Note to Self: Repent

Start by reading and meditating on 2 Corinthians 7:10.

Dear Self,

You will never be done with repentance – at least, not until death or Christ’s return. While it is something you should be doing frequently, it is not something you just ‘get used to.’ Repentance requires a daily intentionality. And let’s be honest; you will have more to repent of by the end of the day than you can possibly remember. So, where should you start?

…It will be helpful to think of repentance in three parts: revulsion, resolution, and repetition. Revulsion is finding something offensive or distasteful. In this case, it is seeing the heinousness of sin and pulling back from it. Sin, your sin in particular, should make you recoil. …Revulsion will come only when you see the holy, just, and good character of God in contrast to yourself. Until you understand that your sin, all of it, is a self-destructive rebellion against God that betrays your purpose and denies his worthiness, you will not experience revulsion.

Resolution is purposing to walk in righteousness, delighting in God’s law, laying off the old self, and walking in newness of life. Repentance is more than feeling sorry for what you are and have done. It is having the resolve to live for the glory and pleasure of God.

Repetition is the ongoing nature of this work. Without repetition, it is all for nothing, for as long as you continue to sin, you need to repent.If your repentance is not continual, it means, at the very least, that you are simply choosing some sins to deal with, while ignoring others.

…The deepness and consistency of your repenting will have a direct impact on the liveliness of your faith and the brightness of your confidence. This is not because you repent so well, but because in repenting you know the darkness and trouble of your own sin, and the great work of grace in Jesus that overcomes it all.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.30 “Repent” (found in Part Three, “The Gospel and You”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp. 99-100.

Contemplating Christmas: Think and Talk of the Love of Our Savior – G. Whitefield

come-jesus-guthrie-2008For this first Sunday in December we post an excerpt from a sermon of George Whitefield (1714-1770) found in the book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (ed. Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2008).

The book’s title of this sermon is “Contemplating Christmas,” adapted from a sermon titled “The Observation of the Birth of Christ, the Duty of All Christians; or the True Way of Keeping Christmas.”

Here is part of what Whitefield had to say in the beginning of that message:

It was love, mere love; it was free love that brought the Lord Jesus Christ into our world. What, shall we not remember the birth of Jesus? Shall we yearly celebrate the birth of our temporal king [of England], and shall that of the King of kings be quite forgotten? Shall that only, which ought to be had chiefly in remembrance, be quite forgotten? God forbid!

No, my brethren, let us celebrate and keep this festival of our church with joy in our hearts: let the birth of a redeemer, which redeemed us from sin, from wrath, from death, from hell, be always remembered; may this Savior’s ;love never be forgotten! But may we sing forth all his love and glory as long as life shall last here, and through an endless eternity in the world above! May we chant forth the wonders of redeeming love and the riches of free grace, amidst angels and archangels, cherubim and seraphim, without intermission, forever and ever!

And at the end, he had this to say about contemplating especially the love of Christ:

Let me now conclude, my dear brethren, with  a few words of exhortation, beseeching you to think of the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. Did Jesus come into the world to save us from death, and shall we spend no part of our time in conversing about our dear Jesus; shall we pay no regard to the birth of him who came to redeem us from the worst of slavery, from that of sin, and the devil; and shall this Jesus not only be born on our account, but likewise die in our stead, and yet shall we be unmindful of him? Shall we spend our time in those things which are offensive to him? Shall we not rather do all we can to promote his glory and act according to his command?

…O be not so ungrateful to him who has been so kind to you! What could the Lord Jesus Christ have done for you more than he has? Then do not abuse his mercy, but let your time be spent in thinking and talking of the love of Jesus, who was incarnate for us, who was born of a woman, and made under the law, to redeem us from the wrath to come (pp.11-15).

PRC/RWH Archives – H. Hoeksema Christmas Message, December 23, 1945

The Reformed Witness Hour is a special radio ministry of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI and supported broadly by the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. This past October, the RWH program celebrated its 75th anniversary (1941-2016).

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In the early years of the program, the RWH messages were recorded on glass records, which had been stored for years in First PRC (the images here are of some we have saved in the archives room – from the Dutch version of the RWH program used in the 40s and 50s).

rwh-hh-dec1945

While we do have copies of the printed form of all the old RWH messages (in the PRC archives and in the Seminary library – cf. the image of the first page of HH’s message featured here), we do not have all the audio recordings, partly because the early ones were in this glass record form.

