Jesus Christ: the True Fountain of Our Holiness

JCalvin1To prompt us toward righteousness more effectively, Scripture tells us that God the Father, who has reconciled us to Himself in His Anointed One, Jesus Christ, has given us in Christ a model to which we should conform our lives. You will not find a better model in the philosophers – in whom many expect to find the only correct and orderly treatment of moral philosophy. They, while doing their best to encourage us to be virtuous, have nothing to say except that we should live ‘ according to nature.’

Scripture, however, draws its encouragement from the true fountain. Its teaches us to contemplate our lives in relation to God, our Author, to whom we are bound. And, having taught us that we have fallen from the true state and condition of our original creation, Scripture adds that Christ, through whom we have been restored to favor with God, is set before us as a model whose form and beauty should be reflected in our lives.

What can be more effective than this? Indeed, what more is needed than this? We have been adopted by the Lord as children with this understanding – that in our lives we should mirror Christ who is the bond of our adoption. And truly, unless we are devoted – even addicted – to righteousness, we will faithlessly abandon our Creator and disown Him as our Savior.

Little-book-christian-life-calvinTaken from the fresh translation and edition of John Calvin’s short work on the Christian life,  A Little Book on the Christian Life (Reformation Trust, 2017), pp.8-9 (slightly edited). For my previous post on this “golden booklet,” visit this page.

Reset: Refuel (Yes, watch what you take into your bodies!)

Reset-DMurray-2017This Spring and Summer we are looking at the practical and profitable thoughts of Dr. David Murray in his newly published book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Writing especially with men in view, Murray has us take the “car” of our lives into various “repair bays” to have our lives rechecked and reset.

Today we consider “Repair Bay 8,” which is titled “Refuel”. In this chapter Murray calls us to examine the food we eat, the medications we take, and the energizers we use.

There are many practical and edifying thoughts in this chapter, and for our purposes let’s take a quotation just from that first section. Concerning the food we eat, Murray says,

I’m a theologian, not a dietician. That’s why “The Murray Diet” begins with theology: ‘Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Cor.10:31). This profound Scripture verse tells us that there is a way to glorify God not just by what comes out of our mouths in praise and prayer, but by what goes into our mouths by eating and drinking. In other words, every choice we make about what to eat or drink either magnifies or minimizes God.

…When we pray ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ God graciously answers not only by giving sufficient and suitable food for our physical and intellectual life, but also by calling us to take responsibility for the quantity and quality of food and drink we consume. We can’t expect our minds to function well if we are stuffing our faces with junk. And remember, God works through our minds. He does us spiritual good by imparting truth through our brains. Thus, if we are not caring for our brains by giving them sufficient and suitable fuel, that will ultimately damage our spiritual lives as well [pp.142-44].

Your Mind Matters – J. Stott

mind-matters-stott…The Christian doctrine of revelation, far from making the human mind unnecessary, actually makes it indispensable and assigns to it its proper place. God has revealed himself in words to minds. His revelation is a rational revelation to rational creatures. Our duty is to receive his message, too submit to it, to seek to understand it and to relate it to the world in which we live.

That God needs to take the initiative to reveal himself shows that our minds are finite and fallen; that he chooses to reveal himself to babies [Matt.11:25] shows that we must humble ourselves to receive his Word; that he does so at all, and in words, shows that our minds are capable of understanding it. One of the highest and noblest functions of man’s mind is to listen to God’s Word, and so to read his mind and think his thoughts after him, both in nature and in Scripture.

I venture to say that when we fail to use our minds and descend to the level of animals, God addresses us as he addressed Job when he found him wallowing in self-pity, folly and bitter complaining: ‘Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me.’ [cf. Job 38:3; 40:7]

Taken from Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (Inter-Varsity Press, 1972) by John R. W. Stott, pp.20-21

Blessed Pure in Heart, Blessed Peacemakers, Blessed Persecuted

As we noted before this month, the June Tabletalk is devoted to the Beatitudes our Lord spoke during His ministry on earth (cf. Matt.5).

