Rest Indeed – R.C. Sproul Jr.

Rest Indeed by R.C. Sproul Jr. | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - Feb 2015As we close out this busy week of labor and anticipate our risen Lord’s day of rest tomorrow, R.C.Sproul, Jr. reminds us in the above-linked article from this month’s Tabletalk (on the theme of “Labor and Rest”) that our rest is not only related to our labor but also to the great battle in which we are engaged as God’s soldiers from day to day.

It is good to also be reminded of this spiritual aspect of our labor in this life, so that we may also be refreshed in the knowledge of our Lord’s victory over our spiritual foes. I appreciated what “R.C.” writes here, and I pray it is an encouragement to you too as we get ready to rest in our Savior.

Find the full article at the link above; here is a part of it (keep in mind he takes his thoughts from Psalm 23):

When we turn the Sabbath into a set of rules of what we are allowed and forbidden to do, I fear we miss the whole spirit of the day. The rest to which we are called is less resting from our day-to-day jobs than it is rest from the battle. We are able to rest because we know He has already won. Sabbath is the good cheer to which we are called, knowing He has already overcome the world (John 16:33).

When we enter more fully into our rest, when we sit at His table, untouchable, victorious, are we not overcome with joy? Is it not true that our heads are anointed with oil, that our cups runneth over? Like soldiers who come home for rest and relaxation, we soldiers of the King are invited to go home, so that when we return to battle, we know where we are going. We drink deeply of His goodness so that we know that His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives. We go back into the battle knowing, having been to and tasted the end of all things, that we will indeed dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

This is rest indeed because for six days a week we are at war indeed. The great irony, however, is that the more we rest, the more we battle. For it is our worship, our rest, our joy, and our peace that are the very weapons of our warfare. By joy, towers are toppled. By peace, ramparts are ruined. By singing forth the glory of His name, by heralding His glory, walls come tumbling down. We fight in peace because the war has already been won. We die in war because the peace has already been won. This is His kingdom that we seek.

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21

Ash Wednesday: Picking and Choosing our Piety – Reformation21.

Ash WednesdayToday is Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent on the church’s calendar – at least if you are Roman Catholic (preceded by “Fat Tuesday” and Mardi Gras, those paragons of piety!), Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican (especially later).

But of late it has also become fashionable for Protestant groups (“evangelicals”) and even Reformed folk to get excited about Lent and start practicing its customs, from fasting and fish-feasting to having ashes put on one’s forehead.

That’s why I appreciated Carl Trueman’s forthrightness in addressing this evangelical trendiness in this online article posted at Reformation21. He makes some excellent points about why Reformed Christians do not need Lent – with or without its ashes.

I give a few paragraphs here, encouraging you to read the full article at the “Ref21″ link above.

It’s that time of year again: the ancient tradition of Lent, kick-started by Ash Wednesday. It is also the time of year when us confessional types brace ourselves for the annual onslaught of a more recent tradition: that of evangelical pundits, with no affiliation to such branches of the church, writing articles extolling Lent’s virtues to their own eclectic constituency.

… The imposition of ashes is intended as a means of reminding us that we are dust and forms part of a liturgical moment when sins are ‘shriven’ or forgiven. In fact, a well-constructed worship service should do that anyway. Precisely the same thing can be conveyed by the reading of God’s Word, particularly the Law, followed by a corporate prayer of confession and then some words of gospel forgiveness drawn from an appropriate passage and read out loud to the congregation by the minister.

An appropriately rich Reformed sacramentalism also renders Ash Wednesday irrelevant. Infant baptism emphasizes better than anything else outside of the preached Word the priority of God’s grace and the helplessness of sinless humanity in the face of God. The Lord’s Supper, both in its symbolism (humble elements of bread and wine) and its meaning (the feeding on Christ by faith) indicates our continuing weakness, fragility and utter dependence upon Christ.

…Finally, it also puzzles me that time and energy is spent each year on extolling the virtues of Lent when comparatively little is spent on extolling the virtues of the Lord’s Day. Presbyterianism has its liturgical calendar, its way of marking time: Six days of earthly pursuits and one day of rest and gathered worship. Of course, that is rather boring. Boring, that is, unless you understand the rich theology which underlies the Lord’s Day and gathered worship, and realize that every week one meets together with fellow believers to taste a little bit of heaven on earth.

When You Don’t Feel Like Singing – Randall Van Meggelen

When You Don’t Feel Like Singing by Randall Van Meggelen | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Jan-2015While the theme of this month’s Tabletalk is the gospel (“The Good News”) and there are many good articles on this, I always enjoy and profit from the special rubric articles as well.

