Pastor's Blog

Catechism Training

Posted under: Doctrine,Holiness,The Gospel — by curt.fifer

We are currently studying A Puritan’s Catechism, compiled by Charles Spurgeon from the Westminster Shorter Catechism and others.  It is a Baptist Catechism that is streamlined, but still very helpful for concisely expressing essential doctrinal truths.  I will provide the outlines from our sessions as posts on this blog.

 

Church Discipline

Posted under: Doctrine,Sin,The Church — by Richard Hensley

Consider this encouraging quote from Robert Murray M’Cheyne:

“When I first entered upon the work of the ministry among you, I was exceedingly ignorant of the vast importance of church discipline.  I thought that my great and almost only work was to pray and preach.  I saw your souls to be so precious and the time so short that I devoted all my time and care and strength to labor in word and doctrine.  When cases of discipline were brought before me and the elders, I regarded them with something like abhorrence.  It was a duty I shrank from and I may truly say it nearly drove me from the work of the ministry among you altogether.  But it pleased God, who teaches His servants in another way than man teaches, to bless some of the cases of discipline to the manifest and undeniable conversion of the souls of those under our care.  And from that hour a new light broke in upon my mind, and I saw that if preaching be an ordinance of Christ, so is church discipline.  I now feel very deeply persuaded that both are of God–that two keys are committed to us by Christ, the one the key of doctrine, by means of which we unlock the treasures of the Bible; the other the key of discipline by which we open or shut the way to the sealing ordinances of the faith.  Both are Christ’s gifts and neither is to be resigned without sin.”

May this be an encouragement and a reminder for all those who faithfully administer church discipline and a challenge for those who don’t.

 

 

How Did the Son of God Uphold the Universe by the Word of His Power Even as a Babe in the Manger?

Posted under: Doctrine,Scripture — by Richard Hensley

This is a thought provoking post on the natures of Christ.  Let your mind try to grasp the picture of an infant in a manger, sovereignly upholding the universe by His Word (Heb 1:1-3).  Or, consider Christ as Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Immutable diety dying on a Cross.  How do we make sense of these things.  Perhaps this will challenge your categories of thought a little bit.

Posted By Justin Taylor On October 9, 2012 @ 11:56 am In Uncategorized | No Comments

If “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8), and if “he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) such that “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17)—then how was this happening when he was crying in a manger, or when he was a toddler and didn’t know how to read or write?

First, we have to remember that when the Son of God was incarnate, his divine attributes—immutability, immensity, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence—were not given up or diminished (even if they were veiled). The incarnation involves addition or multiplication, not subtraction or division.

But if this is the case, then his divine nature could not be limited to his human body.

The opposite, though is not true. As William G. T. Shedd explain, “The divine nature of Christ is present with his human nature wherever the latter may be, though his human nature is not, as the Lutheran contends, present with is divine nature wherever the latter may be” (Dogmatic Theology, 3d ed. [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2003], 656).

In critiquing Calvin’s understanding of this, that the Son’s divine nature also exists outside of [Latin, extra] his body, Lutherans labeled this view the extra Calvinisticum. But the doctrine was hardly a Calvinist invention. In fact, it could also be called the extra Patristicum or extra-Catholicum, as it was the standard teaching of the church throughout the century. (For a book-length study of this doctrine, including analysis of quotes from the early church on, see E. David Willis, Calvin’s Catholic Christology: The Function of the So-called extra Calvinisticum in Calvin’s Theology (Leiden: Brill, 1966).

Here are some quotes from Calvin, building on Chalcedonian Christology and the fathers.

Calvin, Institutes II.13.4:

They thrust upon us as something absurd the fact that if the Word of God became flesh, then he was confined within the narrow prison of an earthly body. This is mere impudence! For even if the Word in his immeasurable essence united with the nature of man into one person, we do not imagine that he was confined therein. Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world as he had done from the beginning!

Institutes II.13.4.

But some are carried away with such contentiousness as to say that because of the natures joined in Christ, wherever Christ’s divinity is, there also is his flesh, which cannot be separated from it. . . .

