Millions of Years?

A Christian’s belief in millions of years totally contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. Here are just three examples:

Thorns. Fossil thorns are found in rock layers that secularists believe to be hundreds of millions of years old, so supposedly they existed millions of years before man. However, the Bible makes it clear that thorns came into existence after the curse: “Then to Adam He said, ‘Because . . . you have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, “You shall not eat of it”: Cursed is the ground for your sake. . . . Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you’” (Genesis 3:17–18).

Disease. The fossil remains of animals, said by evolutionists to be millions of years old, show evidence of diseases (like cancer, brain tumors, and arthritis). Thus such diseases supposedly existed millions of years before sin. Yet Scripture teaches that after God finished creating everything and placed man at the pinnacle of creation, He described the creation as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Certainly calling cancer and brain tumors “very good” does not fit with Scripture and the character of God.

Diet. The Bible clearly teaches in Genesis 1:29–30 that Adam and Eve and the animals were all vegetarian before sin entered the world. However, we find fossils with lots of evidence showing that animals were eating each other—supposedly millions of years before man and thus before sin.

-Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis

Never Resist the Least Urge to Pray

Article: Tim Challies – A Powerful Practice for Prayer (original source here)

Prayer has always been a struggle for me, and I know I am not the only one. There’s a reason that books on prayer continue to flood our bookshelves. Very few of us pray as often and as earnestly as we would like. Very few of us are confident that we pray well. Fewer still feel like we really get prayer.

I have read the books and sat in the seminars and heard the sermons and even preached a few of my own. Along the way I have learned many truths and picked up many practical tips. Little by little, bit by bit, they have helped me grow in my knowledge and understanding of prayer. And, I trust, they have helped me to actually pray.

There is one practice I find myself working on these days more than any other, and I think it may be the most important of them all. It is a simple one: Never resist the least urge to pray.

I cannot remember where I first heard that. Was it Joel Beeke? Was it Martyn Lloyd-Jones? Was it a Puritan writer? It may well have been all of them. The truth behind it is simple: It’s never the wrong time to pray. Those impulses are invariably good. After all, it’s not like Satan or the old man will be the ones directing me to call out to God rather than resting in selfishness or self-reliance, is it?

Like me, you probably feel that urge to pray throughout your day. You feel it after church when you are speaking to a struggling friend. Something in your mind says, “I should pause right here and right now and pray with her.” And you fight a momentary battle over whether or not you will actually say, “Let me pray for you.”

You feel it when you are lying in bed beside your wife, you are about to go to sleep, and you think, “I should pray with her.” But even something so simple can feel like the hardest thing in the world.

You feel it when you are sharing the gospel. He has been at least a little bit receptive and you think, “I should offer to pray for him.” And right there, a whole cosmic battle rages within your heart and mind.

It happens just as often when you are alone and you are struck with the desire to pray or the impulse that you ought to pray. You see that you have the opportunity to pray. You believe that this is the time to pray. But will you pray?

Never resist the least urge to pray. What if you lived that way? What if we all lived that way? Our lives and our churches would be bathed in prayer. I believe we would be living in much greater faithfulness to God’s command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So why don’t you try it? See what difference it makes in your life, in your family, in your church, when you stop resisting those urges to pray, and when you joyfully respond to every impulse.

It turns out, by the way, that it was probably Martyn Lloyd-Jones I was reading. He gives the instruction in the context of sermon preparation, but it applies equally to all of life:

Always respond to every impulse to pray. I would make an absolute law of this – always obey such an impulse.

Where does it come from? It is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a part of the meaning of ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’ (Phil 2:12-13).

This often leads to some of the most remarkable experiences in the life of the minister. So never resist it, never postpone it, never push it aside because you are busy. Give yourself to it, yield to it; and you will find not only that you have not been wasting time with respect to the matter with which you are dealing but that actually it has helped you greatly in that respect…

Such a call to prayer must never be regarded as a distraction; always respond to it immediately, and thank God if it happens to you frequently.

