A Spiritually Thriving Christian – J.Owen

The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen  -     By: Ryan M. McGraw<br />
This weekend I started to do some reading in a new title I had received for review from Reformation Heritage Books. The book, edited and introduced by Ryan M McGraw, is a small (in size and length – 150 pgs.) paperback titled The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen, part of their series “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality”.

The work, which purposes to introduce the reader to the theology of Puritan John Owen (1616-1683), consists mainly of brief selections (41 in all) from Owen’s writings, tying together the main themes of his theology: the Trinity (communion with God) and public worship (piety).

As I read through some of these brief chapters, I was struck by this one, “A Spiritually Thriving Christian”, taken from Owen’s The Nature and Causes of Apostasy. Keep that broader title in mind as Owen describes how important the church’s means of grace are for the spiritual health and growth of the believer. I believe you will find his thoughts a fitting cap to our Lord’s day in God’s house of fellowship and worship.

Again, there is not anything in the whole course of our obedience wherein the continual exercise of faith and spiritual wisdom, with diligence and watchfulness, is more indispensably required than it is to the due use and improvement of gospel privileges and ordinances, for there is no other part of our duty whereon our giving glory to God and the eternal concern of our own souls more eminently depend.

And he is a spiritually thriving Christian who knows how duly to improve gospel institutions of worship and does so accordingly, for they are the only ordinary outward means whereby the Lord Christ communicates of His grace to us and whereby we immediately return love, praise, thanks, and obedience to Him, in which spiritual intercourse the actings of our spiritual life principally do consist, and whereon, by consequence, its growth depends. It is therefore certain that our growth or decay in holiness, our steadfastness in or apostasy from profession, are greatly influenced by the use or abuse of these privileges (81).

Standing to Confess the Apostles’ Creed – Rev.C.Griess

SB-Feb1-2015-coverAnother profitable article found in the February 1, 2015 issue of The Standard Bearer is the latest installment from Rev.Cory Griess (Calvary PRC, Hull, IA) in the rubric “O Come Let Us Worship”, a series dealing with the public worship of the church.

At present he is treating the various elements of Reformed worship and is up to the church’s united confession of faith usually found in the evening service. We refer to the saints’ recitation of the Apostles’ Creed. Rev.Griess titles this article, “The Church Confessing Truth: Reciting the Apostles’ Creed” (this is the first part of two).

Interestingly, pastor Griess ties together the reading of the law in the morning service with its “replacement” in the evening service, the Apostles’ Creed. I will only quote a portion of that section where he treats this connection, but hope that you will certainly read all of it on your own.

Here he explains part of the significance of what the congregation is doing when it recites the creed together:

What drives the church to confess her faith in the evening is the overwhelming grace of God that she has experienced already in the morning. And she comes together in the evening, then, and stands up (that is great practice)! She arises to confess the truth that has liberated her and that continues to guide her in all her life.

To stand up and confess indicates commitment, a certain passion in the soul. Sometimes we use the phrase ‘stand up’ to tell people to hold to a conviction: ‘Stand up for freedom. Stand up for rights.’

When we confess the faith, we are standing up for God and all His truth. We are arising, in the face of all the world and its untruth, and saying, ‘God, this is what we believe about Thee, and should the world come into our building tonight and try to stop us from confessing truth about Thee, they will not stop us. We are redeemed by this truth, and we have experienced that again this morning; therefore Thou dost have our full allegiance’ (208).

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

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

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

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

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

PURPOSE

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

PASSION

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

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

Our Privileges as NT Believers: Members of an Assembly, a Family, and a Kingdom!

In Christ Alone - SFergusonIn his book In Christ Alone and chapter 33, “Privileges Bring Responsibilities”, Sinclair B. Ferguson has some wonderful thoughts about both our privileges and our responsibilities as NT Christians based on the passage in Hebrews 12:18-29. This week I plan to share some of these thoughts with you, beginning with these which relate to our worship today.

What are our privileges? They are truly amazing. ‘For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest…. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering’ (Heb.12:18,22, ESV).

In the days of promises and shadows, believers came to an assembly convened at a mountain engulfed with a sense of awful judgment. By contrast, in the full blaze of light that has appeared in Christ, we have come to the abiding city of God, angels in festal gathering, the assembly of Christ, and the spirits of departed believers. Indeed, we have come to God Himself, not with Moses, but to Jesus. We have received the new covenant in His shed blood.

This is the assembly in which we gather for worship to hear the voice of Christ in His Word, to lift up our voices under His choral direction in praise, to share His trust in His Father, and to gather around Him as His brothers and sisters (cf. Heb.2:10-13). Consequently, this is also our family – composed of the redeemed from among all mankind and the elect among the angelic host. This is the kingdom in which our names are enrolled as citizens (12:23). It is a kingdom, unlike all the kingdoms and empires of this world, that cannot be shaken (12:27-28).

