“Look at Him! Take a long, hard look at Him!” ~ Derek W. H. Thomas

Strength-weary-thomas-2018Reflecting on “the plaintive cry of abandonment felt by Judah’s exiles during the sixth century BC” as found in the last chapters of Isaiah, Derek Thomas has this to say in his new book Strength for the Weary (Reformation Trust, 2018):

Perhaps they thought that their circumstances were too complicated for God to unravel and fix. What they needed, therefore, was a reminder of God’s sovereignty and power.

Perhaps a subtler thought occurred to them: the suspicion that they were unworthy of God’s attention. How can the infinite God of heaven and earth be concerned with ‘little ol’ me’? My issues seem so trivial by comparison [He then quotes Is.40:27, which in the KJV reads, “Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel, My way is hid from the LORD, and my judgment is passed over from my God?”]

God seems to be dismissing me. My prayers are not answered but ignored and disregarded. It feels unjust, unfair, and unwarranted.

And it is this that the sixteenth-century Reformer Martin Luther was getting at when he made the accusation to Erasmus, ‘Your thoughts of God are too human.’

Unbelief is a withering sickness that ultimately destroys faith. And what is the remedy? Waiting on the Lord. [Is.40:31 – “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength.”]

…What kind of waiting is in view here? …In this passage, waiting involves looking away from ourselves and our troubles and looking to the Lord in faith and with expectation. And not just looking, but expectingtrustingbelieving. Taking a long, hard look at who God is: His character, His being, His word, His promise, His commitment. His covenant, His unchanging determination to do what He said He would do. [Is.40:28 – “Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding.”]

Isaiah’s prescription for this withering sickness of unbelief is a dose of God’s magnificent majesty, power, and glory. The promises of God are guaranteed by who and what He is. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the world and His people.

A single verse encapsulates what Isaiah elaborates on throughout the chapter. Exploring the character of God, Isaiah seems to be saying, ‘Look at Him! Take a long, hard look at Him!’

 

Servants of the Lord in Our Daily Occupation

On this Monday evening of Labor Day 2018, we consider some pertinent thoughts of PRC pastor (now emeritus) Rev. Arie denHartog, who, writing in the Sept.1, 1984 issue of the Standard Bearer(Vol.60, #20), expressed himself on the idea of serving the Lord in our daily occupations this way:

Even as we must serve the Lord in all areas of our life so also we must serve Him in our daily occupations. In fact, of course, for most of us our daily occupation takes up most of the time and energies of our life. We must not imagine that we need to serve the Lord only in church. Our service in the church is of supreme importance. Without serving the Lord in church we cannot serve Him in any other area of our life. That we are servants of the Lord must have a tremendous effect on how we conduct ourselves in our daily occupation. The apostle Paul speaks of this most beautifully in Ephesians 6:5-10.

Servants be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eye service as men pleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: knowing that whatsoever good thing that any man doeth, the same shall receive of the Lord whether he be bond or free. And ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your master also is in heaven; neither is respect of persons with Him.

As long as we are on this earth we have a calling to labor in an earthly occupation. Our Lord despises the sluggard and the man who refuses to work. It is through laboring with our hands the thing that is good that the Lord blesses us with material things. Through these things we are enabled of the Lord to raise up a Christian family and to provide a home and provisions for such a family. But our earthly occupation is secondary. It is only temporary. Above this we are called to be the servants of the Lord in His everlasting kingdom which is manifest here already on this earth. We must use our earthly occupation even for the purpose of seeking the kingdom of our God and the glory and righteousness of that kingdom. We must in our earthly occupation live righteously and holily before the Lord, for this is our highest calling.

Good thoughts to keep in mind as we start or continue this work week – with our eye on our heavenly Redeemer-Master.

To read the rest of his article, visit the PRC website link below, or the SB one above.

