Should Not Perish – Guy Richard

TT-May-2016As we noted last time, the featured articles in this month’s Tabletalk (May 2016) focus on the theme of the Reformed theology of John 3:16. As Reformed Christians, we must not let the Arminians, who have so abused and misused this text, rob us of its true gospel content and comfort.

Another featured article that I read and profited from today was this one from Dr. Guy M. Richard, a PCA pastor in Gulfport, Mississippi. Carefully and clearly, according to the Scriptures, he explains what the word “perish” signifies and what the promise of John 3:16 means when it says that those who believe on Jesus Christ will “not perish.”

This is how he ends his article, but you may find all of it at the link below. As we end this Lord’s day, let us who have placed our trust in the only Savior rejoice that we will not perish, as we deserve.

This understanding of the word perish is in keeping with Jesus’ teaching about hell. In Matthew 25:31–46, for example, Jesus sets the “eternal life” that is reserved for “the righteous” over against the “eternal fire” (v. 41) and the “eternal punishment” (v. 46) that is reserved for everyone else (referred to as both “goats” who do not follow the shepherd and as “cursed”). Those who do not receive eternal life do not simply die or cease to exist. They experience an eternity of “destruction” or “punishment” that manifests itself in “unquenchable fire” (Matt. 18:8; Mark 9:43, 48; Luke 3:17) or in the “fiery furnace” in which “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 13:42, 50). This is what it means to perish. It is an eternity of getting what our sins and our rejection of Jesus Christ deserve.

And this is precisely why John 3:16 is so encouraging for the Christian. It holds out to us the promise that “whoever believes” in Jesus Christ will not perish. Although our sins and our rebellion clearly deserve an eternity of destruction, that is not what we will receive from God. He will be merciful. He will spare us from destruction. He will not give us what we deserve. Jesus has ensured that. Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift (2 Cor. 9:15).

But John 3:16 also stands as a warning that there are only two types of people in the world: those who are perishing and those who believe in the Son and are thus spared from perishing; those who “remain” under God’s wrath for eternity and those who believe and receive eternal life instead (John 3:36). Each person’s response to Jesus determines which of the two categories he or she is in. Those who respond to Him in faith and obedience (which is the fruit and, thus, the proof of genuine faith) will not perish but will have eternal life. Those who do not respond in faith and obedience will not be shown mercy. The wrath of God will remain on them for eternity.

The good news of John 3:16 is that, though we were all at one time numbered among the perishing, now, through faith in Christ alone, that is no longer the case. We have been shown mercy. And for that reason, we will not perish.

Source: Should Not Perish by Guy Richard

What It Means to Be Reformed: Christian Life – Prof.B. Gritters

StandardBearerIn the May 1, 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer Prof.B. Gritters concluded his series of editorials on “What It Means to Be Reformed.” The last segments of the series treated the Reformed Christian life.

One of the sub-points in this part of the series was the truth that the Reformed Christian lives a “dual citizenship” in this life – in the church and in the world. This is how he explains the first citizenship:

When the Reformed Christian’s spiritual GPS asks him to assign an address for “Home,” he enters “Church.” Membership in and life in a true church is the starting point and ending point of his existence. The center of his life is the church— the church as institute. Although he has many interests in the world and a multitude of responsibilities, these interests and responsibilities all trace their significance back to his membership in the church.

What demands that he make the church central is his union with Christ. Christ Himself makes the church central. He ascended into heaven “that He might appear as head of His church,” as the Heidelberg Catechism says. God “put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,” as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1. “The church He loveth well,” the Psalms teach us to sing. For the Reformed Christian, no minimizing of church is permissible. Hold that thought.

But, then, he also goes on to show that the Reformed Christian lives a full life in this world – though he is not “of it.”

