No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman

No Greater Gospel: An Interview with Dave Furman by Dave Furman | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

DFurman sketchPart of my Sunday reading also included this fascinating “TT” interview with Pastor David Furman, who pastors Redeemer Church in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

While there are many interesting insights in this interview about planting and maintaining a Reformed church in the heart of the Middle East, I truly appreciated the way Furman answered two questions in particular. I post them here, encouraging you to follow the link above to learn more about this church in Dubai.

TT: What aspects of the reformed tradition have most equipped you for ministry in Dubai?

DF: The first and biggest thing that came to mind when I read this question was the crystal-clear call of Christ. Jesus says: “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16). It is hard to describe how encouraged I am by the Reformed doctrines of grace that describe how Christ assuredly calls His elect, that the elect respond, and that He keeps them forever. This strengthens my heart to endure hardship, to labor over expositional preaching, and to glorify Jesus when I see fruit or face rejection. Reformed doctrine has fueled our sharing of the gospel and emboldened us to be faithful to Christ in difficult times.

TT: What advice can you give Christians for sharing the gospel?

DF: Romans 1:16 says that the gospel is the power of God. There is no need to change it, distort it, add to it, or subtract from it. Indeed, we must not alter the gospel. If you add one drop of works to the gospel, you destroy it, change it, reverse it, and oppose it. Gospel revision always equals gospel reversal. I would tell all Christians to hold on to and herald the one true gospel. We’ve seen it change lives time and time again. I read in a biography of Charles Spurgeon a story about his grandfather preaching one night. The story goes that one night Charles Spurgeon, the great British preacher, was running late getting to the church, and by the time he got there, his grandfather had already started preaching. Young Spurgeon was already widely known at that time, and when he walked in, his grandfather paused his sermon and said something to this effect: “My grandson is here now; he may be a greater preacher than I, but he can’t preach a greater gospel.” All Christians are equipped with the same message. We need to hold out the gospel. There is no better message and no greater news.

Into the Mystic – Peter Lillback

Into the Mystic by Peter Lillback | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014Yesterday I finished the main articles on this month’s Tabletalk theme, dealing with the 14th century of the church. The fourth and final article is written by Dr.Peter Lillback, president and professor of historical theology at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia.

His article carries the above title – “Into the Mystic” – and treats the significant movement of mysticism during this century of the church’s history. This too is “must” reading, for mysticism is always found in the church, – today too –  and always presents unique challenges to the church’s doctrine and life, as Lillback properly points out.

I give you a part of the end of his article and encourage you to read all of it at the Ligonier link above.

The Scriptures teach us to test the spirits because false teaching emerges from the fallen hearts of mankind, including our own. Salvation is not man-centered, whether in terms of feelings, choices, ideas, or visions. All truth and wisdom are gifts of divine grace and are found in Christ. Our pursuit of God must be Christ-centered and based upon the revealed Word of God.

Thus, biblical Christianity, especially with its restoration in the Reformation, rejects unfettered mystical experiences in favor of the scriptural revelation of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the fallen nature of man means that we must reject our inner impulses as our primary spiritual guides and instead practice humble reliance on the Word and Holy Spirit. When we meditate, we should meditate upon Scripture. When we seek extraordinary experiences, we should consider the extraordinary miracles that God has performed in history and recorded in His Word. When we seek to know God, we should know the Scriptures that speak of Him (John 5:46), pray to our loving Father, and participate in the church and sacraments.

We should thereby embrace the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27), remembering that neither our minds nor our feelings will lead us to God without the true “inner” experience of the Holy Spirit’s grace in Christ grounded in His inspired Word.

 

The Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy – R. Scott Clark

The Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy by R. Scott Clark | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014Yesterday I read the next main article on the theme of this month’s Tabletalk. It carries the above title, treating the chaos and confusion that reigned in the papacy of the Western church in the 14th century.

