Elements of Reformed Worship

Text: Psalm 100

God cares about our worship and about how we worship. He does not receive all worship. Some worship is corrupt and greatly displeases Him. So what kind of worship does in fact please Him? How can we know for sure?

The Atheist Delusion

Having to prove the existence of God to an atheist is like having to prove the existence of the sun, at noon on a clear day. Yet millions are embracing the foolishness of atheism. “The Atheist Delusion” pulls back the curtain and reveals what is going on in the mind of those who deny the obvious. It introduces you to a number of atheists who you will follow as they go where the evidence leads, find a roadblock, and enter into a place of honesty that is rarely seen on film.

From Living Waters, creators of the award-winning TV program “The Way of the Master” and the hit movies “180” and “Evolution vs. God,” comes the powerful film “The Atheist Delusion.” Executive produced by TV co-host and best-selling author Ray Comfort (Hell’s Best Kept Secret, Scientific Facts in the Bible).

Learn more at http://www.AtheistMovie.com

Theological Triage – Maintaining Unity

Today I had the privilege of guest hosting another Dividing Line broadcast and brought what I believe to be an important teaching on first order and second order doctrines. As the quote attributed to Augustine says, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

We experienced some audio difficulties during the first two minutes of the show but after that there were no further sound issues.

When Jesus Comes Again

clouds7Article by Nicholas T. Batzig (original source here)

A great deal of the New Testament is taken up with the doctrine of the second coming of Christ. The substance of all of God’s revelation is summed up in the book of Hebrews where we read, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment; so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:27-28). Just as the Old Testament saints waited for the coming Redeemer, so New Covenant believers are to be longing for the glorious appearing of the Son of Man. We should think much and often upon the reality of the promise of the second coming of Christ. To that end, it will do us well to meditate on what the Scriptures teach about the manner of His coming. In his fifth and final volume of Reformed Dogmatics, Geerhardus Vos set out 12 aspects of the manner of Jesus’ coming again. According to the Scriptures, Jesus will come…

1. From heaven.

2. On the clouds of heaven (see this post for a further explanation).

3. In the form of His human nature.

4. As a man.

5. Not in humility but in glory.

6. Without sin, that is, no longer as the Surety bearing guilt.

7. With His angels, the heavenly host who will serve Him in everything that is associated with His return.

8. According to some, accompanied by the spirits of believers who have already gone to heaven, which, it is thought, is to be found in 1 Thessalonians 3:13 (“with all His saints”), 2 Thessalonians 1:10, Jude 14.

9. As a thief in the night, not only for unbelievers but also in a certain sense even for believers since they never know the hour exactly.

10. For all together as in the same moment, as a lightning bolt that shines from east to west.

11. Not only visibly but also audibly, with a shout and the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God.

12. With His manifestation and cry, causing the resurrection of the dead and gathering them for judgment, so that at His coming believers lift up their heads with joy, meanwhile unbelievers weep.1

1. Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics (R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, & A. Janssen, Trans.) (Vol. 5, p. 288). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Men Who Rocked the World

steve_lawsonMen Who Rocked the World 2014

Dr. Steve Lawson brings these giants of the faith to life as he explores “The God-Centered Pursuit of the Reformers.”

The 2014 Logos Conference: Men Who Rocked the World was November 21–22, 2014 at Grace Community Church.

Session 1: Martin Luther and the German Reformation
Session 2: William Tyndale and the English Reformation
Session 3: John Calvin and the French Reformation
Session 4: John Knox and the Scottish Reformation

At this link.

Men Who Rocked the World 2015

Dr. Steve Lawson brings these giants of the faith to life as he explores “The God-Centered Pursuit of the Puritans.”

The 2015 Logos Conference: Men Who Rocked the World was October 23–24, 2015 at Grace Community Church.

Session 1: The Puritan Era I
Session 2: The Puritan Era II
Session 3: Samuel Rutherford
Session 4: John Owen
Session 5: John Bunyan

At this link.

Men Who Rocked the World 2016

Dr. Steve Lawson brings these giants of the faith to life as he explores “The God-Centered Pursuit of the Revivalists.”

The 2016 Logos Conference: Men Who Rocked the World was September 23–24, 2016 at Grace Community Church.

Session 1: Introduction to the Revivalists
Session 2: Jonathan Edwards, Part 1
Session 3: Jonathan Edwards, Part 2
Session 4: George Whitefield, Part 1
Session 5: George Whitefield, Part 2

At this link.

Why Study Church History?

