Passing Through: Pilgrim Life in the Wilderness – J.Walker

Passing-Through-JWalker-2015Such is the title of a brand new book published by Reformation Heritage Books, which was sent to me for review. The author is Jeremy Walker, pastor of Maidenbower Baptist Church in Crawley, England, who also authored the popular book A Portrait of Paul: Identifying a True Minister of Christ. 

In Passing Through, Walker attempts to answer the question of the Christian’s relationship to the world. After establishing the significance of the question and the contemporary danger of worldliness, he points out that we can be guided by Christ’s prayer in John 17:14-19 (which see here). As he opens up this passage, he starts by making this important point:

Here in John 17 the Lord speaks of Christians as those who, having been given His world, now sustain a relationship to the world that is conditioned by their likeness to and connection with Him: ‘They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.’ But notice further that the Lord does not pray that the world would be taken away or that we would be taken out of the world. Instead He pleads that we would be protected and preserved from the evil one as we make our way in the world. Our relationship to the world is conditioned by and patterned after His own. So the Savior prays that we would be holy in this world – living distinctively and increasingly as those who belong to and are set apart by and for God – under the influence of the truth of God. He desires that we should conduct ourselves in accordance with the purposes for which we have been sent in just the same way that the Son was sent by the Father. To this end and for this purpose, on our behalf the Son sanctified Himself: He consecrated Himself entirely and without reserve, committing Himself entirely to His duty before God in such a way as to secure the same end for His people (p.3).

I have been doing some more reading in the book and am being edified by Walker’s presentation of the life of the Christin as a pilgrim. By the way, Walker derives his title from a poem by Scottish pastor Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), which I also post here:

Passing Through

I walk as one who knows that he is treading
A stranger soil;
As one round whom a serpent-world is spreading
Its subtle coil.

I walk as one but yesterday delivered
From a sharp chain;
Who trembles lest the bond so newly severed
Be bound again.

I walk as one who feels that he is breathing
Ungenial air;
For whom as wiles, the tempter still is wreathing
The bright and fair.

My steps, I know, are on the plains of danger,
For sin is near;
But looking up, I pass along, a stranger,
In haste and fear.

This earth has lost its power to drag me downward;
Its spell is gone;
My course is now right upward, and right onward,
To yonder throne.

Hour after hour of time’s dark night is stealing
In gloom away;
Speed thy fair dawn of light, and joy, and healing,
Thou Star of day!

For thee its God, its King, the long-rejected,
Earth groans and cries;
For thee the long-beloved, the long-expected,
Thy bride still sighs!

On the RHB website is posted the Table of contents, which I give you here so that you can see how Walker handles the subject.

Table of Contents:

  1. A Way in the World
  2. Strangers and Pilgrims
  3. Understand the Environment
  4. Know the Enemy
  5. Fight the Battles
  6. Pursue the Mission
  7. Respect the Authorities
  8. Alleviate the Suffering
  9. Appreciate the Beauty
  10. Anticipate the Destiny
  11. Cultivate the Identity
  12. Serve the King

If any of our readers wish to review the book in more detail for the Standard Bearer, contact me and the book is yours.

How Do We Renew Our First Love and Drive Out Worldliness? – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonToday I read chapter 49 in Sinclair Ferguson’s collection of essays on the Christian life titled In Christ Alone. This forty-ninth chapter has the heading “Expelling Worldliness with a New Affection”, and in it Ferguson takes off from the famous but forgotten (probably by several generations now) sermon of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.”

The question Ferguson faces and answers is the one I have placed in the heading to this post. Every Christian faces the reality in his life that he is not as inflamed by the gospel as he once was, resulting in a fresh wave of worldliness in one’s life. So how do we overcome this and renew our first love?

Ferguson’s counsel on this point is wise and simple. I pray that it also helps give you guidance in what is a frustrating reality in our lives as God’s children.

How can we recover the new affection for Christ and His kingdom that once so powerfully impacted our lifelong worldliness and caused us to crucify ‘the flesh with its passions and desires’ (Gal.5:24)?

What was it that created that first love? Do you remember? It was our discovery of Christ’s grace in the realization of our own sin.