God’s Sovereignty and Our Responsibility

Dr. Derek Thomas (original source here)

God is sovereign in creation, providence, redemption, and judgment. That is a central assertion of Christian belief and especially in Reformed theology. God is King and Lord of all. To put this another way: nothing happens without God’s willing it to happen, willing it to happen before it happens, and willing it to happen in the way that it happens. Put this way, it seems to say something that is expressly Reformed in doctrine. But at its heart, it is saying nothing different from the assertion of the Nicene Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty.” To say that God is sovereign is to express His almightiness in every area.

God is sovereign in creation. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Apart from God, there was nothing. And then there was something: matter, space, time, energy. And these came into being ex nihilo—out of nothing. The will to create was entirely God’s. The execution was entirely His. There was no metaphysical “necessity” to create; it was a free action of God.

God is sovereign in providence. Traditional theism insists that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent—all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present. Each assertion is a variant of divine sovereignty. His power, knowledge, and presence ensure that His goals are met, that His designs are fulfilled, and that His superintendence of all events is (to God, at least) essentially “risk free.”

God’s power is not absolute in the sense that God can do anything (potestas absoluta); rather, God’s power ensures that He can do all that is logically possible for Him to will to do. “He cannot deny himself,” for example (2 Tim. 2:13).

Some people object to the idea that God knows all events in advance of their happening. Such a view, some insist, deprives mankind of its essential freedom. Open theists or free-will theists, for example, insist that the future (at least in its specific details) is in some fashion “open.” Even God does not know all that is to come. He may make predictions like some cosmic poker player, but He cannot know absolutely. This explains, open theists suggest, why God appears to change His mind: God is adjusting His plan based on the new information of unforeseeable events (see Gen. 6:6–7; 1 Sam. 15:11). Reformed theology, on the other hand, insists that no event happens that is a surprise to God. To us it is luck or chance, but to God it is part of His decree. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). Language of God changing His mind in Scripture is an accommodation to us and our way of speaking, not a description of a true change in God’s mind.

God is sovereign in redemption, a fact that explains why we thank God for our salvation and pray to Him for the salvation of our spiritually lost friends. If the power to save lies in man’s free will, if it truly lies in their unaided ability to save themselves, why would we implore God to “quicken,” “save,” or “regenerate” them? The fact that we consistently thank God for the salvation of individuals means (whether we admit it or not) that belief in absolute free will is inconsistent. Continue reading

Jesus, the Son of Man

In this brief clip from his teaching series Lessons from the Upper Room (from Ligonier Ministries), Dr. Sinclair Ferguson explains what Jesus meant when He referred to Himself as the “Son of Man.”

Transcript

I remember as a youngster in Sunday school, perhaps this was true of you, that my Sunday School teachers taught me that Jesus was the Son of God and the “Son of Man.” That is to say, He was God’s Son, and He was also human. But when Jesus speaks about Himself as the “Son of Man,” He is not simply saying that He has a human nature as well as a divine nature. He is specifically drawing on a picture that He found in the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel, in which you may remember, Daniel has this vision in which he sees the “Son of Man” ascending to the throne of the Ancient of Days as a triumphant victor. And at the throne of the Ancient of Days, He is given the privilege of sharing His triumph with those who are called the “Saints of the Most High.”

So in Jesus’ mind, the picture of the “Son of Man” refers not just to his humanity, it refers also to His exultation at the right hand of the Father—His glory and then the expansion of his kingdom that will take place as He is exalted at the Father’s right hand. So when He says “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified,” He’s referring to that picture that we were given in the Book of Daniel—the way in which He is going to be exalted at the right hand of the Father. In other words, He is saying His death, His crucifixion is simply the way to His exaltation. We could put it this way, in terms of what we saw at the beginning of John chapter 13, that for Jesus, the way up to the throne of God is the way down to the humiliation of the Cross.

Understanding the Reformation

Lectures by Erwin Lutzer:

(1) John Hus: The Goose Who Became a Swan

(2) Martin Luther: The Wild Boar

(3) John Calvin & Ulrich Zwingli and the Drowning of the Anabaptists

(4) Sola Fide: Justification by Faith Alone, a Gospel that Saves

(5) Questions & Answers on the Reformation

(6) Rescuing the Gospel in America: The Book of Jude

Further Material:

Rescuing the Gospel: The Story and the Relevance of the Reformation

Rescuing the Gospel in America

Why Does the Universe Look So Old?