Article: Why Study Church History? by Jon Payne (original source here)

If church history does not get your blood pumping, you had better check your spiritual pulse. The sixteenth century alone provides a treasure of soul-stirring narratives. Think of Martin Luther’s bold and daring stand for the gospel against the destructive errors of Rome. Consider the faithful witness of the English martyrs who died singing psalms as they were consumed by flames. Or, how about the courageous life of John Knox, who while enslaved in the bowels of a French galley ship cried out, “Give me Scotland, or I die”?

The study of church history, however, is meant to provide more than just inspiration. Serious reflection on the past protects us from error, reminds us of God’s faithfulness, and motivates us to persevere.

Protection From Error

Irish philosopher Edmund Burke wisely remarked that “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” Indeed, without a basic knowledge of church history, individual Christians and churches are prone to repeat the same doctrinal errors and foolish mistakes of former days.

Familiarity with the history and theology of the early ecumenical councils of Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (451), for example, helps to protect individuals and churches from unwittingly believing ancient Trinitarian and christological heresies. Furthermore, careful reflection upon revivalistic movements such as the Second Great Awakening warns us not to abandon biblical ministry for manipulative methods and quick numerical growth. The study of church history, therefore, preserves both orthodoxy (right doctrine) and orthopraxy (right practice).

In addition to safeguarding us from doctrinal error, the study of church history helps protect us from repeating the foolish mistakes of others. One example comes from the life and ministry of John Knox.

The fiery Scot wrote a polemical tract in 1558 titled “The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstruous Regiment of Women.” The work unapologetically condemns the rule of female monarchs. Against the better judgment of John Calvin and others, who were strategically working toward reform in Britain and on the Continent, Knox submitted his “First Blast” for publication. Though aimed chiefly at other lady monarchs, the tract inadvertently fell into the hands of the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth I. Unsurprisingly, the queen was highly displeased. Thereafter, Knox and everyone associated with the Genevan Reformation lost favor with Elizabeth, all because of an unnecessary tract on female sovereigns.

The Scottish Reformer’s unwise decision to publish “First Blast” teaches an important lesson. It instructs ministers and others to be more careful about the content and timing of their writings, especially in a day when self-publishing and instantaneous (and often unedited) posting on social media are so prevalent. Not every deep conviction or strong opinion is worthy of publication. Knowledge of events from the past, therefore, constructively informs our decisions in the present. It protects us from heresy and imprudence.

Reminder Of God’s Faithfulness

To study church history is to study God’s unbending faithfulness. Christians must regularly reflect upon this truth in a world where there is increasing persecution of the church and the future seems uncertain. Like the psalmist, we must “recount all of [God’s] wonderful deeds” to remind ourselves that He will never leave us or forsake us (Ps. 9:1; Heb. 13:5).

Scripture provides a wealth of history to remind us of God’s steadfast faithfulness. From the days of creation to the ministry of Christ to the establishment of the church, the Bible tells the story of the sovereign God who is faithful to His people. But it’s not only in redemptive history that God’s faithfulness is on display; it is also seen in the annals of church history.

Consider how God’s faithfulness is manifest in the preservation and expansion of the early church during the grisly persecutions of Roman Emperor Diocletian. Think of God’s fidelity in the recovery and rise of gospel proclamation during the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation or the astonishing multiplication of believers in China since 1850. And there are thousands of individual stories within the larger ones that remind us that our heavenly Father can and should be trusted no matter what our circumstances.

Motivation To Persevere

Every believer knows that he desperately needs divine grace, motivation, and encouragement to carry on. Of course, Christ and His ordained means of Word, sacrament, and prayer are the essential means and motivation for perseverance (Heb. 12:2). Even so, we can find motivation to persevere in the study of church history.

Considering that “great cloud of witnesses,” the godly lives of believers from the past, can motivate and inspire us to “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely . . . [and to] run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Are you feeling spiritually weary? Are you ready to give up? Throw yourself into the arms of Christ and also into the pages of church history. Spend time reflecting upon the faithful lives and godly voices of the past, on those whose faith motivates you to keep running. Take up and read a biography of Martin Luther, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, or Elisabeth Elliott. Explore an overview of the Reformation or a survey of the modern missionary movement. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once asserted that every “Christian should learn from history . . . it is his duty to do so.” He was right. Therefore, dear believer, let us study, learn, and enjoy the history of the church.

Gospel-Centered Theology Before the Reformation

Article: Gavin Ortlund – Searching for Gospel-Centered Theology Before the Reformation (at this link)

Quote: “…I don’t think we need to abandon evangelicalism to find a sense of historical placement. In fact, I believe this thirst for rootedness can be fully satisfied within a Protestant and evangelical framework. You can be catholic without becoming Catholic, and orthodox without becoming Orthodox. As we promote “gospel-centered ministry for the next generation,” we must make clear there’s nothing inconsistent with being both evangelical and ancient, “gospel centered” and “historically rooted.” The reason is simple: gospel-centeredness is itself historically rooted. In fact, it’s as ancient as the gospel itself.”