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A few years back, we sold the equipment that played these records but asked the buyer to help us convert these recordings to CDs. He has been working (slowly) to clean the records, restore them, and convert them.

hh-oldLast night at our RWH Committee meeting we had in hand the first sample of his efforts. And we believe we have been richly rewarded. The recording is amazingly clear and crisp. This first preserved audio message from the glass records is a message by Herman Hoeksema dated December 23, 1945. It is titled “The Meaning of Bethlehem” and is based on Luke 2:11.

I have uploaded the file and posted it on the PRC website under the audio sermons. You may find it here (as well as at the link with the title above). Enjoy and be edified by this part of our RWH history – newly preserved!

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False gods: “The glitter of idols is overcome by the glory of God.”

no-other-godsGood thoughts read today in this weekend’s devotional in the November Tabletalk – “False Gods” by Joe Thorn.

Another reason we are prone to idolatry is because we want to be autonomous, not accountable. To admit that we are the creation of God is to confess that we belong to Him, that He has authority over us. It not only means that He alone should be worshiped, but that we must answer to Him for what we do and who we have become. Idolatry is tempting because, at least in our minds, it frees us from the God who owns us.

Idolatry is not just delusional, it is dangerous. Such false gods will not only fail to serve us and save us, but they will lead us to our condemnation. It is only when we see idols for what they are, in contrast to who the Lord is, that the glitter of idols is overcome by the glory of God.

This is the core reason why we worship idols – because we are not gripped with the glory of God, glory that is seen in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who Himself is the ‘radiance’ of God’s glory (Heb.1:3), whose death brought about our redemption, and whose resurrection secured our life. The beginning of the end of the idolatry in our hearts is found in the supremacy of Jesus Christ (p.58).

Victory in Christ in This Life

beyeholy-brf-2016From the newly published book Be Ye Holy: The Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification (British Reformed Fellowship, 2016) comes these words from the pen of Prof. Herman Hanko (emeritus PRC Seminary) on “The Victorious Christian” (Part 1: Chapter 6):

There are other ways in which God works sanctification in us in such a way that we are victorious over sin.

To confess our sins before God brings forgiveness. That too is victory. When, at Calvary, we confess our sins and seek forgiveness through the blood of Christ, these sins are forgiven, and we know that we are righteous and sinless before the eyes of our Father in heaven. Sin cannot rob us of His love and care. Sin confessed cannot keep us from heaven. Sin washed away in the blood of Christ gives us victory over Satan and his hosts, the world, and our own remaining sin.

Thus the victory of the child of God is found in a good conscience. Our conscience condemns us because it shows us our sins. But Scripture speaks of consciences washed in the blood of Christ (Heb.9:14). With freedom from an accusing conscience, we walk in the joy and hope of our salvation. Free from sin in God’s eyes, we are victorious.

That’s one way victory is evident in the Christian’s life. Hanko gives us another way:

The victory of the Christian is evident too in the fact that, although he falls in his path, he never gives up. He may yield to that temptation again and again, and commit the same sin repeatedly. The temptation to give up and fight no longer is strong. But he never does. Fallen, he rises again. Weary in the battle, he presses forward. Wounded and bleeding, he resolves to pursue his calling with renewed strength. He cannot be defeated, no matter how fierce the battle. He is more than a conqueror! (pp.96-97).

In the UK the book may be obtained from the Covenant PRC Bookshop. In the U.S., it may be purchased at the Reformed Book Outlet (Hudsonville, MI).

Note to Self: Stop Complaining

Start by reading and meditating on Phil.2:14: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings.”

Dear Self,

…You complain because you misunderstand (or just miss altogether) the grace you have received and the purposes of God in your life. You misunderstand the grace you have received by not recognizing it and receiving it with gratitude. Life, breath, and all of God’s provisions for your life are acts of his kindness and are truly wonderful, and yet they all seem to disappear when the small inconveniences of life appear.

In most of your complaining you miss the good purposes of God for your life – purposes he has made clear. ‘God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God’ (Rom.8:28 NASB). This truth should remain a constant meditation, particularly in a world filled with frustration, frailty, and failure. Though we are not always aware of the particular ways in which God causes all things to work out for our good, we have this promise, and it should be enough to challenge and conquer our complaining spirit.

