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.

Are We Living by the Bible’s Authority? – Prof. R. Cammenga

StandardBearerOur food for thought on this Lord’s Day come from an article by Prof. Ronald Cammenga that appeared in the August 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer (vol.92, #19). It is part of the “Taking Heed to the Doctrine” rubric and belongs to a series he is doing on revelation, inspiration, and infallibility in connection with the doctrine of Scripture.

Here are his closing thoughts on the matter of the Bible’s authority:

I doubt that very few, if anyone, who reads this article would disagree with the teaching that the Bible is the supreme authority in the church and in the life of the believer.  We all confess that by virtue of our subscription to the Reformed confessions.  But what about practically?  On a practical level, do we honor the authority of Scripture?  We all ought to examine ourselves.  The Bible says that we are to seek first the kingdom of heaven, believing that God will take care of our earthly needs.  Do we seek first in our lives the kingdom of heaven.  The Bible says that we are not to set our heart upon riches, earthly fame, or glory among men.  Have we set our hearts on riches, earthly fame, or glory among men?  The Bible calls us to live in the world, but not be one with the world.  Do we live antithetically, in the world while not of the world; or, are we friends with the children of this world and run with them in the same excess of riot (I Peter 4:4)?  The Bible calls us to honor our parents and all who are in authority over us.  Do we honor those through whom it pleases God to govern our lives?  The Bible calls us to date and marry in the Lord.  Are we dating and do we intend to marry in the Lord?  The Lord calls us to live chastely and temperately in this present evil world, and not give ourselves to indulgence in sexual uncleanness.  Do we strive to live out of the conviction that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit?  The Bible calls us to live faithfully in marriage; it calls husbands to love their wives and wives to submit to their husbands as unto the Lord.  Are we living faithfully in our marriages?  Do we as husbands love, nourish, and cherish our wives?  And do we as wives reverence, submit to, and assist our husbands in all things?

It is one thing to subscribe to the truth of Scripture’s sole authority.  It is quite another thing to live in such a way that we submit to Scripture’s authority.  May God give us the needed grace to honor this first and outstanding perfection of Scripture.

Don’t Read Only Christian Classics – L.Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenAs we continue to make our way through Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we have moved into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?

In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we listed a few weeks ago. Today, let’s see what Ryken as to say under Bad Practice #5: Read only Christian classics:

The Christian classics naturally hold a very special place in the hearts of Christians – such a special place that it is understandable why some Christians want to limit their sojourns through the realms of gold to Christian classics. The counterpart of this devotion to Christian literature is to be suspicious of non-Christian literature and avoid reading it. But to read only Christian classics results in an unnecessarily confined literary life.

First, God’s common grace… enables non-Christian writers to express the true, the good, and the beautiful also [cf. my note at the end on this]. Much of the world’s greatest literature has been produced by non-Christians, and by virtue of being great, these works have much that can enrich a Christian reader’s life. To be cut off from this tradition is to be unjustifiably impoverished.

…The point at which a writer’s worldview enters the enterprise [of writing great literature which, first, carries a literary form and style “for a reader’s enjoyment,” and second, presents “human experience for our contemplation”] is the interpretation that a writer imposes on the presented material. As a result of this third task, interpretation, we can deduce ideas and ultimately a worldview from works of literature. Even when the interpretive angle is wrong, we can benefit from encountering the ideas of works authored by non-Christians. We expand our knowledge of the world and culture within which we live. We come to understand the non-Christian mind and life. We sharpen our own understanding and worldview as we interact with alien viewpoints of literature generally and hold the line against them (pp.49-50).

I agree with Ryken’s main point here, and find his comments about interacting with worldly worldviews in the last paragraph quite helpful.

But, we need not ground this justification for reading non-Christian classics (or secular literature generally) in a “common” grace of God. There is only one kind of grace according to the Bible – God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ (and that is not a minor, “picky” point).

What Ryken refers to in that second paragraph above is God’s providential gifts – gifts given to the unbelieving as well as to the believing; gifts to write and write well; gifts to understand and portray the creation and human life; even gifts to interpret life properly (to a limited degree, because natural man’s interpretation of life will always be marred by his depravity).

Knowing that the biblical writers read and interacted with the secular writers of their day (cf. Paul in Acts 17:16ff.) also helps us justify reading non-Christian literature.

Of course, we must be careful in this regard. The Reformed teaching on the antithesis (spiritual separation between the mind and things of the world and the mind and things of God) means the Christian does not fill his eyes and soul with the filth of the ungodly (and there is plenty of this available today that is “off limits” to the believer). But he certainly ought to be familiar with the classics produced by worldly men too.

There is plenty more that can be said on this subject, and perhaps we will have opportunity to say more as well. In the meantime, I welcome your input on these points as well.

“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.

The Christian and Suffering – R.C. Sproul

TT-Aug-2016Last night in our home church (Faith PRC) our Seminary intern, Justin Smidstra, brought a comforting message to us from James 1:2-4 about our calling to rejoice in the midst of all the trials God gives us in this life.

