Heidelberg Catechism Teaching In Prison

A few months ago I did a post informing you of a sort of “prison ministry” in which the Seminary has become involved. Today I would like to follow up on this since we have been getting a steady stream of letters from the men in a prison in Texas (Darrington Unit).

HeidCat-1And what is striking again about these letters is that the men involved in a special study are fired up about the Reformed faith as it is expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism! We had sent them twenty copies of it (as contained in our “Three Forms of Unity” booklet), and now they are requesting further study materials.

Since I have a box of old copies of Rev.H.Hoeksema’s work on the “HC” (the original series of Triple Knowledge published by Eerdmans in the 1940s), I plan to send these to them, along with some other “extra” free books I have collected from various sources, including RFPA titles. If you should have any old editions of classic Reformed and PR-authored books you would like to donate to this cause, let me know.

Below are a couple of quotes from recent letters from prisoners in that Texas facility.

At present we have a group of guys who have come together to teach the Heidelberg Catechism in the day-rooms on the cell blocks. This study began on one cell block and has now spread to four. As we realize the way in which the Lord is blessing these efforts we are also realizing the necessity to be able to teach the Catechism effectively on each cell block. We have little resources outside of the catechism itself to guide us in this area. Those of us who do the teaching are all students of the seminary (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which recently started holding classes in this unit. According to several contacts there, Calvin Seminary has also been there to investigate the possibility of offering courses. -cjt) and we have the opportunity to meet each week in preparation for how the following Lord’s Day from the Catechism will be taught. We are hoping to gather a couple of resources to be shared among us in order to aid our efforts (Then follows a list of three titles the men seek. -cjt).

…From your emphasis on the importance of teaching and preaching the Catechism (The men have been reading our PRT Journal! -cjt) we are hoping that it owuld be possible to somehow provide these things in support of our efforts here. Any other direction would be a great help as well (I am thinking that some of our catechism materials on the “HC” might be useful – workbook, etc. -cjt).

And a brief note of thanks from one of the “leaders” in this group:

God has blessed the last sending of the Three Forms of Unity you sent to us at Darrington Unit…. Thank you for your help. Please know that your reformed brothers are doing their work in spite of the Arminian, Baptist agenda here. We have named our Reformed study with the Three Forms as ‘Reforming the Mind.’ The men are growing in the Lord. It is a blessing to watch the men grow. Thank you and God bless.

Two “New” and Noteworthy Books: “Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel” and “Believing Bible Study”

In this post I wish to highlight a couple of “new” books that have come into our Seminary library and which are of interest to our audience. I put “new” in italics because both of these titles are reprints of previous editions, with one being updated and revised once again.

PrintThat title is David J. Engelsma’s Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel: An Examination of the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1980, 1994, 2014; 224 pgs.). As you will note, this is the third edition, and this edition contains further additions and enhancements (such as pictures and descriptions of those whose positions are stated in the book). In his preface to this edition Engelsma sets forth the continued need for this book after thirty years:

Does it still address a significant, lively issue in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches and among theologians who regard and present themselves as Calvinists?

The truth defended in the book is sovereign, particular grace in the preaching of the gospel. The book contends that this truth is fundamental to the theology of the Reformed faith in its entirety, that is, to scripture’s gospel of salvation by grace alone and to the authoritative confession of the gospel by the Reformed creed, the Canons of Dordt.

The charge against the truth, by nominally Reformed theologians and churches, that the book refutes is hyper-Calvinism. This is the charge that the doctrine of particular grace in the preaching of the gospel is, or necessarily leads to, the error of preaching only to the elect, including calling only the elect to repent and believe.

The heresy that the book exposes and condemns is the teaching that the promiscuous preaching of the gospel with its unrestricted call to all hearers to repent and believe is, in fact, the saving grace of God to all who hear the preaching, reprobate ungodly as well as elect. It is the false doctrine of universal, impotent, saving grace with its concomitant error that the efficacy of the saving grace of God in the preaching, and therefore the salvation of sinners, depend not on the grace of God made effectual by the Holy Spirit, but on the acceptance of an offered salvation by the sinner himself.

The heresy that the book exposes  parades shamelessly in the Reformed community of churches, seminaries, and book stores, like a brazen whore in the seductive ‘come hither’ scanty garb of the well-meant offer of salvation.