We are not naturally capable of loving God for Himself; indeed, we hate Him. But in discovering this about ourselves, and in learning of the Lord’s supernatural love for us, love for the Father was born. Forgiven much, we loved much (Luke 7:47). We rejoiced in the hope of glory, in suffering, even in God Himself (Rom.5:2, 2, 11). This new affection seemed first to overtake our worldliness, then to master it. Spiritual realities – Christ, grace, Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, living for the glory of God – filled our vision and seemed so large, so desirable, that other things by comparison seemed to shrink in size and become bland to the taste.

The way in which we maintain ‘the expulsive power of a new affection’ is the same as the way we first discovered it. Only when grace is still ‘amaz- ing’ – when we return to Christ and the cross where God’s love for us was demonstrated to us (Rom.5:8) – does it retain its power in us. Only as we retain a sense of our own profound sinfulness can we retain a sense of the graciousness of grace.

Many of us share Cowper’s sad questions:

Where is the blessedness I knew,
when first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?

Let us remember the height from which we have fallen, repent, and return to those first things (Rev.2:5). Kindle ed.

“Know your Christian Duties and Fulfill Them” – S.Ferguson

In Christ Alone - SFergusonThis post follows up on the previous quotation from Sinclair Ferguson’s edifying book In Christ Alonewhich I continue to work through, reading mainly on Sundays.

Tonight’s quotation is also taken from chapter 34, “Where God Looks First”, and here Ferguson shows that the Christian life of sanctification (holiness, personal consecration to God) is one of fulfilling our duties in obedience to God – glad, grateful grace-founded obedience.

Listen to what he has to say, and be encouraged as you start the new work-week tomorrow. May I say, especially you Christian wives and mothers (keep reading).

Second, the past masters of the Christian life stressed that it is not lived on the basis of our feelings but in fulfilling duties. Sanctification is not a mood condition, but the submission of our wills to the will of God.

In recent decades, evangelicalism has become so sensitive to the heresy of ‘Boy Scout Christianity’ (‘I promise to do my best, to do my duty…”) that it has truncated the Christian gospel to a half-Christ (Savior, but not Lord) and a half-salvation (blessings, but not duties). How foolish we have been, when so much of the New Testament catalogs the specific duties that arise out of our relationship to Jesus Christ and therefore are in fact among our blessings.

…Are we frightened that fulfilling our duties will overturn the grace of God? Look at the busy housewife whose entire life is governed by her multifaceted responsibilities. While her husband enters his own world (often exciting and challenging), she makes the lunches, drives the children to school, shops, cleans, washes, irons, mends, prepares the meals, cleans up, and gets the children to bed. Why? Duty. These are the duties of love, devotion, and commitment.

Love for God and duty are two parts of the same thing. How foolish we have been to separate them and to regard duty as a bad word. It nourishes Christlikeness (John 4:34). Therefore, know your Christian duties and fulfill them (Kindle ed.).

The Ordinary – Yet Radically Different – Christian Life – August “Tabletalk”

Radically Ordinary by Burk Parsons | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT-August 2014The August issue of Tabletalk is out, and with it we switch to a new theme – that of the Christian life. Only the exact title for this theme is hardly startling and attention-grabbing. Instead, it is rather ordinary. Intentionally so, since this is what the editors want to communicate in this issue: “The Ordinary Christian Life.” 

The main articles all have this theme as well: the ordinary Christian life,  ordinary Christian work, the ordinary Christian family, and the ordinary Christian church.

Lest we think that this Christian life is unexciting and unemotional, editor Burk Parsons introduces it with the above-linked article. This is what he has to say about this important subject:

The ordinary Christian life is not the opposite of the radical Christian life. The ordinary Christian life is a radical life. The ordinary Christian life is a life of daily trusting Christ; daily repenting of our sins; daily abiding in Christ; daily loving Christ; daily dying to self; daily taking up our crosses and following Christ; daily loving God and neighbor; and daily proclaiming the gospel to ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities. Every Christian is an ordinary Christian, and every ordinary Christian is a radical Christian. The ordinary Christian is not a complacent, passionless, nominal, or casual Christian. On the contrary, every ordinary Christian person—child, teenager, college student, father, mother, husband, wife, single man, single woman, retired man, and retired woman—every Christian is radical because every Christian is united to Christ by faith and will bear radical, life-giving fruit.