Reformed Christians also live in, and have a citizenship in, the world. They are citizens in a particular country and reside in an earthly community where not all are Christians. They have responsibilities there. They do not flee the world, Anabaptist-fashion, but live as productive citizens in it, engaging freely but cautiously in all its dimensions. They seek an occupation that fits their gifts, study to advance understanding in science and the liberal arts, and delight in good music and arts. In other words, they live broadly as productive citizens with a view to the welfare of the community. Part of that life is submitting to the magistrate. Reformed Christians usually cast votes for their leaders and, if necessary, write letters of concern to the powers that be. Some will sign petitions to keep a business closed on Sunday, or to
bar from the neighborhood a so-called Gentlemen’s Club, an abortion clinic, or a casino. Others will join with fellow citizens—of course, in a manner that does not compromise their Christian principles—to oppose evils like abortion, or do good for the community or nation in which they live. They are citizens of an earthly country.

In that connection, he also points out the real danger of neglecting this part of the Christian life:

There is a real danger that we Reformed Christians belittle or even shun these components of the Christian’s existence, huddle in a little corner, and avoid contact with the world. There is a history of Christians making this mistake, and we must not repeat it by an unbiblical understanding of antithetical living. Living antithetically does not mean physical separation from the world. Healthy Reformed Christians grasp the teaching of the Belgic Confession’s Article 36, and appreciate its reference to I Timothy 2’s call to pray for rulers. And even if they do reject the new, but common and foolish, interpretation of Jeremiah 29:7—that Babylon must somehow be transformed by our efforts and even become the friend of the church—they also properly understand Jeremiah’s call to seek the peace of today’s “Babylon.”

How then shall we live? In this way, by God’s sovereign grace.

Note to Self: Keep Seeking God

Start by reading Psalm 119:9-10.

Dear Self,

You tend to forget that seeking God is not only a quest for the lost, but is also to characterize the life of the found. The whole of your life should be seen as a seeking for God. This is not, of course, seeking for that which you do not know or have. God has found you, bought you, and owns you. You have been adopted, and nothing can separate you from the love of God in Jesus. Yet your need to seek God never ends.

Seeking God means that you are continually aiming and working at knowing him more deeply, depending on him more thoroughly, and experiencing his grace more richly.

….It is unfortunate that you forget your need to seek God, for though you are right that God is enough, you forget that he is only found to be enough by those who seek him. Seeking God means that in all you do, you keep his honor in your mind, his Word in your heart, and his glory as your goal – so you are seeking to actually know him and make him known.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.12 “Seek God” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.58-59.

Note to Self: Be Humble in Your Theology

A good theologian is humble.

…The more robust, the more detailed your theology, the more humble you should become. Why? Because you did not figure God out; he revealed himself to you. Don’t you remember the words of Jesus to Peter when the disciple correctly acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah? ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but m y Father who is in heaven.’ (Matt.16:17) The theologian owes his knowledge to God himself, who has not only made himself known in creation and Scripture but has also opened our eyes to understand and embrace the truth.

…You understand that you did not uncover the truth of God like some kind of rock star archeologist. He sought you, caught you, and gave you sight, knowledge, and life. Humility should be borne out of your theology because you are so entirely dependent on God for it.

…It’s possible to be technically accurate in your theology and yet miss the mark of humility. Be passionate for God, fight for truth, content for the faith, but be humble. Your knowledge is a cause to be humble, not a reason to boast in your insight or tradition.

Note-to-self-ThornTaken from Chap.10 “Be Humble in Your Theology” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), pp.54-55.

Prayers of the Reformers (15)

prayersofreformers-manschreckFor this first Lord’s Day in May we post two more prayers from the book Prayers of the Reformers, compiled by Clyde Manschreck and published by Muhlenberg Press (1958).

These prayers (slightly edited) are taken from the section “Prayers for Baptism” and, as you will note, accord with the Reformed, covenantal (biblical) view of children.

