Immortality – A Divine Gift of Grace

The June 2022 issue of the Standard Bearer contains another special word study under the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken” (taken from Prov.25:11). This time pastor J. Smidstra focuses on the word immortality, both as an attribute of the eternal God and as a gracious gift in Jesus Christ.

As we experience a foretaste of life everlasting on this Lord’s Day, it is good to think on this blessed gift of our Savior to us. It truly is at the heart of the precious gospel of sovereign grace. Below is the opening part of Rev. Smidstra’s explanation of this gospel word.

Immortality

“It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Unbelieving man suppresses this knowledge. But he can never shake off the fear of death. More than anything man wants to live, and to keep living forever. Fallen man dreams of immortality. Not true immortality, but endless life after the imaginations of his heart. In every age he chases after this dream. He looks to all sorts of things to lengthen his days and deliver him from death: idol gods, a mythical fountain of youth, scientific progress. But none of these can give man the immortality for which he thirsts.

“For those whom the one true God has called out of darkness into His marvelous light, immortality is not a dream, but a gift of grace, merited by Jesus Christ, and revealed in the gospel. The true God is the living God (Ps. 42:2), who has life in Himself (John 5:26). He enjoys infinitely blessed life within Himself, life which is at heart fellowship among the divine three persons of the Trinity. As the living Triune God, He is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God” (1 Tim. 1:17). Here immortality is placed alongside eternality and wisdom as an attribute of the divine essence. Jehovah is the God “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Tim. 6:16). God alone is immortal in the absolute sense. He possesses the eternal fount of His own being within Himself. The above two verses from Timothy explain what immortality really is. It is not endless existence. It is so much more! The word immortal in I Tim. 1:17 means “un-decaying,” i.e., imperishable, not liable to corruption.  In I Tim. 6:16 “immortal” is a different Greek word meaning “undying” or “deathless.” Immortality is deathlessness, the complete separation from every power of decay and corruption. Jehovah is the deathless and undying God!

“The God who only hath immortality alone can give immortality to men subject to death and decay such as we are. It is a wonder of grace that His eternal plan has been to do just that: to give His elect people to Christ, so that in the fullness of time Christ might merit for them and bestow upon them immortal life. This grace of God, “which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” has now been revealed “by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ” (II Tim. 1:9). By His atoning death and victorious resurrection, Jesus Christ “hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (II Tim. 1:10). He has abolished death, defeated it and broken its power over His people. He brought life and immortality to light when He burst from the tomb on the third day. Jesus arose with new life, life beyond death, life incapable of dying. Jesus arose with the same body as went into the grave. But He was changed and glorified. He shares with His people. This life far is better than even the life Adam and Eve had in Eden. It is the highest and most blessed life.”

Published in: on June 26, 2022 at 7:40 AM  Leave a Comment  

Worshiping in the Light | Tabletalk

1Jn-1-7

“Light is a good thing in the Bible, and darkness is never a good thing. The life of the Christian is a walk in the light. And nowhere else in the Christian life do we get a better picture of the Christian life than in corporate worship. We are called into His presence, we confess our sin, we are assured of pardon, we hear from His Word, and we respond in praise and thanksgiving. This is the Christian life in microcosm, and it is done in the light, for Christians do not walk in darkness. Corporate worship is a taste of heaven, an anticipation of the Sabbath rest we will enjoy in the glorious, radiant presence of the Lord.

“The Apostle John writes, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another” (1 John 1:7). If we are in the light, we are not there by ourselves. We are in fellowship with other believers. What’s happening at the front of the church is not the only thing that’s important—the people around us are important, too.

“The Westminster Confession of Faith notes:

All saints, that are united to Jesus Christ their head, by his Spirit, and by faith, have fellowship with him in his graces, sufferings, death, resurrection, and glory: and, being united to one another in love, they have communion in each other’s gifts and graces, and are obliged to the performance of such duties, public and private, as do conduce to their mutual good, both in the inward and outer man. Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God. (WCF 26.1–2)

In the same breath, the confession states that we are in fellowship with other Christians just as surely as we are in fellowship with Christ. And we are to maintain that fellowship in the worship of God. This is the first and highest expression of our fellowship in Christ.

