The Eclipse of God

In an eclipse, there is not an unveiling of something but the obscuring of reality. Isn’t that interesting? Many people right at this very moment are scrambling to look up into the heavens (with protective glasses on, because they cannot look directly) to actually see less than what is normally available to see.

An eclipse does not destroy anything, it merely hides it, covers it over, or puts a shadow on it. In the professing Church there has been a willful concealing of the true character of God and many turn out in their droves to hear of this lesser God. Unwilling to put up with sound doctrine, they heap up to themselves teachers who will tell them what their itching ears wish to hear (2 Tim. 4:3).

God has not been impacted at all, but we have cast a shadow over His character, so to speak. God is not a buffet line of options where we get to choose which attributes we wish to embrace and those we feel we can leave to the side. There’s a biblical word for that kind of exercise, “idolatry.”

May the falsehoods be put away and let us see Him as He really is, as He has revealed Himself through the word of God.

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”

Selah.

Saints Preserved!

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” – 1 Thess. 5:23-24

These verses are regularly quoted and yet their meaning and ramifications are often times overlooked.

Here’s what the text teaches: The process of the complete sanctification of the elect is God’s work from start to finish and it will happen.

There is no doubt that Paul’s desire for God to preserve them (“kept blameless” ESV, “preserved complete” NASB, “kept sound and blameless” CSB) in sanctification at the coming of our Lord Jesus, speaks of the sanctification process resulting in the full glorification of the saint, which is the very end goal of salvation. The very opposite of this, in contrast, would be for this process to stop somewhere along the way somehow and a person to be ultimately lost forever.

Notice that Paul anchors this hope and desire, not in an appeal to the will and action of the saint but in the will and action of God Himself.

Then notice further that Paul is not merely hopeful of this end result, but he is certain of it. He grounds this future certainty not in the activity and performance of the saint, but in God’s faithfulness. The sure foundation of this hope is God’s commitment to fulfill His promises and to do all that is necessary for this to happen. The One who calls is faithful to complete the work. The saints persevere because God preserves and keeps His own.

He is faithful, and He will do it.

The Essential Marks of a Preacher

Article by Dr. Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. He writes regularly at jasonkallen.com (original source here)

“How shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). With airtight logic, the Apostle Paul sets forth the indispensable human link in fulfilling the Great Commission—the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In so doing, he instructs us in the way of the kingdom, that in every generation God is calling out preachers to serve His church.

Paul’s timeless question is especially relevant for the twenty-first-century church. Evangelical churches are in the midst of a massive generational transition, with vacant pastorates and empty pulpits dotting the landscape.

Vacant pulpits ought not induce the wringing of hands. Christ is building His church. He does not hope for ministerial volunteers; He sovereignly sets apart pastors to serve His church and preach His gospel.

Nonetheless, the church is to call out the called, and every qualified man of God should consider if God is calling him to pastoral ministry.

How might one know if God is calling him to the ministry? There are four essential marks.

A Burning Desire

The leading indicator of a call to ministry is a burning desire for the work. In 1 Timothy 3, Paul begins the list of ministry qualifications by asserting, “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” In fact, Paul testified that he ministered as one “under compulsion,” fearful of God’s judgment if he did not peach.

In his Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon argued, “The first sign of the heavenly calling is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to be a true call to the ministry, there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls.”

Those who have been most used of God carried this weight of the soul. Men such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Spurgeon owned this inner compulsion that, like an artesian well, continuously poured power and urgency into their ministries.

The preacher may not feel every Sunday what Richard Baxter felt when he famously resolved “to preach as a dying man, to dying men; as one not sure to ever preach again.” But the one called of God knows a constant, ongoing desire for the work of ministry.

A Holy Life

First Timothy 3:1–7 offers a clear and nonnegotiable list of character qualifications for the ministry. This list is prescriptive, not descriptive; it is regulative, not suggestive. In summary, the minister of God must be above reproach.

Before a church evaluates a pastoral candidate’s gifting or talent, it must first evaluate his character. To be sure, for a man aspiring to ministry, it may help to be winsome, to be eloquent, or to possess a magnetic personality. Yet, before one looks for these secondary—and tertiary—strengths, one must first meet the qualifications of 1 Timothy 3.

What is more, the 1 Timothy 3 qualifications do not simply represent a one-time threshold to cross. Rather, they are a lifestyle to be maintained, a character to be cultivated, and an ongoing accountability to God’s Word and God’s people. One’s call to ministry is inextricably linked to one’s biblical character. The two cannot—and must not—be decoupled.