It is my conviction, as evidently that also of the publisher, that the truth defended by the book continues to call for defense in 2013 (xv-xvi).

This edition also contains the Foreword of Dr.John H. Gernstner found in the previous edition. You are encouraged to obtain this new edition and to read and study carefully its apologetic. Not only if you are a PRC member who needs to be informed again of this essential element of our Reformed faith, but also if you are a Reformed Christian who needs better to understand the nature of the preaching of the gospel, especially because of the rampant error of the free offer and its counterpart, hyper-Calvinism.

BelievingBible Study-EFHills-2014-front_Page_1The second book of note in this post is one we received as a gift from Russell H. Spees, friend of the PRC Seminary and of the late Dr.Ted Letis, and President/Director of the Institute for Biblical Textual Studies. The book is titled Believing Bible Study (3rd ed., Christian Research Press, 2014) by Dr. Edward F. Hills (1912-1981), who served as a mentor to Dr.Letis and from whom Letis grew in his passion for and defense of the Traditional text (textus receptus, or “received text”) in the church. Hill was also an ardent defender of the King James Version (Authorized version) of the Bible as the best English translation for the church today (See his The King James Version Defended: A Christian View of the New Testament Manuscripts, 1956).

In his cover letter with the book, Spees states:

IBTS was pleased to work with the Hills family (Christian Research Press) to provide a digital reprint of Dr. Hills’ sequel to his “King James Version Defended.”

We thank the Hills family for faithfulness in keeping Dr.Hills in print. We acknowledge Mr.Paul Watson for his design of the book cover. We thank our supporters for prayer support and certainty of God’s hand in the project. We thank our Sovereign God for preserving his Holy Word to and for us.

To get a taste of Hills’ starting point in this work I quote his opening paragraphs in chapter 1, Believing Bible Study, Old Testament”:

The man who is well pleased with himself, with his prospects, and his whole manner of life will never read the Bible believingly. His entire outlook must be changed before believing Bible study becomes possible. For this reason God often uses the hard experiences of life to prepare His children for believing Bible study. Bereavement, childlessness, loneliness, longings that have never been satisfied, ambitions that have never been fulfilled, vain regrets over lost opportunities, the severe limitations of poverty, the pain and weakness of sickness, and the approach of death – these are the things that bring men low. These are the harrows which God uses to soften hardened hearts. These are the hammers with which He is wont to bend proud necks and make men willing to read His holy Book believingly.

Reader, if you are perishing in the furnace of affliction, or if you are walking in darkness with no light, or if your heart i s fretted with anxieties and corroding cares, or if your will is bound under wretched slavery to sinful lusts, or if your soul is chilled with the fear of death and the unknown, then the Bible is the Book, the only Book for you. For the Bible will show you how your sins may be overcome by the power of Christ and how you may enter into everlasting life through the door of hope and obtain your inheritance in the everlasting glory. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgives us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

I include here the cover (front and back) because of the information about the book and its author which may be found there. A search revealed that the book is not yet available on the IBTS website or Amazon. But it may be ordered  through this address (Christian Research Press, P.O. Box13023, Des Moines, IA 50310-0023; phone: 515-249-4304) or by emailing: email@kjv-ibts.org or Christianresearchpress@yahoo.com.

BelievingBibleStudy-EFHills-2014-back_Page_1

 

Have You Heard About the British Reformed Journal?

While Missionary-pastor Martyn McGeown was in the U.S. on vacation, he stopped by the Seminary a couple of times. He is a avid reader and always eager to review new books, which I truly appreciate! I was able to set him up with some good books for Standard Bearer reviews, so both of us are happy.

BRFellowship image

He also asked me to promote the British Reformed Journal, a solidly Reformed journal published by the British Reformed Fellowship (see link below). From its website we learn this about the magazine:

The British Reformed Journal (BRJ) is the publication of the British Reformed Fellowship, usually with contribution from members, and currently published biannually. It contains doctrinal articles aimed at the propagation of the Reformed faith throughout the British Isles, Europe and abroad.

Currently, only a small selection of the past articles are available online. However, we are working on making all past issues available online free of charge for members of the public.

