What is wrong?

An old proverb says, “A ship in the sea is alright. The sea in a ship is all wrong.” In the same way, “the church in the world is alright. The world in the church is all wrong.”

Broadly speaking, the last several decades have not been good for the church in America. In the final years of the twentieth century, Dr. James Montgomery Boice wrote about the on-going crisis:

“What is wrong with evangelicals? The answer is that we have become worldly. We have abandoned the truths of the Bible and the historic theology of the church, which expresses those truths and are trying to do the work of God by means of the world’s theology, wisdom, methods and agenda instead. This does not mean that evangelicals have denied the Bible or have officially turned their backs on classic Christian doctrine necessarily. It is more the case that the Bible just does not have meaningful bearing on what we think and do – when we do understand it, and most of the time we do not.

The polls tell us that the gospel most contemporary evangelicals believe in is essentially God helping us to help ourselves. It has a lot to do with self-esteem, good mental attitudes and worldly success. There is not much preaching about sin, hell, judgment or the wrath of God, not to mention the great salvation doctrines such as reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, justification, the atonement, grace and even faith.

Lacking a sound, biblical and well understood theology, evangelicals have fallen prey to the pragmatism and consumerism of our times. Instead of calling God’s people to worship and serve God, and teaching them how to do it, we treat parishioners as buyers and think of marketing the gospel. A therapeutic worldview has replaced classical Christian categories such as sin and repentance, and many leaders have identified the gospel with such modern idols as a political philosophy, psychological views of man and sociology. To the extent that the doctrines of the Bible no longer guide preaching, teaching, publishing, evangelism, worship and the daily life of the people of God, evangelicalism has declined to become a movement that is shaped only by popular whim and sentimentality. To stand in awe of God once again, evangelicals must recognize these idols as idols and confess how much we have been taken captive by them…. Paramount among the truths evangelicals need to recover are the great Reformation doctrines summarized by the well-known solas (Latin for “only”): sola Scriptura, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide and soli Deo Gloria.”

– Here We Stand – A Call from Confessing Evangelicals, 1998

Adoption (Follow Up)

On Tuesday, I wrote a brief article on the subject of adoption, making reference to the very heart warming story of little Lydia who was adopted by a Christian family here in the United States. I just received this short letter:

John,

How delightful to come across this post! I love all that you wrote and quoted about adoption. Here were the judge’s words the day this adoption became final, as I was there (in the court room):

“NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the minor child is declared to be adopted by the Petitioners, ____ and _____, that the minor shall henceforth be regarded and treated as the Petitioners’ NATURAL child and have all the lawful rights as their own child, including the rights of support, protection and inheritance, and the minor child henceforth bear the name: LYDIA JOY ____.”

To be declared a “natural” child by an earthly court of law is but a foreshadow of how permanent our seal of adoption was with our Heavenly Father. Thank you so much for sharing this blessing with others.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Friday Round Up

(1) “All is shadow here below! The world is a shadow; and it passes away! The creature is a shadow; and the loveliest and the fondest may be the first to die! Health is a shadow; fading, and in a moment gone! Wealth is a shadow; today upon the summit of affluence, tomorrow at its base, plunged into poverty and dependence! Human friendships and creature affections are but shadows; sweet and pleasant while they last, but, with a worm feeding at the root of all created good, the sheltering gourd soon withers, exposing us to the sun’s burning heat by day, and to the frost’s cold chill by night! Oh, yes! “Passing Away” is indelibly inscribed upon everything here below! Yet how slow are we to realize the solemn lesson: “What shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue!” Unconverted reader, what is your life but a vapor that passes away? and what are its pursuits but shadows; unreal, unsatisfying, evanescent? Your rank, your wealth, your honors, your pleasures, are but phantoms which appear but for a little while, and then are lost in the deeper shadow of the grave, and the still deeper and longer shadow of eternity! Oh, turn from these dreams and hallucinations, and, as a rational, accountable, immortal being, on your way to judgment, fix your mind upon your solemn, endless future! You are going to die! And, oh, when that dread hour comes, so real and appalling, how will your past life appear?” – Octavius Winslow

(2) As I fix my gaze upon the cross of Christ, three things become crystal clear: (1) I am a great sinner. In myself, I am worthy only of death and total banishment from God. (2) God’s love for me, even as I stand in the stench of my sin is totally mind blowing and yet ever so real. He loves me far more than I could possibly imagine. (3) Christ is a great Savior. He is my only hope and all my righteousness.

(3) An author usually writes with the hope of being read; and more than this, that what is written would benefit those who do so. He feels he has something worth saying, and wishes to say it in such a way that it impacts people. This is his driving motivation that propels him to spend many sleepless nights at his desk, writing, re-writing, and writing again. He writes because he feels he must write. He has to say it. He has to get his thoughts down on paper. He just has to. Like a mother with child, there’s something inside him that must come out. Something has to be said. Something has to be heard.