But from Scripture we plainly infer that the one person of Christ so consists of two natures that each nevertheless retains unimpaired its own distinctive character. . . . Surely, when the Lord of glory is said to be crucified [1 Cor. 2:8], Paul does not mean that he suffered anything in his divinity, but he says this because the same Christ, who was cast down and despised, and suffered in the flesh, was God and Lord of glory. In this way he was also Son of man in heaven [John 3:13], for the very same Christ, who, according to the flesh, dwelt as Son of man on earth, was God in heaven. In this manner, he is said to have descended to that place according to his divinity, not because divinity left heaven to hide itself in the prison house of the body, but because even though it filled all things, still in Christ’s very humanity it dwelt bodily [Col. 2:9], that is, by nature, and in a certain ineffable way. There is a commonplace distinction of the schools to which I am not ashamed to refer: although the whole Christ is everywhere, still the whole of that which is in him is not everywhere. And would that the Schoolmen themselves had honestly weighed the force of this statement. For thus would the absurd fiction of Christ’s carnal presence have been obviated.

And here are a couple of quotes from the fathers.

Augustine, Letter to Volusian (137), 22-23.

And we think that something impossible to believe is told to us about the omnipotence of God, when we are told that the Word of God, by whom all things were made, took flesh from a virgin and appeared to mortal senses without destroying His immortality or infringing His eternity, or diminishing His power, or neglecting the government of the world, or leaving the bosom of the Father, where He is intimately with Him and in Him.

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word:

For he was not, as might be imagined, circumscribed in the body, nor, while present in the body, was he absent elsewhere; nor, while he moved the body, was the universe left void of his working and providence; but, thing most marvelous, Word as he was, so far from being contained by anything, he rather contained all things himself; and just as while present in the whole of creation, he is at once distinct in being from the universe, and present in all things by his own power—giving order to all things, and over all and in all revealing his own providence, and giving life to each thing and all things, including the whole without being included, but being in his own Father alone wholly and in every respect—thus, even while present in a human body and himself quickening it, he was, without inconsistency, quickening the universe as well, and was in every process of nature, and was outside the whole, and while known from the body by his works, he was none the less manifest from the working of the universe as well.

For a helpful discussion in Paul Helm’s chapter “The Extra” in John Calvin’s Ideas [1] (New York / Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), pp. 58ff.

There is much mystery here—not a puzzle to solve, but a reality to worship!

 

Excellent Message on Church Membership

Posted under: Christian Living,Doctrine,Scripture,The Church,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

I am very please to recommend an audio presentation by Jonathan Leeman from Capitol Hill Baptist Church and Nine Marks Ministry.  It is the most concise, meaty, clear presentations on the importance of church membership that I have ever heard.  Jonathan Leeman has written two books on church membership, that are the source of this great message.  The first is The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love.  The second is a shorter version of the book entitled:  Church Membership,  To listen to the concise audio presentation on Church Membership by the author himself, click here.

 

Altering Worship Structures

Posted under: Christian Living,Doctrine,Holiness,Music,Prayer,Sin,The Church,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

I was moved by a passage of Scripture in my daily reading today found in 2 Kings 16:10-20.  There we learn of Ahaz, the ungodly idolatrous King of Judah.  Ahaz was enamored by the altar in Damascus and asked his priest, Uriah, to copy what he saw there in the Temple of the Lord, in Jerusalem.  So, a syncretistic Ahaz altered the Temple that God designed and ordered meticulously.  All of this gives us a glimpse of the abomination of false worship and idolatry.  But it also gives us a tremendous warning against a casual approach to church worship structures.

 10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. 11 And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. 12 And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it 13 and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. 14 And the bronze altar that was before the LORD he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of his altar. 15 And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” 16 Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded. 17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal. 18 And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the LORD, because of the king of Assyria. 19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

How has God designed worship structures for the church today?  What is required in worship?  What is prohibited?  These are important questions of the day.  The Reformers often referred to two or three essential marks of a true or pure church: 1) Right preaching of the Word of God, 2) Right administration of the ordinances, and sometimes a third, 3) Right practice of church discipline.  It appears in our day that all three of these can easily be corrupted in order to accommodate the culture or increase interest and mitigate the offense of the Gospel.  We ought to beware of altering God ordained structures of worship.

 

Evangelizing Children

Posted under: Christian Living,Doctrine,The Church,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

Grace Community Church, pastored by John MacArthur, has a very well thought out and helpful position paper on the evangelization of children.  It is worthwhile reading and considering this balanced view of how to deal with the difficult issue of childhood professions.  It seeks to help parents maintain a balance in encouraging the professions of faith in our children, while at the same time proceeding cautiously and not hastily granting assurance to a young child merely based on their profession.  Check it out: http://www.gty.org/media/pdf/Evangelizing_Children.pdf

 

Divine and Human Action in Salvation

Posted under: Doctrine,Scripture,Sin,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

We are preaching through Romans 9, which deals with the doctrine of election rather heavily.  This might be a helpful review on the idea of God’s initiative in salvation and human responsibility.

