Note to Self: Speak to Others

Note-to-self-Thorn(Recall the last one was “Listen to Others.”)

Begin by reading and reflecting on Hebrews 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

Are you connected to others in such a way that affords you opportunities to speak into their lives? Just as God has put people near you to speak to you for your God, so he has intended to use you to speak words of grace to others. The questions are – are you connected, and are you speaking?

…At times you feel as if you have little to say, or that your words are too simple and not deep enough. But when you doubt that you have anything to offer, you question God’s ability to use you beyond your own weakness. Your usefulness in the lives of others is not dependent on your intellectual or creative abilities, though God will use your talents whatever they are. Your usefulness to God and his people is connected with your dependence on God and his Word and your love for his people.

The people around you need to hear from you. Share God’s Word with those who need to hear it.

Taken from Chap.24 “Speak to Others” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.85-86.

“Let the church… emphatically proclaim – always and everywhere – that God is God! H.Hoeksema

Blessed, indeed, are the people who know this God who is God blessed forever. It is true that God is God, and therefore he cannot be comprehended. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite; time cannot compass eternity. But there is a difference between knowledge and comprehension, and comprehension is not necessary for knowledge. Although in the very testimony that God is God the church confesses that God cannot be comprehended, she also proclaims that he is knowable, and that he is known. He is known because he has revealed himself. He has revealed himself not merely as god, but also as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loves his church with an eternal and unfathomable love; who reconciles his people to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; who delivers them from the power of sin and death; and who gives them life eternal in the knowledge of himself.

We know God in Christ Jesus our Lord, and not merely with our head, intellectually, as theology knows him; we also know him with our heart, spiritually, so that we taste that he is good and the overflowing fountain of all good. We know him and have fellowship with him, and we hear him tell us that we are his friends, his sons and daughters. We know him, and in this knowledge we have eternal life. “This is  life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Let the church of Jesus Christ in the world clearly understand her calling and emphatically proclaim – always and everywhere – that God is God!

This is another quote from the very first message broadcast on the Reformed Witness Hour (celebrating 75 years in 2016!), “God is God”, based on Isaiah 43:12 (“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.”) and delivered by Rev. Herman Hoeksema, pastor of First PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.

Knowing-God-and-Man -HHBesides being published in individual leaflet form, this message was later published by the RFPA in book form, along with the other messages in this series on the doctrine of God and another on the doctrine of man that followed it. That book is titled Knowing God & Man (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2006). The quote is taken from p.12.

Note to Self: Listen to Others

Begin by reading and reflecting on Hebrews 3:12-13.

Dear Self,

You want God to speak, but are you willing to hear him speak to you through others? Make no mistake about it – you need to hear from others for your own progress in the faith. The author of Hebrews says that through mutual exhortation believers are protected from the hardening influences of sin.

Make no mistake about it – you need to listen to others, because otherwise, sin begins to petrify your heart. This means you become less sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and increasingly insensitive to the ugliness of your own corruption. A petrified heart is an ugly irony because it is like a returning to the heart of stone God once removed and replaced with a heart of flesh.

To work against this hardening, God calls you to be in and to listen to the Christian community. Proverbs tells us there are answers to be found in the counsel of friends (Prov.24:6). What this implies is that you need the local church, and you need to see the body of Christ as the people God brings into your life to learn from.

So the local church must be more than a weekly event. It needs to be your covenant community and extended family who have the right and privilege to exhort you – to speak into your life when you need it most. From words of encouragement to gentle but needed rebuke, the words of wisdom and insight are all around you. Are you listening?

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.23 “Listen to Others” (found in Part Two, “The Gospel and Others”) in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.83-84.

Don’t Be Weary in Doing God’s Beauty Work! – Rev. C. Haak

RWHmasthead

Our thoughts for reflection on this first Lord’s Day in August come from a message Rev.C. Haak delivered on the Reformed Witness Hour program last month (which had also been broadcast previously).