What riches are ours in these three dimensions of the life of grace! An assembly, a family, a kingdom! And they are already ours in Christ! Here and now our lives are punctuated by special visiting rights to heaven’s glory as we assemble with our fellow believers. We are brothers and sisters together – for Christ’s blood creates a deeper lineage than our genes. Thus, we have the full rights of family members and citizens in the city of God.

No wonder we should be grateful (12:28)!

Advent: The Faith-Visit of the Magi

Last week we took for part of our Sunday meditation in this Christmas season a word feature on the word “star” in the Bible. Today we will continue with that theme as we post part of an exposition of Matthew 2:1-2 Rev.George Lubbers did for The Standard Bearer (Jan.1, 1963).

magi visitLed outwardly in their journey by Christ’s star in the East and illuminated in their hearts by the Spirit of Christ through His prophetic Word, the wise men came to Bethlehem to worship the One “born King of the Jews.”

Here is a portion of Rev.Lubbers beautiful explanation of this wonder, revealing the “Star power” of Christ, the Savior of mankind. To read the full article, follow the link above.

For notice that these were men who had faith—saving faith, justifying faith; they had a faith that worked by love which was shed in their hearts by the Holy Spirit and which is worked by God through the preaching of the Gospel. Their faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For, mark you well, their faith was such that it combined spiritual things with spiritual, it combined the sign of the “star” with the fulfillment of the word of promise concerning the Messiah which was to come. For do these men not appear in Jerusalem with the certain confidence that the King of the Jews “is born,” and that He is born with the intent of becoming the renowned King, promised in the prophetic word? They say to Herod: Where is He that is born King of the Jews; for we have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him! They are as certain of the fulfillment of prophecy as were the shepherds “that this thing had come to pass,” told them by the angels.

Besides, these Magi believe that this King of the Jews is worthy of worship. He is God. He is the mighty God; He is the true God and eternal life. Furthermore, there is not any doubt in their mind that Jerusalem ought to know about the birth of this long foretold King; that His birth has the birth of this long foretold King; that His birth has peculiar and unique meaning for this city of the great King.

And thus in faith these Magi are earnest seekers.

Small wonder that Matthew writes about the appearance of these men on the streets of Jerusalem, at such a time as Jesus’ birth. “Behold, there appear wise men from the East!” This was truly a unique phenomenon. It was the fulfillment of Scripture itself. For these do not come as captives of war behind the triumphal wagon in the procession of some worldly monarch and conqueror, but they come drawn by the inner compulsion of the love of God and faith wrought by the Holy Spirit. And they ask: Where is he that is born King of the Jews? They seek the Savior. This is not merely an intellectual quest, for they do not rest until they have seen the Lord’s Christ! They came toworship Him. What a longing, a hunger and a holy thirst of the soul. Is not this Christ the hope of Israel and the light of the nations?! All else has failed to satisfy the longing of their heart, the need of their souls. The secrets of heathen cults do not show them God; but here is the Mystery of God, hid in God before endless ages, but now manifest in the fullness of time! He is not a great teacher amongst other teachers; here lies in Bethlehem, in the arms of the blessed among women, the Redeemer, the God of Israel and of the Nations, who Abraham saw from afar, and of whom Baalam prophesied saying: I see Him but not now, behold! a star shall rise in Jacob. Here is the day-spring from on high!

Their hope is not put to shame.

Always Changing? – William W. Goligher

Always Changing? by William W. Goligher | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

Nov 2014 TTAs I finished the final articles in the November Tabletalk yesterday, I realized there was another good article on the theme that I wanted to reference here today, even though it is now December and time to break open the new issue.

That is the above-linked article by Dr.William Goligher, senior pastor at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In his piece under the rubric “Pastor’s Perspective”, he applies the motto semper reformanda especially to the realm of worship, an area where he is (properly) critical of those who wish to see the church change her style and content to adapt to every whim of society’s so-called “seekers.”

What he has to say is a fitting follow-up to our Re-formed worship on the Lord’s day, so we post a section of his article here. To read the full article, use the Ligonier link above.

We have seen this notion gain traction in the last few decades. Church leaders and members agitate for “change” as a sign of “integrity” or an essential element in being “relevant” in today’s generation. There are pleas for new forms, methods, and structures for the church. Most calls for innovation are driven by the godless culture around us and by our rebellious hearts within us. We want to modify the message to appeal to society; we want to make church more “user friendly” for the outsider, rather than see it as the solemn assembly of God’s covenant people.