Article by Tim Challies (original source here)

When it comes to the age of the universe, Christians find themselves in a bit of a conundrum. At least, those Christians do who hold to a traditional interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis—an interpretation that leads them to believe the universe is something less than the billions of years indicated by contemporary understandings of the scientific data. Those, like me, who hold to a six-day understanding of creation have to face this question: Why does the universe look so old? Why does it look older than it actually is? This is a question Dr. Albert Mohler took on at a Ligonier Ministries conference several years ago and his response was (and remains) helpful to me.

Before I comment on his answer, I want to point out that all Christians, no matter their interpretation of the opening chapters of Scripture, have difficult questions to face as they attempt to strike harmony between Scripture and science or, better, between God’s book of special revelation and God’s book of natural revelation. Those who believe the universe is ancient have to grapple with the existence of death before the fall, for example, or why the creation account is so clearly laid out as if it all takes place in six literal days. It is not only young earth creationists who have to admit the existence of difficult questions.

As Dr. Mohler considers the age of the universe he tells why he is drawn to the six-day view: “In our effort to be most faithful to the scriptures and most accountable to the grand narrative of the gospel, an understanding of creation in terms of 24-hour calendar days and a young earth entails far fewer complications, far fewer theological problems, and actually is the most straightforward and uncomplicated reading of the text as we come to understand God telling us how the universe came to be and what it means and why it matters.”

But why, then, if the universe is so young, does it look so old? His first answer is this:

The universe looks old because the Creator made it whole.

Accordingly to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2, God did not create a universe that began in an infant or primordial state before maturing over billions of years, but a universe that actually began in a state of maturity. When it was still young it already looked mature because this was God’s design. Indeed, this was the case with the first human being. “When he made Adam, Adam was not a fetus; Adam was a man; he had the appearance of a man. By our understanding that would’ve required time for Adam to get old but not by the sovereign creative power of God.” Adam and Eve were created whole, mature, grown up, and were placed in a garden that was also whole, mature, and grown up. “The garden was not merely seeds; it was a fertile, fecund, mature garden. The Genesis account clearly claims that God creates and makes things whole.” There is our first answer, that the universe looks old because God created it to look old. This was design, not deception, just as was the case for Adam, the human being who had no history, no parents, no infancy, no childhood.

The second answer is this: The universe looks old because it bears the effects of sin. Sin is an evil intruder into the world and one that brought about God’s judgment. This judgment was expressed in the catastrophe of the great worldwide flood and in a million lesser catastrophes since. These catastrophes have marked, stained, and scarred all that God created. We bear the effects of sin in our tired eyes, wrinkled skin, and aching bones, and in equivalent ways the earth is marked and marred by sin. Paul says in Romans 8 that the world is groaning, “And in its groaning it does look old. It gives us empirical evidence of the reality of sin.” The universe looks old rather than young to display the evidence and consequences of sin, for once we see this we are but a short distance from considering the joy, necessity, and beauty of redemption. A suffering world is crying out for the deliverance that will come.

To my mind these are compelling answers, though they are admittedly somewhat speculative in that neither one can appeal directly to chapter or verse. I will give the final word to Dr. Mohler: “At the end of the day, if I’m asked the question ‘why does the universe look so old?’ I’m simply left with the reality that the universe is telling the story of the glory of God. Why does it look so old? Well that, in terms of any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days. And that is where we are left.”

Appoint Elders in Every Town

You and I were never meant to do Christianity alone. The Church is not only being built by our Lord Jesus but is His provision for each one of His children – a place where each of us can be nurtured, protected and carry out our differing ministries in the body. C. H. Spurgeon called the Local Church “the happiest place on earth.” I agree. At least this is what it should be.

When Christ, the Good Shepherd, raises up a Church, He also raises up under shepherds. They are His provision for us. While other words (such as “elders”) are frequently used in the New Testament to describe the leaders in a Church, the word ‘pastors’ is only seen once. It occurs in Ephesians 4:11 and the original meaning is really ‘shepherds’ which is the how the ESV renders it.

I often think about my responsibilities as an elder and rightly so. It is a massive privilege and responsibility and one that I will give an account to the Lord for one day. (Heb. 13:17) There is never a day when that thought does not cross my mind.