The message is titled “Not Weary in Well-Doing” (for the audio version go here) and is based on the Word of God in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well-doing:  for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”

Below is a portion of his exposition of that text. May we find it a necessary rebuke for our sluggishness and a powerful encouragement to our weary souls.

  Now, when the apostle says, “Don’t be weary in well-doing,” he is not referring just to a few people, but he is referring to all the people of God.  He is not referring just to giving things to the poor, but he is referring to our whole life as we are to live that life out of Jesus Christ.  Does he refer to the work of elder or deacon in your church?  Yes.  But mothers in the home and fathers, too, as they bring up their children, as they go to work to support their family.  Our church life is included.  Our marriages are included.  And all the deeds of thoughtfulness and kindness that we are to do in His name.  Witnessing to the gospel and pursuing the evangelism call of the church.  All of these things are well-doing.

        Literally, we could translate this “beauty work.”  Do not be weary in beauty work.  That is a very powerful word of God because there we see that apart from God every doing, every act, and every deed is darkness.  Apart from the beauty of God’s grace working first in our hearts, every work that is performed on the earth, the Bible says, is ugly, smelly, soiled in pride.  But there is beauty.  And that beauty comes from God alone.  It is the beauty of His grace when He works through His people in Jesus Christ.  It is that which does not then come out of self, that which is not rooted in self, but that which is of grace in us.  That is beauty work.  And even though now those works, too, are shot through with our own sin, yet God smiles because He sees in that work His wonderful grace.  Now do not be weary in beauty work.

        Further, we learn that this well-doing is synonymous with sowing to the Spirit.  Look at verses 7 and 8 and see that the Word of God has set down a principle for everyone.  There we read, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”  There are only two possibilities.  One is either sowing, in his life, to his destruction, or he is sowing, in his life, to life eternal.

…Are you sowing greed in your life as a father?  Then the Word of God says, “Don’t expect contentment but expect a constricted heart, and anxious nights, and narrow eyes.”  Are you sowing gossip in your church?  Do you talk about others?  Then do not expect peace and love in your church or in your marriage or family.  But you shall harvest division and tension.  Are you, as a young man, sowing lust through pornography in your life?  Then do not expect that you are ever going to be satisfied if God gives you a wife.  What you sow you shall also reap.

        So, well-doing, then, is to be understood as that work of the Spirit of Christ whereby we sow looking for the life that is to come, that we might have an abundant harvest then.

        But you understand that that well-doing is very hard, it is very difficult, it is continuous, it is never-ending.  And this is really, I believe, the point of the apostle.  You do not see the fruit of this kind of work quickly.  Because that is the case, we become discouraged and our souls begin to sag.  You say to me, “Are you telling me that my work as a mother is beauty-work?  Are you trying to mock me?  Have you ever seen my house on a Monday morning?  It’s upside-down.  Beauty-work with my child?  I yell at my child.  How can that be beauty-work?”  “Beauty-work in our marriage” you say to me?  “Well, that’s hard work!”  And maybe you say, “It’s never going to change.  Our marriage is not going to change.  He’s not going to change.  We’re just going to have to resign ourselves to have to live with it.  We give up.”

        Maybe you say that in the church.  You say, “I’ve tried to be active in the communion of the saints.  I’ve tried to have people over to my house.  There is no reciprocation.  Beauty-work?  I’ve been hurt in the church!”  Maybe as an elder you say to me, “Pastor, you’re calling our work beauty-work, but in the church it seems that the problems are greater than anywhere else!”  And maybe personally you say, “I’m weary.  I can’t seem to get out of the doldrums.  The spiritual resilience has departed from my life because of obstacles, because of the sins of others, because of my own sins.  I’m tempted to say, ‘Well, if that’s the way they’re going to be, see if I care!’”

        So often we find ourselves then settling down into the routine.  The earlier days of fresh spiritual vigor are a distant dream.  We become discouraged and we become tempted to withdraw from doing good—in church, in marriage, in family, in our personal life.  We begin to multiply obstacles and magnify obstacles and say, “We can’t do that!”  We are ready to quit.  And we would, if we could find a good excuse for doing so.

