Biblical Success – January 2017 “Tabletalk”

tt-jan-2017Last week we took a look at an article in the January 2017 issue of Tabletalk, but not one on the theme. Tonight we will do so.

The theme this month is “Success”, a timely topic at the beginning of a new year. Having read a couple of articles on the theme now, I can say there is much profit in treating this subject from a Reformed and biblical perspective. For starters, I suggest you may read the editor’s editorial – “True Success.”

I read the second featured article today, titled “Biblical Success”, written by Dr. Iain Duguid, professor of Old Testament at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia, and found it very edifying. Perhaps nothing new in the article, but healthy reminders of how we as Christians must measure true success according to the Word of God and according to Jesus Christ our Savior.

I pull a couple of paragraphs from it, so that you too may benefit from Duguid’s thoughts. As always, the full article is available at the Ligonier link below.

Of course, biblical wisdom does not simply turn conventional wisdom on its head so that now the poor and lowly are automatically counted successful while anyone with wealth or rank is dismissed out of hand. There are certainly people in the Bible who used their wealth or high position wisely, such as Joseph or Daniel. Even in a pagan environment, these men served the Lord faithfully at the highest level of government. Likewise, Joseph of Arimathea used his wealth to provide a tomb for Jesus after His crucifixion (Matt. 27:57–59). But more than wealth or position, what these men had in common was that they served the Lord and His kingdom first, with the resources He had given them.

This is surely what it means to succeed from a biblical perspective. In place of serving the goals of our own personal kingdoms, whatever they might be—comfort, approval, money, and so on—the successful person puts first God’s kingdom. He is willing to give up any of these things if they get in the way of serving God, or to use them for God as resources over which he is a steward who will one day be called to account (see Matt. 25:14–30). The successful steward is not the one who is entrusted with the most resources, of whatever kind. It is the steward who is faithful with the resources with which he has been entrusted (Matt. 25:21).

And then at the end, Duguid points us to our exalted Savior and the success we find in Him alone:

…One day, every knee will bow before Him and acknowledge that He is the true measure of success.

As a result, all those who are united to Christ are linked forever to His glory. The measure of our success cannot be defined by what we accomplish here on earth; it has already been defined by the fact that we are in Christ. It is this that frees us to spend ourselves and everything we have in service to Christ’s kingdom. And it is this that also frees us from crushing guilt over our past and present failures to take up our cross and follow after Him. Whether I “succeed” or “fail”—by whatever standard—ultimately counts for nothing. What counts is the fact that Christ has succeeded for me, in my place. My only hope and boast rest not in my faithfulness but in the fact that whether I am rich or poor, prominent or obscure, weak or strong, my faithful Savior has loved me and given Himself for me. That is all the success I—or anyone else—will ever need.

Source: Biblical Success by Iain Duguid

Luther and the Reformation (1) – The Ninety-Five Theses

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This year being the 500th anniversary of the great Reformation (1517-2017) – its origin notably marked by Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 – we intend to do a series of posts throughout the year on some of the major works of Luther.

luther-theses-1And what better place to start than the Ninety-Five Theses themselves. For today, we simply refer you, first of all, to a few of them as found at the link above (and in many other places), prefaced by Luther’s purpose in posting them.

Out of love for the truth and from desire to elucidate it, the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and ordinary lecturer therein at Wittenberg, intends to defend the following statements and to dispute on them in that place. Therefore he asks that those who cannot be present and dispute with him orally shall do so in their absence by letter. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.

I have selected these points of debate (theses) in particular:

 1. When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, that is, confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.

3. Yet it does not mean solely inner repentance; such inner repentance is worthless unless it produces various outward mortification of the flesh.

4. The penalty of sin remains as long as the hatred of self (that is, true inner repentance), namely till our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.

28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.

32. Those who believe that they can be certain of their salvation because they have indulgence letters will be eternally damned, together with their teachers.

33. Men must especially be on guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to him.

34. For the graces of indulgences are concerned only with the penalties of sacramental satisfaction established by man.

35. They who teach that contrition is not necessary on the part of those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessional privileges preach unchristian doctrine.

36. Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.

37. Any true Christian, whether living or dead, participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgence letters.