When the final book is in the hands of people, an author waits with baited breath to learn if what he wrote made any kind of difference. He wants to know if his words hit the mark. The Christian author wishes to know if God is somehow using the book to draw people closer to Himself. Did it help someone? Did the Lord use the book to help someone understand HIS book better? Is someone on earth walking closer to the Master now? Is someone out there enjoying their inheritance in Christ more than they were previously?

Its still early days regarding my own book, but the feedback so far remains encouraging. One reader recently wrote:

“Before reading this book, I was “spooked” even by the word Calvinism… it sounded like a good-old-boys theology that I didnt want to be part of. However, in the interim, I heard people I truly respect (John Piper, Greg Koukl, Matt Slick) supporting it so I gave it a try and bought this book.

The author holds your hand and shows you the rationale behind the 5 points, all properly backed up by Scriptures. I don’t say it totally changed my belief on freedom but put a stone in my shoe to continue studying in prayer to find the truth… The book is also easy to read so you will go through it fairly quickly and painlessly.”

This is just the sort of person I wrote the book for – someone who is prepared to look at the Scriptures with something like an open mind. My prayer is that it will be a tool to help people come to grasp the truth of His word on this vital theme of Divine election. As I have written elsewhere:

“God revealed this in His word, not to cause controversy amongst Christians. It is not in the least bit controversial to Him. He revealed this because as His child, He wanted you to know this truth. God forbid that it should be obscured from you. It is part of your inheritance to come to understand that He has had no momentary, temporary interest in you. God has loved you from eternity. God did not have to tell us about His electing love, but there is no doubt that He has done so many times over. The reason for this is clear. He wanted you to know that He actually chose to save you. He did so for reasons known only to Him (though we know it was for no reason found in you at all). His choice was without conditions because born spiritual dead, there were no conditions you could ever fulfill. When you were without God and without hope in this world, God took the initiative in sending His Son into this world to do whatever was necessary to bring you to Himself. This is radical, overwhelming, all conquering love. Nothing could suceed in standing in His way. Once the choice was made, there would be no possibility of failure.”

I have been told that the paperback version of the book is now in bookstores as far away as South Africa and Australia. As I mentioned last week, it is currently available at a 50% discount direct from the publisher here in the USA, Solid Ground Christian Books. For those who wish to order 10 or more copies there is a 54% discount. Both deals can be found at this link.

(4) There’s a variety of resources in this week’s Friday Ligonier $5 sale worth considering here.

Say What??

Ok – now I am confused… It seems that rumours rather than facts are flying round the internet at an alarming rate today. A few hours ago, believing it to be fraudulent. Now it seems that this information is not accurate at all and that in fact they will. Stayed tuned for accurate news as this story develops.

The “Jesus Had A Wife” Fragment – Judged To Be A Fake

Hello! Hello! Main Stream Media… Hello! Anybody Home????

I just wonder if the major news media outlets will broadcast this news as loudly and as widely as last week’s. Please forgive my skepticism regarding this, but somehow, I doubt it.

the Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia University and Divinity College, sent to me earlier today. He said that Helmut Koester (Harvard University), Bentley Layton (Yale University), Stephen Emmel (University of Münster), and Gesine Robinson (Claremont Graduate School)–all first-rate scholars in Coptic studies–have weighed in and have found the fragment wanting. No doubt Francis Watson’s comprehensive work showing the fragment’s dependence on the Gospel of Thomas was a contributing factor for this judgment, as well as the rather odd look of the Coptic that already raised several questions as to its authenticity.

Dr. James White writes, “Now, that doesn’t mean the saga is over for two reasons: 1) the fragment could be rehabilitated by the release of further relevant information concerning its provenance, and 2) the MSM (main stream media) is far more interested in posting stuff that is against Christianity than corrections and retractions.”

Adoption

It is often said that a picture paints a thousand words. How true this is in this case. The city where this photo was taken is Bangkok, Thailand and the little girl in the photo is called Lydia. Since the photo was taken, Lydia has now been adopted by an American Christian family. The gentleman holding her hand is actually her new father, Josh. You can see the photos of Lydia’s arrival in the USA here.

What a beautiful illustration this is for the Christian. Think about it. God actually chose you to be part of His family. You were not just a nameless, faceless person in the crowd. He chose you personally. He set His love on you in eternity past, before the world was ever made. God revealed this in His word, not to cause controversy amongst Christians. It is not in the least bit controversial to Him. He revealed this because as His child, He wanted you to know this truth. God forbid that it should be obscured from you. It is part of your inheritance to come to understand that He has had no momentary, temporary interest in you. God has loved you from eternity.