There is something meaningful and, indeed, edifying about seeing the faces of our fellow worshipers. We see the same people there every week, sitting in the same places. We see them singing, partaking of the sacraments, trying to keep their children quiet, flipping through their Bibles. And they see us likewise doing the same things. They are our fellow travelers. They are in this life with us, and that can be a source of great assurance.

“We hear the Word together, we partake of the sacraments together, we pray together, we confess our sins together. This is not by accident. To be called into fellowship with Christ is to be in fellowship with others. Worship is not about us individually; it is about us corporately. For one day, we will behold the face of God together, as the one body of Christ united to Him by faith.

“May God grant us the grace to walk in His light, to worship Him in Spirit and truth, and to enjoy fellowship with and worship alongside our fellow saints as we march—together—toward heaven.”

Source: Worshiping in the Light | Tabletalk

Published in: on June 19, 2022 at 7:27 AM  Leave a Comment  

Summer Reading Ideas: Tim Challies, Redeemed Reader, and More

When Chicago Ruled Baseball: The Cubs-White Sox World Series of 1906 by [Bernard A. Weisberger]Once again it is time to gather up some ideas for our summer reading. I hope your list includes some personal pleasure/interest books, as well as some good Christian titles that feed your mind and your heart.

Besides my annual summer baseball read (When Chicago Ruled Baseball by Bernard A. Weisberger – more on that in another post) and a good library read (The Vanished Library by Luciano Canfora – about the Library of Alexandria in the ancient world), I am working my way through several Christian titles, some of which I have posted about here.

Pastor-author Tim Challies recently posted some suggestions for students (college, high school, seminary), which includes a variety of subjects that should interest many. Here’s one that is significant:

You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News by Kelly Kapic. “Work. Family. Church. Exercise. Sleep. The list of demands on our time seems to be never ending. It can leave you feeling a little guilty–like you should always be doing one more thing. Rather than sharing better time-management tips to squeeze more hours out of the day, Kelly Kapic takes a different approach in You’re Only Human. He offers a better way to make peace with the fact that God didn’t create us to do it all. Kapic explores the theology behind seeing our human limitations as a gift rather than a deficiency. He lays out a path to holistic living with healthy self-understanding, life-giving relationships, and meaningful contributions to the world. He frees us from confusing our limitations with sin and instead invites us to rest in the joy and relief of knowing that God can use our limitations to foster freedom, joy, growth, and community. Readers will emerge better equipped to cultivate a life that fosters gratitude, rest, and faithful service to God.”

And for the younger crowd, Redeemed Reader always has good suggestions for children and young teens.

And, don’t forget Reformed Perspective’s book reviews and reading guides as well. How about this post about 90+ wordless books (or pure picture books for those challenged readers or just for fun!).

See the source image

Have a great reading summer!

Published in: on June 14, 2022 at 10:29 PM  Leave a Comment  

Amazed at His Free Grace

Back on May 20 this was the “Grace Gems” quote of the day. I saved it for a future post and tonight is that opportunity to do so for your benefit too. I was struck by the simple outline of this wonderful summary of salvation by God’s sovereign grace.

O stand amazed at His free grace!

(Thomas Sherman, “Divine Breathings; Or, a Pious Soul Thirsting after Christ”)

O precious saint! Three questions call for your answer:
   1. What were you?
   2. What are you?
   3. What shall you be?

1. What were you?
  Dead in your transgressions and sins,
  a rebel to your God,
  a prodigal to your Father,
  a slave to your lust,
  the devil’s captive,
  on the highway to Hell!

2. What are you?
  Redeemed by Christ,
  a royal child of God,
  the spouse of Christ,
  the temple of the Holy Spirit,
  the heir of a priceless eternal inheritance!