Review Books – Two New Crossway Titles

Recently I received two requested review books from Crossway publishers, and today I make them available to our readers who may be interested in writing a brief review for the Standard Bearer.

"Free Grace" Theology

The first is “Free Grace” ‘Theology: 5 Ways It Diminishes the Gospel, written by Wayne Grudem (paper, 159 pp.). This book is a fresh look at an old error that often creeps into the church, that salvation by grace means salvation without a change of life (genuine repentance) and without demands on a person’s heart, mind, and walk (godly obedience).

In the more recent past, this error was known as the “lordship controversy,” but now it has a “new” name – “free grace theology.” It may be pointed out that this error also shows itself wherever antinomianism is promoted. As Grudem points out in his introduction, he wrote this to point out properly the nature of the gospel, true Christian assurance, and the nature of saving faith.

The publisher offers this description:

Must the gospel message include a call for people to repent of their sins? “No,” say Free Grace advocates. Is evidence of a changed life an important indication of whether a person is truly born again? “No, again,” these advocates say.

But in this book, Wayne Grudem shows how the Bible answers “Yes” to both of these questions, arguing that the Free Grace movement contradicts both historic Protestant teaching and the New Testament itself.

This important book explains the true nature of the Christian gospel and answers the question asked by so many people: “How can I know that I’m saved?”

If this book is of interest to you and you are willing to write a review on it, please contact me here or by email.

Eight Women of Faith

The second book is Eight Women of Faith, penned by Michael A. G. Haykin (paper, 160 pp.), and takes a look at eight significant women who played an important role in church history.

Crossway gives this summary:

With the majority of books about church history centering on the lives and accomplishments of men, it is easy for contemporary Christians to forget the vital role that women have played in the history of Christianity. Drawing from journal entries, personal letters, and other historical documents, historian Michael Haykin reminds Christians of women from previous generations who have helped shape the church. This book affords readers deep insights into how women such as Jane Austen, Sarah Edwards, and Anne Steele responded to challenges in society, came to embrace key doctrines, and made crucial contributions to the life of the church.

For obvious reasons, it would be nice to have a woman do the review on this book. Any interested ladies?

As always, the books are your to keep.

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More on Erasmus and His Greek NT – Trinitarian Bible Society

ErasmusPreviously this year we have commented on the fact that 2016 marks the 500th anniversary of the printing of Desiderius Erasmus’ (1466-1536) Greek New Testament, a significant event that was used by God to bring about and spread the great Reformation of the 16th century.

Issue #615 of the Quarterly Record published by the Trinitarian Bible Society contains a noteworthy article on Erasmus and his Greek NT by C.P. Hallihan. You may find the full version on their website at the link provided (pdf, which you may download).

Since this article was part of my Sunday reading yesterday, I post a segment of it here for your benefit.

The task in hand was to print Erasmus’s new version of the Latin Vulgate New Testament, supported in a parallel column by his newly compiled text of the Greek New Testament. The primary aim for Erasmus, remember, was to refurbish and reclaim the Latin text using the Greek as a plumb line to vindicate his Latin differences. His admirable labours in Greek manuscript gathering, comparing,
collating and editing into a continuous text never weaned him from his Latin text. Yes, the clear spring of literal meaning was to hand, to correct a long decayed text, but
Erasmus failed to see the real significance. His mother tongue was Dutch, yet he never
considered that need.

Compare Tyndale:
…at last I heard speak of Jesus, even then when the New Testament was first set forth by Erasmus; which when I understood to be eloquently done by him, being allured rather by the Latin than by the word of God (for at that time I knew not what it meant), I bought it… I chanced upon this sentence of St Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Tim. 1, ‘it is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief and principal’.

Valla never came to that; I could wish to be more assured that Erasmus did. We rejoice that Tyndale did not settle to correct Wycliffe, but gave us his direct, engaging and still delightful rendering from Greek into English.