 

Secondly, we may point you to B.B. Warfield’s fine essay, “The Ninety-Five Theses in Their Theological Significance” (found in free digital form at Monergism.com). Below is a paragraph found in the early part of that work describing the significance of Luther’s theses:

The significance of the Theses as a Reformation act emerges thus in this: that they are a bold, an astonishingly bold, and a powerful, an astonishingly powerful, assertion of the evangelical doctrine of salvation, embodied in a searching, well-compacted, and thoroughly wrought-out refutation of the sacerdotal conception, as the underlying foundation on which the edifice of the indulgence traffic was raised. This is what Walther Köhler means when he declares that we must recognize this as the fundamental idea of Luther’s Theses: “the emancipation of the believer from the tutelage of the ecclesiastical institute”; and adds, “Thus God advances for him into the foreground; He alone is Lord of death and life; and to the Church falls the modest role of agent of God on earth – only there and nowhere else.” “The most far-reaching consequences flowed from this,” he continues; “Luther smote the Pope on his crown and simply obliterated his high pretensions with reference to the salvation of souls in this world and the next, and in their place set God and the soul in a personal communion which in its whole intercourse bears the stamp of interiorness and spirituality.” Julius Köstlin puts the whole matter with his accustomed clearness and balance – though with a little wider reference than the Theses themselves – when he describes the advance in Luther’s testimony marked by the indulgence controversy thus: “As he had up to this time proclaimed salvation in Christ through faith, in opposition to all human merit, so he now proclaims it also in opposition to an external human ecclesiasticism and priesthood, whose acts are represented as conditioning the imparting of salvation itself, and as in and of themselves, even without faith, effecting salvation for those in whose interests they are performed.

First – Rev. W. Langerak

From the brand new issue of the Standard Bearer (January 1, 2017) comes this wonderful, food-for-your-soul article by Rev. Bill Langerak. “First” is his latest contribution to the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken” and is certainly fitting as we begin the new year today.

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I quote from the last few paragraphs, which point us to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the one true First, and the One in whom alone we can also be first, in the truest sense of that word.

The ultimate explanation for why Jesus is first is this: He alone is the eternal and natural Son of God living in the bosom of the Father, as the express image of His person and brightness of His glory, daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him and declaring Him (Pro. 8:30; John 1:18). And He is first because at the appointed time, God sent this same only-begotten and eternal Son into the world to assume human nature by the Holy Spirit, so that Jesus is not only the firstborn son of Mary but firstborn of every creature (Matt. 1:25; Col. 1:15). As firstborn Son, Jesus is given the power, authority, and kingdom of God, made King of kings; even the angels must worship Him (Num. 8:16; Col. 1:19; 2Chr. 21:3; Ps. 89:27; Heb. 1:6). And as the Son of God, Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren, given responsibility to gather, defend, and preserve them as the church of God written in heaven (Rev. 8:29; Heb. 12:23).

Only through faith in Jesus, can we who are last, be first (Matt. 20:16). Even though He is the first, He first suffered many things to redeem us from among men as firstfruits unto God (Rev. 14:4). Only because He first loved us, are we begotten by the will of God as firstfruits of His creatures (Jam. 1:18). And only because He is the first begotten from the dead and firstfruits of them that sleep, will the dead in Christ shall rise first (1Cor. 15:23; 1Thess. 4:16).

Therefore, seek not to be first. Rather, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; seek Jesus, the first, and be assured that all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).

Note to Self: Take Note

Note-to-self-ThornAs we end the year of our Lord 2016 today, this final chapter in Joe Thorn’s book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, is fitting. This forty-eighth chapter is titled “Take Note.”

How will we “take note” of the Lord’s ways with us on this final day of 2016?

We can start by reading and meditating on 1 Chronicles 16:8-13. And then read on.

Dear Self,

Like the Israel of old, you tend to forget the most basic things. Important things. You need constant reminders…. You need to find ways to remind yourself about the things that matter, because when you aren’t intentionally setting the truth before yourself you forget.

You forget that before you knew Jesus you were a slave to sin, a child of wrath, a dead man walking. And remembering these truths promotes humility in yourself and dependence on God. You forget that in Jesus you are his disciple, a child of God, a new creation. And remembering these truths creates gratitude and optimism. You forget that you are made for the glory of God and the good of your neighbors. And remembering these truths gives you purpose and passion.

…Without reminders you will forget all of this and much more. And when you forget these things you get into trouble. This means you must do better than build a robust theology. You will have to exercise it. It demands setting that theology before yourself frequently. Israel erected “memorial stones” to remind themselves of the person and work of God. One of the primary ways you will remember the truth is by preaching it to yourself regularly.