Source: Servants of the Lord in Our Daily Occupation

Praying with the Psalms for Our Earthly Needs

psalm37-25As the petition for daily bread includes the entire sphere of the necessities of physical life, so the petition for life, health, and visible evidences of the friendliness of God belong necessarily to the prayer that points to the God who is the creator and sustainer of this life. Bodily life is not disdainful. Precisely for its sake God has given us his fellowship in Jesus Christ, so that we can live by him in this life and then also, of course, in the life to come. For this reason he gives us earthly prayers, so that we can better recognize him, praise him, and love him.

…Therefore we need not have a bad conscience when we pray with the Psalter for life, health, peace, and earthly good if we only recognize, as do the Psalms themselves, that all of this is evidence of the gracious fellowship of God with us, and we thereby hold fast to the fact that God’s gifts are better than life (Psalm 63:3 f.; 73:25 f.).

Psalms-prayer-book-BonhoefferQuoted in Psalms, The Prayer Book of the Bible by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Augsburg, 1974), a translation of Das Gebetbuch der Bibel (the 8th ed. published in Germany in 1966). These thoughts are found in the twelfth section, “Life” (pp.40-42), where the author continues to treat the Psalter according to classification by subject.

Humble Soldier-Servants in Christ’s Church – Clement of Rome

Chap. XXXVII. Christ is our leader, and we his soldiers.

Let us then, men and brethren, with all energy act the part of soldiers, in accordance with His holy commandments. Let us consider those who serve under our generals, with what order, obedience, and submissiveness they perform the things which are commanded them. All are not prefects, nor commanders of a thousand, nor of a hundred, nor of fifty, nor the like, but each one in his own rank performs the things commanded by the king and the generals. The great cannot subsist without the small, nor the small without the great. There is a kind of mixture in all things, and thence arises mutual advantage. Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body.

Chap. XXXVIII. Let the members of the Church submit themselves, and no one exalt himself above another.

Let our whole body, then, be preserved in, Christ Jesus; and let every one be subject to his neighbour, according to the special gift bestowed upon him. Let the strong not despise the weak, and let the weak show respect unto the strong. Let the rich man provide for the wants of the poor; and let the poor man bless God, because He hath given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. Let the humble not bear testimony to himself, but leave witness to be borne to him by another. Let him that is pure in the flesh not grow proud of it, and boast, knowing that it was another who bestowed on him the gift of continence. Let us consider, then, brethren, of what matter we were made, who and what manner of beings we came into the world, as it were out of a sepulchre, and from utter darkness. He who made us and fashioned us, having prepared His bountiful gifts for us before we were born, introduced us into His world. Since, therefore, we receive all these things from Him, we ought for everything to give Him thanks; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen

Roots-of-faith-deweyer-1997This quote from Clement of Rome in  “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” is prompted by some readings in the book Roots of Faith: An Anthology of Early Christian Spirituality to Contemplate and Treasure, ed. by Robert Van De Weyer (William B. Eerdmans, 1997).

Ten Technological Traps – J. Engelsma (Grace Gems)

Today’s “Grace Gems” devotional was an edifying surprise! It features Rev. Josh Engelsma’s post on “Ten Technological Traps” as first published on the RFPA’s blog. Engelsma is the pastor of Doon PRC (Doon, IA).

As we end this work week and anticipate the Lord’s Day tomorrow, this article certainly gives us reason for self-examination and careful reflection on how we are using technology in our own lives.

I re-post it here as found on the Grace Gems site.

Ten Technological Traps

(Joshua Engelsma, 2017, used with permission)

We live in a time of great technological advancement. Companies are constantly churning out new products that are hailed as smarter, more advanced, and more innovative. And in many ways we have made ourselves dependent on technology with our smartphones, tablets, and computers, too name just a few.

There is nothing inherently sinful in these things. In fact, they can be powerful tools for good in the service of God and his church, and therefore we can use them with a good conscience before God. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

That being said, we ought to recognize that there are many dangers that these wonders of the technological age present. These dangers ought to make us careful in our use of these good gifts.