R.Scott Clark, professor of church history and historical theology at Westminster Seminary (West-CA), sees this as a teaching lesson to show that Rome’s contention of a clear succession of popes from Peter to the present day is invalid, as well as unbiblical.

I believe you will profit from knowing this side of the church’s history during this century. You will find Clark’s full article at the Ligonier link above. Here is a portion of it to get you started.

TENUOUS CLAIMS

Like Christians during the Avignon crisis, we live in an age when authority and order seem to be dissolving before our eyes. Some Christians, who are sensitive to these cultural shifts and to their effect upon evangelical churches, see the problems reflected in liturgical changes and general spiritual and ethical chaos. They are thus attracted to Rome on the basis of her claim to continuity with the past, ostensible unity, and stability.

The Avignon crisis is just one of many examples from the history of the medieval church that illustrate the futility of seeking continuity, unity, and stability where they have never existed. The historical truth is that the Roman communion is not an ancient church. She is a medieval church who consolidated her theology, piety, and practice during a twenty-year-long council in the sixteenth century (Trent). Her rituals, sacraments, canon law, and papacy are medieval. The unity and stability offered by Roman apologists are illusions—unless mutual and universal excommunication and attempted murder count as unity and stability. Crushing opponents and rewriting history to suit present needs is not unity. It is mythology.

Roman apologists sometimes seek to vindicate the Roman popes, as distinct from the Avignon popes and the Pisan popes, by describing the Avignon popes as if they were less fit for office than the former. That is, to put it mildly, a strange argument. If popes are as popes do, then we may shorten the list of popes quite radically. On that principle, Rome had no pope from 1471 to 1503, and arguably beyond. In that period, Sixtus IV (reigned 1471-84), in an attempt to raise funds, extended plenary indulgences to the dead. Innocent VIII (reigned 1484-92) fathered sixteen illegitimate sons, of whom he acknowledged eight. Alexander VI (reigned 1492-1503) fathered twelve children, openly kept mistresses in the Vatican, made his son Cesare a cardinal, and tried to ensure Cesare’s ascension to the papacy. Alexander’s daughter Lucretia has been alleged to be a notorious poisoner. We have not even considered Julius II (reigned 1503-13), who took up the sword and was so busy conducting military campaigns to improve papal control over the peninsula that he conducted Mass while wearing armor.

The existence of simultaneous popes in Rome, Avignon, and Pisa, each elected by papal electors and some later arbitrarily designated as antipopes, illustrates the problem of the notion of an unbroken Petrine succession. The post-Avignon papacy is an orphan who has no idea who his father was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The Ordinary Means of Growth

The Ordinary Means of Growth.

means of graceThis article appeared in the featured list from “The Aquila Report” this week (dated July 15, 2014). It is actually a reprint of an article Dr.Ligon Duncan wrote for Tabletalk magazine back in 2007. But it is worth republishing and repeating because what Duncan wrote seven years ago remains relevant. In fact, even more so now!

As we end our week and anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, may we continue to be committed to the “ordinary” means of grace. Which, are in reality, extraordinary, because they are the means by which God saves us through Christ and keeps us in Christ.

Below is a quotation from the heart of Duncan’s article. To read all of it – and it is all good reading! – visit the link found above.

Ordinary means of grace-based ministry is ministry that focuses on doing the things God, in the Bible, says are central to the spiritual health and growth of His people, and which aims to see the qualities and priorities of the church reflect biblical norms. Ordinary means ministry is thus radically committed to biblical direction of the priorities of ministry. Ordinary means ministry believes that God has told us the most important things, not only about the truth we are to tell, but about the way we are to live and minister — in any and every context. Hence, God has given us both the message of salvation and the means of gathering and building the church, in His Word. However, important understanding our context is, however important understanding the times may be (and these things are, in fact, very important), however important appreciating the cultural differences in the places and times we serve, the ordinary means approach to ministry is first and foremost concerned with biblical fidelity. Because faithfulness is relevance. The Gospel is the message and the local church is the plan. God has given to his church spiritual weapons for the bringing down of strongholds. These ordinary means of grace are the Word, sacraments, and prayer.