…And do you realize that you are doing it right now? You are reminding yourself of the need to preach to yourself, to remind yourself, and to not forget your God. Remember your God and his wonderful works (pp.135-36).

How Should We Remember God? – David Mathis

tt-dec-2016You may recall that the December issue of Tabletalk carries the theme of “Remembering God.” That theme is worked out in several featured articles, one of which is “How Should We Remember?” by David Mathis.

Mathis concerns himself with the means of remembering God, the practical ways in which we learn repeatedly not to forget our God but faithfully to recall His wonderful works and ways toward us. In the author’s words by way of summary, “His primary avenues for sacred remembrance are these: hearing His voice, having His ear, and belonging to His body.”

It is that last one we wish to focus on with you today. It is so easy to forget God by forgetting the important place He has given us in the body of His Son, the church of Jesus Christ. Mathis reminds us of this indispensable means for remembering God in his last two sections.

Read them; remember and use this means. And by living faithfully in the church may we chiefly remember our God and His amazing grace to us.

Fellowship: Belong to His Body

Third, and perhaps most overlooked in our day as a vital avenue of remembering God, is the community of fellow Christians in the local church. Let it be said loud and clear that other believers are an essential, irreplaceable means of edification in our lives. Most of our lives are not spent bent over our Bibles and on our knees in private prayer, but most of us do rightly spend a massive portion of our daily lives with other people. And, it is hoped, some of those people, whether family or coworkers or in whatever avenue of life, are fellow believers who can be not only acquaintances but God’s willing instruments in the ongoing delivery of His grace into our lives.

Whether it’s a word of spiritual encouragement, a memorized or paraphrased verse, a probing question, a kind corrective word, or the simple invitation to pray together, we need real-life relationships with fellow believers who know us well enough to direct both encouragement and challenge into the specifics of our lives. The Christian life is a community project.

The Most Important Habit

Chief among the many good habits we can cultivate under the banner of fellowship is corporate worship. The reading and preaching of God’s Word come together with corporate prayer and receiving His grace in the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper within the context of worshiping Jesus together.

You might say that the coming together of Word, prayer, and fellowship in corporate worship makes it the single most important habit of the Christian life. It is the vital spark plug of faithfulness. Your Christian life will soon become famished and anemic without corporate worship and its unique banquet of spiritual blessings to be received in active faith.

Source: How Should We Remember? by David Mathis

Unto Us a Child Is Born – J. Calvin

Christmas-2015For this fourth and final Sunday in December – Christmas Day – we post an excerpt from a sermon of John Calvin (1509-1564) found in the book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (ed. Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2008).

The title is “Unto Us a Child Is Born” and is based on Isaiah 9:6-7. Here are a few of Calvin’s thoughts on this glorious OT gospel passage:

He is called Mighty God for the same reason that in Isaiah 7:14 he was called Immanuel. If in Christ we find nothing but human flesh and nature, our glorying will be foolish and vain, and our hope will rest on an uncertain and insecure foundation. But if he shows himself to be to us God, even the Mighty God, we may rely on him with safety.

It is good for us that he is called strong or mighty because our contest is with the devil, death, and sin (see Eph.6:12), enemies too powerful and strong, by whom we would be vanquished immediately if Christ’s strength had not made us invincible.

Thus we learn from this title that there is in Christ abundance of protection for defending our salvation, so that we desire nothing beyond him; he is God, who is pleased to show himself strong on our behalf.

This application may be regarded as the key to this and similar passages, leading us to distinguish between Christ’s mysterious essence and the power by which he has revealed himself to us (pp.74-75).

Christmas for Adults – R. Pratt

In Tabletalk’s weekend devotional for this past weekend (Dec.17-18) appeared this piece by Dr. Richard L. Pratt. Titled “Christmas for Adults,” he begins by pointing out how we delight to hear children involved in the good news of Christmas – their joyful songs and activities.

Luke21112But he reminds us that Christmas is also for adults and that we have every reason for joy too. And he shows us that the message of Christ’s first coming is laden with images of war and victory, of battle and conquest – just what we adults need in this time in which we live anticipating Christ’s second coming.