Rev.McGeown also sent me this note of information and invitation for your benefit:

Rev. McGeown invites you to subscribe to the British Reformed Journal, of which he is the editor. Recent articles have included “A Double Minded God Is Unstable In All His Ways;” “D.A. Carson’s Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God;” and “Hypercalvinist: A Response to Phil R. Johnson’s Primer on Hyper-Calvinism.”
Subscription for 4 issues is 20 USD.

If you would like to subscribe, please mail a check payable to Mary Stewart with your name and address to Mr. Fred Hanko, 2315 Chippewa St, Jenison, MI 49428

For more information, see http://www.britishreformed.org/
It would be well worth your time to check out the website, browse a few of the intriguing and edifying articles, and then sign up to receive this fine Journal. The BRJ would make a great addition to your theological reading!

Is the Heidelberg Catechism Painful?

Maybe for kittens and other critters! But it is only healing and helpful for those who love the Reformed faith!

What is this about, you ask? A recent picture post at Calvinist Cartoons. Check it out!

And for lots more, visit Mr.Eddings site.

cats1-CalvCartoon

The Law of God in Reformed Worship – Rev.C.Griess

StandardBearerAlso belonging to my Sunday reading was an article from the March 15, 2014 issue of The Standard Bearer, which tied in well with the other reading I did (See my previous post here.). This was another article in the fine series by Rev.Cory Griess, pastor of the Calvary PRC in Hull, IA, on Reformed worship. The full series is titled “O Come Let Us Worship” (from Psalm 95), while this article belonged to the sub-section titled “And God Spake All These Words”, treating the place of the law in the worship of the one, true God.

This specific article is titled “The Reading of the Law in Worship” (7b), being the second part on this subject. After defending the Reformed practice of reading the law in worship (something the PRC still consistently practices), Rev.Griess points to the practical significance of this for the Christian during his worship. From this section I quote today, trusting that it will edify you as it did me.

Is this conviction your and my experience when the Law is read? Is it read every week, and though it is not going to bring us to tears every time, do we realize what is happening when the Law of God is being read? God Himself is speaking. It is not the minister; it is God upon His mountain in all His holiness speaking to His people. This is an element of worship where, in the covenantal dialogue, God is speaking to us, declaring His sovereignty over us. He is placing upon us His holy Law in order that we might be humbled before Him. Do we use the reading of the Law this way?

Christians need to see their dependence upon Christ day by day, week after week. Part of the worship of God’s name is bringing our sins before the Lord and telling Him that we know He alone can forgive in Jesus Christ. Our worship is our dependence upon Him, and seeking His mercy. In Reformed churches that still preach through the Heidelberg Catechism regularly, God’s people hear the Ten Commandments expounded every year or two so that they might understand God’s laws and their implications for our lives. In the reading of the Law we are to put those sermons to continued spiritual use. We ought to be running the past week through our minds, seeing our sin exposed to us before the face of God in His law (277).

The Place of the Law in the New Covenant – Guy Waters

The Place of the Law by Guy Waters | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-May2014As I continue to make my way through the May issue of Tabletalk on the theme of the new covenant (“What’s So New About the New Covenant?”), I read the next main feature article yesterday. This was penned by Dr. Guy P. Waters, professor of NT at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, and titled “The Place of the Law”.

In this article Waters presents the traditional Reformed understanding of how the law of God “fits in” with the age of God’s new covenant fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He shows what parts of the law are done away in Christ and therefore no longer binding on the NT church (its civil and ceremonial aspects), and which part continues to be in force, though with a fresh focus (the moral aspect).

Though not finding anything new as such, I appreciated Waters clear and concise presentation of this important aspect of the covenant of grace in the NT. Below is a portion of his article, taken from the very end of it. You are welcome to read all of it at the Ligonier link above.

Why, then, does the moral law carry over into the new covenant and not the ceremonial and civil laws? One reason is that, unlike the ceremonial and civil laws, the moral law predates the Mosaic covenant. The moral law, in fact, goes back to the creation. It is the standard to which God holds all human beings in all times and in all places. After indicting Gentiles in Romans 1:18–32 for what amounts to transgressions of the moral law, Paul goes on to underscore sinners’ moral accountability before God. Gentiles “by nature” may sometimes “do what the law requires” (Rom. 2:14). When they do this, they “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness” (2:15). Humans may not like or properly keep the moral law, but they know it and they know that God holds them accountable to it.

