Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Augsburg Confession (Part 1)

In 1530 the emperor Charles V convened the Diet of Augsburg, in part to deal with the religious division within his realm. The Lutherans prepared a confession to be read to the diet which was intended to demonstrate both the error of the Roman Catholic charges against them and the orthodoxy of their faith. However, Charles and the papists rejected the Augsburg Confession, thus marking the full and final break of Protestantism from Roman Catholicism. After June 25, 1530, the Holy Roman Empire effectively was no more.

Here I would like to present the majority of Part 1 of the Augsburg Confession, setting forward the doctrinal beliefs of the Lutheran churches, as formulated primarily by Martin Luther and Philipp Melancthon.

Article I—Of God
The churches, with common consent among us, do teach that the decree of the Nicene Synod concerning the unity of the divine essence and of the three persons is true, and without doubt to be believed: to wit, that there is one divine essence which is called and is God, eternal, without body, indivisible, of infinite power, wisdom, goodness, the Creator and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and that yet there are three persons of the same essence and power, who also are co-eternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And they use the name of person in that signification in which the ecclesiastical writers have used it in this cause, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which properly subsists….

Article II—Of Original Sin
Also they teach that, after Adam’s fall, all men begotten after the common course of nature are born with sin; that is, without the fear of God, without trust in him, and with fleshly appetite; and that this disease, or original fault, is truly sin, condemning and bringing eternal death now also upon all that are not born again by baptism and the Holy Spirit.
They condemn the Pelagians, and others, who deny this original fault to be sin indeed; and who, so as to lessen the glory of the merits and benefits of Christ, argue that a man may, by the strength of his own reason, be justified before God.

Do Not Walk as the Gentile Do

When God calls us to himself, he calls us to live an entirely different kind of life than the life that characterized us before we were converted. I hope it is your earnest desire to live in true righteousness and holiness. We will have the privilege of learning more from the Scriptures about this from missionary Michael Carlyle this Lord's Day.

Songs
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (#23)
Holy, Holy, Holy (#3)
Psalm 1
Let Us Love (#483)
May the Mind of Christ My Savior (#476)
When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#135)

Scripture Reading
Seeking the King of Glory - Psalm 24

Sermon
The Old Life and the New - Ephesians 4:17ff

Friday, February 27, 2009

What Is Conservative Christianity? (Part 4)

Have you ever heard the word "crisis"? It has been put to use not only in politics but in religion as well. Kevin Bauder explains why conservatives do not operate with a crisis mentality.

Here's a tidbit.

Somewhere along the line, somebody discovered that they could always attract a bigger crowd and see a greater visible response if they would just trim away the uncomfortable or unattractive aspects of the Christian faith, inserting in their place some really spectacular amusement. This methodology has succeeded wildly—at least from a certain point of view. Its very success has created an acute problem. We are now forced to wonder how much of the Christian faith we actually have left. Some of us suspect that it is far less than American evangelicals ordinarily assume. Some of us suspect that nearly the entire birthright of Christianity has been traded away for a mess of pragmatist pottage.

Read the whole thing here.

Assurance of Salvation

We have made some last minute changes this week, so missionary Michael Carlyle and his family will be with us on Sunday. Since I will not be preaching on the good news of God's great plan of salvation this Sunday, I wanted to direct your attention to a couple resources that tie in well with what we have been learning. These are excellent sermons on assurance of salvation, and they will encourage you in your life with Christ.

Dr. Mark Minnick has four sermons on assurance of salvation which you can download from the Mt. Calvary Baptist Church website. (Simply click on the link and scroll down the page until you come to the sermons labelled "assurance of salvation.")

Dr. Joel Beeke has written extensively on the topic of assurance of salvation, and you can find many good sermons from him on this topic here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Churches, Divorce, and Christ

Stephen Baskerville calls churches to account for their complicity in the breakdown of marriages.

