Saturday, January 30, 2010

Luke 2:10-11, Here Is Good News!

"And the Angel said unto them, Feare not; For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is borne this day, in the citie of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." [KJV1611, spelling in the original]

This is from a sermon preached in front of King James himself, by Lancelot Andrewes, one of the translators of the King James Version of the Bible:

"Men may talk what they will, but sure there is no joy in the world [compared] to the joy of a man saved; no joy so great, no news so welcome, as to one ready to perish, in case of a lost man, to hear of one that will save him. In danger of perishing by sickness, to hear of one [who] will make him well again; by sentence of the law, of one with a pardon to save his life; [beset] by enemies, of one that will rescue and set him in safety. Tell any of these, assure them but of a Savior, it is the best news he ever heard in his life." Quoted in Wide as the Waters, by Benson Bobrick.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I Timothy 2:11-14, The Bible versus Women Preachers

"Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet [i.e., in church]. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor."

I have written before on the ordination of women. To put it briefly, I'm against it! And it's not an issue of the ability or worth of women in general, or of any particular woman, but rather a matter of God's social order. He calls, empowers, and gifts men to proclaim His word (see especially I Timothy 3 and Titus 1).

In the Saturday edition, my local paper, the Charlotte Observer, prints a special religion section, a common practice among daily papers. Yesterday, they printed an article (now no longer online) borrowed from their sister paper in Raleigh regarding the Rev. Sheryl Brady, pastor (but not "spiritual head", an indecipherable distinction) of The River, a predominately-black Pentecostal church in Raleigh, denomination unspecified. Her husband, Joby, is "bishop" of the congregation, but not pastor, also an indecipherable distinction.

Recently, the Rev. Ms. Brady has become a Youtube sensation, with a video of her performing a healing of a brain-damaged infant, who is now described, not as healed, but as "more responsive." Ms. Brady is described as a former singer on T. D. Jakes TV program, and now sporting a "shouting" preaching style.

The Scriptures do not leave us to give honor to just anyone who impresses us, whether by spirited shouting, singing (good or bad), or by making babies more responsive. Rather, we are commanded to "test everything" (I Thessalonians 5:21), and, more specifically, "do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God," (I John 4:1), that is, against God's standards in the Bible. Since the Spirit will never call someone to do something that is forbidden in scripture, I deny that it is that Spirit who empowers Ms. Brady's ministry. The spirit behind Ms. Brady's ministry fails the test of Scripture. To my mind, that leaves only one other possible spirit giving power to her (see Revelation 13:2).

Friday, January 22, 2010

A. A. Hodge on True versus Hypocritical Assurance

"Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation, which hope of theirs shall perish, yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed."
- Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter XVIII, Section 1

In his commentary on this passage from the Confession, Archibald Alexander Hodge, the son of the famous Princeton Professor Charles Hodge, makes some astute remarks on assurance of faith. Namely, I am here referring to his marks distinguishing the sound assurance of the true believer from the self-deception of the hypocrite.

Hodge comments: "That unregenerate men, beguiled by the natural desire for happiness, flattered by self-love, and betrayed by a spirit of self-righteousness and self-confidence, should frequently indulge an unfounded assurance of their gracious condition, is rendered antecedently probable from what we know of human nature, and rendered certain as a fact from common observation and from the declarations of Scripture. Micah 3:11, Job 7:13-14."

In contrast, Hodge continues, "True assurance, however, may be distinguished from that which is false by the following tests: 1) True assurance begets unfeigned humility; false assurance begets spiritual pride (I Cor. 15:10, Gal. 6:14). 2). The true leads to increased diligence in the practice of holiness; the false leads to sloth and self-indulgence (Ps. 51:12-13, 19). 3). The true leads to candid self-examination and to a desire to be searched and corrected by God; the false leads to a disposition to be satisfied with appearance and to avoid accurate investigation (Ps. 139:23-24). 4). The true leads to constant aspirations after more-intimate fellowship with God (I Jn 3:2-3)."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Counting the Cost of Discipleship

"Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be My disciple."
- Luke 14:27-33

It is proper for a potential convert to weigh the consequences of choosing to follow Jesus in a true, life-transforming way. While I do not believe that Jesus here is commanding everyone, or even anyone, to take up the life of a hermit, I certainly do believe that He is warning the potential disciple that he must count all his belongings, position, friends, and family, as disposable, because he may face their actual loss in his new life. While we don't usually face consequences on that level in modern America, discipleship in other countries can result in the destruction or forfeiture of material property, rejection by family, beatings, or even death.

The Subjective Mark of the True Christian

A common theme in the writings of the Puritans was the distinguishing of the true believer from the hypocrite. I think that the following passage from New England Puritan Minister Peter Bulkeley is an excellent example. [Spelling and grammar in the original.]