3. What shall you be?
  A glorious saint,
  a companion of angels,
  a triumphant victor,
  a crowned king,
  an attendant on the Lamb,
  a participant in those soul-ravishing and ineffable excellencies that are in God!
You shall behold the King of Glory face to face, and enjoy immediate communion with Jesus Christ!

Nay more, you are made one with Him:
  clothed with His excellencies,
  enthroned with His glories,
  crowned with His eternity,
  and filled with His felicity!

“No eye has seen,
 no ear has heard, and
 no mind has imagined . . .
what God has prepared for those who love Him!” 1 Corinthians 2:9

O stand amazed at His free grace–and render all the glory to God!

Published in: on June 11, 2022 at 10:00 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reigniting Our Longing to Pray Through the Lord’s Prayer

Another review book I received recently (by request) is Kevin DeYoung’s The Lord’s Prayer: Learning from Jesus on What, Why and How to Pray (Crossway, 2022). The publisher provides this summary description on its website:

“Christians know the importance of prayer, but the act of praying can be a real challenge. Some have the desire, but not always the will; others worry they don’t do it well. Books about prayer usually emphasize spiritual discipline, but that can foster more guilt than reassurance. So how can Christians improve their prayer life, embracing the privilege of communicating with God? 

“In The Lord’s Prayer, Kevin DeYoung closely examines Christ’s model for prayer, giving readers a deeper understanding of its content and meaning, and how it works in the lives of God’s people. Walking through the Lord’s Prayer word by word, DeYoung helps believers gain the conviction to develop a stronger prayer life and a sense of freedom to do so.”

And in a recent online article referencing this new title (“The Lord’s Prayer Reignites Our Desire to Want to Pray”), Crossway quotes DeYoung about how the prayer our Lord gave us as a model reignites our desire to pray:

“Over the many years that I’ve been a Christian, there are times I’ve heard sermons or talks or read books that really pound on my will and I feel like I should pray more. And that’s okay; that helps for a short time. But the better sermons and books and resources have inspired me and encouraged me. I really want to pray, and I can pray. And the best prayer—and the best means to do that—is the Lord’s Prayer.

It’s encouraging to me in that Jesus gives us a model to pray. The disciples want to know how should we be praying. It’s striking that Jesus doesn’t tell them what time of the day they should pray or how many minutes they should pray. He doesn’t give them a specific formula, but he gives them some broad points.

“He says, This is how you should pray. And at one level, the simplicity of it is an encouragement to pray and helps me want to pray because I think, I can do this by God’s grace. I can do this. Even though my prayers are always imperfect, I can pray that God’s glory would be revealed and his name would be praised. I can pray for God’s will to be done, his kingdom to come. I can pray through forgiveness and that needs are met. I can pray these sorts of things.

So, Jesus is not giving an impossibly high standard. It’s lofty, and none of us will do it perfectly, but he’s giving us something that we can do.”

There’s more there for you to read that will show you how the Lord’s Prayer encourages us to pray. Follow the link above to finish reading that article.

If you are interested in reading this short paperback and writing a brief review for the Standard Bearer, send me a note. As always, the book will be yours to keep.

Published in: on June 7, 2022 at 9:56 PM  Leave a Comment  

Keeping Sunday Special – Derek Thomas

“Having established the requirement to observe the keeping of the Lord’s Day as special in the rhythm of the Christian life, we now need to explore the manner in which this is to be done.

“First, we should be careful about dismissing the fourth commandment by the use of the word legalism.

“Christians sometimes use the word legalism as a synonym for ‘this is inconvenient.’ Knowing that compliance with the fourth commandment may cause one to alter lifestyle habits or behavior, our conscience finds temporary relief under the shade of the term legalism. When this is done, Christians are not using the term in its strict and accurate sense, which is requiring obedience for the sake of gaining favor with God or requiring obedience to man-made laws. In both of these instances, legalism is the correct word. However, it is not legalistic to require compliance with something God requires of us.