Each of these beatitudes are given a brief explanation and application in the issue. Today I was able to read three more of these articles before our worship times.

On this Sunday night, I want to leave you with quotations from all three, so that you can also benefit from these edifying articles. I give you the links to each article so that you may also read the entire thing if you wish (they are all brief).

First is “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart” by Michael Allen:

…Our salvation involves nothing less than the gift of our Savior Himself. God is not merely the author of the gospel—God is the end of the gospel.

The “pure of heart” are those who see that we are made for and only satisfied ultimately by the sight of God. Other gifts are good; this prize alone is ultimately blessed. A crucial facet of growing in the kind of purity envisioned and given by Jesus is the insatiable sense that we would not delight in any other good or reward apart from His giving Himself to us. With David, the “pure in heart” can say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you” (Ps. 16:2).

Second is “Blessed are the Peacemakers” (linked below) by Dirk Naves:

Rooted firmly in the peace made by Christ, today’s peacemakers must look to His life as a model. His peacemaking earned Him the hatred of religious leaders and the derision of His family. His peacemaking led Him to a garden, not for quiet repose, but for midnight wrestling; not for cool refreshment, but an overflowing cup of almighty wrath. His peacemaking led Him to a cross. It led Him to outer darkness.

It also led Him to a crown, a throne, and a people from every tribe and tongue and nation. This is the lot of peacemakers. Their bodies are scarred and they have been despised, but their harvest is full and their title is no cause for shame. They shall be called sons of God.

And finally, we quote from “Blessed Are Those Who are Persecuted for Righteousness’ Sake,” penned by Rev. Michael Glodo.

Finally, persecution testifies to our union with Christ. In Philippians 3:8–11, Paul relates how the persecutor became the persecuted and that even though he lost all that he once held dear, he gained Christ and the righteousness that comes through faith (v. 9). The purpose or goal of counting everything else as loss is knowing Christ and the power of Christ’s resurrection along with the fellowship of Christ’s suffering, for it is necessary to become like Christ in His death if we want to share in His life. Union with Christ means a share in all things that are Christ’s, including the rejection, reviling, and persecution that was His. For if we have a share in Him, ours truly is the kingdom of heaven. And with this knowledge, we will be able to persevere with joy in trials and answer our persecutors with a benediction (James 5:1; 1 Peter 3:9).

Source: Blessed Are the Peacemakers by Dirk Naves

Key Quotes From Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” | Monergism

As the heading above indicates, the referenced article from the website Monergism.com provides “key quotes” from Martin Luther’s classic work The Bondage of the Will.

That work is a response to the Dutch humanist and Roman Catholic priest Desiderius Erasmus, who, while critical of Roman Catholic teaching in some areas, strongly defended her views on salvation, free will, and grace.

Luther obliterated Erasmus’ arguments and posited in their place the truths of salvation by grace alone due to the total sovereignty of God and the utter inability of the sinner.

Monergism gives a short introduction before providing some of Luther’s powerful answers to the man from Rotterdam. Here is part of that introduction:

The following quotes hit the crux of the issue: whether Christ alone saves or whether salvation is synergistic cooperation of man and God. This is still extremely relevant for today’s Christian, for many of us carry the unbiblical assumption that Erasmus held, which wrongly concludes any command from God to believe or obey the gospel, must somewhow imply the moral ability to to do so. Large numbers of evangelicals today make this same jump in unaided logic and build a whole theology on it but as Dr. Luther said to Erasmus, “when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations … I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all” (“…through the law comes knowledge of sin.”). In other words, the commands exist to reveal not our ability but rather our inability, and this moral impotency does not take away our responsibility to obey.

And here are a few of the “key quotes”; to find more visit the link below.

And, let me add, in this year of commemorating the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation of the 16th century, it would be good for us to read (or re-read) this mighty classic of Protestantism.