There is another, and perhaps deeper, reason why the moral law carries over into the new covenant. It reflects the very character of our God and Savior. Therefore, the moral law is, in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, “a perfect rule of righteousness” (19.2). For those who have been justified by grace and adopted into God’s family as His sons, the moral law shows us how to be like our heavenly Father. It provides a template of what we will be on the day when we will be fully conformed to the image of Christ (1 John 3:1–2; see Col 3:10Eph 4:24).

Our old covenant brothers saw Christ as their Savior, but only in shadows. We see Him in daylight. With our eyes set on Christ, we new covenant believers gladly make the words of the old covenant psalmist our own: “Oh how I love your law!” (Ps. 119:97).

Seminary Prison Ministry

Perhaps the above title is a little misleading, since the PRC Seminary does not have a formal ministry to those in prison. And yet it is true that we do carry out a sort of ministry (Christian service) to prisoners. Let me explain.

Prison ministryOne of the duties of being registrar is going through mail that pertains to the Seminary in a general way. Of course, there are specific pieces of mail that we look for each week and which are directly related to my work (insurance items, utility bills, course information, building maintenance matters, etc.). But there are also mail items from people that ask general questions, whether that be for providing services the Seminary could use or requesting help in certain areas. I discovered fairly soon that the latter type includes prisoners.

Yes, we actually receive a fair amount of mail from men who are in prison throughout  the country (at least no women so far in my limited experience with this). Don Doezema, now retired registrar but ever helpful assistant, helps me with this yet, because it can take time answering letters and filling requests. And sometimes it requires due diligence and discernment to make sure we are not being taken advantage of. It is good, then, to have two heads and hands in the work.

In any case, in the last year we have received many requests from prisoners in two units especially, one in Texas and one in California. It seems there is a sound body of Christian men who are interested in – even hungry for – the Reformed faith. Some of the letters are beautifully written and reveal a good knowledge of Calvinism and a desire to grow in the Reformed faith. Some of these men lead Bible studies and other doctrinal studies, and so request materials for study. Some express frustration with the Arminian and charismatic materials found in the prison library and want to see sound Reformed and Biblical resources placed there. Some also want to be placed on our mailing list to receive our theological Journal.

When the request appears genuine, we are quick and eager to send pamphlets, study materials, our “Three Forms of Unity” booklet (quite popular!), and in some cases, books (RFPA and other Reformed titles, usually used). And with this shipment goes a personal letter back to the prisoner. Over time one develops a long-distance friendship with some of these men, and they open up more about their unique struggles and sufferings, even for their Reformed and Christian faith. Many express deep appreciation for the contact, for the PRCA, and for the rich, doctrinal materials they receive. One even sent us a wonderful Christmas card with an encouraging note last December :)

Today I would like to give you a sample from two recent letters we received and to which I responded. They will give you a sense of what these prisoners are about and about how important it is that we do minister to them in their needs. It is a unique opportunity. I might add as a side note, that we also try to refer these men to one of our churches and evangelism committees so that they may have personal contact with them too. But it also crossed my mind that perhaps one of you reading this would like to befriend such a prisoner, so that you could correspond regularly with him, and help fulfill his needs. If interested, let me know.

Now from the letters of two prisoners:

I am reading at the moment the PRTJ (Seminary Journal -cjt) of April this year. I started to ask for it in November of 2012.

I am so thankful to God for the Journal and truly believe (it) is an excellent teaching tool for God’s people, and would like to ask you if its not too much bother to send me the back issues, as far back as possible (a couple at a time) [which I started to do this week -cjt] so the brothers here and all those who attend chapel may have solid, sound, and good doctrine drop on them.

…We are students of God’s Word and the PRTJ will be of great benefit to us all. Thank you for your time and labor of love and please pray for us, that our Lord will grant us to walk as becomes the gospel by his love and grace which work mightily in us!

And the other:

Greetings in the Lord. …I also attend Seminary here (There are some Seminaries that hold classes in prisons. -cjt). They bring in professors throughout the week to lecture us. It is a great blessing. However, most of our professors are Arminian. This does not cause me any problems, even though I’m Reformed.