While many factors have contributed to this truly diabolical, bureaucratic onslaught against the family, we might begin by looking within. The churches’ failure or refusal to intervene in the marriages they consecrated and to exert moral pressure on misbehaving spouses (perhaps out of fear of appearing “judgmental”) left a vacuum that has been filled by the state. Clergy, parishioners, and extended families have been replaced by lawyers, judges, forensic psychotherapists, social workers, and plainclothes police.

Family integrity will be restored only when families are de-politicized and protected from government invasion. This will demand morally vigorous congregations that are willing to take marriage out of the hands of the state by intervening in the marriages they are called upon to witness and consecrate and by resisting the power of the state to move in.

You can read the entire article here. Baskerville's article relates the main points of his 2007 book, Taken into Custody: The War Against Fatherhood, Marriage, and the Family, in which he attempts to set the record straight about the divorce industry and how it devours families. It is sad that it takes massive books to demonstrate what should be obvious, but the intellectual air we breathe is thick with lies, and we need the spotlight of truth to penetrate the mist.

I would simply like to add one crucial point to what Baskerville has written. Churches will be successful in saving marriages and protecting families not with generic "moral pressure" or "moral vigor" but with the proclamation of Jesus Christ. He alone is the one who can take broken sinners and their broken marriages and transform them into beautiful and productive partnerships in the gospel.

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Is Conservative Christianity? (Part 3)

Kevin Bauder explains how a commitment to the whole counsel of God is essential to conservative Christianity - a must read article.

Wisdom Online

Ryan Martin provides a good quote from Jonathan Edwards for those of us who use electronic media for communication.

It is really the age old message from Proverbs that "in everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly" (13:16; see also 15:2, 7).

Run to Win

The Scriptures liken the Christian life to a race. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?" Paul wrote. "So run that you may obtain it." Marathon runners of today will train vigorously and push themselves relentlessly in order to achieve victory. Those who wish to receive the crown of righteousness can do no less. O that all of us would be able to say at the end of our earthly life: "I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day!"

Songs
Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee (#27)
Thou, the God Who Changes Never (#18)
The Name High Over All (#31)
Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)
Praise the Savior (#17)
O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing (#69)

Scripture Reading
Sing to the Lord for His Salvation - Psalm 98

Sermon
Blessed be God for Blessing Us in Christ with Perseverance - 1 Cor 9:24

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Children in Church, Not Children's Church

Voddie Baucham recently posted on his blog a couple posts entitled "Nehemiah's Nursery," (Part 1 and Part 2)in which he responds to the argument from Nehemiah 8 that little children should not be in church services. Justin mentioned them to me, so I thought I would post here a little bit about my view on this topic.

Several years ago, I began wrestling with age-integrated vs. age-segregated approaches to discipleship, so I wrote down many pages worth of notes and thoughts. I've continued to learn and grow in this area even since I wrote these thoughts, but my basic conclusions are still the same. Here is a simplified summary of my position. (If you would like more, just contact me and I can give more of these thoughts to you.)

1. Why do you keep your children in the church assembly with you?
We keep our children with us for several reasons. First, although in a NT sense all of life is a response to who God is and what he has done, corporate worship is a high point of our expressions of worship to God.[1] When we meet together before him, he does not exclude children (Matt 19:13-14). Children are fully human beings and as such are fully capable of responding to God’s revelation of himself, even if it is on a simple plane. Second, we believe that the best way to disciple children in congregational worship is for them to be with their families as the families engage with God “in spirit and truth.” This is a powerful means of teaching our children the true significance of going to church. It is not about hanging out with friends or watching puppet shows. It is about meeting with God through the power of the Spirit based on the work of Christ, and edifying other believers spiritually. Third, we believe that keeping our children with us is a great way to instill timeless, trans-generational values in our children. They learn that there is something going on here which is bigger than them, and they have to live up to it. Fourth, we believe that this practice best exemplifies the church as a body which transcends common social barriers. The church should have the answer to the world’s problem of the “generation gap” and social cliques. In fact, we do have the answer, and when old and young meet together at the feet of the Savior, we powerfully demonstrate the reconciliation that Christ accomplishes.