God did not have to tell us about His electing love, but there is no doubt that He has done so many times over. The reason for this is clear. He wanted you to know that He actually chose to save you. He did so for reasons known only to Him (though we know it was for no reason found in you at all). His choice was without conditions because born spiritual dead, there were no conditions you could ever fulfill. When you were without God and without hope in this world, God took the initiative in sending His Son into this world to do whatever was necessary to bring you to Himself. This is radical, overwhelming, all conquering love. Nothing could suceed in standing in His way. Once the choice was made, there would be no possibility of failure. Jesus said, “All that the Father gives to Me will come to Me” and He will raise them all up to eternal life (John 6:37-39). Not one will be lost. This is true for all of us who believe in Christ. Forever we will stand amazed by the grace we have found in Christ. Forever we will sing of His great love!

“In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” – Ephesians 1:4-6

Most Christians have not really grasped this amazing truth of their adoption in Christ. Many have heard about justification by faith alone, but far fewer have understood the doctrine of adoption. In a sermon entitled “God as Father: Understanding the Doctrine of Adoption” (based on Galatians 4:1-7), C.J. Mahaney speaks about some of the important connections and distinctions between the two: Continue reading

We Are Beggars: Martin Luther as Theological Pastor

Dr. Carl Trueman, whose new book The Creedal Imperative will be published this month, recently delivered three lectures on Martin Luther at Southern Seminary (September 11-12, 2012). Here they are:

Lecture 1: Theological and Biographical Foundations. Trueman looks at Luther’s life and how it shaped his theology, particularly his understanding of the cross.

Theological and Biographical Foundations from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Lecture 2: The Word in Action. Trueman starts by reflecting on the late medieval philosophies of language which dovetailed with Luther’s understanding of the Bible’s own teaching. This then provides the context for understanding why preaching was so central to Luther’s pastoral practice and also why he held such a high view of the sacraments.

The Word in Action from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Lecture 3: The Tools of the Trade. Trueman shows how Luther’s theology actually worked out in practice in terms of his liturgical and catechetical compositions. He also reflects on how some debates within the Lutheran leadership help to shed light on his understanding of the role of confession and repentance in the Christian life.

The Tools of the Trade from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

HT: Justin Taylor

The Sufficiency of Scripture

I took the few minutes needed to read this sermon today. It did my heart much good.

The 25th Anniversary Sermon, May 23, 1993 by Dr. James Montgomery Boice

THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE

On a morning like this it is a temptation to reminisce over the quarter century of ministry I have had at Tenth Presbyterian Church. And I would do it, except for the fact that others have been doing it all weekend and in a much more complimentary way than I could myself— at least if I were to be honest. I could reveal a lot of things that the others are not aware of, including the disappointments and failures. But that would spoil things, and it is not what this weekend is about. It is certainly not what a worship service such as this should accomplish.

I remember that when John, the author of Revelation, fell at the feet of the angel of God to worship him, the angel replied, “Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10). So I remind you and myself that this is what we are about this morning.

And I direct you to God’s Word.
Continue reading

Sola Scriptura

Sola Scriptura is the doctrine that Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith for the people of God. Here’s a quote from Dr. John MacArthur, adapted from his contribution to “Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible”:

“The Reformation principle of sola Scriptura has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our supreme authority in all spiritual matters. Sola Scriptura simply means that all truth necessary for our salvation and spiritual life is taught either explicitly or implicitly in Scripture. It is not a claim that all truth of every kind is found in Scripture. The most ardent defender of sola Scriptura will concede, for example, that Scripture has little or nothing to say about DNA structures, microbiology, the rules of Chinese grammar, or rocket science. This or that “scientific truth,” for example, may or may not be actually true, whether or not it can be supported by Scripture—but Scripture is a “more sure Word,” standing above all other truth in its authority and certainty. It is “more sure,” according to the apostle Peter, than the data we gather firsthand through our senses (2 Peter 1:19). Therefore, Scripture is the highest and supreme authority on any matter on which it speaks.

But there are many important questions on which Scripture is silent. Sola Scriptura makes no claim to the contrary. Nor does sola Scriptura claim that everything Jesus or the apostles ever taught is preserved in Scripture. It only means that everything necessary, everything binding on our consciences, and everything God requires of us is given to us in Scripture (2 Peter 1:3).

Furthermore, we are forbidden to add to or take away from Scripture (cf. Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev. 22:18–19). To add to it is to lay on people a burden that God Himself does not intend for them to bear (cf. Matt. 23:4).

Scripture is therefore the perfect and only standard of spiritual truth, revealing infallibly all that we must believe in order to be saved and all that we must do in order to glorify God. That—no more, no less—is what sola Scriptura means.”

“The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.” — Westminster Confession of Faith