Under the rubric “Heart Aflame” musician and professor of music Randall Van Meggelen (see below) penned a nice piece on what to do “when you don’t feel like singing.” We have all experienced this reality in our lives, whether in public worship or private devotions, whether because of sadness, or depression, or just plain unspiritual attitudes.

To help us sing anyway, Van Megglen offers seven (7) doctrinal and practical points (all starting with a “p”). I give you the first two here and encourage you to read the rest at the Ligonier link above.

PURPOSE

God saved us to proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9). He seeks true worshipers (John 4:23) who express their worship in song. Singing is an important means of glorifying and enjoying God. Singing expresses our covenant relationship with God and submission to His will. It demonstrates the unity we enjoy in God with His people. We sing to offer adoration, praise, and gratitude to God for His name, perfections, Word, and works. Singing helps us remember and celebrate God’s past saving deeds, rejoice in His present goodness, and rehearse our future heavenly worship. Singing is also a command, gift, and spiritual discipline that is formative not only for what we believe, but how we live. Therefore, proclaim God’s praises.

PASSION

Worship rightly evokes feelings, but it is not chiefly about how we feel. Our feelings must be informed by God’s Word and subject to Christ’s lordship, not to the whims of personal preference. Scripture commands us to rejoice in the Lord. Singing enlivens our minds, wills, and feelings in ways that words alone cannot. When we engage our whole selves by presenting our “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1), He does not despise our worship, but is pleased to bless our obedience with a greater hunger for and joy in Him. Therefore, sing even when you do not feel like it.

Randall Van Meggelen is chief musician at Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., and adjunct professor of sacred music at Reformation Bible College.

What is the Gospel? God’s Good News – January 2015 “Tabletalk”

What is the Gospel? by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-Jan-2015The January 2015 issue of Tabletalk is now out and in use! And you may also obtain this entire issue FREE at the Ligonier site!

This issue carries the theme “The Good News”, featuring nine articles answering the question “What is the Gospel?”

Editor Burk Parsons introduces this issue with the article linked above. These are some of his points about the gospel:

In our day, there are countless counterfeit gospels, both inside and outside the church. Much of what is on Christian television and on the shelves of Christian bookstores completely obscures the gospel, thereby making it another gospel, which is no gospel whatsoever. English pastor J.C. Ryle wrote, “Since Satan cannot destroy the gospel, he has too often neutralized its usefulness by addition, subtraction, or substitution.” It is vital we understand that just because a preacher talks about Jesus, the cross, and heaven, does not mean he is preaching the gospel. And just because there is a church on every corner does not mean the gospel is preached on every corner.

Fundamentally, the gospel is news. It’s good news—the good news about what our triune God has accomplished for His people: the Father’s sending His Son, the incarnate Jesus Christ, to live perfectly, fulfill the law, and die sacrificially, satisfying God’s wrath against us that we might not face hell, thereby atoning for our sins; and raising Him from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the victorious announcement that God saves sinners. And even though the call of Jesus to “take up your cross and follow me,” “repent and believe,” “deny yourself,” and “keep my commandments” are necessary commands that directly follow the proclamation of the gospel, they are not in themselves the good news of what Jesus has accomplished. The gospel is not a summons to work harder to reach God; it’s the grand message of how God worked all things together for good to reach us. The gospel is good news, not good advice or good instructions, just as J. Gresham Machen wrote: “What I need first of all is not exhortation, but a gospel, not directions for saving myself but knowledge of how God has saved me. Have you any good news? That is the question that I ask of you.”

R.C.Sproul, Sr. also has a fine article on the importance of “preaching and teaching” in the church. Here is a portion of what he has to say:

God’s people need both preaching and teaching, and they need more than twenty minutes of instruction and exhortation a week. A good shepherd would never feed the sheep only once a week, and that’s why Luther was teaching the people of Wittenberg almost on a daily basis, and Calvin was doing the same thing in Geneva. I’m not necessarily calling for the exact practices in our day, but I’m convinced that the church needs to recapture something of the regular teaching ministry evident in the work of our forefathers in the faith. As they are able, churches should be creating many opportunities to hear God’s Word preached and taught. Things such as Sunday evening worship, midweek services and Bible classes, Sunday school, home Bible studies, and so on give laypeople the chance to feed on the Word of God several times each week. As they are able, laypeople should take advantage of what is available to them by way of instruction in the deep truths of Scripture.