2. Do you really think that they are getting anything out of it?
Yes, we do. This question is motivated by two erroneous tendencies. The first tendency is to forget that corporate worship is first and foremost about what God gets out of it, not what we get. God has clearly said in his Word that he is pleased by the praise of children (Ps 8:2 and Matt 21:15-16; Matt 19:13-14). In fact, he has ordained it as an evidence of his glory to his enemies. Having said this, we do not intend to imply that worshiping God and personal edification are mutually exclusive categories. They are, in fact, profoundly complementary. But the point here is that when we decide whether or not to keep our children with us as we engage with God corporately, we should take seriously the fact that God delights in the presence of “infants and nursing babes.”

The second erroneous tendency is to think of “getting something” out of the church service in purely rationalistic categories. In other words, usually behind this question is the question of whether children can intellectually understand a 45 minute Scriptural exposition. If we realize that this is actually an issue for every person present, of whatever age, depending upon their background, previous exposure, personal interest, etc, then we will be less likely to improperly label this as a “problem” with having children in a church service.

Actually, we believe that every child who is brought to worship God with his family is getting something out of the church service, even at an age when he is apparently unable to follow what is going on. This is so because of the incredible ability that God has put in human beings to learn.[2] For example, would it make any sense to say that adults should never speak English to their newborn babies or converse in English around their babies because babies don’t understand it? After all, language is incredibly complex, and even experts can’t explain it all. Yet we would contend that that is absurd, because we all know that the way babies come to learn English is by interacting with those who speak English. Similarly, the way that children learn about engaging with God is by being with those who are truly engaging with God.

Furthermore, we would contend that children do get more cognitive content than they are often given credit for, especially if the parents are working with them at home. For example, memorizing a simple catechism gives young children a conceptual framework to which they can attach what they hear when they listen to a sermon. They might only get one point from the sermon, but that one point is a point well taken.

In addition to the cognitive content that children receive in the service, they also receive affective content. They will begin to learn the proper posture of the heart in relationship to God - things like reverence and true joy rather than triviality and flippancy. When children are surrounded by adults who are pouring out their hearts to God in song and prayer and who are attentively listening to God’s revealed Word, they will be deeply impacted.

3. Don’t you think children would get more out of church if they had teaching geared toward their capabilities?
First, as I have already said above, children usually have much greater capabilities than we give them credit for. But, secondly, the answer to this question depends on a great number of factors. If children are being faithfully taught at home, then in the long run I do not believe that they will get more out of church by having specialized teaching all the time. I believe that by being taught at home they will develop character which goes far beyond merely knowing facts. Specialized teaching can impart more bare data than non-specialized teaching. But this does not mean discipleship is taking place.[3] I believe it is more important for children to learn a little bit that is applied in everyday life than it is for them to learn a great deal of truth which is never acted upon.[4]

If, on the other hand, children have little or no training in the home, such as when they have unbelieving parents, it might be advantageous to give them specialized attention and teaching with as much on-going discipleship as possible. Again, in these scenarios, a judicious use of age-segregated teaching could be profitable.

4. Don’t you think that having to watch the children keeps parents from being fully involved in corporate worship?
Having children with their parents can be either a hindrance or a help to the parents’ worship. It will be a hindrance if the children are not trained to worship God. Conversely, the very process of training children to worship God will be a help to the parents’ own worship. As Seneca said, “docendo discitur” – “one learns by teaching”.[5]

5. Do you think that children always have to be with their parents in church or at church functions?
No, we do not. There is room within biblical revelation for varying approaches to how a church structures its discipleship. Churches which stress family discipleship yet practice an age-segregated class of some kind in a judicious manner are not in sin. My contention is that age-segregation as a systematic, thorough-going approach to ministry is defective because it incorporates some less than biblical ideology current in our society.