What follows are a list of ten such dangers, “traps” of technology:

1) We can waste an unbelievable amount of time using technology. How many hours are wasted staring at the TV, pursuing pointless information on the internet, looking at pictures on Instagram, and posting on Facebook? Too many, making this one of the top traps of technology.

2) Technology makes it relatively easy to sin. This is not to say that the same sins weren’t found fifty years ago, for they certainly were. But with technology there are more opportunities to sin and sinful things are more readily accessible. As a wise saint said to me recently, “When I was younger, you had to work pretty hard to get in trouble and access sinful things. Now you can get it in a few seconds on your phone.”

3) We can very easily become discontent through our use of technology. One area of discontentment is with the technology itself. We are dissatisfied with the smartphone or computer that we have and are always looking for something newer, better, and faster. It becomes an idol in our life. Another area of discontentment is with the things that we view through technology. Seeing the glamorous life of this athlete/actress/friend, I become discontented with my seemingly boring life.

4) Technology is often the means by which we backbite and slander. One wrong move and soon the news spreads like wildfire across the gossip channels of text messaging and social media.

5) Through our use of technology we often give a poor witness to the world of our faith. We post pictures of some ungodly musician’s concert we attended. We “like” this popular drama on TV. We let everyone know how excited we are about the release of the latest Hollywood movie.

6) It is very easy through technology to fall into the trap of unreality. We see pictures of the expensive vacations and fun activities that others are doing, and think that their life must be perfect. Young people might give the impression that anyone who’s anything is hanging out on Friday night, so that the one left at home feels left out and friendless.

7) In the age of instant information, it seems as if younger generations are losing the ability to read, write, listen, and think critically and deeply.

8) Our use of technology can weaken our ability to converse and thus hurt our relationships to others. It seems pretty common to go into a restaurant and see a husband and wife sitting across from one another, both staring at their phones. It seems pretty common to try and have a conversation with a teenager while their face is buried in their phone.

9) There is the danger with technology of over-sharing information. I’m all for getting to know other people better and sharing their joys and sorrows. But I don’t need to know what you just ate for breakfast. I don’t need to know a disagreement that you had with your spouse. I don’t need to know that you’re angry at your coworkers. I don’t need to know (usually) that you’re having an all-around bad day.

10) One of the dangers of technology is that we are able to retreat into a world without any accountability. When we are at work, we have the accountability of employers and employees. When we are at home, we have the accountability of spouses, parents, children, siblings. When we are at school, we have the accountability of teachers and classmates. But with technology we can often enter a world with little or no accountability. We can say things that we wouldn’t ordinarily say. We can sneak off to our bedroom and watch all sorts of vile things. And if anyone looks over our shoulder or asks to see our device, we hide behind the vault-door of passwords.

For God and Country – The U.S. 4th of July 2018

For our Reformed reflection on this Independence Day 2018, I reference again (I did so also in 2012) a pamphlet with the above title written by Rev. Aud Spriensma, a home missionary-pastor of Byron Center (MI) PRC and former chaplain in the U.S. Army. This pamphlet is based on a speech he gave shortly after the traumatic event of 9/11 in this country, when patriotism not only ran high, but when there also seemed to be a greater national consciousness of God and an openness to the gospel (which quickly waned).

As one who has served our country as a military chaplain and who serves the church as a Reformed pastor, Rev.Spriensma is qualified and equipped to address the calling we Reformed Christians have toward “God and country”. Hence, his speech and the printed pamphlet that followed.

I will quote only a small portion of it (different from the previous time); you may find the entire pamphlet here. It would make for good reading and discussion at some point today. May we remember today, as we celebrate our nations 242nd birthday, that we are to live as those who are both for God and for country – true Reformed patriots.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the Fourth Book, especially chapter 20, John Calvin argues against the notion that government is a polluted thing with which the Christian has nothing to do. Calvin writes: “The political state has indeed functions directly connected with religion. Government protects and supports the worship of God, promotes justice and peace, and is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage toward heaven; as necessary as bread and water, light and air; and more excellent in that it makes possible the use of these and secures higher blessings to men.”