Along that line, I was thinking about Paul’s words to Titus 1:5, namely, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you—”.

Other translations bring out the original meaning perhaps a little more clearly by saying, “set in order what was unfinished and appoint elders in every town..”, “set in order the things lacking and might appoint elders in every town, as I directed you..”, “put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town…” The message is clear that until elders are in place, something is very lacking in the formation of a local Church. Whenever we see the word “elder” in the New Testament, unless it is speaking of the qualifications for an elder (where we would expect the word to be used in the singular), it is always used in the plural – “elders”, rather than “elder”. Even here, Paul did not write “appoint an elder in every town” but “appoint elders…”

Dr. Michael Kruger writes,

“The New Testament evidence itself seems to favor a plurality of elders as the standard model. The book of Acts tells us that as the apostles planted churches, they appointed “elders” (from the Greek term πρεσβυτέρος) to oversee them (Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2; 20:17). Likewise, Titus is told to “appoint elders in every town” (Titus 1:5).

A very similar word, ἐπι,σκoπος (“bishop” or “overseer”), is used in other contexts to describe what appears to be the same ruling office (Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:1-7). The overlap between these two terms is evident in Acts 20:28 when Paul, while addressing the Ephesian “elders” (πρεσβυτέρους), declares that “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers (ἐπισκόπους).” Thus, the New Testament writings indicate that the office of elder/bishop is functionally one and the same.”

He continues:

“But, what about the church after the New Testament? Did they maintain the model of multiple elders? Three quick examples suggest they maintained this structure at least for a little while:

1. At one point, the Didache addresses the issue of church government directly, “And so, elect for yourselves bishops (ἐπισκόπους) and deacons who are worthy of the Lord, gentle men who are not fond of money, who are true and approved” (15.1). It is noteworthy that the author mentions plural bishops—not a single ruling bishop—and that he places these bishops alongside the office of deacon, as Paul himself does (e.g., Phil 1:1; 1 Tim 3:1-13). Thus, as noted above, it appears that the bishops described here are essentially equivalent to the office of “elder.”

2. A letter known as 1 Clement (c.96) also has much to say about early church governance. This letter is attributed to a “Clement”—whose identity remains uncertain—who represents the church in Rome and writes to the church at Corinth to deal with the fallout of a recent turnover in leadership. The author is writing to convince (not command) the Corinthians to reinstate its bishops (elders) who were wrongly deposed. The letter affirms the testimony of the book of Acts when it tells us that the apostles initially appointed “bishops (ἐπισκόπους) and deacons” in the various churches they visited (42.4). After the time of the apostles, bishops were appointed “by other reputable men with the entire church giving its approval” (44.3). This is an echo of the Didache which indicated that bishops were elected by the church.

3. The Shepherd of Hermas (c.150) provides another confirmation of this governance structure in the second century. After Hermas writes down the angelic vision in a book, he is told, “you will read yours in this city, with the presbyters who lead the church” (Vis. 8.3).Here we are told that the church leadership structure is a plurality of “presbyters” (πρεσβυτέρων) or elders. The author also uses the term “bishop,” but always in the plural and often alongside the office of deacon (Vis. 13.1; Sim. 104.2).

In sum, the NT texts and texts from the early second century indicate that a plurality of elders was the standard structure in the earliest stages. But, as noted above, the idea of a singular bishop began to dominate by the end of the second century.

What led to this transition? Most scholars argue that it was the heretical battles fought by the church in the second century that led them to turn to key leaders to defend and represent the church.

This transition is described remarkably well by Jerome himself:

The presbyter is the same as the bishop, and before parties had been raised up in religion by the provocations of Satan, the churches were governed by the Senate of the presbyters. But as each one sought to appropriate to himself those whom he had baptized, instead of leading them to Christ, it was appointed that one of the presbyters, elected by his colleagues, should be set over all the others, and have chief supervision over the general well-being of the community. . . Without doubt it is the duty of the presbyters to bear in mind that by the discipline of the Church they are subordinated to him who has been given them as their head, but it is fitting that the bishops, on their side, do not forget that if they are set over the presbyters, it is the result of tradition, and not by the fact of a particular institution by the Lord (Comm. Tit. 1.7).