“For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?” Martin Luther BW pg. 149

“…’if thou art willing’ is a verb in the subjunctive mood, which asserts nothing…a conditional statement asserts nothing indicatively.” “if thou art willing”, “if thou hear”, “if thou do” declare, not man’s ability, but his duty. pg 157

“the commandments are not given inappropriately or pointlessly; but in order that through them the proud, blind man may learn the plague of his impotence, should he try to do as he is commanded.” pg. 160

Speaking to Erasmus, “Throughout your treatment you forget that you said that ‘free-will’ can do nothing without grace, and you prove that ‘free-will’ can do all things without grace! Your inferences and analogies “For if man has lost his freedom, and is forced to serve sin, and cannot will good, what conclusion can more justly be drawn concerning him, than that he sins and wills evil necessarily?” Martin Luther BW pg. 149

“Even grammarians and schoolboys on street corners know that nothing more is signified by verbs in the imperative mood than what ought to be done, and that what is done or can be done should be expressed by words in the indicative. How is it that you theologians are twice as stupid as schoolboys, in that as soon as you get hold of a single imperative verb you infer an indicative meaning, as though the moment a thing is commanded it is done, or can be done? pg 159

“The passages of Scripture you cite are imperative; and they prove and establish nothing about the ability of man, but only lay down what is and what not to be done.” pg 161

Source: Key Quotes From Luther’s Bondage of the Will | Monergism

New Reformation Titles 2017 (1)

Protestants-Ryrie-2017During this year of noting and celebrating the 500th anniversary of the great Protestant Reformation (1517-2017), it is fitting to call attention to some of the new and newly reprinted books on the history and figures of that great event.

So far this year we have had opportunity to point to a few, but today I give you part of my seminary library list of new Reformation books acquired and processed in the first two quarters of this year. The list is not exhaustive but selective of the more noteworthy ones we have obtained.

I hope this also gives you some ideas for your own reading profit this year, as well as for building your own library. I plan to do the same for future

*Note: The format reflects that found in the library cataloging program I use, not that ordinarily used in bibliographies.

  • Ulrich Zwingli : Shepherd Warrior / William Boekestein. — 1st-pb. — Fearne, Ross-shire, GB : CF4Kids, 2016.
  • Being Protestant in Reformation Britain / Alec. Ryrie. — 1st-pb. — Oxford, United Kingdom : Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Beyond the Ninety-Five Theses : Martin Luther’s Life, Thought, And Lasting Legacy / Stephen J. Nichols. — 1st-pb. — Phillipsburg, NJ : P&R Pub., 2016.
  • The Life and Times of Martin Luther : Selections From D’Aubigne’s Famed History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century / J. H. (Jean Henri) Merle d’Aubigne, 1794-1872. ; H. White. — 1st-hc. —  Chicago : Moody Press, 1950.
  • Protestantism After 500 Years / Thomas Albert Howard, editor. ; Mark A. Noll, 1946- , editor. ; Jr. Witte, John. — 1st-pb. — New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • John Knox / William M. Taylor. — reprint-pb. — Lexington, KY : CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016.
  • Luther : Belofte en Ervaring / W. van ‘t. Spijker. — 1st-hc. — Goes : Oosterbaan & Le Cointre, 1983.

Katharina-Luther-2017

  • Katharina and Martin Luther : The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk / Michelle Derusha. ; Karen S. Prior. — 1st-hc. — Grand Rapids : Baker Books, 2017.
  • Luther In Love / Douglas Bond. — 1st-pb. — Inkblots Press, 2017.
  • Reformation Marriage : The Husband and Wife Relationship in the Theology of Luther And Calvin / Michael Parsons, 1949-. — reprint-pb. — Eugene, OR : Wipf & Stock, c2005 / 2011.
  • Meet Martin Luther : A Sketch of the Reformer’s Life / Anthony T. Selvaggio. — 1st-pb. — Grand Rapids, Michigan : Reformation Heritage Books, 2017.