Notice how important government is. Rather than disparaging it as something corrupt and something to be avoided, John Calvin says it “is a necessary aid in our earthly pilgrimage … as necessary as bread and water, as light and air, and more excellent…” Over against the Anabaptists, Calvin insisted that government is not of Satan, but is God-given, a benevolent provision for man’s good, for which man should give God thanks.

We need to hear that. Perhaps our cynicism has not been as great since 9/11. But cynicism is always there. Now several years later, when we discover that the reasons we went to war were flawed, the cynicism is rampant. We are able to find all kinds of abuses in government and then laugh and put government down. As believers, we need rather to give thanks to God for government. John Calvin writes in his Institutes, “the function of the magistrate is a sacred ministry, and to regard it as incompatible with religion is an insult to God.”

Politics is a rotten, dirty business? Patriotism is an idolatry? Absolutely not! Rather, we must insist that it is only the child of God who can really be patriotic; the Christian makes the best citizen because he obeys for God’s sake. He is subject to the powers that be because he loves God. Not only is it true that a Christian should be patriotic, but ultimately it is only the Christian who is truly patriotic. That is the kind of patriotism that should be taught to our children.

Blessed Are the Meek – Rev. C. Haak

Beatitudes-1

This week’s message on the Reformed Witness Hour radio/Internet program (Sunday, June 17, 2018) was “Blessed Are the Meek” by Rev. C. Haak, pastor of Georgetown PRC.  Radio pastor Haak is currently doing a series on the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:3-12, and this past Sunday he spoke on the third one as recorded in Matt.5:5, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

The audio file of the message is linked above on the PRC website and it may also be found on the RWH’s website and on her Sermonaudio channel.

Tonight I post a portion of the transcription of the message, finding it fitting for our reflection today.

 Meekness is the result, it is the fruit, of being poor in spirit and of knowing what it is to mourn before God.  It makes one receptive in his heart before God.  In one word:  meekness is the absence of pride.  A meek heart is the antithesis, the opposite of pride.  It is the opposite of stubbornness and fierceness and vengefulness.  Meekness is the dethroning of sinful pride and making us now teachable of God, gentle toward one another, submissive to God, confident and strong in God and in His faithful love to me.

Not only does one not assert himself, but he also sees the sin of that.  A meek person does not glory in himself.  He is not always interested in himself.  He is not watching always after his own interest.  He is not always on the defensive.  He is not always saying, “What about me?”

Beloved, by nature, we spend our whole life watching out for ourselves.  We worry about ourselves and what others are going to say about us.  We talk to ourselves.  We say, “You’re having a hard time.  Too bad people don’t understand you.  How wonderful I am and if only people would give me a chance.”  That is pride.  The meek are self-emptied people.  They are not defending the citadel of me.  They are lowly before God.  They are ready to leave everything in the hands of God, to leave themselves, their rights, their cause, their whole life, in the hand of God.  Meek.

This meekness will be seen in the attitude that we carry.  The fruit of meekness is, first of all, seen in an attitude toward God, an attitude of submission and quietness.  How often do we not struggle with the sovereign ways and the sovereign will of God?  I am not talking, now, of accepting our sinful ways or being indifferent.  But I am referring to the fact that God sovereignly appoints my portion in this life.  He arranges my life, personally and in my family, and economically, in all the details of my life.  Very often we struggle with that.  We find it very hard to be submissive to the way and to the will of God.  That is our pride.

Meekness, now, is submission, submission to the great God of heaven.  And, thus, meekness is strength!  The meek person is strong because he knows that God is holding him up.  We read in Psalm 147, “The LORD lifteth up the meek:  he casteth the wicked down to the ground.”  In meekness we are able to bear God’s chastenings in quietness and hope.  We are able to do that with a meek and a quiet spirit.  There is an example of this in the Bible.  I bring to your memory the high priest called Aaron.  Aaron’s two sons had been killed by God for offering strange incense in the tabernacle.  They had worshiped God in a manner that He had not prescribed.  And God consumed them in fire.  God, then, told Moses to tell Aaron that Aaron could not mourn over his sons.  He had to submit, in his grief, to the hand of God.  And Aaron did.  Now Aaron was far from perfect.  The Bible makes that plain.  The Scriptures tell us of all of his faults.  Yet God gave to Aaron a meekness.  He suffered quietly before God.