They may seem weak in the eyes of the worldly strong. They may seem foolish in the eyes of the worldly wise. But the Gospel message is the power of God unto salvation, and the Gospel means are effectual to salvation. These are the Spiritual instruments given by God with which Christian congregational Spiritual life is nurtured, the Spirit’s tools of grace and growth in grace appointed by God in the Bible.

 

Gerald R.Ford and the PRC Synod of 1961

Ford Museum celebrates anniversary of president’s birth; new exhibition opens today | MLive.com.

Gerald_FordAs many of you will know, Former U.S. Congressman and later U.S. President Gerald R. Ford (38th, serving from 1974-77; and prior to that 40th Vice-president serving under Pres.R.Nixon from 1973-74) is buried on the grounds of the presidential museum that bears his name (maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration), along the banks of the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids, MI. You may also know that Ford’s presidential library is located in Ann Arbor, MI on the campus of the University of Michigan.

This past Monday, July 14, was the 101st anniversary of Pres.Ford’s birth (also my father’s birthday – more famous to us!), which was commemorated at the museum with the annual wreath laying ceremony, as the above-linked story on MLive reports.

Why do I bring this up on this Friday? Because I am running a day late with my posts this week and this post is going to be our PRC history/archives one for this week. OK, you may say; but still, what does PRC history have to do with Pres. G.Ford?

Well, here’s the answer – in the form of a question! Did you know that our churches have on record in our Acts of Synod a letter to and from “Jerry” Ford when he was serving as a congressman from Grand Rapids in Washington, D.C.?

That’s correct. In 1961 our Synod took the unusual step of adopting an overture that originated in Creston PRC (Grand Rapids, MI) and approved by Classis East in which we objected to the military’s requirement at that time “that our young men take part in military training and drill on the Sabbath day” (p.57). The overture had three grounds and included a letter to Congressman Ford, as well as his respectful and sympathetic reply (as you will see in the material below).

This matter directly involved Rev.George Lubbers, pastor of Creston PRC at that time, and as you will note, a son of his by the name of Cornelius, known to most of us as “Case”.

Before posting the overture itself, I will quote from the relevant article (39) of the Acts of Synod 1961 which gives the decisions made:

A motion is made to adopt I, A, i.e., ‘that synod adopt the overture of Creston as approved by Classis East.’ Carried

A motion is made to adopt I, B, i.e., ‘that synod send a letter to Major General D.W. McGowan, to the Chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Corps Reserve Affairs and to Robert McNamara, Sec. of Defense.’ Carried

A motion is made to adopt I, C. i.e., ‘that synod send a copy of the above letters to Rep.Gerald R. Ford with a letter of explanation.’ Carried.

Below is the overture with its supporting documents, including the letters to and from Rep.Ford (click on them to enlarge).

Acts 1961-2_Page_1

 

Acts1961-1_Page_1

I find this fascinating. Little did Synod of 1961 know that it would have on its records letters from a future President of the United States! I wonder if his archives (now part of our National Archives) contain these letters. Shall we try to find out?

New and Noteworthy in the Seminary Library

It has been some time since I highlighted a few new books that have come into the PRC Seminary library, so today I selected four that I have setting on the “new and noteworthy” shelf in the library. All of them are recent publications (2013 and 2014). I will simply note them with some basic information from the publisher and also include links for them.

These are all processed and ready for checkout should you decide you want to make use of these for some good summer reading! :)

To find these books and more, visit our online library catalog.

1. Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever by Michael Horton (Crossway, 2014; 271 pgs., paper). This is the fifth volume in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series edited by Stephen J.Nichols and Justin Taylor and published by Crossway. The publisher adds this note concerning this title:

John Calvin, a man adored by some and maligned by others, stands as a legendary figure in Christian history. In Calvin on the Christian Life, professor Michael Horton offers us fresh insights into the Reformer’s personal piety and practical theology by allowing Calvin to speak in his own words.

