformers or their immediate successors reached a level of ecclesiastical and doctrinal perfection beyond which further reform is impossible. According to that view, you’re not truly Reformed if, for example, you reject paedobaptism or you employ musical instruments and hymns in your worship rather than strictly limiting your singing to metrical psalms sung a capella.
"John Calvin was under no illusion that the Reformation had reached its goal in his lifetime—or that it would get there in a generation or two. He wrote,
Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," (Eph. 5: 25-27.) Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal.(Institutes, 4.1.17)
"Here’s the point: the only true and valid reformation occurs as we align our beliefs, our behavior, and our worship with the Word of God. In fact, the full, unabbreviated version of the Latin slogan is Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (“The church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.”)
"God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged. Success or failure in ministry therefore cannot be evaluated by numerical statistics, financial figures, popularity polls, public opinion, or any of the other factors the world typically associates with “success.” The only real triumph in ministry is to hear Christ say, “Well done.”
-- John MacArthur (you can read the rest of his post here)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The entire worship service is to be a ministry of the Word

"...Although the sermon is the central form of proclaiming the Word, the whole service should be a ministry of the Word. We gather each Lord’s Day to hear God, not to see inspiring symbols, to express our spiritual instincts, to have exciting experiences, or even merely to hear interesting and informative discourses. Furthermore, we come not only to hear this Word proclaimed in the sermon but to hear God address us throughout the service: in God’s greeting, in the law, in the absolution, in the public reading of Scripture, and in the benediction.

"To each of these divine speaking parts in this script there correspond our lines as well: the invocation, the confession of sin, the “amen” and confession of faith, the offering, and the songs. Therefore, as in our salvation, God’s work is always the main event and our involvement is the appropriate response. Even the purpose of singing in church is not to express our individual piety, commitment, feelings (though it enlists these). Rather, according to Paul, we sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”—so that “the Word of Christ [may] dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” (Col. 3:16; cf. Eph. 5:19)...."

-- Michael Horton, "The Gospel Commission," (pp. 169-170). Baker Books. Kindle Edition.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Finding our role in the Bible's grand story...

"The Bible is a grand story, from Genesis to Revelation, with Christ as the lead character.  The more we hear that story, the more we find ourselves being written into it as characters.  We discover ourselves not in the fading scripts of this age or in glossy magazine images but in the story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. 

"We are there with Adam and Eve, capitulating to the lie.  We are there with Abraham and Sarah, hearing and believing the gospel and being justified.  We are walking along with the disciples, not getting it, then getting it, then not getting it again, and then discovering what his journey was all about.  And we are there with the company of heaven, worshiping the Lamb.

"It is the purpose of preaching and sacrament to put us there, to kill our dead-end character [of this age/story] and to write us into God's script."

-- Michael Horton, "The Gospel Commission"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Frustrated with the church?

By grace, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.
This applies in a special way to the complaints often heard from pastors and zealous members about their congregations. A pastor should never complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men.
. . . let [the pastor or zealous member] nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God. Let him rather accuse himself for his unbelief. Let him pray God for an understanding of his own failure and his particular sin, and pray that he may not wrong his brethren. Let him, in the consciousness of his own guilt, make intercession for his brethren. Let him do what he is committed to do, and thank God.
Life Togethertrans. John W. Doberstein, (New York: HarperOne, 1954), 29, paragraphing mine.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"This joy"

“He who believes the truth enters on the enjoyment of a happiness which is of the same nature and springs from the same sources as the happiness of God.  Jehovah rests and rejoices in the manifestation made of His all-perfect character in the person and work of Jesus Christ; and he who believes enters into this rest and participates in this joy.”
John Brown, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Edinburgh, 1862), I:210.
HT:  Ray Ortlund, Jr.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The full weight of God's wrath

"God, because in his mercy he willed to forgive sinful men, and being truly merciful, willed to forgive them righteously, that is, without in any way condoning their sin, purposed to direct against his own very Self in the person of his Son the full weight of that righteous wrath which they deserved."

— Charles Cranfield, quoted by John Stott inThe Message of Romans(Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 115-116
HT: Of First Importance

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"The joyful finality of 'It is finished!'"

via Ray Ortlund, Jr.
“If today you feel that sin is hateful to you, believe in Him who has said, ‘It is finished.’  Let me link your hand in mine.  Let us come together, both of us, and say, ‘Here are two poor naked souls, good Lord; we cannot clothe ourselves,’ and He will give us a robe, for ‘it is finished.’ . . . ‘But must we not add tears to it?’  ‘No,’ says He, ‘no, it is finished, there is enough.’
Child of God, will you have Christ’s finished righteousness this morning, and will you rejoice in it more than you ever have before?”
-- Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, 1950), II:675.  Style updated.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flee the hidden God and run to Christ (Martin Luther)

Philip Yancey:
Martin Luther encouraged his students to flee the hidden God and run to Christ, and I now know why. If I use a magnifying glass to examine a fine painting, the object in the center of the glass stays crisp and clear, while around the eges the view grows increasingly distorted. For me, Jesus has become the focal point. When I speculate about such imponderables as the problem of pain or providence versus free will, everything becomes fuzzy. But if I look at Jesus himself, at how he treated actual people in pain, at his calls to free and diligent action, clarity is restored. I can worry myself into a spiritual ennui  [i.e., weary dissastisfaction]  over questions like ‘What good does it do to pray if God already knows everything?’ Jesus silences such questions: he prayed, so should we (Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew, 265).’
HT: Chris Brauns

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thursday, August 18, 2011

How do you view the Father?

Let us then see the Father as full of love to us.   

"Do not see the Father as one who is angry, but as one who is most kind and gentle.  Let us see the Father as one who from eternity has always had kind thoughts towards us.  It is a complete misunderstanding of the Father that makes us want to run away and hid from him.