…The second fruit of meekness is our attitude toward others.  Meekness makes us the most approachable persons on earth.  Not bristling in pride, not sharp, cruel, spiteful.  It is the meek in Christ with whom you feel a great kinship.  Meekness attracts others.  Meekness is mildness of manner, gentleness, harmlessness.  Remember what we read in Matthew 11:28.   The Lord said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.”  Why?  “For I am meek and lowly in heart.  You are safe with Me,” said Jesus.  “Because I am meek, you may come to Me.  I’m not dangerous.  You may set your heart upon Me.”

Still more.  In meekness, we will bear patiently the insults and the injuries that we receive at the hands of others.  In meekness we will not become inflamed, vindictive.  In meekness we will not assume a demeaning attitude toward those who differ with us.  We will not show ourselves to have a harsh, censorious temperament.  We will not enjoy finding fault in others.  Meekness will be seen in gentleness, humility, and patience.  It is the absence of retaliation.  It is the absence of paying back.  It is the absence of saying, “They’re gonna get theirs.”  No, it is longsuffering and patient, especially when we suffer wrongfully.  Then we will be meek.  Listen to Galatians 6:1.   “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”  The Word of God is saying that only a spirit of meekness qualifies you to deal with another who may be embittered and resentful, to deal with someone who has fallen away.  You can deal with such a person only in the spirit of meekness.  Meekness means that you are emptied of yourself.  You are dependent upon and submissive to God.  You are gentle and you are teachable.  Blessed are the meek, said Jesus, for they shall inherit the earth.

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Go and Disciple – June 2018 Tabletalk

The June issue of Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional, centers around the theme of “Discipleship.”

This is another issue that features a larger number of articles, but considerably shorter. Eighteen writers draw our attention to various aspects of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, from the “mandate of discipleship” to the “rewards of discipleship.” I am again finding the articles instructive and inspirational.

Editor Burk Parsons sets the course of the issue with his introduction “Christians are Disciples.” In he makes this important point:

…Although many people don’t want to hear it, and while many pastors fail to preach it, there is no distinction between a Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ. Christians are disciples. A disciple is someone who trusts Christ and who lives his life according to that trust, following Christ and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 3:18). His call is clear: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). If we are genuinely trusting Christ, we will follow Him, but if we’re not following Him, it means that we don’t trust Him. Similarly, if we know the gospel, we will strive to walk in a way that is worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27); if the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we will walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); if we are united to Christ, we will bear fruit in Christ (John 15:1–11); if we love Christ, we will obey Christ (John 14:15); if we are justified by faith, and faith alone, our faith will not remain alone but will result in a life of faith, repentance, and good works, which Christ prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:8–10; James 2:14–26).

One of the other articles I reference tonight is by Rev. Anthony Carter, who penned a short piece titled “What is a Disciple?” We quote a portion of his article too:

In short, a disciple is a student. A disciple is one who disciplines himself in the teachings and practices of another. The word disciple, like discipline, comes from the Latin word discipulus, meaning “pupil” or “learner.” Consequently, to learn is to discipline oneself. For example, if one is to advance in the arts or the sciences or athletics, one has to discipline himself and to learn and follow the principles and fundamentals of the best teachers in that area of study. So it was and is with the disciples of Christ. A disciple follows Jesus.