I say this not to encourage the creation of programs for the sake of programs, and I don’t want to put an unmanageable burden on church members or church staff‹s. But history shows us that the greatest periods of revival and reformation the church has ever seen occur in conjunction with the frequent, consistent, and clear preaching of God’s Word. If we would see the Holy Spirit bring renewal to our churches and our lands, it will require preachers who are committed to the exposition of Scripture, and laypeople who will look for shepherds to feed them the Word of God and take full advantage of the opportunities for biblical instruction that are available.

The Prayers of J.Calvin – Jeremiah Lectures (5)

JCalvinPic1The next prayer of John Calvin that we post follows his fourth lecture on the prophecy of Jeremiah, covering chap.1:18-19 and chap.2:1-5. But before posting the prayer, once again we quote from a portion of his lecture. In connection with vss.1-2 of chap.2 of Jeremiah, Calvin has these wonderful things to say about the steadfastness of God’s covenant love for His wayward people:

Now this is a remarkable passage; for God shews that his covenant, though perfidiously violated by the Jews, was yet firm and immutable: for though not all who derive their descent according to the flesh from Abraham, are true and legitimate Israelites, yet God ever remains true, and his calling, as Paul says, is without repentance (Rom.x1. 29) We may therefore learn this from the Prophet’s words, – that God was not content with one Prophet, but continued his favour, inasmuch as he would not render void his covenant. The Jews indeed had impiously departed from the covenant, and a vast number had deservedly perished, having been wholly repudiated; yet God designed really to shew that his grace depends not on the inconstancy of men, as Paul says in another place, for it would then presently fail (Rom.iii. 4;) and that were all men false and perfidious, God would yet remain true and fixed in his purpose. This we learn from the Prophet’s words, when it is said, that God remembered the people on account of the kindness of their youth (71).

And then this beautiful prayer follows:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou continuest at this day, both morning and evening, to invite us to thyself, and assiduously exhortest us to repent, and testifiest that thou art ready to be reconciled to us, provided we flee to thy mercy, – O grant, that we may not close our ears and reject this thy great kindness, but that remembering thy gratuitous election, the chief of all favours thou hast been pleased to shew us, we may strive so to devote ourselves to thee, that thy name may be glorified through our whole life: and should it be that we at any time turn aside from thee, may we quickly return to the right way, and become submissive to thy holy admonitions, that it may thus appear that we have been so chosen by thee and called as to desire to continue in the hope of that salvation, to which thou invitest us, and which is prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. – Amen (76).

The Wonder of Grace: Jesus in the Manger

StandardBearerFrom “The Christmas Message to Joseph”, the meditation based on Matt.1:18-24 and written by Rev.Ron Van Overloop (Grace PRC), published in the December 15, 2014 Standard Bearer:

The wonder of grace is that He is ‘Jesus,’ that is, ‘Jehovah salvation’ (21). ‘Jehovah salvation’ means that He will accomplish the work to ‘save His people from their sins.’ To save means that He delivers them from the greatest evil – there is nothing worse than my sin and my sinfulness. And provides us with the greatest good – a sweet relationship with God Himself.

This marvelous and gracious work of salvation He will accomplish for ‘His people.’ He saves, but He does not save all – only His people, that is, those given Him of His Father before the foundation of the world (John 17:2). He will do all that is necessary to earn salvation – earning both forgiveness and righteousness. He will work that salvation in them, and He will keep them in that salvation.

That Jesus saves His people from their sins explains the manger and the cross, for He stood in their place, bearing the penalty of their sin. Their violations of the most high majesty of God made it necessary that He bear the penalty for all of their sin.

The great joy of Christmas is the fact that He came precisely to deal with the reality of our sin. Christmas is realizing that God humbled Himself to become complete man because the sins of His people required that. Payment had to be made and He became man just to do so.

…May we see the baby in the manger and worship Him with renewed faith. Let us receive the good tidings of great joy and give glory to God in the highest! (123-24).

The Added Ingredient – E.Clowney

Read ingredientsMadison Avenue agencies have at last convinced us that man does not live by bread alone, but by the added ingredients.

Only as bold a writer as C.S.Lewis would entitle a book Mere Christianity. Leaders of the flourishing isms are all advertising what has been added. The golden tablets dropped from heaven at Palmyra, N.Y., make all the difference (A reference to Joseph Smith and the beginnings of Mormonism -cjt). More refined revisions of Christianity have a similar zeal for the insights of some leaders of neo-theological fashion.