Quite the Project!

Introducing the ‘ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set’

Introducing the 'ESV Reader's Bible, Six-Volume Set' from Crossway on Vimeo.

The ‘ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set’ stems from the conviction that the Bible is of immeasurable value and should therefore be treasured and read in the most seamless way possible. Constructed with materials carefully selected to reflect the beauty of God’s Word, the ‘ESV Reader’s Bible, Six-Volume Set’ is designed for those desiring a cleaner, simpler Bible-reading experience.

Printed on European book paper with a premium cowhide leather cover and packaged in a handcrafted walnut slipcase, this smyth-sewn edition features a single column of Bible text that is free of all verse numbers, chapter numbers, and footnotes, as well as most section headings—resulting in a unique Bible-reading experience that helps readers encounter and delight in the beauty of God’s Word.

Learn more: readersbible.org


Illustrating Repentance

uturnArticle: An Illustration of Repentance by Benjamin Shawn, Associate Professor of Hebrew and Old Testament at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Originally published at GPTS Rabbi. (Source here)

The Westminster Shorter Catechism has an excellent definition of repentance in Question 87: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience.”

In the heat of the Christian life, however, that definition may seem more theoretical than practical, not particularly helpful when seeking to live a life of repentance (See the first of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, “Repent” (Mt 4:17), He willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.) We recognize that repentance is a grace. That is, it is a gift from God. It is not something we work up for ourselves. It is not turning over a new leaf. It is a turning away from sin and a turning to God that is fueled, as it were, by the Spirit of God at work within us.

We all recognize that the first act of repentance is only the beginning. We recognize that sins must be mortified. We recognize that there is the problem of indwelling sin in the life of the believer. But I suspect that we don’t often attach repentance to these things. In part, this may be because we do not have a sense of what repentance look like when God is working repentance in us.

Perhaps an illustration will help. Imagine repentance as a man walking in one direction who suddenly realizes that he is walking in the opposite direction from which he should be walking. He stops. He turns around. Then he begins walking in the new direction. It is a quick and simple process. He realizes. He stops. He turns. But imagine someone on a bicycle realizing he is going the wrong direction. In one sense, it is still obvious. He stops. He turns around. He begins bicycling in the new direction. But it is a longer process. He has to come to a stop. Depending on his speed, that may take some time. The turning around also takes longer. And it takes longer to get up to full speed in the new direction. The process is the same for a man in a car. But it takes longer than for the man on the bike, and it may require going somewhat out of his way before he gets back on the right track. The process is the same for a man in a speed boat. He has to slow down, enter the turn, and come back. But the time and distance required to do so is much longer than what was required for the man walking. Now imagine that the man is piloting a supertanker. It takes him miles to slow the ship down enough to even begin to make the turn. The turn itself is immense, taking him quite a distance from his intended course. Then again it also takes a large amount of time to get up to full speed in the new direction.

Now apply the images to repentance. Some sins are small and easy. We stop and walk the other way. Some sins, like the bicycle, are a little more difficult. In God’s work in the believer, He takes a little time to bring the believer to an awareness that his course is actually a sinful one. Then there is the process of coming to a stop, the process of the turn itself, and the process of getting up to speed in faithfulness. But some sins are enormous. We may not be aware that they really are sins. Or they may be so deeply ingrained in us that we are not willing, at first, to recognize them as sins. God works patiently with us, carefully slowing us down, as the captain does with the ship, so that He can bring us through the turn and into the new direction, where He can bring us up to full speed.

There are two things that I find helpful about this illustration. First is the fact that God does not work repentance in us instantaneously, but over time. So the awareness of sin and the desire to change come gradually. God brings us, as it were, to a full stop slowly and carefully. So there are going to be many slips and falls on the way to that stopping point. The second thing has to do with the turning itself. In the image of the ship turning, there is a long time when the ship is neither on the old course, nor on the new course but, as it were, dead in the water. So it may well be in the life of the Christian. The sin has been admitted. The slips and falls have gotten fewer. But there seems to be little progress. We seem to be dead in the water. At that point, we are in the turn. Speed will pick up. Godliness will grow. But it will do so slowly, as God patiently works with us.

So if you have prayed for repentance for some particular sin, and there has been no instantaneous change, keep praying. God has promised to work, and He will. And you will be glad in the end that He did it slowly and carefully.