“’The Psalmist said, ‘They that know you will put their trust in you.’  How sad that we cannot stay long with God in spiritual meditations! 

“The Father loses the company of his people because they are so ignorant of his love to them.  His saints keep thinking only of his terrible majesty, severity and greatness, and so their hearts are not drawn to Him in love.  We must learn to think of his everlasting gentleness and compassion.  We must remember his kind thoughts towards us which have been from eternity.

“Let us remember how eager and willing he is to accept us.  If we did this, then we would not be able to bear one hour’s absence from him.  Instead, we find it difficult to spend even one hour with him.

“Let then this be the first thought that we have of the Father, that he is full of eternal love to us.  Let our hearts and thoughts be filled with his love to us, even though many discouragements lie in our way.”   

-- John Owen, "Communion with God" (abridged and made easy to read by R.J.K. Law), pp. 27-28 (Banner of Truth) 27-28

Why are there not more riots?

Justin Taylor with some insightful quotes relating to the mayhem in Great Britain.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The love of God, flooding our hearts.... (Romans 5:5)

 “…the Holy Spirit’s ordinary method of witnessing to the blessings that are ours, and of sustaining in our hearts the knowledge of the love of God towards us, is not to have us wait for something to happen that is beyond our control. 

“The Spirit’s way of witnessing, rather, is to prompt us to the activity expressed in two simple words, ‘know’ and ‘think.’  Know what the Bible tells you about the love of God in Christ, and think of it constantly, and as you do so the love of God will be poured into your heart by the Holy Spirit, for it is by this means that the Holy Spirit produces the effect….

“…Thinking through what we know of God’s grace and mercy to us in Christ is an exercise of rejoicing in God, and it is the Spirit’s way of bringing the abundant assurance of the love of God into our hearts on a constant basis.” 

-- J.I. Packer, “Keep in Step with the Spirit” (rev.) pp. 214-215

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fearing the loss of a penny?

“Now suppose both death and hell were utterly defeated.  Suppose the fight was fixed.  Suppose God took you on a crystal ball trip into your future and you saw with indubitable certainty that despite everything — your sin, your smallness, your stupidity — you could have free for the asking your whole crazy heart’s deepest desire: heaven, eternal joy.  Would you not return fearless and singing?  What can earth do to you, if you are guaranteed heaven?  To fear the worst earthly loss would be like a millionaire fearing the loss of a penny — less, a scratch on a penny.”

Peter Kreeft, Heaven (San Francisco, 1989), page 183.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Savior of sinners

“The gate of Mercy is opened, and over the door it is written, ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.‘  Between that word ‘save’ and the next word ‘sinners,’ there is no adjective.  It does not say, ‘penitent sinners,’ ‘awakened sinners,’ ‘sensible sinners,’ ‘grieving sinners’ or ‘alarmed sinners.’  No, it only says, ‘sinners.’  And I know this, that when I come, I come to Christ today, for I feel it is as much a necessity of my life to come to the cross of Christ today as it was to come ten years ago—when I come to him, I dare not come as a conscious sinner or an awakened sinner, but I have to come still as a sinner with nothing in my hands.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, preaching on John 3:1817 February 1861.
HT:  Dane Ortlund

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Ministry of the Spirit in Revealing Christ

We know very little of Christ yet. We need the blessed Comforter to reveal to us more of the glory of his person, the beauty of his character, the suitability of his work, the love of his heart, the merit of his blood, the freeness of his grace, the depth of his pity, the tenderness of his sympathy, the dignity of his obedience, the perfection of his offices, and the inexhaustible nature of His divine fullness. 

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation — so that you may know him better.Ephesians 1:17

James Smith,  Christ Exalted

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Strength that Comes from Knowing God

from C.H. Spurgeon:

"The people that do know their God shall be strong."—Daniel 11:32.

EVERY believer understands that to know God is the highest and best form of knowledge; and this spiritual knowledge is a source of strength to the Christian. It strengthens his faith. Believers are constantly spoken of in the Scriptures as being persons who are enlightened and taught of the Lord; they are said to "have an unction from the Holy One," and it is the Spirit's peculiar office to lead them into all truth, and all this for the increase and the fostering of their faith. Knowledge strengthens love, as well as faith. Knowledge opens the door, and then through that door we see our Saviour. Or, to use another similitude, knowledge paints the portrait of Jesus, and when we see that portrait then we love Him, we cannot love a Christ whom we do not know, at least, in some degree. If we know but little of the excellences of Jesus, what He has done for us, and what He is doing now, we cannot love Him much; but the more we know Him, the more we shall love Him. Knowledge also strengthens hope. How can we hope for a thing if we do not know of its existence? Hope may be the telescope, but till we receive instruction, our ignorance stands in the front of the glass, and we can see nothing whatever; knowledge removes the interposing object, and when we look through the bright optic glass we discern the glory to be revealed, and anticipate it with joyous confidence. Knowledge supplies us reasons for patience. How shall we have patience unless we know something of the sympathy of Christ, and understand the good which is to come out of the correction which our heavenly Father sends us? Nor is there one single grace of the Christian which, under God, will not be fostered and brought to perfection by holy knowledge. How important, then, is it that we should grow not only in grace, but in the "knowledge" of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

"A prayer about suicide by resentment"

...from Pastor Scotty Smith

Monday, August 1, 2011

Faith in human nature?

"It is the high-minded unbeliever, desperately trying in the teeth of repeated disillusions to retain his 'faith in human nature' who is really sad. … We actually are, at present, creatures whose character must be, in some respects, a horror to God, as it is, when we really see it, a horror to ourselves. This I believe to be a fact: and I notice that the holier a man is, the more fully he is aware of that fact."

-- C.S. Lewis, "The Problem of Pain"