Even stout defenders of plain Christianity are not immune to the lure of the added ingredient, as compounded perhaps by a sensational Bible teacher. Worst of all, sometimes the Gospel itself is promoted as something added, a booster shot of happiness, instead of a new life in Christ Jesus. God’s saving power operates not by addition, but by transformation (19).

Quote from the book Eutychus (and his pin) by Edmund P. Clowney (Eerdmans, 1960).

Taking his cue from the latest new ingredient added to his toothpaste, Clowney describes how this popular advertising technique also applies to what we observe taking place in the realm of Christianity. Some always want to add something more to the Christian faith.

Still today too, we might add. No doubt, more so than in 1960.

“And I will give you pastors according to my heart” – God’s Promise of Jeremiah 3:15

Jer3-15-pastorsThis morning in Faith PRC our new pastor, Rev.Clayton Spronk (seventh in the congregation’s history), will be installed. And then this evening he will officially begin his ministry in our midst, as he leads our worship service and preaches for the first time for us, after which he and his family will be welcomed into our midst with a special program (our evening service is starting at 5 p.m. today). This is a happy and humbling occasion for us as a congregation, since we waited two years to receive a new under-shepherd from the Lord.

But with regard to the preaching of the gospel, we were well provided for through guest pastors, especially Prof.R.Dykstra (one of our members), who led us through the Heidelberg Catechism and many special services. And with regard to our other spiritual needs, we were well cared for by our faithful elders and deacons, who, no doubt, spent many extra hours fulfilling their offices caring for us sheep. We thank these men for the diligent labors among us.

While we waited for another pastor, we also rested in God’s good promises, including the promise of Jeremiah 3:15 – “And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.” Once more God has shown His faithfulness in fulfilling this promise to us as a church. Our joy is in Him and our gratitude is toward Him.

In connection with this wonderful event today, I quote from John Calvin’s comments on this passage as found in vol.9 of his Commentaries (“On The Prophet Jeremiah and The Lamentations”, Baker, 1979), concluding  with his prayer that closes this lecture. May his words give us fresh gratitude for this office of pastor-teacher in the church, and may it lead us to pray diligently for our new pastor as well as for all our pastors.

We hence learn that the Church cannot continue without having faithful pastors to shew the way of salvation. The wellbeing of the Church then is secured, when God raises up true and faithful teachers to proclaim his truth: but when the Church is deprived of sound teachers, all things soon fall into ruin. For God, no doubt, intimates by this promise that he would not only be the deliverer of his people, so as to restore them from exile, but that he would be also their perpetual guardian after the people had returned to their own country.

It hence follows, that the Church of God is not only begotten by means of holy and godly pastors, but that its life is also cherished, nourished, and confirmed by them to the end. As it is not enough for civil order to be once set up, except the magistrates continue in their office, so nothing is more ruinous to the Church than for God to take away faithful pastors. It cannot indeed be, that people will return to God, unless prophets be first sent: but God speaks here of a continued course of instruction, and of a well regulated government in the Church, as though he had said, ‘I will not only give you prophets to lead you from your wanderings to me, and to restore you to the way of salvation, but I will also continually set over you sound and faithful teachers.’

But we must notice, that those who preside cannot rightly discharge their office unless they are endued with wisdom. God also intimates his paternal love, when he says, that good pastors would be dear to him (181-82).

And this lecture is concluded with this prayer:

Grant, Almighty God, that as thou at this day mercifully spared us, when yet in various ways we provoke thy displeasure, — O grant, that we may not harden ourselves against thy chastisements, but that thy forbearance may lead us to repentance, and that also thy scourges may do us good, and that we may so truly turn to thee, that our whole life may testify that we are in our hearts changed; and may we also stimulate one another, that we may unite together in rendering obedience to thy word, and each of us strive to glorify thy name, through Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.

The Lord’s Supper – Valley of Vision Devotional

Lord's SupperThis morning in my home church, Faith PRC, we will be commemorating the death of our Savior Jesus Christ through His holy supper. For this reason, and to help my own soul prepare for this feast – and perhaps yours too, I chose this devotional from The Valley of Vision, Ed. by Arthur Bennett (Banner of Truth, 1975). It is again taken from the section “Service and Ministry” and is simply titled, “The Lord’s Supper”. I pray it is a blessing to your soul as it has been to mine.

GOD OF ALL GOOD,

I bless thee for the means of grace;
teach me to see in them thy loving purposes
and the joy and strength of my soul.