Drawing not only from his Institutes and biblical commentaries, but also from lesser-known tracts, treatises, and letters, this book will deepen your understanding of Calvin’s theology and ministry by exploring the heart of his spiritual life: confident trust and unwavering joy in the sovereign grace of God.

Taking God at His Word - DeYoung-20142. Taking God at His Word: Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me by Kevin DeYoung (Crossway, 2014; 138 pgs., hardback. Our copy includes a study guide as well.). This what Crossway says about this little volume:

Can we trust the Bible completely?
Is it sufficient for our complicated lives?
Can we really know what it teaches?

With his characteristic wit and clarity, award-winning author Kevin DeYoung has written an accessible introduction to the Bible that answers important questions raised by Christians andnon-Christians. This book will help you understand what the Bible says about itself and the key characteristics that contribute to its lasting significance.

Avoiding technical jargon, this winsome volume will encourage you to read and believe the Bible—confident that it truly is God’s Word.

Reading Bible with Luther-Wengert-20133. Reading the Bible with Martin Luther: An Introductory Guide by Timothy J. Wengert (Baker Academic, 2013; 134 pgs., paper). Baker introduces this title with these words:

Prominent Reformation historian Timothy Wengert introduces the basic components of Martin Luther’s theology of the Bible and examines Luther’s contributions to present-day biblical interpretation. Wengert addresses key points of debate regarding Luther’s approach to the Bible that have often been misunderstood, including biblical authority, the distinction between law and gospel, the theology of the cross, and biblical ethics. He argues that Luther, when rightly understood, offers much wisdom to Christians searching for fresh approaches to the interpretation of Scripture. This brief but comprehensive overview is filled with insights on Luther’s theology and its significance for contemporary debates on the Bible, particularly the New Perspective on Paul.

Holy Communion - HOld-20134. Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church by Hughes Oliphant Old; edited and introduced by Jon D. Payne (Tolle Lege, 2014; 919 pgs., hardback). Just as Old has written an extensive history of preaching, now he has done so with the history of the Lord’s Supper in the Reformed church world. This is a significant work, as these words of the publisher indicate:

All across the United States, Protestant churches have forgotten their sacramental roots.  The Lord’s Supper has often been reduced to an empty memorial if it is even celebrated at all, and the contemporary Protestant church suffers greatly from this lapse.

In Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church, Hughes Oliphant Old uncovers the central importance of Holy Communion in the Reformed tradition.  Beginning with Calvin and moving into modern times, Old pinpoints and explains the most pivotal developments in Reformed eucharistic theology—from the true nature of the communion elements to preparatory services and seasons.  Along the way, he shows that our doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is not merely an intellectual exercise; it has profound influence on the church’s life and operations—on her piety.

This volume is both a scholarly exploration of Reformed tradition and a pastoral call to the contemporary church to rediscover the most potent truths and edifying practices of our Christian forefathers.  In our day of debilitating liturgical innovations, Holy Communion proves yet again that God’s truth on any subject is timeless and evergreen.  Before we can display Christ fully in our day, we must recover a full commitment to biblical worship—in the Word preached as well as the Word made visible in the Lord’s Supper.

J.Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation – Stephen Nichols

The Morning Star of the Reformation by Stephen Nichols | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014The July issue of Tabletalk focuses on the history of the church during the 14th century, as we noted a week ago. When we introduced this issue, we also pointed you to the opening article on this theme, in which Dr.N.Needham gives a wide view of this period.

In the second main feature article, Dr. Stephen J.Nichols provides a more focused presentation of a significant figure from this period of church history, namely, John Wycliffe, under the above-linked title.

His article is a great survey of Wycliffe’s person and work, and shows why he is called the “morning star of the Reformation”. If you have forgotten who this man was and why his work is so important to the church of Jesus Christ, this is a great way to refresh yourself in getting better acquainted with Wycliffe.