10 Things You Should Know About The Trinity

trinity8Article: Dr. Sam Storms, “10 Things You Should Know About The Trinity”

As someone once said of the doctrine of the Trinity: “Try to explain it, and you’ll lose your mind. But try to deny it, and you’ll lose your soul!” With this in mind, let’s examine 10 things we should all know about the Trinity.

(1) We must never forget that our knowledge of God is a gift, not a given. What I mean by this is that we all too often presume that what we know of God is either something we gained by self-exertion, dedication, and study, or it is something we deserve, perhaps something that is our by right or entitlement. We should never treat the knowledge of God as a given. It is something he gives, and he does not give it universally. This is nowhere better seen in our Lord’s words in Matthew 11.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Matthew 11:25-27)

When the Father finally makes sense to us, when we come to know him truly, to the degree that we grasp something of his nature and will and ways, it is because the Son has graciously stooped to reveal him to us. Our knowledge of God does not come naturally. Neither is it ultimately the product of meticulous research or study. It certainly isn’t because we deserve it. It’s a gift from his Son. He and he alone is the mediator of the knowledge of God to mankind. If one is to know the Son the Father must reveal him. If one is to know the Father the Son must reveal him. It takes God to know God!

(2) The concept of the one God as a trinity of co-equal, yet distinct, persons is the most intellectually taxing and baffling doctrine in Scripture. It is a mystery that is beyond reason yet not contrary to it. Probably the most famous definition of the doctrine of the Trinity is that of St. Augustine (4th-5th century a.d.):

“There are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and each is God, and at the same time all are one God; and each of them is a full substance, and at the same time all are one substance. The Father is neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son. But the Father is the Father uniquely; the Son is the Son uniquely; and the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit uniquely. All three have the same eternity, the same immutability, the same majesty, and the same power” (On Christian Doctrine, transl. By D. W. Robertson, Jr. [Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958, p. 10]).

(3) Throughout the course of church history, people have asserted that this concept of God is incoherent and logically contradictory. The doctrine of the Trinity, they argue, is irrational, hardly worthy of intelligent belief. As a result, certain heretical concepts of the Godhead have emerged, the two most notable of which are variants of what was known as Monarchianism (also known as Sabellianism after one of their leaders, Sabellius [early 3rd century]). In accordance with their name (monarchy = single principle, Gk.), the monarchians stressed divine unity to the exclusion of any personal distinctions in the Godhead. Some monarchians embraced Dynamic Monarchianism, or more popularly as Adoptionism.

Dynamic Monarchianism conceives of Jesus prior to his baptism as wholly human (the natural born son of Joseph and Mary). As a reward for his exceptional moral virtue, Jesus was adopted as God’s Son and empowered by the Spirit through which he subsequently performed his miracles. Jesus was “divine” not because of any equality in essence with the Father but by virtue of a received power (dunamis). His “divinity”, therefore, is functional or ethical, not ontological.

(4) The other option for some monarchians is known as Modalism. Modalistic Monarchianism believed in both the unity of the Godhead and the deity of Christ. The only viable way to maintain both, so they argued, was to identify the Son (and the Spirit) with the Father. There is only one God who, depending on the circumstances, need, and work in which he is engaged, will variously manifest himself either as Father or Son or Spirit. These names do not stand for eternally distinct persons in the Godhead but were simply different functional expressions for the same God. Jesus is one of several modes or phases or roles whereby the one God reveals himself. Thus “Father, Son and Spirit are distinctions that pertain to God in relation to us. The modalists could affirm the economic trinity (a threefoldness in God in relation to the world) but not the ontological or essential trinity (a threefoldness in the inner being of God)” (Bloesch, God the Almighty, 172).

(5) Although the concept of the Trinity is not explicit in the OT, there are texts in the OT that may allude to the idea of plurality in the Godhead. The standard word for God is elohim (plural). Often a plural verb is used with elohim. See Gen. 20:13; 35:7; 2 Sam. 7:23. There are also texts where plural pronouns are used of God. See Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8. A few OT texts appear to speak of Yahweh having a “son”. See Prov. 30 and Psalm 2. Also relevant are texts that refer to the Messiah. See Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 32:5-6; Micah 5:2. There are numerous texts which speak about the “Spirit” of God. See Gen. 1:1-2; 6:3; Exod. 31:2-3; Num. 24:2; 27:18; Ps. 51; 139:7. These are but a few of the countless texts mentioning the Spirit. There are a few passages where either the name of God or the concept of deity is applied to more than one person. See Isa. 48:16; 61:1; 63:7-14; Haggai 2:4-7. Continue reading