On the other hand, I see no biblical reason why children may not always be with their parents in church. The fact is, parents are responsible before God for their children, and there are a variety of factors that may prompt parents to want to keep their children with them. I recognize that some parents have insisted on keeping their children with them in church for wrong reasons. If there is a sin problem in the parents behind the whole thing, then we should deal with the sin problem in the parents. But we must not attack that which is not a sin, namely, keeping their children with them in church. Actually, I am deeply grateful for parents who are diligent about their God-given responsibility.

[1] For a similar perspective, see John and Noel Piper, “The Family: Together in God’s Presence,” available either in print or online from Desiring God Ministries (http://www.desiringgod.org/).

[2] G. K. Chesterton was profoundly correct when he wrote, “It would be too high and hopeful a compliment to say that the world is becoming absolutely babyish. For its chief weak-mindedness is an inability to appreciate the intelligence of babies.” “The Terror of a Toy,” in Brave New Family, ed. Alvaro de Silva (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1990), p. 175.

[3] Study in this regard the Scriptural conception of “knowledge” and “wisdom.” In the Bible, knowledge is not usually the bare possession of facts in the mind. It is the ability to understand these facts in their proper God-oriented relationships and to be able to live in accordance with this truth. This is why “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7).

[4] This is an extremely important point. We have a tendency today to be rationalistic in our idea of disciplemaking, but the Scriptures are more sapiential. That is, Christianity and Christian doctrine is more than a set of propositions (although it is certainly not less than propositional). It is the way and the life as much as it is the truth. The goal of the Spirit’s work through the Scriptures is not merely to impart information, but rather to impart transformation. We are to embody a theological practice, a God-loving life.

[5] See Parenting in the Pew, expanded edition by Robbie Castleman (Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002) for some creative ideas on training children to worship. In some ways Mrs. Castleman’s understanding is deficient; nevertheless, I appreciate the thought she has given to helping children truly engage with God.

The Schleitheim Confession (Part 4)

The articles which we discussed and on which we were of one mind are these 1. Baptism; 2. The Ban [excommunication]; 3. Breaking of Bread; 4. Separation from the Abomination; 5. Pastors in the Church; 6. The Sword; and 7. The Oath….

Sixth. We are agreed as follows concerning the sword: The sword is ordained of God outside the perfection of Christ. It punishes and puts to death the wicked, and guards and protects the good….In the perfection of Christ, however, only the ban is used for a warning and for the excommunication of the one who has sinned, without putting the flesh to death, - simply the warning and the command to sin no more….

Seventh. We are agreed as follows concerning the oath: The oath is a confirmation among those who are quarreling or making promises. In the Law it is commanded to be performed in God’s Name, but only in truth, not falsely. Christ, who teaches the perfection of the Law, prohibits all swearing to His [followers], whether true or false….
...Testifying and swearing are two different things. For when a person swears he is in the first place promising future things, as Christ was promised to Abraham Whom we a long time afterwards received. But when a person bears testimony he is testifying about the present, whether it is good or evil….Christ also taught us along the same line when He said, Let your communication be Yea, yea; Nay, nay; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil….


It is instructive to note what these early Swiss Anabaptists did not incorporate into their confession. They did not include anything about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the gospel. Later Anabaptists did write out statements of their belief on these subjects; they were not anti-theological. However, the omission here reveals that the driving force behind the Anabaptist movement was primarily moral concerns. It was their own first hand experience of corruption and coercion within the confessing church which shaped their convictions. Unfortunately, they tended to confuse crucial doctrines such as justification, which mitigated the good effect of their high moral aspirations.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blessed Are Those Who Thirst

From J. C. Ryle:

There is no more painful sign of an unhealthy state of soul than an utter absence of spiritual thirst.