“Second, Sunday is a day for public worship. Sunday, the Lord’s Day, is holy in a way that other days are not. It is a day set apart for the public gathering of God’s people. As we saw in the previous chapter, we are urged in Hebrews not to neglect public gathering on the Lord’s Day (Heb.10:25).

“Sundays provide opportunities for worship and the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise in Matthew 18:20: ‘For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.’ There is nothing quite like the experience of the presence of Christ in our gathered worship. The Lord’s Day also provides opportunities for Sunday schools where the Bible is studied and a venue to enjoy some more informal fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Whenever we gather as a church on the Lord’s Day, we are participating in the greatest mystery and most wonderful experience that any individual or group of redeemed human beings could ever know – the experience of the unity of the body and bride of Christ with Him who was slain and rose again for sins.”

Taken from the new book by Derek W.H. Thomas, Let Us Worship: Why We Worship the Way We Do (Ligonier Ministries, 2021), pp.25-26.

Good thoughts for us as we end this week and anticipate the sabbath tomorrow. May we find God’s appointed day of rest and worship in Christ our Savior to be a delight.

I received this as a review copy. If any reader would be interested in reading this and writing a short review for the Standard Bearer, send me a note.

Published in: on June 4, 2022 at 9:23 PM  Leave a Comment  

Free Digital Copy of May 1, 2022 Standard Bearer on Sexual Abuse

The Reformed Free Publishing Association, publishers of distinctive Reformed literature and of the Standard Bearer, a Reformed bi-monthly magazine, are making available free a digital copy of the May 1, 2022 issue of the SB on “Sexual Abuse; Grievous Sin in the Church” (see cover above with the content).

This is, without question, one of the most difficult issues the editors have ever had to plan and organize, and that our writers have had to compose. Editor-in-chief Prof. B. Gritters expresses this in his notes for this special issue:

We “sigh and cry.”

“In your hands is an issue of the Standard Bearer unlike anything we have ever produced, for an occasion the Protestant Reformed Churches (PRC) have never before publicly faced.  Sexual abuse.  If it is a shame even to speak of what the Gentiles do in secret (Ephesians 5:12), how much more so the abominations that take place in the church.  But we must speak, in order to expose, repent of, and root out what is so dishonoring to God and so destructive to victims.

“When the prophet Ezekiel was commissioned to speak against Jerusalem’s abominations, God gave him very peculiar visions to make clear His message of judgment.  In one vision Ezekiel dug a hole in the wall of the temple to see what evils were performed in the darkness, including sexual perversions (Ezekiel 8).  Each time God led him farther in to see more (or worse) evils.  For these evils, God would send His avenging angels, armed with battle-axes (9:1), to destroy the impenitent in Jerusalem.  But God would spare some who “sigh and cry” for the atrocities.  These penitent believers sighed (inwardly) and cried (outwardly).

“John Calvin concludes his comments on this section of Ezekiel with these words: “The prophet therefore here exacts more from the sons of God than secret groaning, when he wishes them to groan openly and vociferate [to cry out loudly]; so that they bear witness that they abominate those things which God has condemned in his law.”

“Many in the PRC and other churches have been sighing quietly.  This special issue is a beginning, perhaps only feeble, effort to “cry out” openly.  May God hear our cries, spare us the judgments we deserve, and prevent any from self-righteous indignation.

“Rationale for this special issue hardly need be given.  The articles themselves will make that clear.  The painful reality of sexual abuse both inside and outside the church almost demands treatment that a single article cannot give it.  The editors laid out a plan for various topics and received immediate and positive response to all who were invited to write.  An unusual requirement was given to each writer to have their article peer-reviewed by at least two others before it was submitted for printing.  The editors required that each article be reviewed by others who are knowledgeable of the subject—by their own experience, or by training—so that justice is done and offense minimized as such a difficult and sensitive matter is treated.