Here is part of what he has to say:

The angels were not a sweet children’s choir. They were a ‘multitude of the heavenly host’ (Luke 2:13). In the Bible, ‘Lord of hosts’ most frequently refers to God as the One who leads the armies of heaven, angels who battle Satan and demonic forces. So, when the angel announced: ‘I bring you good news of great joy…. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11), much as ancient human armies sang as they entered battle, these angels sang – a vast army eager to fight against every power that threatens God’s people.

To understand the ‘great joy’ of this first Christmas, we must recognize what was so astonishing about Jesus’ birth. First, the words ‘good news,’ or ‘gospel,’ usually make us think of how Jesus brings salvation to individuals who believe in Him. ‘Good news’ includes that, but passages such as 2 Samuel 18:31 reveal that this phrase is actually the announcement of victory in battle. Second, the term ‘Savior’ makes us think again of how Jesus saves individuals from sin. Again, ‘Savior’ includes that, but passages such as Zephaniah 3:17 teach that a ‘savior’ is a warrior, one who delivers his people from harm and grants victory.

In response to the certainty of victory for ‘Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11), the angelic army sang ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ (Luke 2:14). And this praise should fill every heart, even the hearts of ‘reasonable’ adults. Evil threatens on every side, but we know the good news that victory is sure. Christ our victorious warrior was been born.

The Great Fulfillment – M. Lloyd-Jones

come-jesus-guthrie-2008For this third Sunday in December we post an excerpt from a sermon of Martin Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) found in the book Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas (ed. Nancy Guthrie; Crossway, 2008).

The title is “The Great Fulfillment” and is based on Luke 1:54-55 (an excerpt from My Soul Magnifies the Lord: Meditations on the Meaning of Christmas, Crossway, 1988). Here are a few of Lloyd-Jones’ thoughts on this passage:

The incarnation is the supreme example of fulfilled prophecy, the supreme example of God’s faithfulness to his promises. And this is surely most comforting, especially as we consider it in the setting of the world in which we find ourselves.

The great covenant promise concerning redemption was made in its most explicit manner to Abraham. You can find it prior to that, but the definition of it, as it were, the explicit statement of it, is made to Abraham when he is told that in him, in his seed, shall all the world be blessed (Gen.12:3). That is what Mary is referring to when she says, ‘He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy to Abraham, and to his seed for ever’ (Luke 1:54, KJV).

…Mary at once sees the significance of what is happening – the significance of the Son that is to be born out of her womb.

…Mary sees now God is going to fulfill all these promises that he as made – ‘mercy to Abraham, and his seed forever.’ But how is it happening? ‘It happens,’ she said, ‘like this: “He hath holpen his servant Israel,” and that word means to succor, to help, or, perhaps better still, to lift up.

She is referring primarily, of course, to salvation itself, and that is where her statement is so significant. God had made this promise to Abraham concerning salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation unto himself. We tend to forget that what God said to Abraham was that this salvation that was to come was to be brought about through this descendant of his that was yet to be born into this world.

…Here now, says Mary, is the great anti-type himself. Now God is going to fulfill all this mercy that he had promised…. And this means there is only one way of salvation; it means that all salvation and every aspect of it comes in this one way – in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and him crucified, made an offering for sin.

…Here is the fulfillment of all mercies. There is no forgiveness apart from Jesus Christ and him crucified. There is no true knowledge of God apart from him. There is no blessing apart from him. As the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 1:20 (KJV): ‘For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.” “He hath holpen his servant Israel.”

RWH at 75 – 1950 WFUR Contract & Coverage Map

As noted here throughout this year, in 2016 (October 12, to be exact) the Reformed Witness Hour radio program sponsored by the Protestant Reformed Churches turned 75 years old (1941-2016).

We have been marking this significant event with features on different aspects of the program. To this point we have not spoken much about  stations, so today we will do that.

The RWH was first broadcast on WLAV-AM (yes, that’s correct, for those of you who know something about the FM station)! And, you may recall, in the early years these broadcasts were done live from the sanctuary of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

But early on the RWH also contracted with the Christian station WFUR to carry the broadcast – on AM and FM. The William Kuiper family (owners) has been faithful supporters of our program over all these years, and you may know that they are still involved personally with the station as announcers (Steve and others). We are most grateful for their loyal support.

rwh-wfur-contract-1950

In the RWH files now preserved in the PRC archives I found an old contract with this station from 1950, as well as a coverage map. Both contain some interesting statistics as well as history.

rwh-wfur-coverage-map

Did you know that the station was owned and managed by the “Furniture City Broadcasting Corporation”? Maybe now you will figure out why the call letters of the station are what they are. You will see what the contract amount was back in 1950. What do you think it is today?