"There is in a sanctified Christian, both light and life; light in his minde, life in his will and affection: The light which is in him makes him to see both the loathsomenesse of sin and the excellency of grace; and the life that is in him, makes him to feele the burthen of his own corruptions, and to long after the grace which is still wanting in him, so that true holinesse makes us weary of the body of corruption that is in us, groaning under it as under misery not to be endured, as Paul did, Rom. 7:24, and makes us thirst after more grace, that we might be enabled in every thing to please God, Psal. 119:5. Painted [i.e., pretended] holinesse puffes up with conceit of our own goodnesse, as Esay [Isaiah] 65:5, but true holinesse humbles us by reason of the sight and sence we have of the corruption that is in us. More such signs might be added, but I hasten to an end; By these try we ourselves, and see thereby what part we have in the blessing of the Covenant."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

News Flash for Christians: Repenting of the Religion of Statism

The following article is by my pastor, the Rev. Allen Church.

News Flash for Christians: Repenting of the Religion of Statism

If more Christians would awaken to their duties as citizens and vote the Bible more than their pocketbook (which usually involves fleecing Peter to pay Paul) our present course of destruction could quickly be averted. Very simply, the church needs to repent of its idolatry of civil government.

Many Christians think that whether or not they support big government is just a matter of opinion. Few today realize that they are committing the sin of idolatry when they support big government and its claims to authority over every aspect of everyday life (including the size of your toilet). When Christians support big, all powerful civil government they are practicing the religion of Statism, which is a form of satanism and secular humanism.

Basically, the religion of Statism is the worship, service, and unqualified submission to a rebellious civil government that claims authority over every person and detail of life in its attempt to replace the authority and rule of the sovereign God revealed in the Bible.

Simply, the religion of Statism is the idol worship of civil government. It is a violation of the commandment, Deuteronomy 5:6-10 "I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments." Additionally, the practice of the religion of Statism usually includes a violation of the commandment: "Thou shalt not steal."

Now you may say, " I do not worship idols or graven images." That is understandable. The Church has not done a good job teaching folks that ideas themselves can be idols. Intellectual idols can be constructed and worshiped. These idols of the mind that result in human action offend our Holy and Righteous God.

Remember: It is helpful to know that the ideas and institutions of men can be idols.

Both civil government and the Church are obligated to submit to the Word of the Sovereign God who rules over all life. Both are to stay within their respective limits which means that both are severely restricted in authority and scope by God. Civil government is very restricted by Romans 13 which is usually misused to demand unrestricted submission to civil government. By the way, God's arrangement gives greater protection to Christians and Pagans, but that is for another article.

Getting down to brass tacks, remember that how you vote is an expression of your faith. If you are voting for big government you are sinning against the God revealed in the Bible. You are offending Christ and His rule. With Christ there is liberty. With Statism there is slavery, which is the end result of all idolatry.

[ Dr. Church now lives in Blacksburg, SC. He is a Presbyterian minister, Christian activist, and businessman. He served with the National Clergy Council during the Chief Justice Judge Roy Moore Ten Commandments challenge in Montgomery, Alabama. He organized the South Carolina and North Carolina capitol Ten Commandments rallies, and has also been a speaker in Washington, D.C. on the Ten Commandments issue and at Right to Life rallies. He has participated in a C-Span forum on Christian-Muslim relations. He also served as a delegate to the Reformed Ecumenical Council in Harare, Zimbabwe when it assembled in 1988 to arrange ecclesiastical meetings with the South African government to do away with apartheid. He served as an editor and writer for the REC curriculum book: Secularism in International Perspective. Currently he is participating as a speaker and writer with Cherokee Cares. He just secured address and is looking for someone to help design the website as he prepares to launch The Psalm 2 Project to challenge citizens and civil leaders to commit themselves to "Kiss the Son" acknowledging the supremacy of Christ and His law in the civil arena.]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Assurance and the Lord's Faithfulness to His Covenant

"And all the people said to Samuel, 'Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.' And Samuel said to the people, 'Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for Himself."
- I Samuel 12:19-22

This interaction between the people of Israel and the prophet Samuel takes place early in the reign of King Saul, their first king. God had commanded Samuel to anoint Saul in response to the begging of the people, who wanted a king like the surrounding nations, rather than the judges that they had known since the Conquest. Jehovah had pinpointed their demand as arising, not from a desire for good governance, but rather as a rejection of His rule over them (I Sam. 8:7). In response, while granting them a king, Jehovah sends a storm during harvest time (I Sam. 12:17) as a sign of His wrath. And, as usual, the people quail before Him. I say "as usual" because Israel, throughout its history, had been willing to mourn her sins for a short time, before returning to them with increased gusto.

Using this teachable moment, Samuel reminds them of the faithfulness of our Covenant God. Is it because He is impressed with Israel? Certainly not. His faithfulness to them arises rather from His faithfulness to His own nature. In other words, His grace to them is exactly that, grace. His concern is His reputation, but the benefit is theirs.

The comfort of this knowledge will come home to us each time we have our own teachable moments, when we realize our own sin, and mourn the affront we have given to God (read Psalm 51 for an example from David). We naturally wonder whether we are still worthy of His forgiveness. And the answer must be no! We certainly are not worthy. But His nature doesn't change, and His faithfulness to His covenant never fails, and His regard to His own character never ceases. Knowing those things, we can know that forgiveness awaits us, even when our own consciences continue to accuse us.

When your conscience is wounded, never let it serve as an excuse to turn away from God. You can and will fail, but He never does.