…Perhaps the lesson is that you haven’t driven the gospel deep enough into your heart and mind. Otherwise it would bear fruit precisely where you need it. Are you complaining today? Consider the grace of God in all of life, and in the gospel particularly. Be assured of his purpose in all things inconvenient and tragic, and you will find the cure for complaining.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.35 “Stop Complaining” (found in Part Three, “The Gospel and You”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp. 109-110.

You might also benefit from reading (or re-reading) this “note to self” we posted previously, about giving thanks.

Things That Remain – Mrs. M. Laning

StandardBearerIn the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer (November 15, 2016), Mrs. Margaret Laning contributes to the  regular rubric on the Christian family, “When Thou Sittest in Thine House.”

Her article this time focuses on our need (especially that of the Christian wife and mother) to hold on to the “things that remain” in the midst of life’s trials and temptations.

Here is part of what she has to write on this important and timely subject:

In our trials when pressure and strain builds, when everything around us seems to be collapsing, we seek to hold on to something stable, too. Whether our stress adds up to 10 points or 310, God uses events like this to teach us that He alone is our unshakeable Rock. He teaches us this by the use of illustrations, as well. Earthquakes are for “…the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). We must examine what we are standing on in our afflictions – is it the created or the Creator, the shaken or the unshaken? When we stand on what we thought was dependable but is now crumbling right from under us, we are standing on the wrong thing. Christ is teaching us to hold on to, to trust, that which will remain.

…Christ is coming to remove the shaken in order to reveal that which cannot be shaken! All the sin, wickedness, and haters of God will be destroyed, while Christ and His unmoveable kingdom will be revealed in all of its fullness, glory, and majesty. We long for the birth of this new day.

Until then, we are prone to tremble with fear and doubts when the Lord gives us trials. Our home is destroyed. Our health or the health of our loved one is failing. We have anxious thoughts, fearing the unknown. Will the surgery be successful? Will the chemotherapy work? Our child is wayward. Our husband loses his job and financial worries keep us awake. Our spiritual enemies do not want us to be firmly grounded upon the Lord. They try ways to shake us to stop trusting our heavenly Father. They tempt us to doubt God’s love and inscrutable wisdom in the trials God sends for our good. These are the times, most especially, that God is turning our eyes to look upon the things that remain.

Good thoughts for us today and every day. On this Lord’s Day of our returning Savior may we fix our minds and hearts on the “things that remain.”

 

“This diamond Jesus Christ.” – Martin Luther

reformation-in-lit-smellie-1925Another interesting book that is part of the T. Letis collection (and that was also part of the library of Prof. D. Engelsma) is The Reformation in Its Literature by Alexander Smellie (Andrew Melrose, London/New York, 1925 – also author of The Men of the Covenant).

The book is a wonderful study of the Reformation from the viewpoint of the major works of literature that it produced – from Luther’s Ninety-five Theses to Calvin’s Institutes to Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland.

Last evening I read chapter three, “The Deep Heart of Martin Luther,” a study of Luther’s commentary on Galatians. Part of that chapter focused on the Reformer’s view of Jesus Christ – a gem of a section. This is part of what Smellie had to say:

But Luther has a still vaster and sweeter word for us to set over against the battalions of our adversaries – the word ‘Christ.’ ‘This diamond Jesus Christ,’ ‘this precious pearl Christ’; no jewel can be compared with Him. Those of us who wish to see what endless resources the Reformer finds in Our Saviour and Lord must return to Hermann’s wonderful book, The Communion of the Christian with God, and must read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the chapter which is headed ‘Luther and Christ.’  How he retained the Christological dogma of the Mediaeval Church in which he had been nurtured, but breathed into it a vital and ardent and magnificent content. How he was sure of the Deity of Christ, and believed that ‘the man who seeks salvation will stop trying to help himself only when he knows that God has helped him.’ How he was just as rejoicingly certain of Our Lord’s humanity, and rose from the humanity step by step to the vision and conviction of the Deity. ‘For the Scriptures begin very gently, and lead us on to Christ as to a Man, then afterwards to a Lord over all creatures, and after that to a God. So do I enter delightfully and learn to know God. But the philosophers and the all-wise men have wanted to begin from above; and so they have become fools. We must begin from below, and after that come upwards.’ How, in short, confidence in Christ is all that poor sinners need; for He is the true and faithful Lover of those who are in trouble and anguish. He is the merciful High Priest of the wretched and the fearful (pp.65-66).

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Why the Reformation Still Matters – Because of Justification

why-reformation-matters-reeves-2016A week or so ago we pointed to some new Reformation books that have been published, one of them being Why the Reformation Still Matters, co-authored by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester (Crossway, 2016; 219 pp.).