Yesterday I also read the opening article on this theme by Dr.Michael Horton of Westminster Theological Seminary (west). His article, titled “The Ordinary Christian Life”, contains many good thoughts on what this life is not as well as what it truly is. I submit to you a short excerpt from this too, encouraging you as always to follow up and read the rest at the link provided.

If gradual growth in Christ is exchanged for a radical experience, it is not surprising that many begin looking for the Next Big Thing as the latest crisis experience wears off. Even in my own lifetime, I’ve witnessed—and participated in—a parade of radical movements. And now, according to Timemagazine, the “new Calvinism” is one of the top trends changing the world. This movement has also been identified as “Young, Restless, Reformed.” But as long as it is defined by youthful restlessness, it may tend to warp what it means to be Reformed.

…To be young is to be restless. We’re lost in impatient wonder and selfish impulses. But we are called repeatedly in the New Testament to grow up, to mature, to put away our childish ways. We are called to submit to our elders, to appreciate the wisdom that spans not only years but generations, and to realize that we do not have all the answers. We are not the stars in our own movie. If the whole apparatus of church life is designed by and for a youth culture, then we never grow up.

Another Great Heidelberg Catechism Conference Night!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALast evening (Friday) was another great night as the PR Seminary’s Heidelberg Catechism Conference entered its second day. We had another good crowd (600+) and another 200 “attendees” through the live-stream – wonderfully encouraging!

BGritters_small-448x222The speeches were again outstanding – instructive and inspirational! Prof.B.Gritters instructed us in the history and benefits of HC preaching, showing that HC catechism preaching in Reformed churches has a long and noble history (introduced only a few years after the HC itself was published). But in defense of HC preaching he also showed us that catechism preaching itself goes all the way back to the time of Ambrose in the 4th century! And the benefits of HC preaching? Prof.Gritters provided eight precious blessings of good HC preaching. You want to know what they are? Well, you will simply have to listen to his speech, which may be found here at Hudsonville PRC’s Sermonaudio page.

haak_smallRev.C.Haak (Georgetown PRC. Hudsonville, MI) gave a powerful speech on the HC’s view of the Christian life as one of gratitude. With clear proofs from Scripture and the catechism he demonstrated that the HC captures the true meaning – even the heart – of the Christian life when it teaches that the whole of our conduct is to be motivated by thankfulness to God – all because of His sovereign grace to us in Jesus Christ. Pastor Haak gave us the quote of the night when he repeatedly defined this gratitude as “the echo of praise reverberating in the chambers of the heart which knows its redemption and renewal by grace”.  You may listen to Rev.Haak’s message too on Hudsonville’s Sermonaudio page.

The winners of the HC Writing Contest who were present Friday night.

The winners of the HC Writing Contest who were present Friday night.

The winners of the HC Writing Contest were also announced last evening. Scott Van Uffelen, one of the four judges (along with Sue Looyenga, Liz Griess, and Trisha Haak), described the process of judging the 80+ entries and the joy of reading the essays. The entries revealed not just good writing but minds and hearts in love with the gospel found in the HC. Without revealing all of them just yet (some of the out-of-staters and Canadian winners have to be contacted yet), we can give you this picture of the local winners who were in attendance last evening.

Today, Saturday, is the final day of the HC Conference. Join us once more at Hudsonville PRC as we hear Rev.Angus Stewart of the Covenant PRC of Ballymena, N.Ireland speak on the irenic/polemical nature of the HC, and as Prof.R.Dykstra closes out the conference by addressing us on the HC’s teaching on God’s covenant. These speeches too you will not want to miss! So come on out and enjoy the blessing of edifying speeches and wonderful Christian fellowship!

Here are a few additional pictures from the evening.

Friday's full fellowship room!

Friday’s full fellowship room!

 

Gary VDS (Credo Books) & Josh Engelsma going over books

Gary VDS (Credo Books) & Josh Engelsma going over books

Aaron Lim helps staff the Seminary display table

Aaron Lim helps staff the Seminary display table

Specials guests from Mason, MI display the HC in Burmese translated by Rev.Titus

Specials guests from Mason, MI display the HC in Burmese translated by Rev.Titus