However, …due to horrendous church service on the weekends (the chaplain here is a female, charismatic) the general population is starved from lack of sound doctrine. Thus, by God’s grace, some Reformed guys in here have together begun a catechism lesson. We have decided upon the Heidelberg due to its ‘comfort’ motif. If any place on earth, or America at least, the Texas prison system certainly has need of its truth, namely God’s truth, plainly laid out. I do not have much money, but I would like to request 20 copies of your ‘Three Forms of Unity’ (which we did send, somewhat ironically, in care of a Baptist Seminary contact he gave us -cjt).

Amazing, isn’t it?! But that’s the nature of God’s grace. The same grace by which you and I are saved, having been rescued from our own spiritual prison. As you can tell, these do make for wonderful opportunities. Won’t you join us in praying for these men and for the spread of the true gospel in these places?

Book Alert! RFPA Releases “1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church” by M.Kamps

1834-HdeCock-MKampsLast week the Reformed Free Publishing Association (RFPA) released its latest publication, and it is a unique and significant volume. 1834: Hendrik De Cock’s Return to the True Church by Marvin Kamps is the story of a godly Dutch Reformed churchman who seceded from the apostate state church in the Netherlands in the early 19th century to form the church anew according to the Word of God and the Reformed confessions.

It is a story that needs to be told, not only because it is not well-known (much of it being hidden behind the Dutch language and limited English resources), but also because it set the stage for subsequent reformation in the church in the Netherlands and beyond (America, e.g.). Much of the present Reformed church world with its roots in the Netherlands can trace its heritage back to Hendrik De Cock and the secession he led out of the Dutch state church. And of course, because many Reformed churches have long-departed from this heritage, the story of De Cock and his restoration of a truly Reformed church needs to be uttered as a call to return to the “old paths” of the gospel of sovereign grace and true worship.

Here is part of the author’s conviction as expressed in the “Preface”:

The Reformed churches today that are faithful to their name are the continuation of the reformation of 1517 and 1834. These reformations of the church were a return to the Bible. Often it is said that the significance of 1834 is that it constituted a return to the Canons of Dordt. Although this is true, it is an incomplete statement. My thesis is that in 1834 De Cock and his congregation returned to the Bible and therefore to the Reformed creeds. Many will disagree with this understanding of 1834. Let the reader judge.

And then he issues this challenge to us:

Do we share in the Secession fathers’ confession, witness, struggle, and walk before God? Do we today treasure De Cock’s spiritual legacy as our spiritual father? Are the Reformed creeds still our heartfelt confession? Or have we consciously rejected that confession of the fathers and returned to the apostate teachings and way of life championed by the false church?

This is a beautifully-produced book (490 pages), complete with pictures from the age as well as seven appendices containing significant translations of original documents relating to the 1834 reformation in the Netherlands.We take the opportunity to thank Mr.Kamps for his diligent work resulting in such an important book.

We hope this book is widely received and welcomed, not only by those of Dutch Reformed heritage but by all who have come to know and love the Reformed faith and by all who love and want to learn from the history of Christ’s church in the world.

How the Scots Changed the World (including the Sabbath) – Aaron Denlinger

How the Scots Changed the World by Aaron Denlinger | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-March2014The third main feature article in this month’s Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ devotional magazine) is penned by Dr.Aaron C. Denlinger, professor of historical and systematic theology at Reformation Bible College in Sanford, FL.

You will recall that this month’s issue is devoted to “John Knox & the Scottish Reformation’, since this year is the 500th anniversary of Knox’s supposed birth. Denlinger’s subject is the above-linked article, “How the Scots Changed the World”, and it is another interesting and instructive piece.

Of particular interest to me was his last section where Denlinger treats the Scottish Reformers’ influence on the sabbath. I quote from that part of his article, encouraging you to read all of it. We Dutch Reformed folk can trace a similar influence on the sabbath to the Reformation in the Netherlands; but we are thankful for the Scottish Presbyterian impact on the Lord’s Day too.

The Sabbath

The early modern Kirk was notable for its emphasis upon keeping the Sabbath holy, coupled with a strong distaste for observing any other “holy days.” Insistence upon observing the Sabbath in fulfillment of the fourth commandment was, again, a characteristic of Reformed thought more broadly, though it may have had deeper roots in Scotland than elsewhere. For example, legislation passed under the eleventh-century Scottish Queen Margaret, intended to reform the church and nation, stressed the people’s obligation to keep the Sabbath.