The first chapter gets at one of the key doctrines restored during the great Reformation of the church – justification, or as the book has it in the subtitle, “How Can We Be Saved?” After giving an account of how Luther was led by the Lord to rediscover this truth of salvation, the authors summarize “Luther’s theology of justification” this way:

  1. Justification is a forensic act by which a believer is declared righteous. Justification is not a process by which a person is made righteous. ‘Forensic’ means legal – it invokes the image of a law court. It involves a change of status – not a change of nature.
  2. The cause of justification is the alien righteousness of Christ. It is not inherent within a person or in any sense said to belong to us. It is ‘imputed’ or reckoned to us. It is not ‘imparted’ or poured into us.
  3. Justification is by faith alone. We contribute nothing. Christ has achieved everything for us already.
  4. Because justification is an act of God and because it is based on the finished work of Christ, we can have assurance (p.32).

A few paragraphs later the authors raise the question,

So, does justification still matter? The answer must be a resounding yes. Nothing maters more than justification by Christ alone through faith alone. If justification by faith seems obvious to you, then it is because of Luther. But we must not presume on his legacy.

Many attempts have been made to move the center ground of Christianity elsewhere. But the fact remains that the biggest problem facing humanity is God’s justice. God is committed to judging sin. And that means he is committed to judging my sin. This is our biggest problem because that means an eternity excluded from the glory of God (p.34).

To which they add,

This is why Luther described justification as ‘the summary of Christian doctrine’ and ‘the article by which the church stands or falls.’

But it is not just at a doctrinal or ecclesial level that it matters. It is a deeply personal doctrine. Every time I sin, I create a reason to doubt my acceptance by God, and I question my future with God. But day after day the doctrine of justification speaks peace to my soul (p.35).

Good things to think about as we remember the Reformation and give thanks for the gospel of grace restored to the church in the sixteenth century.

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Zion’s Blessedness in the Covenant of Grace – John Newton

IsaacNewtonOn Sunday, April 30, 1775, John Newton preached a sermon on 2 Samuel 23:5. on God’s covenant of grace with His people in Christ Jesus. In the evening he continued his sermon on this passage and also tied it to a hymn he had written on the glory of Zion, God’s church.

On this second Lord’s Day in September – also the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11 (Sept.11, 2001 – Sept.11, 2016) – he has good words for us to consider, both in sermon and in hymn.

This is part of what he had to say in his sermon:

… we can promise or perform nothing. Therefore it is called a covenant of grace… This covenant of grace was established with and in our Lord Jesus Christ… making atonement for transgression with his own blood.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but they have a sure refuge and strong consolations provided in the covenant of grace. This secures them so that their enemies have no reason to rejoice over them. When they seem to fall they shall rise again. This is a balance to all their sufferings.
Believers – rejoice in this Covenant. Walk about this Sion, consider her foundations and all the towers thereof and mark well the bulwark. See how it is fixed upon an immoveable rock, guarded by almighty power, encompassed with infinite love, and enriched with all desirable blessings, and then with a holy indifference to all the trials of the present hour, rejoice and say, Although my house be not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered and sure, etc.

During the evening service of that date, Newton tied his sermon to this hymn he had written based on Isaiah 33:20-21. We know it as “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” It is from Book 1 of the “Olney Hymns.”

Zion, or the city of God

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God!
He, whose word cannot be broken,
Formed thee for his own abode:
On the rock of ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
Thou may’st smile at all thy foes.

See! the streams of living waters
Springing from eternal love;
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove:
Who can faint while such a river
Ever flows their thirst to assuage?
Grace, which like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Round each habitation hovering,
See the cloud and fire appear!
For a glory and a covering,
Showing that the Lord is near:
Thus deriving from their banner
Light by night, and shade by day;
Safe they feed upon the manna
Which he gives them when they pray.

Blest inhabitants of Zion,
Washed in the Redeemer’s blood!
Jesus, whom their souls rely on,
Makes them kings and priests to God:
‘Tis his love his people raises
Over self to reign as kings,
And as priests, his solemn praises
Each for a thank-offering brings.

Saviour, if of Zion’s city
I through grace a member am;
Let the world deride or pity,
I will glory in thy name:
Fading is the worldling’s pleasure,
All his boasted pomp and show;
Solid joys and lasting treasure,
None but Zion’s children know.