Reformation-Women-VanDoodewaard-2017

  • Reformation Women : Sixteenth-Century Figures Who Shaped Christianity’s Rebirth / Rebecca VanDoodewaard. — 1st-pb. — Grand Rapids, Michigan : Reformation Heritage Books, 2017.
  • The Reformation : What You Need to Know and Why / Michael Reeves. ; John Stott. ; Lindsay Brown. ; Julia E. M. Cameron. — 1st-pb. — Peabody, MA : Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2017.
  • Four Hundred Years : Commemorative Essays on the Reformation of Dr. Martin Luther and Its Blessed Results, In The Year of the Four-Hundredth Anniversary of the Reformation. / W. H. T. (William Herman Theodore) Dau, 1864-1944. ; C. Abbetmeyer. ; Arthur H. C. Both. — reprint-pb. —  Louis, MO : Concordia Publishing / Forgotten Books, c1916.
  • Protestants : The Faith That Made the Modern World / Alec. Ryrie. — 1st-hc. — New York : Viking, 2017.
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse : Religion, War, Famine, and Death in Reformation Europe / Andrew Cunningham, Dr. ; Ole Peter Grell. — 1st-hc. — Cambridge, UK ; New York : Cambridge University Press, c2000.

bookstore-june-2017

Allow me also to put in a plug for the seminary bookstore, where we have a goodly number of new and used books, including a significant Reformation section. Prices are the best we could find, especially on the used books, where many are only $1 and $2.

Feel free to visit us this summer! We are here every day!

Grammar Check! “I” vs. “Me”

Today’s GrammarBook.com email (June 21, 2017) about writing and proper use of English grammar focuses on the right use of the personal pronouns “I” and “me”, though it includes other pronouns too.

Since this is always a sticking point with writers – and especially speakers (we get even lazier when we speak)! – we should work on getting this right, both in our writing and in our speaking.

I remember my dear mother correcting me over and over on this as a child, until it was drilled into my stubborn Dutch noggin. Today I thank her for those daily grammar lessons. I believe they finally sunk in. Check my grammar in the previous sentences. 🙂

If you visit the blog post on this at the end of this post, you can even take a pop quiz to check yourself.

Source: I vs. Me – Grammar & Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Spring 2017 PRT Journal Available

The Spring 2017 issue of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal is now available in print form and in multiple digital forms (Vol.50, No.2).

PRTJ-cover-April-2017-2

As you will see from the cover image, this issue contains a variety of significant Reformed reading material.

Prof. R. Cammenga, editor of the PRTJ, gives these “notes” at the beginning in summary of this issue:

This is the second and last issue of the fiftieth volume of the Protestant Reformed Theological Journal.  We welcome our readers to its pages.  Included are several articles.  The Rev. Thomas Reid favors us with the transcript of the second of two speeches that he gave last spring before the faculty, student body, and area Protestant Reformed ministers.  The article highlights the labors and contributions of a recent French Reformed theologian, Auguste Lecerf.  PRCA pastor, Rev. Thomas C. Miersma, contributes an article on the special offices and gifts in the New Testament church.  He asks whether these gifts and offices continue in the church today, and if not, why not?  The undersigned has two contributions to the issue.  The first is the second part of my examination of the teaching of common grace in light of the five solas of the Reformation.  The contention of the series is that the doctrine of common grace vitiates the five solas that constitute the Reformation’s enduring contribution to the New Testament church.  The second contribution is another installment of the “John Calvin Research Bibliography.”  A number of our readers have expressed appreciation for the bibliography as a useful tool for doing research into all the main areas of Calvin’s theology.  The bibliography arose out of my work in crafting a special interim course on the theology of John Calvin.  The course is scheduled to be taught once again as the winter interim between the two semesters of the 2017-18 school year.

      Included in this issue is what we hope will be a regular feature from the seminary’s librarian, Mr. Charles Terpstra.  Mr. Terpstra highlights the significant recent additions to the seminary library.  We include this not merely for the information of our readers.  But we invite our readers to make use of our library for study and research.  We are even open to loaning our books to our constituency and friends.

      And, of course, we have our section of book reviews—a goodly number of reviews in this issue.  We want to do what we can to inform our readers of new books of special interest that are being published.

      Read and enjoy!