“A special note regarding the article anonymously written.  Although the author was willing to be identified, the decision was made to retain anonymity.  This anonymity is not to send messages to the abused that they must remain hidden, nor to the perpetrators that they are afforded secrecy.  The intent is rather to focus on the issue rather than on the persons or the locale.

“Finally, a hearty thanks to all the writers, to the victims (both men and women) who helped the writers by relating their own stories and reading the articles, and to artist Erika Keil (Kalamazoo PRC) whose cover-design reflects what words cannot convey.

“May the Lord hear our sigh and cry, bring to sincere and complete repentance those who are guilty, judge and remove the impenitent, help the church be more faithful in her response to such abominations, and graciously, miraculously, and tenderly heal the abused.”

The RFPA and the editors send out this issue with those petitions on our lips and from the depths of our hearts. Follow the link above to find the free issue in various digital formats.

Published in: on May 28, 2022 at 6:31 AM  Leave a Comment  

Misunderstood Attributes of God: Omnipotence | Tabletalk, May 2022

The May 2022 issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier’s monthly devotional magazine, is devoted to the subject of “Misunderstood Attributes of God.”

In his article for “Coram Deo,” editor Burk Parsons drives home the need to treat the attributes of God and for all Christians to read about them and study them:

“This is one reason that we read books, write books, and publish magazines such as Tabletalk—that we might know, love, glorify, and enjoy God more and more in all that we think, say, and do. Therefore, while the subject of this issue of Tabletalk might seem a little academic for some, it is nevertheless necessary for Christians to study. Due to poor teaching and theological misunderstanding, even churches that hold fast to Scripture as God’s inerrant Word are unwittingly raising a generation of people who unknowingly profess heresy more than the theology of the Bible. The desperate need of our generation is not only for the world to know God but, as Dr. R.C. Sproul emphasized, for the church to know God. To know God means to know our theology, and to know our theology means to know God’s revelation about Himself to the end that we might be led back to God, by the grace of God, through the power of God the Holy Spirit, to worship God so that God alone might get the glory. Simply put, sound theology leads to doxology.”

One of the featured articles treats the divine attribute of omnipotence, considering especially two matters: the scope of God’s power (how far does it extend?, and can God’s omnipotence come in conflict with other of His attributes?) and the question of God’s power over evil. About the latter – a perennial question among believers and non-believers, author R. Charlton Wynne has this to say:

“This brings us to the second question: Is God’s power reconcilable with the reality of evil? If God by His omnipotence can manifest only His holy and good character, how can there be evil in the world? Sometimes the very personal and heart-wrenching cries of believers and nonbelievers alike (“How could God allow this to happen?” “Where was God when this took place?”) lead to doubts about or even denials of God’s omnipotence. This presents one version of the so-called problem of evil: If God is all-good, and evil exists, then God cannot be all-powerful.

“Again, though, a hidden assumption drives this challenge to divine omnipotence. The argument assumes that a good and omnipotent God would always act immediately to preclude all evil. But Scripture teaches both that God has ordained what is evil (though man, not God, remains responsible for it; Eccl. 7:29) and that He has done so, in part, that He might reveal His power over evil, even to accomplish His good purposes through it (e.g., Gen. 50:20). This is no pious platitude. It is the solemn trust and great solace of every humble Christian in the face of the adversities, disappointments, and tragedies of this life. God is omnipotent and altogether good. Trusting that both are true grounds hope and encouragement for every believing heart.”

Following which, he appropriately closes with these words under the heading “Omnipotence and the Gospel”:

“The central and most stunning revelation of God’s utterly holy character through His omnipotence over evil is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Jesus healed the lame, stopped the wind, opened the eyes of the blind, and rose victorious over death, He showed Himself to be “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). He continues His almighty work in resurrecting the hearts of those whom the Father irresistibly draws to Himself, and He will complete that saving work in them on the day He raises His people to imperishable glory (John 6:44). And when He judges the world, re-creates the cosmos, and brings heaven to earth, the gathered chorus of saints will sing of His power: “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (Rev. 19:6).”