But here is a more important question: if you live in the Grand Rapids, MI area, do you listen to the RWH program each Sunday? It is broadcast twice – at 8 am and at 4 pm. If you are not a regular listener, don’t you think it’s about time you became one?:)

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New Books Alert! Corrupting the Word of God and Called to Watch for Christ’s Return (RFPA)

As 2016 comes to a close, the RFPA (Reformed Free Publishing Association) has just released two new books: Corrupting the Word of God: The History of the Well-Meant Offer, by Herman Hanko and Mark Hoeksema (hardcover, 272 pp., $24.95); and Called to Watch for Christ’s Return, by Rev. Martyn McGeown (paper, 304 pp. $14.95).

corrupting_word-hh-2016Concerning the first title, the publisher has this summary information:

Does the eternal, unchangeable, all-powerful, and sovereign God really have a temporal, changeable and weak desire to save those whom he has unconditionally reprobated (Rom. 9:22), for whom the Son did not die (John 12:31) and whom the Holy Spirit will not regenerate, sanctify or glorify (John 3:8)?

Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, Anabaptism, Arminianism, Amyraldism, and Marrowism say yes to the well-meant offer of the gospel. The biblical, Augustinian, Reformed, and creedal position is no!

Emeritus professor of church history, Herman Hanko, guides us through fascinating doctrinal controversies in the early, Reformation and modern eras of the church, taking us to North Africa, Switzerland, France, England, Scotland, the Netherlands, and America, and emphasizing the teaching of the great theologians, such as Augustine and John Calvin, on God’s particular grace, which is always irresistible and never fails or is frustrated.

In dealing with the historical perspective of God’s absolutely sovereign grace versus the well-meant offer, this book fills a gap in the literature, and does so in a way that is warm and easily understood.

This title is a significant contribution to the study of the controversial subject of the free offer of the gospel. Often misunderstood (by unsuspecting novices in the faith) and frequently misrepresented (as being truly biblical and Reformed!), the free offer (or well-meant offer) has an infamous history in the church of Christ, carrying such theological “baggage” as a universal love of God, a general will of God for the salvation of all men, a universal atonement of Christ, and a grace for all in the preaching of the gospel – all of which stand opposed by the historic biblical and Reformed faith.

Hanko and Hoeksema demonstrate from the main periods of church history along with its controversies, as well as from the church fathers, that the common teaching of the free offer is unorthodox, to be rejected by all who love the doctrines of sovereign, particular, saving grace.

Theologian, pastor, and layman alike will benefit from this important historical study. The book is enhanced by the final chapter giving the reader closing “analysis and positive statement” on the nature of saving grace and the preaching of the gospel. And the reader is further benefited by the “select annotated bibliography” provided by Rev. Angus Stewart (pastor of Covenant PRC in Ballymena, N. Ireland).

called_to_watch-mm-2016Concerning the second title (Called to Watch), the RFPA has this description:

A few days before Jesus gave his life on the cross, his disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matt. 24:3). Christ responded with the Olivet Discourse, a detailed teaching on the doctrine of the last things.

We need to understand the signs of Christ’s coming for our comfort as we look for “that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Christ had two concerns. First, his disciples must know the signs of his coming, which are footsteps of his approach. But Christ is not satisfied with mere “sign-gazing,” which can lead to speculation and idle, foolish living. He did not give signs to satisfy our curiosities, but so that we will be ready for him when he returns. Therefore, Christ’s second concern was the readiness of his disciples, which is expressed in his urgent and repeated warnings to watch for his coming in light of the signs.

Watch, pray, and serve the Lord with an eye to the signs of his return!

This book by a new author fills an important gap in the fields of biblical exposition and theology, especially from a solid Reformed, amillennial perspective. This book will properly explain our Lord’s instruction in Matthew 24, thus giving you right thinking about the end of the world and its signs, while also kindling a godly hope in your soul for the glorious return of our Savior.

Since this book is not a book club title, be sure to visit the RFPA’s website for ordering information. And, if you join the book club, you will receive the discount on this title and on all new titles. And while there ordering your copy, order one for that friend or family member too – just in time for the Christmas season!

Source: Reformed Free Publishing Association — Corrupting the Word of God