For sanctification

Almighty and everlasting God, who of Thy infinite mercy and goodness hast promised unto us that Thou wilt not only be our God, but also the God and Father of our children: We beseech Thee, since Thou hast vouchsafed to call us to be partakers of this Thy great mercy in the fellowship of faith: that it may please Thee to sanctify with Thy Spirit and receive into the number of Thy children this infant, whom we shall baptize according to Thy Word.

May he, coming of age, confess Thee as the only true God, and Him whom Thou hast sent, Jesus Christ, and serve Him and be profitable unto His church, in the whole course of his life. After this life be ended, may he be brought unto the full fruition of Thy joys in the heavens, where Thy Son our Christ reigneth, world without end. In whose name we pray as He hath taught us…. Amen.

For the Spirit of light and grace

O Almighty God, which in commanding us to pray hast assured us that we, believing steadfastly in Thy promise, shall have all that we desire, especially concerning the soul, wherein we seek Thy glory and the wealth of our neighbors; our humble petition to Thee, O most dear Father, is, that forasmuch as this child is not without original sin, Thou wilt consider Thine own mercy, and according to Thy promise send this child thy good Spirit, that in Thy sight it be not counted among the children of wrath, but of light and grace, and become a member of the undefiled church espoused to Christ, Thy dear Son, in faith and love unfeigned, by the means of the same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen. (attributed to M.Coverdale)

 

Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God

A new title has recently been published and has arrived at the PRC Seminary library and bookstore – Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God (Zondervan, 2016; 160 pp., paper). This unique book is the fruit of the combined labors of pastor/author Tim Challies and graphic designer Josh Byers.

Below is part of a post Challies recently had on his blog about the new title and its purpose. Since then, he has had additional posts on the book and how to use it.

Be sure to visit the site where many of these visuals may be seen and purchased too. I downloaded a free one on the five solas of the Reformation a few months ago and had it printed and framed. It now hangs on the west wall of our assembly room at Seminary.

We live in a visual culture. Today, people increasingly rely upon visuals to help them understand new and difficult concepts. The rise and popularity of the Internet infographic has given us a new way to convey data, concepts, and ideas.

But the visual portrayal of truth is not a novel idea. God himself used visuals to teach truth to his people. If you have ever considered the different elements within the Old Testament tabernacle or temple you know that each element was a visual representation of a greater truth. The sacrificial system and later the cross were also meant to be visual—visual theology.

And this is where Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God comes in. This book is the result of a collaboration between me, a writer, and Josh Byers, a graphic designer. We worked together to create a book that brings together two great media—words and infographics. Combining the power of each of them, we created a book that both describes and illustrates the truth about God and man.

Our purpose in creating Visual Theology is to provide a guide to the joy and privilege of Christian living, a systematic look at living in this world for the glory of God. We teach that living for God’s glory is a matter of Growing Close to Christ, Understanding the Work of Christ, Becoming Like Christ, and Living for Christ—the four major sections that comprise the book. As you progress through these four sections you will learn the centrality of the gospel in all of life, you will come to understand both the doctrine and the drama of the Bible, you will see the importance of putting sin to death and coming alive to righteousness, and you will come to see how the Christian faith transforms vocation, relationships, and stewardship. All the while you will see these truths illustrated through beautiful visuals.

Visual Theology is a work meant to celebrate and combine two complementary media—words and pictures. It is meant to combine them in a way that teaches and disciples Christians to better know, love, and serve the Lord. It is a book to read on your own, a book to enjoy with your family, a book to read with people you are discipling. It is a book to read, too look at, and to enjoy.

Order It: Visual Theology is available at all major book distributors, including: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christian Book Distributors.

Source: Visual Theology: Seeing and Understanding the Truth About God

Christianity and Islam: Theologies Compared and Contrasted – J.D. Greear

TT-April-2016Yesterday I finished reading the main articles in this month’s issue of Tabletalk, including those on the theme of Islam. Both of the last two on this subject were excellent, including this one by Dr. J.D. Greear, author of Breaking the Islam Code (the other article  is “Sharing the Gospel with Muslims” by Dr. Bassam M. Chedid).