That tied in nicely to the article I read by Dr. R.C. Sproul Sunday morning. Writing in his usual column “Right Now Counts Forever,” Sproul explained the difference between and the connection between “bearing and enduring” as found in I 1 Cor.13:7.

For our profit today as we start a new work week and begin to face the manifold trials God places on our path, I quote a section from that article. May it give us proper perspective and enable us by God’s abounding grace to “count it all joy” when we fall into these trials.

Pain and suffering tend to eat away not only at our love but also at our faith, because we begin to wonder if God is loving and if He is even real. We ask how in the world He can let this relentless pain grip our lives. That’s why it’s so important for us to keep our attention on the Word of God. We are told not to be surprised when suffering comes our way. The New Testament doesn’t say that suffering might occur—it says it’s a certainty. Remember what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11 when he talks about what he bore for the sake of the gospel: beatings, stonings, being left for dead, shipwrecks, days and nights at sea, fighting with wild beasts, and constantly being the target of human hostility. Why was he willing to bear those things? Because he understood the divine purpose for suffering and the divine promise not only of relief from suffering, but of the redemption of the suffering itself. In this interim between Christ’s resurrection and return, Christians are called to participate in the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). By bearing and enduring pain, we walk in the footsteps of Jesus and mirror and reflect Him to onlookers. Pain and suffering are opportunities to show the love that God has shed abroad in our hearts.

Source: Bearing and Enduring by R.C. Sproul

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.

Lit Classics Are Not Totally Different from Other Literature – L.Ryken

litclassicsAs we continue to look at Leland Ryken’s recent publication A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015), we have moved into chapter 5, where Ryken begins to answer the question, How should we read the classics of literature?

In this chapter, “How Not to Read a Classic”, you will see that he answers this negatively first of all. He makes his point under six (6) headings, which we listed last week. Today, let’s see what Ryken as to say under Bad Practice #3: Assume that the classics are totally different from other literature:

…We tend to place the classics in such an elite category that we think of them as unique – totally unlike the literature to which we gravitate as an enjoyable leisure pursuit.

…We need to resist this inclination, and it is easy to do. The great storytellers who have given us the classic stories do not bypass what the popular imagination demands. By popular imagination I mean the literary preferences that people universally display…. The whole cross section of the population likes the same things in a story, such as plot conflict, striking events, memorable characters, suspense, violence, danger, a touch of fantasy or the supernatural, vivid settings, and suchlike. Storytellers such as Shakespeare and Hawthorne give us all of these.

The thing that distinguishes the classics is not that they ignore universal or popular literary taste. What sets them apart is that the writers give us more than the basic template. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth we find all the stock ingredients of a murder story, but we also get a profound exploration of sin and guilt. Homer’s Odyssey gives us an abundance of heart-stopping suspense and danger, but at the end of the story we realize that these stock plot ingredients have shown us essential qualities of the human journey that every person undertakes in life (pp.46-47)

Save

Published in: on August 3, 2016 at 6:57 AM  Leave a Comment  

Family Worship – Final Encouragement

family-worship-whitney-2016In the last few months we have been taking a look at a new publication of Crossway that I requested for review. The book is Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.), and we have been drawing some good encouragement from it for being faithful in family devotions or worship.

In the last chapter (5) – “Isn’t This What You Really Want to Do?” – Whitney gives us final motivation for carrying out this calling, including a series of questions, the last of which is the title to the chapter.

But he also has a series of closing admonitions, starting with husbands/fathers and families, before addressing single persons too. For today, I quote from his words to fathers and family members.

First, to fathers Whitney says,

Husbands, fathers – if you have been negligent in this duty and great privilege, repent by starting family worship today. Again, you may feel awkward about what to say to your wife or your children about starting, but simply say that God has convicted you of your responsibility to lead in family worship and you want to start at a given time today or tonight. Almost certainly your wife will be thrilled more than you can imagine to hear you say that. Your children may or may not be as enthusiastic, but that does not really matter. The less interest they show, the more your family needs family worship.

The Lord will help you. He does not call his Spirit-begotten sons to this task without giving them the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish it. The same Father who gave you the gospel and drew you to Christ will strengthen you by his Spirit to put on this badge of godly manhood (p.65).

Let that encourage us to begin anew or press on, men.

And then this there is this encouragement for the family:

Family members – have the willing spirit of Jacob’s household. After he called them to follow his leadership in the family worship of God, Genesis 35:4 tells us, ‘So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.’ Respond just as willingly to the call to family worship in your home. Encourage your husband or dad in his desire to bring the blessings of God upon you. Do not be a stumbling block in his efforts to obey God (p.65).

Shall we all strive in our covenant families to be more diligent and devoted to this holy activity? Is anything – other than our worship on the Lord’s day – more important? Isn’t this what you too really want to do?!

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.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 604 other followers