Thou hast prepared for me a feast;
and though I am unworthy to sit down as guest,
I wholly rest on the merits of Jesus,
and hide myself beneath his righteousness;
When I hear his tender invitation
and see his wondrous grace,
I cannot hesitate, but must come to thee in love.

By thy Spirit enliven my faith rightly to discern
and spiritually to apprehend the Saviour.

While I gaze upon the emblems of
my Saviour’s death,
may I ponder why he died, and hear him say,
‘I gave my life to purchase yours,
presented myself an offering to expiate
your sin,
shed my blood to blot out your guilt,
opened my side to make you clean,
endured your curses to set you free,
bore your condemnation to satisfy
divine justice.’

O may I rightly grasp the breadth and length
of this design,
draw near, obey, extend the hand,
take the bread, receive the cup,
eat and drink, testify before all men
that I do for myself, gladly, in faith,
reverence and love, receive my Lord,
to be my life, strength, nourishment,
joy, delight.

In the supper I remember his eternal love,
boundless grace, infinite compassion,
agony, cross, redemption,
and receive assurance of pardon, adoption,
life, glory.

As the outward elements nourish my body,
so may thy indwelling Spirit invigorate
my soul,
until that day when I hunger and thirst
no more,
and sit with Jesus at his heavenly feast.

Election of Grace – Augustine

SB-Oct15-2014-AugustineThe above title heads one of the articles found in the new Reformation issue of The Standard Bearer (October 15, 2014), a Reformed semi-monthly magazine published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. This special issue is devoted to the church father Augustine, and includes a treatment of “Augustine’s Doctrine of Predestination” (the sub-title) by Rev.William Langerak, pastor of SE PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

I pull a snippet from his fine article, so that you may have a taste of why Augustine too has been called the “theologian of grace”.

In other words, although they (the semi-Pelgians -cjt) championed grace in salvation, it was defective—merited, dispensable, subsequent, common, and resistible grace. Sound familiar?

Against this, Augustine champions grace as free, antecedent, particular, irresistible, and efficacious. Importantly, he doesn’t do this merely by arguing the nature of grace directly. Rather, he grounds grace in predestination. Why? He believed their errors regarding grace were because “they are in darkness…concerning predestination” (Predestination, 2, 498). This darkness was partly that they limited predestination to foreknowledge, and charged Augustine’s teaching was fatalism, rendered God unjust, abolished free-will, and was contrary to sound doctrine. Besides, preaching it would drive men into indifference or despair (Introductory Essay, lxiv). They also claimed predestination contradicted the “will of God to save all men” and the death of Christ for all. Sound familiar?

Augustine, of course, refutes them, especially with copious quotes from Scripture. He dismisses the cavil of fatalism by appeal to the determinative will of God and demolishing the underlying premise of free will. “The human will does not attain grace by freedom, but rather attains freedom by grace” (On Rebuke, 17, 478). Against a “will of God to save all men,” he explains this is impossible because “man’s will cannot withstand the will of God;” also “all” in 1Tim. 2:4 may be understood as “all the predestinated …because every kind of men is among them,” (On Rebuke, 44-45, 489).

Augustine also defends preaching predestination. To oppose it was to oppose the preaching of Christ and apostles; saying it rendered useless exhortations and rebuke, was to indict Scripture (Perseverance, 34, 538). It didn’t hinder progress or perseverance of faith, but rather promoted them (Perseverance, 36, 540). “Although…we say obedience is the gift of God, we exhort men to it” (Perseverance, 37, 540). “Predestination must be preached, that God’s true grace…may be maintained with insuperable defense” (Perseverance, 54, 548).

Strikingly, Augustine rarely argues predestination for its own sake, or even because its biblical. His basic, underlying, purpose is always to teach predestination because grace is dependent upon it—if grace is divorced from election, grace is no longer grace. Augustine knew this from experience, for it was his error at one time. “I thought…faith whereby we believe on God is…in us from ourselves… and to consent when the gospel was preached to us…was our own doing…[because] I had not as yet found what is the nature of the election of grace” (Predestination, 7, 500). So he argues vigorously that “God’s grace…is given according to the good pleasure of His will…The grace of God, which both begins a man’s faith and…enables it to persevere unto the end…is given according to His own most secret…righteous, wise, and beneficent will” (Perseverance, 33, 538). “This is the predestination of the saints—nothing else, to wit, the foreknowledge and the preparation of God’s kindnesses” (Perseverance, 35, 539).

 

For information on how to receive this issue or to subscribe, visit the Standard Bearer website.  Or you may visit this news item about it on the PRC website.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 526 other followers