    Soli Deo Gloria!                                                                                                      —RLC

If you wish to receive a free print copy of this issue, or to be added to our mailing list, contact our secretary at the email found on our home page. To download free print edition, use the link given above.

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Reset: Reduce by Planning and Keeping Routine

Reset-DMurray-2017We continue to consider the helpful thoughts of Dr. David Murray in his newly published book Reset: Living a Grace-Paced Life in a Burnout Culture (Crossway, 2017).

Having us take the “car” of our lives into “Repair Bay 7” (remember, the author is writing mainly with men in view) Murray points us to the need to reduce the stress and busyness  of our lives by reducing our work and schedules.

There are many helpful thoughts in this chapter, but here are a few. The first involves planning:

It’s not enough to have a purpose [the previous point]. We also need plans; we have to figure out the steps we need to take to get to our goals. If we want to strengthen our marriages, what steps will accomplish that? If we want to visit all the seniors in our congregations, how many a week will we visit, what time in the week will we do it, and where will we record progress? If we want to have more time with our teenage sons, where, when, and how will we do this? It’s not going to happen without a plan. That’s why I make sure that my calendar has time set aside each week for advancing my life purposes. If it’s not on there, it’s not going to happen. If it’s not on there, I’m clearly not serious about accomplishing it.

Scheduling also helps us stop overpromising to ourselves or others. Overpromising is the fatal result of an overoptimistic view of our abilities plus an unrealistic estimate of our available time plus a well-intentioned desire to please other people. The result is megastress in the one making the promises and usually huge disappointment in the ones receiving the promises [pp.131-32].

The second thought involves keeping a routine:

‘Tell me your daily routine.’

Uh, I don’t have one. Every day is different.’

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that conversation with burned-out pastors and depressed Christians. What came first – the depression or the chaos – is sometimes difficult to trace, but they seem to go together, each one feeding off the other.

That’s why one of the first things I do is to get them to draw up and commit to a basic routine of sleeping, worshiping, eating, working, studying, and so on. God is a God of order, not of confusion (1 Cor.14:33), and as his created image-bearers, we glorify him – and feel much happier – when we live regular, orderly lives. He made our world and us in such a way that we flourish when our lives are characterized by a basic rhythm and regularity. That’s why those who make the most progress toward their lives goals are those who work on them at the same time each day or week. That’s also why those who have the most routine in their lives are healthier and happier [p.133].

Blessed Are Those Who Mourn – Matt Smethurst

As we noted before, this month’s Tabletalk is devoted to the Beatitudes our Lord spoke during His ministry on earth (cf. Matt.5).

Each of these beatitudes are given a brief explanation and application in the issue, and for today we quote from the article of Matt Smethurst on the second beatitude, “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

Here is in part what he has to say:

Deep Dive

Imagine awaking on the Fourth of July to a text from a friend: “Meet me for fireworks at 11 a.m.” You’d think it was a typo. Why? Because fireworks aren’t impressive in the noonday sky. The darker the sky, in fact, the more stunning the display. In the same way, the brilliance of grace must be set against the blackness of sin. As the Puritan Thomas Watson said, “Till sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

For the world, grieving sin is regressive and constricting; for the Christian, it is the pathway to joy. Imagine the implications. If Matthew 5:4 is true—if Jesus really meets repentance with comfort, not condemnation—then no longer do you need to fear being exposed. No longer do you have to present an airbrushed version of yourself to fellow redeemed sinners. No longer do you need to fear studying your heart and plumbing the depths of your disease. If exploring sin brings you to the deep end of the pool, exploring mercy will take you to the Mariana Trench. And awaiting you at the bottom of the dive is not a black hole but a solid rock.

Scarred Savior

In the final analysis, the Sermon on the Mount cannot be separated from its speaker. Jesus prayed many prayers during His incarnation, but never once did He pray a prayer of confession. He didn’t have to. He mourned over many sins, but never once did He mourn over His own. He didn’t have any.

Ultimately, our comfort is anchored in the reality that Jesus doesn’t just mourn sin; He conquers it.

Source: Blessed Are Those Who Mourn by Matt Smethurst