Unique to the Kirk at the time of the Reformation, however, was the insistence that no other days be credited with religious significance. In fact, when asked in 1566 to review the Second Helvetic Confession, a respected document penned by the Reformer Heinrich Bullinger, the Scots felt compelled to offer qualified appreciation of the text, calling attention to their disapproval of the confession’s tolerance for the celebration of Christmas, Pentecost, and Easter, “feast days” with no warrant in Scripture.

The Kirk, to be sure, never entirely succeeded in discouraging Christmas festivities in Scotland, and rarely have churches or Christians elsewhere in the world embraced the Kirk’s argument for the complete eradication of a Christian calendar, and thus the refusal to attribute religious significance to any day beyond Sunday.

Nevertheless, the Kirk’s general privileging of a weekly rhythm for work and Sabbath rest over a liturgical calendar year orienting believers toward various seasons and days defined by Christ’s earthly ministry has affected attitudes toward both worship and work throughout the world. Fewer holy days translates, not only linguistically but also socially and historically, into fewer holidays. What sociologists have called “the Protestant work ethic”—an orientation in historically Protestant countries toward good, honest, hard work—is arguably the fruit of not only a general emphasis in Reformation thought on the godliness of every vocation but also a peculiar insistence in Scotland that believers should pause every Sunday for worship and respite, and more or less work the rest of the time.

Why I Don’t (and You Shouldn’t) Observe Lent

Why I Don’t Observe Lent.

LentIf you have ever wondered why we Protestants (Reformed and other branches) do not (and ought not) observe the season of Lent as mandated by the Roman Catholic Church and currently practiced by many Protestant churches and inividuals, this article by PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) elder Roland S.Barnes is a good place to start (posted March 3, 2014). He does a fine job of summaring the history of the development of this forty-day season and why the Reformation opposed the observance of this period of self-denial and fasting.

And as he explains well, this does not mean that we are against self-denial or fasting, or the commemoration of the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord. I quote from a few relevant paragraphs here and encourage you to read all of it. Though a bit long, it will strengthen you as a Protestant – and as Reformed. And, if you are in the mood, here’s another fine one that appeared on The Aquila Report‘s Top 10 list this week: “Playing With Lenten Fire” by OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) elder D.G.Hart.

…What started out with a full-blown deprecation of things which are lawful, food, sex, marriage, etc., has degenerated into rather trivial acts of denial, such as giving up chocolate or coffee. Of course, fasting is good as an expression of self-denial, but for the Church to decree such seasons for fasting as Lent, and thereby bind the consciences of believers, is contrary to the instructions given by the Apostle Paul. In addition it can be asked why would one voluntarily place himself under such rigorous regulations concerning food when Christ has set His people free from such regulations. Lent became a season of penance; forty days of sorrowful penance while waiting for Easter and the celebration of the resurrection. Nowhere in scripture is there any prescription for such an observance. The forty years that Moses worked for Jethro were preparatory for his mission to rescue the people of Israel from bondage in Egypt. His forty days of fasting on Mount Sinai were preparatory for the reception of the convenantal law of God. The forty days of fasting by Jesus were preparatory for spiritual battle in the wilderness. There is no pattern set forth in scripture for forty days of mourning over sin, especially when Christ has offered immediate forgiveness to everyone who repents.

…The Reformers viewed the Christian Sabbath as both a weekly celebration of the victory of the resurrection and a weekly practice of self-denial; that is, fasting from the pursuit of labor and entertainment. This weekly observance puts a curb on self-seeking pleasure and works against the self-indulgence of “Fat Tuesday.” Self-denial then becomes a way of life, the normal practice of piety, and not a seasonal event. The observance of fasting, praying, self-denial, and sober-minded reflection in the life of a believer is to be commended. I suppose someone may wish to do so as a matter of habit and regular observance by keeping some form of “Lent.”

However, the mandated observance of Lent along with its extra-biblical requirements of abstinence from things that are not withheld from us by God in His word is another matter altogether. What merit or benefit is there in abstaining from something which God Himself has given us to enjoy and to bless our lives? If something is sinful, we ought to abstain from it, fast from it, every hour of the day, every day of the week, and every week of the year. If something is not sinful and not forbidden to us by God in His Word, then we are free to partake of it or not partake of it as our conscience is our guide.

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