In his article – as the title indicates – Greear compares and contrasts the teachings of Christianity with those of Islam. After addressing a few misconceptions, he focuses on what he believes is the central difference – the doctrine of salvation. He calls Islam “the ultimate religion of works” and lays out plainly why this teaching is false and why Christianity has the only answer for man’s need of salvation.

This is what he says by way of introduction to this matter:

The biggest difference between Christianity and Islam is our view of salvation. Islam stands as a paragon of works-righteousness. Christianity alone stands as a religion of grace.

The Qur’an gives a long and detailed list of how to act, dress, think, and behave. If you follow carefully these instructions, Allah will approve of you, and you are more likely to be accepted into eternal bliss. Islam is the ultimate religion of works. From top to bottom, it exemplifies the principle “I obey; therefore, I am accepted.”

From here, Greear lays out three (3) reasons why this religion of works never works. Here is the first:

(1) Works-righteousness fails to address the “root” idolatries that drive our sin.

The root of sin is esteeming something to be a more satisfying object of worship than God. Works-righteousness religions, including Islam, fail to address that issue. They simply give a prescribed set of practices to avoid judgment or inherit blessings.

Islam, for example, warns Muslims of the terrors of hell and uses that to motivate Muslims to obey. It promises them sensual luxuries in heaven if they live righteously. Many Muslims pursue these things without caring for God at all. They are using God. For them, God’s favor is a means to an end. But any end other than God is idolatry.

The starkest New Testament example of this kind of attitude is Judas Iscariot. Many New Testament scholars believe that Judas betrayed Jesus because he was disappointed with him. Judas wanted a Messiah who would reward “the righteous” (himself included) with power and money. Jesus taught that He Himself was the reward. Judas never accepted this. For him, Jesus was always a means to something else, and never the end itself.

Love for God is genuine only when God is a means to nothing else but God. Righteous acts are righteous only when they are done out of a love for righteousness and not as a means to anything else.

The Qur’an is not an adoring, worshiping love letter about God. It is a guide for what behavior will increase your chances of avoiding hell. Merit, threat, and reward form the entire foundation on which Islam is built. And this never addresses the root of man’s sin—our desire to substitute God with something else.

To finish reading the other two reasons, visit the Ligonier link below.

Source: Theologies Compared and Contrasted by J.D. Greear

Instruct One Another – Brian Cosby

TT-March-2016As we have been seeing, the March issue of Tabletalk addresses the believer’s important calling to live in the communion of saints and carry out the Bible’s “one another” duties toward his fellow believers.

Yesterday I read two more articles pointing out these duties we owe one another in the church of Christ. One is the article linked below by Dr. Brian Cosby (PCA pastor), titled “Instruct One Another.”

Also this article is profitable, as it points to a calling we often overlook or leave to the officebearers. Cosby directs us to three (3) concrete ways in which we can “instruct one another.” Here are two of them; find the third and the rest of the article at the Ligonier link below.

The several Greek words that scholars have translated as “instruct” in our English versions of the New Testament can mean “teach,” “admonish,” “counsel,” “prove,” or even “warn.” The principle of “instruction” is rather broad. Even though the context of each specific passage determines the meaning, the idea of “instruction” includes a variety of God-honoring, truth-seeking, and humility-infused words and actions.

Consider the following three ways in which all believers are called to instruct one another: First, we are called to show our brother or sister the “speck” in his or her eye—after, of course, we first recognize the log in our own. This takes shape when we “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) or admonish others by humbly pointing out areas of inconsistency in their walk with Christ and warning them of potential dangers.