Divine and Human Action in Salvation

 It is with great caution that we tread upon waters that have been cause for much confusion and, sadly, division in God’s church.  It is not helpful for us to draw up sides based on particular theologians and their systematic theological works.  We are Christians, first and foremost, not Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, Calvinists, or Arminian.  Though we find great help and are enriched by a study of great theologians of the past, let us be sure to make Christ our hero and Rabbi, above all else.

 We must also recognize that in speaking of eternal salvation and the sovereignty of God, we enter a realm where our understanding is limited, at best.  Let us listen well to the exhortation of Paul, after he meticulously teaches on these matters when he states,

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!  “For who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has become His counselor?”  ‘Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him?” Rom 11:33-35

 Better yet, let us listen to the words of God Himself, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isa 55:9).”  We would do well to approach these subjects with great humility.  For in the end, the finite mind cannot fully grasp the infinite.  We, who are bound in time, cannot fully understand the One who is outside of time.  We who are subjects, cannot fully comprehend infinite sovereignty.  And finally, we who are still in corrupt flesh, cannot perfectly understand the One who is pure.  There are some mysteries remaining for the believer.

 To the question of divine and human action in salvation, we must recognize some very simple truths evident in Scripture:

 First, man must believe upon Christ and His finished work to be saved.  The Scripture is replete with examples of this very simple truth.

  • “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (Jn 3:16b)
  • “he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (Jn 6:47b)
  • “whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43b)
  • “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)
  • “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame…whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:11-13)
  • “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 Jn 3:23)
  • “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 Jn 5:1a)

 Second, God clearly calls upon man to come to Him for salvation.  This is seen even in some of the passages above, but is also evident in many others:

  • “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!” (Isa 45:22)
  • “Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” (Isa 55:6)
  • “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezek 33:11)
  • “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Mt 11:28)
  • “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matt 22:14)
  • “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (Jn 7:37-8)
  • “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’  And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’  And let him who thirsts come.  Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev 22:17)

 Third, man, after the fall, is naturally unable to seek God.  Again, this is a consistent message in Scripture.

  • “As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God.  They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one.” (Rom 3:10-12)
  • “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.  So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:7-8)
  •  “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14)
  • “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1)
  • “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:17-18)
  • “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.  Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word.  You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. (John 8:42-4)
  • “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” (Rom 6:17)

As far as we can discern in Scripture, only Adam and Eve were naturally able to seek God.  They were unhindered by a fallen nature.  They were not darkened in their understanding.  They were not slave to sin.  They were not initially at enmity with God.  They were not dead in their trespasses before the fall.  But, we, as a result of their free will choice to sin, now inherit a sinful nature that is in bondage to sin and at enmity with God (Romans 5:12-21). 

 Fourth, God initiates salvation in man.  Since man is unable to seek God, salvation is dependent upon God’s initiative.  Once again, this truth is plainly seen in Scripture.

  • “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (Jn 6:44)
  • “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philip 1:29)
  • “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 2:13-14)
  • “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
  • “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim 1:8-9)
  •  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10)
  • “Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
  • “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.” (Acts 16:14)
  • “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37-38)
  • “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom 8:29-30)
  • just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:4-5)
  • “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.  The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples” (Deut 7:6-7)
  • “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.” (Isa 45:4)
  • “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10
  • “Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to the election of grace.  And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace.” (Rom 11:5-6)
  • “Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’”  (Matt 16:16-17)
  • “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Phil 2:12-13)

 Many more statements could be said of the nature of divine and human action and in salvation.  But these simple truths help us to avoid the error of assaulting the nature of God in our understanding of salvation.  From them we can discern a very simple statement:

 Our salvation, including the faith that we have in Christ, is totally the result of God’s love and grace, which manifests His glory.  His work is initiatory and ours is dependent.

 This reality makes it just as important that we call people to faith in Jesus Christ.  It makes it just as important that we call people to repent of their sins.  We affirm that those who trust in Jesus Christ as Savior are saved.  We simply recognize that God, in a mysterious way, is sovereign over this whole transaction.  Man’s faith, man’s repentance, man’s love for God are all the result of God’s initiatory action in the human heart.  “We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  A good picture of this tension is found in John 1:12-13.