This has also affected the use of the word worship. In some circles, it is applied only to music—whether of the classical or contemporary variety—and it has created with it a new role in the church—“worship leader.” Others want to drop the word worship altogether, arguing that worship applies to “all of life” and not to the assemblies of God’s people. So the Lord’s Day is like any other day; liturgy is replaced by “user-friendly events”; sermons become “Bible talks”; and the focus of Sunday “meetings” becomes fellowship or evangelism rather than a covenant assembly and corporate worship.

These innovations run counter to the example of the Reformers, who denied that they were change-mongers who were interested in change for change’s sake. In the strict sense, they were pushing for a return to the radix, the “root” of biblical Christianity. They were accused of fostering change by their opponents, but their defense was that, in fact, they wanted to drive the church back to the Word of God. They envisioned reformation not as our doing the changes (active) but as our being changed (passive). In other words, when we talk about reformation, we think of the Lord who reforms us and the Scripture that is His means of reformation.

P.S. For TODAY only you can get a subscription to Tabletalk for only $12 – their Cyber Monday deal!

Grace for Giving: Rev.C.Griess – Nov.15, 2014 “Standard Bearer”

StandardBearerIn the most recent issue of the Standard Bearer Rev.Cory Griess continues his fine series on the elements of Reformed worship under the rubric “O Come Let Us Worship.”

He has started to treat the element of the offering (or offertory), and in his first installment he has this to say at the outset:

The approach of these two articles [on the offertory] must be to address the subject with both law and gospel. The command to give must not be neglected, and the gospel of grace which primes the hearts of God’s people to let go of all other security and trust the good way of God’s law must be made plain. This is necessary because the giving of alms, as all aspects of worship, is a heart issue. Our depraved hearts tend to make us idolize and trust in money. And it is not until our hearts are captured by the sovereign grace of God that we worship God as He commands and our hands let go of our money.

The basic issue in this element of worship is not how much money we make or do not make. It is not how much we can give or cannot give at whatever stage of life we are in. The basic issue is the heart that knows the grace that God has given to His people, and therefore desires to honor the Lord with money. Grace alone will motivate us to follow God’s command and give with willing hearts in worship (86).

Antiques and Our Heritage (3) – The Priority of the Sunday Sermon

Three weeks ago we began to quote from a selection by John J. Timmerman, former English professor at Calvin College, found in a collection of his writings titled Markings on a Long Journey (Baker, 1982). It is an article he originally wrote for The Banner in September of 1972, and includes his thoughts on some things “old, precious, and beautiful” in the Reformed tradition.

Markings on long journey-TimmermanThe first one was the “antithesis”; the second one was “a sense of sin”.  Timmerman’s third one he titles “The priority of the sermon in our Sunday services”. I posted some of his thoughts on this previously, in connection with his perspectives on sabbath observance. But here briefly are some additional thoughts on this subject:

I wrote about this before and have since found neither in practice nor rebuttal any reason to alter my convictions about the immeasurable spiritual benefits of good sermons. I use the word good because some of my friends pointed out that I was really assuming that the sermons I was talking about were good, but that fact does not invalidate the importance of the sermon; it only points up the lack of talent or preparation in the minister. The sermon is still a rhetorical instrument of great and abiding power to willing hearts and minds (157-58).

To this we would only add the words of two Scripture passages:

Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

Let us remember to pray for our pastors today as they prepare to preach on the morrow. And let us remember to hear the preaching with that hearing “mixed with faith”, else that word will not profit us (Heb.4:2).

The Lord’s Supper – Valley of Vision Devotional

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

GOD OF ALL GOOD,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalter 394 – Hope Heralds 2014

Psalter 394 Hope Heralds 2014 – YouTube.

HH2014CD-backAlso for our Lord’s Day meditation and edification today we post this video taken from the 2014 Hope Heralds concert, held Sept.7 in First CRC of Jenison, MI. It is a versification of Psalm 145 taken from the Psalter used in the PRC.

Here are the full lyrics of this versification:

1. I will extol Thee, O my God,
And praise Thee, O my King;
Yea, every day and evermore
Thy praises I will sing.
Great is the Lord, our mighty God,
And greatly to be praised;
His greatness is unsearchable,
Above all glory raised.

2. Each generation to the next
Shall testimony bear,
And to Thy praise, from age to age,
Thy wondrous acts declare.
Upon Thy glorious majesty
And honor I will dwell,
And all Thy grand and glorious works
And all Thy greatness tell.

3. Thy mighty acts and terrible
Shall men with awe confess;
Of Thy great goodness they shall sing,
And perfect righteousness.
Most gracious and compassionate
Is God Who reigns above;
His wrath is ever slow to rise,
Unbounded is His love.

Use this link or the one above) to get to the YouTube video.

Published in: on November 9, 2014 at 7:12 AM  Leave a Comment  
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