When Jesus called His first disciples, He spoke the simple words, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17; 2:14; John 1:43). A disciple is a follower, one who trusts and believes in a teacher and follows that teacher’s words and example. Therefore, to be a disciple is to be in a relationship. It is having an intimate, instructive, and imitative relationship with the teacher. Consequently, being a disciple of Jesus Christ is being in relationship with Jesus—it is seeking to be like Jesus. In other words, we follow Christ to be like Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) because as His disciples, we belong to Christ. The disciple of Jesus has certain traits that are commensurate with a relationship with Jesus. What are the qualities of a disciple of Christ? What are the traits of those who follow and are called disciples of Christ?

To find out the answers to those questions, follow the link below and finish reading. For the other articles, visit the Tabletalk link above.

Source: What Is a Disciple?

What Justification Does the Christian Have for Reading Secular Literature? A PR Perspective

litclassicsYou may recall that a few weeks ago we examined another section of Dr. Leland Ryken’s valuable book on the Christian’s reading of literature, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). That particular section dealt with the Christian justification for reading secular literature (classics), and you will remember that Ryken grounded this first of all in the doctrine of “common grace.”

We took issue with this position, even though Ryken appealed to Scripture (without any specific texts) and to Calvin (with a couple of quotes that only proved that God also gives unbelievers “excellent gifts,” which may be of use to the believer – something with which we agree; we just don’t call it “grace”, not even if you call it “common” and not “saving.”). But it is not enough to say we do not ground the Christian’s right to read secular literature in common grace; we must state the justification positively, with Reformed and biblical grounds.

And we Protestant Reformed people do, even though many think we do not. To be sure, we do unashamedly affirm the antithesis, that spiritual “line in the sand” (separation) God by His sovereign, saving grace makes between the Christian and the ungodly world, between our renewed thinking and their perverse thinking, between our good works and their evil works (of literature too), between our Christ-directed purpose for living and their self(-ish)-focused purpose for living. That means that there is filth that the world produces that the Christian has no use for and may not use, including in the realm of literature (cf. 2 Cor.6:14-18; the first part of Eph.5; I Jn.2:15-17, e.g.).

But we also believe that God puts us in this world to live out our faith fully, to use this world and its things, including the works of fallen, unconverted sinners, to the glory of God and for our development in grace as His people. That includes their works of literature – with limitations and discernment, of course – but also with a free and good conscience governed and informed by the Word of God. That’s the key to the Christian’s use of this world – we view it and employ it through the “lens” of God’s Word (Calvin referred to this as living and learning through the “spectacles of Scripture.”).

What I want especially to point out to you tonight is that the Federation of PR Christian School Societies has produced various guides for the teachers to use in the areas of instruction that they teach. And one of these is a “Literature Studies Guide,” available on the page linked above. Part of that guide specifically addresses the Christian’s reading of secular literature, and from that part I would like to quote. These are the thoughts of Mr. Fred Hanko, a now-retired but long-tenured Christian school teacher. Let them be a guide to you as you make use of the classics of unbelievers:

In exploring the problem of what the Christian can do with the literary works of the unbeliever, there are a few basic ideas with which I would like to begin.
First it must be understood that there is an objective reality which includes God Himself, all things in the universe which He has created, and all the works that God has done in history.
Second, the Christian is called upon to know and understand this reality as far as his limitations and capacities allow. Third, the Christian is required to respond to this reality. The response must be of acceptance of the good and rejection of the evil, as well as belief and worship. Further, the response must include behavior toward God, toward men, and toward the earth.
Now the business of literature is communication. The objective reality is the material with which the author works. He explores this reality, he responds to it, he interprets it, and he uses the written word to communicate the results to the reader.
Note that the special feature of literature that makes it differ from other writings is that literature bears the imprint of the writer. The author himself appears in all works of literature. It may appear in his selection of materials, his interpretation of reality, in his response to reality, in any or all of these. The job of the author is to explore reality and to communicate the results to us. The author says to us, this is what I see. Do not you see it too? This is what I feel. Don’t you feel as I do? This is what we ought to do. Go forth now and do it.
When the author is a Christian, we have no problem in dealing with his works. We see reality as he sees it and we respond as he does. From his work we gain knowledge, insight we have never had before, feelings that are new to us or deeper than we have ever had before. We become better Christians than we have ever been.
Our problem, however, lies with the work of the unbeliever. Can he know reality? Can he interpret it correctly? Can he respond to it as he should? And if he can do none of these things, why should we study his work?
The answer to the first of these questions seems to be the most difficult. It seems clear that just as the scientist can observe a flower and report accurately its structure, and function, so the poet can observe the flower and say accurately, This is what I see, and this is how I feel about it. Does either the scientist or the poet speak the truth? Or both? Or possibly neither?
Since we are dealing here with the work of man, it seems proper before we try to answer that we say a few things about the nature of man. We are agreed, I think, that with the fall of Adam man lost the image of God. The loss of the image of God means that man lost the true knowledge of God, righteousness, and holiness. From that time forward his knowledge was only that of evil, his works were all unrighteousness. Man is opposed to God and in league with Satan. “All the thoughts of man’s heart were only evil continually.” Without the grace of God which restores the image of God man remains only the creature created to be an image-bearer of God but now bearing the image of Satan.
There is in man and in the works of man no neutrality of thought or actions. He is for God or he is against Him. As one created to be an image-bearer, however, he has the faculties of intellect and reason which make it possible for him to know what is true, but this truth he will not acknowledge. (Cf. Romans 1)
The unbelieving author, then, can observe reality correctly and can report it accurately even while his purpose may be to serve his idol gods. He may even be more shrewd in his analysis than the God-fearing man is. The unbelieving poet may see something in the flower that we would never see of ourselves. By reading the work of the poet, we also may see, and by our special knowledge we may gain a better understanding of God. Although the writer may have done his work in sin, we may use His work to the greater glory of God. Even the Apostle Paul used the learning of the Greeks quoting from one of their own poets in his speech at Athens.

There are more to these thoughts, and you may find them at the link above. By all means read the entire guide. You will profit immensely. And then go read, with your spiritual “eyeglasses” on.

The Law’s Function in the Covenant – Rev. R. Hanko

We have shown from Galatians 3:17-21 that the law was given as part of the covenant of God and that it still remains part of the covenant. This is to say, of course, that the law and grace are not against each other. The law is not against the covenant or its promises (v.21). We have also shown that in the covenant the law has the function, first, of discovering sin (vv.19,24). With this few would disagree.

But that is not the only function of the law as ‘the book of the covenant’ (Ex.24:7). In the covenant the law also functions as a guide for the thankful obedience that Christians are called to live as God’s covenant people.

Because of this function of the law, the believer calls the law ‘a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path’ (Psalm 119:105; Prov.6:23). It is a sure and safe guide along life’s pathway.

For this reason the law is also called ‘the perfect law of liberty’ and ‘the royal law’ (James 1:25; James 2:8,12). This royal law is not a new law but the ten commandments, as we see from James 2:8,11. As the royal law of liberty, given by the King of kings, it defines and sets boundaries to our liberty, thus keeping our liberty in Christ from becoming licentiousness (Gal.5:13,14).

…It is the law, therefore, that gives structure and order to the life of God’s covenant people. It defines their relationship to him so that he is glorified by their life. The law is able to do this because it reveals the nature and attributes of God and so shows us the nature of a God-glorifying life.

The law does not bring men into a covenant relationship with God, nor does it give the necessary grace to live a God-glorifying life. This they have from Christ (Gal.3:24). Nevertheless, it is still the book of the covenant, revealing how God’s covenant people may please him and be thankful to him, in word as well as in deed.

This is not to deny, however, that the believer’s relationship to the law has been changed by the coming of Christ. He is no longer under the law but under grace.

doctrine-godliness-rhanko-2004Quoted from Doctrine according to Godliness: A Primer of Reformed Doctrine by Rev. Ronald Hanko (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2004), pp.177-78. This is a section of “Part 4: The Covenant and Salvation”, where Hanko treats the doctrine of salvation (soteriology), doing so in connection with the covenant of grace.