All the complaints that can be levelled against Erasmus’s 1516 New Testament have been made and made again from that day to this: too few manuscripts, over hasty
and careless print run, inadequate control of the printing process and proofing,
commercial pressure, and so on. They are all valid, owned and admitted to by Erasmus
himself from the beginning, and thus reedited and corrected through four further
editions. What else could such a ground breaker be? The complaining was just mud
thrown in the hope of avoiding the facts. After at least a thousand years, a new, truly living, version of the Word of God was available and accessible.

I could spend quite pleasing hours examining and explaining these complaints, bewailing the death of Aldus Manutius, the Venetian master of Greek printing of great beauty in 1515, so that Froben had the job instead, and the near comic confusion of texts and revisions at the printers in Basle where Erasmus was now stranded11 with a very limited manuscript collection. But these are all just excuses for dodging the consequences of the appearance of this Greek New Testament.

Let the Church Be the Church – R.C. Sproul

TT-July-2016Yesterday before one of our worship services, I re-read in the July issue of Tabletalk Dr. R.C. Sproul’s article in his usual rubric “Right Now Counts Forever.” In it Sproul explains what the church is following the inspired apostle’s teaching in the book of Ephesians.

“What Is the Church?” is a good reminder of what biblical ecclesiology is (the doctrine of the church) and what makes the church what she is (and must always be).

Below is part of what Sproul writes on this vital subject, including some good applications to the times in which we live. For the full article, visit the Ligonier link at the end.

The Apostle Paul explains the doctrine of the church so that we might understand what God has done and so that we may understand who we are. And in calling us to understand who we are and what we’re called to do, Paul says that we’re the church. We’re the church that God ordained from the foundation of the world. We’re His people; we’re His household, so let the church be the church.

We’re living in a time of crisis. Many Christians are decrying the decadence of American culture and complaining about the government and its value system. I understand that, but if we want to be concerned for our nation and culture, our priority must be the renewal of the church. We are the light of the world.

Government merely reflects and echoes the customs embraced by the people in a given generation. In a real sense, our government is exactly what we want it to be, or it wouldn’t be there. Change in culture doesn’t always come from the top down. It often comes from the bottom up. The change we need to work for, chiefly, is renewal within the church. As the church becomes the fellowship of citizens of heaven who manifest what it means to be the household of Christ, and when the church walks according to the power of the Holy Spirit—then the people of God will shine as the light of the world. When people see that light, they will give glory to God (Matt. 5:16). This will change the world. But Paul says, first of all, let the church be the church. We must remember who we are, who the foundation is, who the cornerstone is, who the head of our building is, who the Lord of the church is.

And then he makes these concluding comments:

Do we love the church? I doubt if there have been many times in our history when there has been as much anger, hostility, disappointment, and disillusionment with the institutional church as there is today. It’s hard not to be critical of the church because in many ways the church has failed us. But if the church has failed, that means we have failed. We are called to serve the church in the power of God the Holy Spirit.

We, the church, have been made for this task by the indwelling presence and power of God’s Spirit. Yet, we are called not so much to rise up but to bow down. And if we bow down to our Lord, as Paul says in Ephesians 3:14, the church will be the church, and our light will pierce the darkness.

Source: What Is the Church? by R.C. Sproul

Supernatural Friendship – Ryan Townsend

TT-July-2016One of the edifying and encouraging articles I recently read in the July Tabletalk is the one on friendship named above. In it the author gives us three reasons why friendships are important in the Christian life. The one I have chosen to include in this post is the second one, but you may read the others at the Ligonier link below.

May these words remind us of the great need and blessing of godly friendships in our lives.

Encouragement and Exhortation

During high school, I visited England. We were driving one afternoon in the country, and I remember seeing a flock of sheep for the first time in my life, stumbling down the road right in front of us. I had never seen sheep so closely before. I thought sheep were white, but they’re not. Up close, they’re dirty—and messy and stupid. Some were falling into the ditch by the roadside; some were going the wrong way and biting at each other. But after ten minutes or so, with the help of the shepherds and the sheepdogs, they all made it home safely to the sheepfold.