I give you the beginning of Nichols’ piece here. Find all of it at this link (or the one above).

He had been dead and buried for a few decades, but the church wanted to make a point. His remains were exhumed and burned, a fitting end for the “heretic” John Wycliffe. Wycliffe once explained what the letters in the title CARDINAL really mean: “Captain of the Apostates of the Realm of the Devil, Impudent and Nefarious Ally of Lucifer.” And with that, Wycliffe was only getting started.

Wycliffe rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the elements of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper become the actual body and blood of Christ. He was against priestly absolution, he spoke out against indulgences, and he denied the doctrine of purgatory. He rejected papal authority. Instead, he asserted that Christ is the head of the church. And he had a profound belief in the inerrancy and absolute authority of Scripture. He fully believed that the church of his day had lost its way. Scripture alone provided the only way back. Now we see why the medieval Roman Church wanted to make a statement against Wycliffe.

John Wycliffe has often been called “the Morning Star of the Reformation.” Jan Hus, another pre-Reformation reformer, felt obliged to express his supreme debt to Wycliffe. And though he lived long after Wycliffe’s death, Martin Luther, too, felt an obligation to recognize the pioneering reforms of John Wycliffe. Luther stood on the shoulders of Hus, who stood on the shoulders of Wycliffe. Hus, Luther, and the other Reformers were indebted to him. So are we. Wycliffe was indeed “the Morning Star of the Reformation.”

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College, chief academic officer for Ligonier Ministries, and a Ligonier teaching fellow. He is author of several books and teaches on the podcast 5 Minutes in Church History.

July “Tabletalk”: Wycliffe and the Dawn of the Reformation

Forerunner of the Reformation by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-July 2014With the start of a new month it is time to introduce the July 2014 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional magazine. This month’s issue returns to and continues the church history theme, with the focus on the 14th century and the “Dawn of the Reformation” (Note: “TT” has been gradually covering the major centuries of church history for several years now.).

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this theme with the above-linked article. We pull a few lines from it and encourage you to read the rest. And while you are at it, you should read the excellent overview of major events/trends in the church of the 14th century by Dr.Nicholas R. Needham. His article is titled “The Fourteenth Century” and is found at the link provided here.

Here then, are a few of Parsons’ introductory notes to the July “TT”:

John Wycliffe was the morning star of the Reformation. He was a protestant and a reformer more than a century before Martin Luther ignited the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Through Wycliffe, God planted the seeds of the Reformation, He watered the seeds through John Hus, and He brought the flower of the Reformation to bloom through Martin Luther. The seed of the flower of the German Augustinian monk Luther’s 95 theses was planted by the English scholar and churchman John Wycliffe.

…Wycliffe was committed to the authority and inspiration of Holy Scripture, declaring, “Holy Scripture is the highest authority for every believer, the standard of faith and the foundation for reform in religious, political and social life … in itself it is perfectly sufficient for salvation, without the addition of customs or traditions.” As such, Wycliffe oversaw the translation of the Bible from Latin into the English vernacular. This was a radical undertaking, and it was against the express mandate of the papacy. His understanding of Scripture naturally led to his understanding of justification by faith alone, as he declared, “Trust wholly in Christ. Rely altogether on his sufferings. Beware of seeking to be justified in any other way than by his righteousness. Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is sufficient for salvation.”

In the fourteenth century, at the dawn of the Reformation, Wycliffe shone as a burning and shining light of gospel truth, and his doctrine mirrored his life as one who lived by God’s grace and before God’s face, coram Deo, and for God’s glory. Soli Deo gloria.

Also, as noted before, the daily devotions in this month’s issue continue in the book of Romans, with the starting point in that significant chapter of Romans 9.

New and Notable Books July | T.Challies

New & Notable Books July | Challies Dot Com.

Christian pastor/author/blogger Tim Challies has posted his latest set of new books for this month of July. He has highlighted a variety of profitable titles again.