But who is there among the readers of this paper that feels the burden sin and longs for peace with God?... You are the man that ought to thank God. A sense of sin, guilt and poverty of soul is the first stone laid by the Holy Ghost, when He builds a spiritual temple. He convinces of sin.

It is not when we begin to feel good, but when we feel bad, that we take the first step towards heaven.

To realize our spiritual need, and feel true spiritual thirst, is the ABC in saving Christianity.

Augustine's Seven Steps to Wisdom

Last Saturday I listened to a bit of a recording of Augustine's On Christian Doctrine. The section below caught my attention. It did not arrest my attention because it was profound or unique (although a good amount of what Augustine wrote is profound or unique). Rather, I was intrigued with two things about this section. First, it contradicts virtually all contemporary approaches to gaining wisdom. Contemporary education is primarily about accumulating facts in the mind and learning techniques, but Augustine's approach is full-orbed, involving the whole person in all of life directed toward specific ends. This leads me to the second observation. Augustine's vision of wisdom mirrors much of the Bible's concept of wisdom. Certainly much about Augustine's path could be discussed and debated. Nevertheless, he has correctly discerned the starting point and the ending point, which is 9/10th of the challenge in figuring out which road to take. Maybe we could learn a thing or two here.



From On Christian Doctrine, Book II



Chap. 7.—Steps to wisdom: first, fear; second, piety; third, knowledge; fourth, resolution; fifth, counsel; sixth, purification of heart; seventh, stop or termination, wisdom


9. First of all, then, it is necessary that we should be led by the fear of God to seek the knowledge of His will, what He commands us to desire and what to avoid. Now this fear will of necessity excite in us the thought of our mortality and of the death that is before us, and crucify all the motions of pride as if our flesh were nailed to the tree. Next it is necessary to have our hearts subdued by piety, and not to run in the face of Holy Scripture, whether when understood it strikes at some of our sins, or, when not understood, we feel as if we could be wiser and give better commands ourselves. We must rather think and believe that whatever is there written, even though it be hidden, is better and truer than anything we could devise by our own wisdom.


10. After these two steps of fear and piety, we come to the third step, knowledge, of which I have now undertaken to treat. For in this every earnest student of the Holy Scriptures exercises himself, to find nothing else in them but that God is to be loved for His own sake, and our neighbour for God's sake; and that God is to be loved with all the heart. and with all the soul, and with all the mind, and one's neighbour as one's self—that is, in such a way that all our love for our neighbour, like all our love for ourselves, should have reference to God. And on these two commandments I touched in the previous book when I was treating about things. It is necessary, then, that each man should first of all find in the Scriptures that he, through being entangled in the love of this world—i.e., of temporal things—has been drawn far away from such a love for God and such a love for his neighbour as Scripture enjoins. Then that fear which leads him to think of the judgment of God, and that piety which gives him no option but to believe in and submit to the authority of Scripture, compel him to bewail his condition. For the knowledge of a good hope makes a man not boastful, but sorrowful. And in this frame of mind he implores with unremitting prayers the comfort of the Divine help that he may not be overwhelmed in despair, and so he gradually comes to the fourth step,—that is, strength and resolution,—in which he hungers and thirsts after righteousness. For in this frame of mind he extricates himself from every form of fatal joy in transitory things, and turning away from these, fixes his affection on things eternal, to wit, the unchangeable Trinity in unity.