A Surrendered Will

The Apostle Paul was set apart from his mother’s womb and testified that he “became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me” (Col. 1:25). Paul chose to preach because God chose him to preach. Every call to preach originates in heaven. Our response is total surrender.

In fact, “surrendering to ministry” used to be common parlance in evangelical churches. We would do well to recover that phrase, because that is how one enters the ministry—through surrender. God’s call to ministry comes with the expectation that you will go whenever and wherever He calls you. His ministers are His agents, deployed for service according to His providential plan.

An Ability to Teach

Finally, the one called to the ministry must be able to teach the Word of God. In 1 Timothy 3, this is the distinguishing qualification between the office of the deacon and elder. There are a thousand ways a minister can serve the church, but there is one, indispensable, and nonnegotiable responsibility—to preach and teach the Word of God.

Does the preparation and delivery of sermons fulfill you? Do the people of God benefit from your ministry of the Word? Does your church sense your gifting and affirm your ability to preach or teach about God?

Conclusion

Any man can choose the ministry, and too many unqualified men have. Only a select few are called by God. Discerning between being called of men and called of God is urgently important.

If God is calling you to be His servant, then realize, in the words of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “the work of preaching is the highest and greatest and most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” If God has called you to be His preacher, never stoop to be a king of men.

Miscellaneous Quotes (110)

“You should not believe everything you read on the internet.” – Abraham Lincoln

“To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us. God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship.” – James Montgomery Boice

“The Covenant of Redemption is the covenant entered into by the persons of the Trinity in the councils of eternity, with the Son mediating its benefits to the elect. This covenant is the basis for all of God’s purposes in nature and history, and it is the foundation and efficacy of the covenant of grace.” – Michael Horton

“The Church is in duty bound to guard its holiness by the exercise of proper discipline. The purpose of discipline in the Church is twofold. In the first place it seeks to carry into effect the law of Christ concerning the admission and exclusion of members; and in the second place it aims at promoting the spiritual edification of the members of the Church by securing their obedience to the laws of Christ. Both of these aims are subservient to a higher end, the maintenance of the holiness of the church of Jesus Christ. If there are diseased members, the Church will first of all seek to effect a cure, but if this proves impossible, it will put away the diseased member for the protection of the other members. While all the members of the Church are in duty bound to warn and admonish the wayward, only the officers of the Church can apply Church censures. The latter can deal with private sins only when these are brought to their attention according to the rule given in Matt. 18:15-17, but are in duty bound to deal with public sins even when no formal accusation is brought.” – Louis Berkhof

“A doctrine concerning Scripture’s attributes developed in the Reformation churches as a counter to Roman Catholicism on the one hand and Anabaptism on the other. The key issue was the nature and extent of scriptural authority. Rome honors church and tradition above Scripture, while Anabaptism respects the inner word at the expense of the external word of Scripture. In Roman Catholicism the precedence of the church over Scripture eventually led to the dogma of papal infallibility. Here, materially, Scripture is unnecessary. Over against this position, the Reformers posited their polemical doctrine of Scripture’s attributes: authority, necessity, sufficiency, and perspicuity.” – Herman Bavinck

“The best evidence of the Bible’s being the word of God is to be found between its covers. It proves itself.” – Charles Hodge

“Grace … eliminates boasting; it suffocates boasting: it silences any and all negotiations about our contribution before they can even begin. By definition we cannot ‘qualify’ for grace in any way, by any means, or through any action.” – Sinclair Ferguson

“What will it cost a man to be a true Christian? It will cost him his self-righteousness. He must cast away all pride and high thoughts, and conceit of his own goodness. He must be content to go to heaven as a poor sinner, saved only by free grace, and owing all to the merit and righteousness of another.” – J. C. Ryle

“Don’t let your feelings inform your doctrine, let your doctrine inform your feelings.” – Burk Parsons

“God Himself supplies the necessary condition to come to Jesus, that’s why it is ‘sola gratia,’ by grace alone, that we are saved.” – RC Sproul

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.” – Prov. 21:1
“If Yahweh is sovereign over the greatest human will, He is sovereign over all human wills.” – Dan Phillips

“Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.” – J. I. Packer

“The Trinity is the basis of the gospel, and the gospel is a declaration of the Trinity in action. The Father purposing redemption, the Son securing it and the Spirit applying it.” – J. I. Packer

“To lay hold of and receive the gospel by a true and saving faith is an act of the soul that has been made a new creature, which is the workmanship of God… Wherefore whoever receiveth the grace that is tendered in the gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified, and the Son of God revealed in them.” ~John Bunyan

“This is true religion, to approve what God approves, to hate what he hates, and to delight in what delights him.” – Charles Hodge