Second, we can teach others to know and love sound doctrine. In our day, many in the church are running from a robust study of doctrine to embrace more pragmatic methods of Christian growth. This is not the biblical pattern. Paul exhorted Timothy to be “trained in the words of the faith and of the good doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:6). If you are a small-group leader, you must move beyond mere facilitating to be able to explain and defend such important doctrines as justification and sanctification. This means that we need to set aside time to learn and meditate on the truths of Scripture so that we will be adequately equipped to teach others. Seeking out resources from knowledgeable pastors can prove to be a great help to this end.

Source: Instruct One Another by Brian Cosby | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org

Note to Self: Love

Note-to-self-Thorn     You must love God and your neighbor, but only one can give birth to the other. Do you recall that the command to love God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength was the command that drove Martin Luther to hate God?  It was a command that he could not meet, and the righteous standard of God nearly drove him mad. You are like Luther. Love is something beyond your ability as well, yet the command remains.

The reality is that you only love God because he loved you first. He loved you before you were born and chose you for himself. His love for you secured your salvation, and because you have experienced his life-redeeming love you love him in return.

But for love to continue and grow, and for you to love the unlovable, it is important that you meditate on the gospel. Get this – you only know what love really is by looking to your Savior. And we learn it from him continually, not just once. You must daily go to the cross and see your Savior’s love for the unlovable (that means you).

You must learn, relearn, and remember your Savior’s love and sacrifice for the wicked, the rebellious, the black-hearted – for people like you. And when you see the Holy One’s sacrificial love for you, you not only see what love looks like, but also you find strength and power to love like him.

Taken from “Part One: The Gospel and God” in Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself by Joe Thorn (Crossway, 2011), p.36.

What Makes a Cult a Cult? 5 Major Characteristics

Whats-the-Difference-RidenourAs we have pointed out here before, for our Sunday night discussion groups this year at Faith PRC we are studying the various major religions and cults of the world, using as a guide Fritz Ridenour’s book So What’s the Difference (Bethany House, 2001). Tomorrow night our group will be looking at two of the major cults – Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons.

At the beginning of the section of the book that treats the cults, Ridenour has an introductory chapter titled “Where Did the Cults Come From?” Part of that section defines five major characteristics that make a cult a cult – a group that claims to be genuinely Christian but that holds doctrines “contradictory to orthodox Christianity” (to quote the late Walter Martin).

Here are those five characteristics. I believe you will readily agree that these are what makes such groups unorthodox.

  1. “The first is that they reject the Trinity; that is, they disbelieve in Jesus Christ as God. Cults may say good things about Jesus and assign Him a certain position of importance, but they almost always attack or undermine the true biblical deity of Jesus Christ, either by lowering Him to the level of man or raising man to His level.”
  2. “Second, cultists usually believe that all Christian churches are wrong and that their group has the only real truth about God.”
  3. “Third, they claim to believe the Bible but they distort its teachings to suit their own peculiar view of mankind, God, the Holy Spirit, heaven and hell, salvation and many other doctrines. They usually find the source of these peculiar beliefs in their leaders, who claim to have new interpretations of the Bible or even valuable additions to it.”
  4. “A fourth point is that all cults deny that people can be saved by faith in Christ alone. They teach their members that they can make themselves right with God through good works and through obedience to the doctrines and requirements the cult has set down as ‘God’s will’ for their lives.”
  5. “Fifth, cults are skillful at using Christian terminology, but they are not talking the same language as biblical Christians. Beware of the semantics barrier. Commonly understood words like ‘God,’ ‘Christ,’ ‘faith,’ ‘sin,’ salvation,’ etc., mean entirely different things to a cultist and a Christian. The first task, then, when sharing your faith with someone who seems to have different ideas, is to define terms” (pp.111-112).

A little later the author adds these important words:

     As you learn about these various groups, be aware that your first line of defense against their lure and attractiveness is to know God’s Word and be able to ‘test all things’ with biblical truth (see 1 Thess.5:21,22; 2 Tim.2:4-16). Only by knowing the real difference between what you believe and what certain cultists believe can you reach out to them with the all-fulfilling truth and power of the gospel (p.113).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 589 other followers