Jerome’s comments provide a great summary of this debate. While the single-bishop model might have developed for practical reasons, the plurality of elders model seems to go back to the very beginning.”

I don’t believe a Church with merely one elder in place is a scriptural Church.. not yet anyway… and if this is the case, as Paul’s words to Titus here say, something is still left unfinished; something needs to be set in order. Again, as imperfect as they are, elders are Christ’s provision for the sheep He loves so dearly.

I say all this to say that behind the elders seen in a local Church is the Lord Himself (now unseen), who has raised up these men for our mutual edification. The elders are in no way “better” than others – that is for sure – they are simply men ordained by God to fulfill a function in the Body as under-shepherds, under the Chief Shepherd.

Why I Love the Church

A series of 3 short articles by Dr. John MacArthur: (original source here).

I love the church.

I am an inveterate and incurable lover of the church. It thrills me beyond expression to serve the church. Although I am also involved in some para-church ministries, I would not trade my ministry in the church for all of them combined. The church takes first place in my ministry priorities, and all the para-church ministries I serve are subordinate to, and grow out of, my ministry in the church.

In fact, my whole life has been lived in the church. My father was a pastor, as were my grandfathers for three more generations before him. So a deep love for the church practically runs in my blood.

In a short series of upcoming posts, I’m going to outline some biblical reasons I love the church. Let’s start with the first one today:

1. The Church Is Being Built by the Lord Himself

The church is the New Testament counterpart of the Old Testament Temple. I’m not referring to a church building, but the body of all true believers.

It is a spiritual building (1 Pet. 2:5), the dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16), the place where God’s glory is most clearly manifest on earth, and the proper nucleus and focal point of spiritual life and worship for the community of the redeemed.

God Himself is the architect and builder of this temple. In Ephesians 2:19–22, Paul writes:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

It is impossible to overstate the importance of the church in the eternal plan of God. The church is His building (1 Cor. 3:9). Moreover, He is the immutable, sovereign, omnipotent Lord of heaven. His Word cannot return void but always accomplishes what He says (Isa. 55:11). He is always faithful and cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). His sovereign purposes always comes to pass, and His will is always ultimately fulfilled (Isa. 46:10). His plan is invincible and unshakable, and He will bring to pass all that He has spoken (v. 11). And he has spoken about building the church in the most triumphant words.

For example, in Matthew 16:18 Christ said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” He who knows His sheep by name (John 10:3)—He who wrote their names down before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8)—He personally guarantees that the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church He is building.

“The gates of Hades” was a Jewish expression for death. Hades is the place of the dead, and the gates of Hades represent the portal into that place—death itself. Hades is also the domain of the devil. Hebrews 2:14 refers to Satan as the one “who had the power of death,” and verse 15 says he used that power to keep people in fear and bondage all their lives. But now Christ has broken that power, and liberated His people from Satan’s dominion—in essence, he has broken down the gates of Hades. And therefore even the power of death—the strongest weapon Satan wields—cannot prevent the ultimate triumph of the church He is building.

There is still more significance to the imagery of “the gates of Hades.” Gates are a walled city’s most vital defensive safeguards. Christ’s words therefore portray the church militant, storming the very gates of hell, victoriously delivering people from the power of death. Thus Christ assures the triumph of the church’s evangelistic mission. He is building the church, and the work will not be thwarted.

Christ’s promise in this passage should not be misconstrued. He does not suggest that any particular church will be infallible. He does not teach that any of the bishops of the church will be error-free. He does not guarantee that this or that individual church will not apostatize. He does not promise success and prosperity to every congregation. But He does pledge that the church—that universal body of believers under Christ’s headship—will have a visible being and a testimony in this world as long as the world itself lasts. And that all the enemies of truth combined shall never secure the defeat or destruction of the church.

Notice also that the church is a work in progress. Christ is still building His church. We are still being joined together (Eph. 2:21). The church is still under construction (v. 22). God is not finished yet. The imperfections and blemishes in the visible church are still being refined by the Master Builder.

And here’s something remarkable: The plan for the finished product is a blueprint that was drawn in eternity past. Continue reading