Dr. Kathy Koch has a saying that reflects the biblical thought Paul express in 1 Cor.15:33. She notes, “Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”

“Rome often claims that it represents two thousand years of unbroken apostolic succession and practice. The implication is that no fundamental changes have taken place in the church, but only a legitimate development of principles found at the beginning. I believe that this historical claim is profoundly false, and that in the interests of truth and biblical religion it must be challenged.” – W. Robert Godfrey

Sin…
is a blind,
anti-God,
egocentric energy
in the fallen human spiritual system,
ever fomenting
self-centered and self- deceiving desires,
ambitions,
purposes,
plans,
attitudes,
and behaviors…
Remember that sin desensitizes you
to itself.
– J. I. Packer Continue reading

The Reformation Isn’t Over

James-White032Article by Dr. James White (original source though one could properly question its fundamental truthfulness. It reflects, however, the prevailing attitude of Western culture, a pragmatism that enshrines in the judgment of “history” (whatever that means in this context) the final arbiter of morality, goodness, and worth. Often this phrase is being urged upon the church to “move on” from opposing homosexuality or the redefinition of marriage.

But this adage also captures the general attitude of a large portion of the population on both sides of the Tiber River to the Reformation and the continuing battle over the issues that gave it birth. Isn’t it time to just move on? Can’t we lay aside our differences for a greater good? Aren’t we a small enough minority now in the midst of a tsunami of secularism and the rising tide of Islam? Shouldn’t we be looking for unity, not for more reasons to remain separate?

We dare not dismiss the weight that these rhetorical questions carry with many within our congregations, and even among the clergy. At the same time, we must recognize the responsibility that is ours as heirs of the great struggle that was the Reformation. Can we betray those who came before us? What would such a betrayal involve? Are we really willing to assert that the great and momentous beliefs they fought for are no longer as important as we once thought?

The election of a new bishop of Rome in 2013 shed new light on the state of these questions in the minds of many who profess to be “evangelicals” and “biblical” in their faith and orientation. One well-known evangelical leader communicated with his followers electronically that we should be praying that God would “guide” the process of the selection of a new pope. In most venues, the objection that there is nothing remotely biblical about a “supreme pontiff” who is to be venerated as the “vicar of Christ on earth” or the “holy father” found little expression outside of those whose strongest feelings on the matter are borne of prejudice rather than conviction. And once the selection was made, many in the evangelical camp expressed pleasure at the selection, if for no other reason than Francis I has seemed significantly more, well, human—or at least less imperial—than Benedict XVI.

But very little of the public response was prompted by a passionate commitment to, say, the solas of the Reformation, or a knowledgeable, informed rejection of Rome’s soteriology over against a deep-seated love of the doctrine of justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Should the Reformation continue to hold a place of importance in the church that faces such immense opposition as that coming from radical, gospel-hating secularism? Wouldn’t a united front, free from partisan bickering, help the cause of Christ? The answer has to be, “Of course the Reformation remains important, and, in fact, its work must continue in our day, and into the future as well.”

The reason is not hard to see, even if it seems hidden to many in our day. Wonderfully nebulous catchphrases like “the cause of Christ” often hide the truth: the cause of Christ is the glorification of the triune God through the redemption of a particular people through the cross-work of Jesus Christ, which is a rather Puritan way of saying, “The cause of Christ is the gospel.” Each of the emphases of the Reformation, summed up in the solas, is focused upon protecting the integrity and identity of the gospel itself. Without the inspiration, authority, harmony, and sufficiency of Scripture, we do not know the gospel (sola Scriptura). Without the freedom of grace and the fullness of the provision of the work of Christ, we have no saving message (sola fide). And so on.

The Reformation fought a battle that each and every generation is called to fight simply because each and every generation is made up of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam, and hence there will always be those who seek to detract from the singular glory of God in the gospel through the addition of man’s authority, man’s merit, man’s sovereignty. Is this not the meaning of semper reformanda, the church always reforming, always seeking to hear more clearly, walk more closely, to her Lord?

With the ebb and flow of human history, the forces arrayed against the church and her Lord and the particular front upon which the battle rages hottest will change. Rome’s theology has evolved and her arguments have been modified, but the issues remain very much what they were when Luther and Eck battled at Leipzig, only modified and complicated. God’s kingship, man’s depravity and enslavement to sin, and the insatiable desire of sinners to control the grace of God will always be present. And today, the sufficiency, clarity, and authority of Scripture are at the forefront, just as they were then. The need for the Reformation will end when the church no longer faces foes inside and out who seek to distort her purpose, her mission, her message, and her authority. Till then, semper reformanda.