In the same way, stronger and weaker Christians need one another—for love, discipleship, and encouragement. You see, we’re often like those sheep. We snap at one another and are easily swayed off the path. We fall into ditches and go the wrong way, but, by God’s grace, by being together in a flock, we can make it down the road.

This means we’re better stuck in the middle of the flock, even if it inconveniences our lives now. Why? If you know your own heart well, you know that it is actually more dangerous to be alone or on the edge of the flock because we’re prone to wander. Older men and women in the faith are commanded by Paul to disciple and encourage younger Christians (Titus 2). Younger Christians are also called to care for and love older Christians. That means that in the church, there is no such thing as an individualistic Christian. God has bound us together as one body in Christ and commanded us to care for one another (Heb. 10:24–25).

By joining a local church, stronger and weaker Christians make their love for Christ definite by loving others in a committed fashion. These friendships become the instrument that enables us to:

Encouragement is a powerful antidote to unbelief. And friendships are a great gift of God that bring us together in covenant love.

By God’s grace, they enable us to carry out the countless “one another” commands and make disciples who image His holy, pure, unified, and loving wisdom (Eph. 3:10). This brings us to the third reason why friendships are important to the Christian life.

Source: Supernatural Friendship by Ryan Townsend

Hope PRC Church Dedication Program – June 9,1965

As we have noted here previously, this year marks the 100th anniversary of Hope PRC in Grand Rapids, MI (Riverbend area in Walker), the congregation in which I have my own roots.

SpiritualHouse-HopePRC-100thMy wife and I have been browsing our copy of the new RFPA book that marks and celebrates this centennial (A Spiritual House Preserved: A Century in the River’s Bend, 1916-2016), and are thoroughly enjoying it. It is a treasure-trove of fascinating and instructive history, including the many photographs and anecdotes.

Last week for our PRC archives feature we posted an old Reformed Witness Hour program that a member recently brought it. That same donation included a program from the dedication of Hope’s current church building, dated June 9, 1965.

Hope-PRC-GR-dedication-1965_0001

The cover is striking for its color graphics and calligraphy, though it does not contain an image of the new church. The inside is plain and the type mimeographed, so the text is not very clear, but it can still be made out.

hope-prc-gr-dedication-1965_0002

 

If you wish to see how the church building looks at present, visit Hope PRC’s website, or see it here on the PRC website.

The Story of P&R Publishing

Ever wondered how Christian publishing company P&R got its start? Do you remember its original name – Presbyterian and Reformed? And did you realize that in its early years it also published a journal called Christianity Today?

This history of P&R was recently posted on their website (July 7, 2016) and I found it quite interesting. I am personally grateful for such Christian publishing companies, and P&R continues to be true to its mission after 86 years. Our Seminary library has titles from those early years of publication and continues to purchase their books to this day.

Read on and be informed – and grateful for such Christian companies.

Below is a start to the article; visit the link at the bottom to read the rest.
In 1930 former Presbyterian minister Samuel G. Craig (1874–1960) was forced to leave his five-year term as editor-in-chief of The Presbyterian. The denominational paper dismissed Craig after he threw his support behind J. Gresham Machen, who had founded Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia in response to Princeton Seminary’s modernist reorganization in 1929. Along with Machen, Craig founded The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. in May 1930 to produce a needed conservative answer to the liberal-leaning Presbyterian. The company started publishing a monthly journal called Christianity Today, then priced at $1 for a yearly subscription. The journal featured articles on Christianity and theology, book reviews, sermons, news in the Presbyterian church, and letters to the editor (see archived issues at http://www.pcahistory.org/HCLibrary/periodicals/CT/v01.html).

Source: The Story of P&R – P&R

Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 6:53 AM  Leave a Comment  
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