Below are a few of them, along with Challies’ description; find the rest at the link above.

Lifelines-MFaberezLifelines for Tough Times by Mike Fabarez. Here is how the publisher describes this one: “When tough times hit, we often find ourselves vulnerable—to doubt, fear, worry, even depression. We ask, ‘Does God care? Has He forgotten me?’ So why does God allow suffering? Author Mike Fabarez—who is well acquainted with deep pain himself as the father of a special-needs child and as a pastor who has counseled many through life’s hurts—looks to the truths of Scripture for answers. Along the way, he shares how complete trust in God alone can restore your confidence and hope; the power of focusing on God’s eternal goals for you in life’s temporary setbacks; God’s promises to love and protect you no matter what happens. This book will not only help you understand why God allows suffering—it will provide you with the resources to stand strong, rest in God’s care, and endure!” It comes with endorsements from John MacArthur, Joni Eareckson Tada, Jay Adams, and others. (Learn more or buy it at Amazon)

60 People-CH-Gansky60 People Who Shaped the Church by Alton Gansky. “The Church exists today in its current form because of the people who have come before us. From a consummate storyteller comes this collection of inspiring biographical sketches of people who played pivotal roles in advancing the Kingdom of God on earth. In rich prose and spanning twenty centuries of church history, these engaging narratives range from the well-known to the obscure, highlighting personalities such as Josephus, Francis of Assisi, Thomas Aquinas, Galileo, John Calvin, Blaise Pascal, Jonathan Edwards, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, and many others. Readers will feel the past come alive and mingle in their minds with the present state of the Church, encouraging and galvanizing them to live their own faith courageously in our time—and shape the Church of the future.” (Learn more or buy it at Amazon or Westminster Books)

A Passion for Preaching and A Long Line of Godly Men: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson

A Passion for Preaching: An Interview with Steven J. Lawson by Steven Lawson | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT_Interview_LawsonThis month’s Tabletalk (June 2014) included another interview feature, this time with pastor Steve Lawson, well-known preacher and author, who has begun a new ministry devoted to church reformation through expository preaching – OnePassion Ministries.

There are many good parts to this interview, but there are two sections in particular I will post here today: one on the great need of the church today and one on his series of books – “A Long Line of Godly Men.” I believe you too will find these interesting and profitable.

To read all of the interview, follow the Ligonier link above.

TT: Why have you focused so much of your attention to the practice of expository preaching and to helping both preachers and laypeople see its importance?

SL: I strongly believe that no church can rise any higher than its pulpit. As the pulpit goes, so goes the church. The deeper the preacher takes his flock into the Word of God, the higher they will rise in worship. The stronger they are in the Scripture, the stronger they will be in the pursuit of holiness. Likewise, strong preaching leads to sacrificial service in the Lord’s work. Strong exposition kindles hearts for the work of evangelism and the cause of worldwide missions. Every great movement of God in church history has been ushered in by a renewed commitment to solid preaching of the Word. If we are to see a spiritual awakening in our day, the church must recover the primacy of preaching. I desire to be used by God to help equip a new generation of preachers and laypeople in recognizing the importance of this primary means of grace.

TT: Why did you decide to establish the book series A Long Line of Godly Men, and what other men do you hope to profile individually in this series?

SL: The Long Line series was birthed in my teaching ministry at the church that I pastor. As I was teaching the men of my church sound doctrine from Scripture, I wanted them to see that what we believe in the doctrines of sovereign grace has been the mainline position by great men and movements down through the centuries. Out of this Friday morning teaching series has arisen these books so that these essential truths may be made available to a wider audience around the world. There is much instruction and inspiration to be drawn from this profile study. In the future, I need to write volume three of the larger books, which will move from John Knox to this present hour. In the smaller books, there are other key figures who I want to address such as William Tyndale, John Wycliff•e, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and, yes, R.C. Sproul.

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