  • “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)

Notice that those who believed “He gave the right to become children of God”.  But also notice that they were not born of their own will, but of the will “of God”.

 Why is this distinction important?  What does it matter?    It matters because errors in this area lead to man-centered evangelistic methods, rather than God-centered ones (we try to engender a response, rather than trust in God’s Word, His Spirit, and His sovereignty).  It matters because errors in this area have led to and will continue to lead to false conversion and false assurance (the emphasis on man-centered methods often equates decisions, sinners prayers, and altar trips with salvation).  Errors in this area come dangerously close to impugning the very character of God (e.g. His eternality, His sovereignty, His immutability).

 So, let us uphold God as the author of salvation while we plead with men to believe in Christ!

 

Biblical Courtship Series, Pt. 2

Forgive for the delay in getting the second part of the Courtship series on the blog.  No excuses.  Here is the second installment.

 THE OBSTACLES TO GOD GLORIFYING MARRIAGES

 There are a number of obstacles to God glorifying marriages.  And since this should be the goal of parents for their children and young men and women, as they look to their future, we ought to look at some of these obstacles.

 Poor discipleship at home.  If children are not taught a biblical godly perspective on marriage and the roles of men and women in marriage, they are likely to fail. 

  1. Rejection of parental and godly authority, counsel, and wisdom.  A parent can train a child, teach a child, and correct a child, but the child may still reject this means of God’s grace.  And sadly, rebellion of God’s ordained means of protection and grace has led to many less than God glorifying marriages.
  2. The neglect by parents to guide and protect their children through the process of preparing for marriage.  Father’s and Mother’s who leave the process of finding a spouse solely up to their older children, with little input and accountability, cannot expect good things to happen.  God has designed parents to give godly counsel, accountability, and protection during this time.
  3. All of this has led to worldly modern practice of Recreational Dating.
    a.  We have accepted this practice hook line and sinker.
    b.  It is probably not coincidental that as sexual immorality, cohabitation, and divorce have sky rocketed, along with the practice of Modern Recreational Dating.

 LET’S START WITH OUR VIEW OF GOD AND HIS WORD

 We have to start with a right view of Scripture.  Without a foundation, we have no basis to make decisions and live our lives.  We will be, as the title of one book suggests, like the relativist with our feet firmly planted in mid-air.

  1.   God is sovereign and we are submitted to His authority (Matt 11:28-30; James 4:7; 2 Cor 10:5; Rev 4:11).  If we cannot understand God’s authority, then we will not understand his delegated authority to parents.
  2. His Word is authoritative and sufficient (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Pet 1:3-4; Luke 16:31).  If we believe this to be true, then it should drive us to God’s Word to address all issues, especially the issue of marriage and preparing for marriage.

 MODERN DATING IS UNWISE AND PERILOUS

Modern Recreational Dating: The process of engaging in relationships with the opposite sex for mutual enjoyment, without parental involvement, with the hope that a suitable marriage partner will one day be found.

Is Modern Recreational Dating Biblical?

  1. At best, modern dating is biblically unwise.  At worst it is plain rebellion.
  2. “But, I know many people who have good marriages who have dated!”
    a.  First, you do not know their private details, stories, and regrets.
    b.  Second, surviving a process does not necessitate commending the process.

1)  Children have survived broken families, but we don’t commend them.
2)  People have survived airplane crashes, but as Douglas Wilson illustrates, we don’t commend flying on poorly maintained aircraft.

So, whether by ignorance, or clear-minded stubborn choice…there is little to commend Modern Dating, biblically.

NEXT ENTRY:  Part 3: What is so wrong with Modern Dating?

 

God’s Riches Work-Book

Posted under: Christian Living,Doctrine,Holiness,Scripture,The Gospel — by Richard Hensley

I just finished working through God’s Riches: A Work-Book on the Doctrines of Grace, by John Benton and John Peet.  I highly recommend this as a discipleship tool for one on one discipleship, small groups, and for older adolescents in the family.  It is a very good summary of the Doctrines of Grace.  It encourages self-discovery and much Scripture searching.  I love the various quotes from pastors and theologians that are peppered through the book to emphasize certain doctrinal points.  Consider purchasing a number of these and giving them as gifts to stir people to get into their Bibles and study the doctrines of the faith.