Source: Omnipotence | Tabletalk

Published in: on May 21, 2022 at 9:28 PM  Leave a Comment  

Inhaling the Oxygen of God’s Word

“…The Bible reeducates us. The Bible makes sages out of fools. It corrects us.

“But we need to press deeper. The Bible not only corrects us; it also oxygenates us. We need a Bible not only because we are wrong in our minds but also because we are empty in our souls.

“This is why I like the metaphor of breathing. Taking a big breath into our lungs fills us with fresh air, gives us oxygen, calms us down, provides focus, and brings mental clarity. What inhaling does for us physically, Bible reading does for us spiritually.

“In this shifty, uncertain world, God has given us actual words. Concrete, unmoving, fixed words. We can go to the rock of Scripture amid the shifting sands of this life. Your Bible is going to have the same words tomorrow that it does today. Friends can’t provide that – they will move in and out of your life, loyal today but absent tomorrow. Parents and their counsel will die. Your pastor will not always be available to take your call. The counselor who has given you such sage instruction will one day retire, or maybe you’ll move out of state. But you can roll out of bed tomorrow morning and, whatever stressors slide uncomfortably across your mental horizon as you groan with the anxieties of the day, your friend the Bible is unfailingly steady. It lies there, awaiting opening, eager to steady you amid all the unanswered questions before you that day. It will give you what you need and not evade you. Our truest wisdom and only safety is to build our lives on its words (Matt.7:24-27).

“If fact, we should not be saying ‘it,’ but ‘he.’ Through Scripture God himself addresses us. The reason the Bible does not shift and move is that God does not shift and move. Your Bible is not just the best book there is among all the books out there. The Bible is a different kind of book. It’s of another class. It is similar to other books in that it is bound between two covers and is filled with small black letters comprising words throughout. But the Bible is different from other books in the way rainfall is different from your garden hose – it comes from above and provides a kind of nourishment far beyond that our own resources can provide.

“Why? Because the Bible’s author is God, and God knows exactly what will nourish us.”

Taken from Deeper: Real Change for Real Sinners by Dane C. Ortlund (Crossway, 2021), pp146-47. This book is a kind of sequel to Ortlund’s other fine book, Gentle and Lowly, which I have also called attention to here.

Published in: on May 18, 2022 at 9:57 PM  Leave a Comment  

Sabbath Night – J. H. Bocock

“On the Lord’s Day, or Christian Sabbath, it is good to contemplate the comforts that are given to us by our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. After the day’s devotions, which are a taste of heaven, with cognizance of our failures to keep the day holy as we ought, we may nevertheless take refuge in Him who gives rest and peace, not as the world gives, but from above. Consider a poem by John Holmes Bocock (1813-1872) as found in Selections From the Religious and Literary Writings of John H. Bocock, D.D. (1891), pp. 546-547, which highlights such an appreciation of Sabbath blessings and comforts.”
Sabbath Night

Rest, weary spirit, rest,
From toil and trouble free;
Lean on the Saviour’s breast
Who giveth rest to thee!

Lie there, ye cares and fears,
I cast you at his feet;
From all my fears and cares
I take this sure retreat.

Beneath his wings I crowd,
Close to his side I press:
None such was e’er allowed
To perish without grace.

O sprinkle me with blood!
My heart would feel the stream
From out thy side that flowed,
Us, sinners, to redeem!

Yet closer still I come!
Reveal thyself to me:
O let me feel that home
Is at thy feet to be.

I calmly seek repose;
Pardon my Sabbath sin,
And to my dreams disclose
That heaven thou dwellest in.

Perhaps the “Dead Presbyterian Society” does not sound so thrilling, but the Log College Press produces some worthwhile Presbyterian/Reformed writings from the past, including a large free pdf library. This is one of them.

Published in: on May 15, 2022 at 9:10 PM  Leave a Comment