11. And when, to the extent of his power, he has gazed upon this object shining from afar, and has felt that owing to the weakness of his sight he cannot endure that matchless light, then in the fifth step—that is, in the counsel of compassion—he cleanses his soul, which is violently agitated, and disturbs him with base desires, from the filth it has contracted. And at this stage he exercises himself diligently in the love of his neighbour; and when he has reached the point of loving his enemy, full of hopes and unbroken in strength, he mounts to the sixth step, in which he purifies the eye itself which can see God, so far as God can be seen by those who as far as possible die to this world. For men see Him just so far as they die to this world; and so far as they live to it they see Him not. But yet, although that light may begin to appear clearer, and not only more tolerable, but even more delightful, still it is only through a glass darkly that we are said to see, because we walk by faith, not by sight, while we continue to wander as strangers in this world, even though our conversation be in heaven. And at this stage, too, a man so purges the eye of his affections as not to place his neighbour before, or even in comparison with, the truth, and therefore not himself, because not him whom he loves as himself. Accordingly, that holy man will be so single and so pure in heart, that he will not step aside from the truth, either for the sake of pleasing men or with a view to avoid any of the annoyances which beset this life. Such a son ascends to wisdom which is the seventh and last step, and which he enjoys in peace and tranquility. For the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. From that beginning, then, till we reach wisdom itself, our way is by the steps now described.



Friday, February 13, 2009

What Is Conservative Christianity? (Part 2)

Kevin Bauder discusses the first element in conservative Christianity.

Guarded by the Power of God

Peter wrote to discouraged and fearful believers that they were being guarded by God's power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5). That is feet-planting, backbone-bracing, head-lifting assurance! Augustus Toplady wrote a poem about this:

A Sov’reign Protector I have,
Unseen, yet forever at hand,
Unchangeably faithful to save,
Almighty to rule and command.
He smiles, and my comforts abound;
His grace as the dew shall descend;
And walls of salvation surround
The soul He delights to defend.

Inspirer and Hearer of prayer,
Thou Shepherd and Guardian of Thine,
My all to Thy covenant care
I sleeping and waking resign.
If Thou art my Shield and my Sun,
The night is no darkness to me;
And fast as my moments roll on,
They bring me but nearer to Thee.

Kind Author, and ground of my hope,
Thee, Thee, for my God I avow;
My glad Ebenezer set up,
And own Thou hast helped me till now.
I muse on the years that are past,
Wherein my defense Thou hast proved;
Nor wilt Thou relinquish at last
A sinner so signally loved!

We will sing this hymn this Lord's Day, as well as consider from the Scriptures the great truth of God's preservation.

Songs
I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
Great Is Thy Faithfulness (#22)
More Secure Is No One Ever (#613)
A Debtor to Mercy Alone (#614)
A Sovereign Protector I Have (#615)
(Note: The last two hymns may be unfamiliar to you. I have discovered that all of the tunes in our hymnbook are available as MIDI files here. Just scroll down to the hymn number, and you can click on it to listen to the tune.)

Scripture Reading
1 Peter 4-5

Sermon
Blessed be God for Blessing Us in Christ with Preservation - Romans 8:29-39

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Schleitheim Confession (Part 3)

The articles which we discussed and on which we were of one mind are these 1. Baptism; 2. The Ban [excommunication]; 3. Breaking of Bread; 4. Separation from the Abomination; 5. Pastors in the Church; 6. The Sword; and 7. The Oath….

Fifth. We are agreed as follows on pastors in the church of God. The pastor in the church of God shall, as Paul has prescribed, be one who out-and-out has a good report of those who are outside the faith. This office shall be to read, to admonish and teach, to warn, to discipline, to ban in the church, to lead out in prayer for the advancement of all the brethren and sisters, to lift up the bread when it is to be broken, and in all things to see to the care of the body of Christ, in order that it may be built up and developed, and the mouth of the slanderer be stopped.

This one moreover should be supported of the church which has chosen him, wherein he may be in need, so that he who serves the Gospel may live of the Gospel as the Lord has ordained. But if a pastor should do something requiring discipline, he shall not be dealt with except [on the testimony of] two or three witnesses. And when they sin they shall be disciplined before all in order that the others may fear.

But should it happen that through the cross this pastor should be banished or led to the Lord [through martyrdom] another shall be ordained in his place in the same hour so that God’s little flock and people may not be destroyed.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Is Conservative Christianity?

Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, is beginning an important series of essays describing conservative Christianity. I would highly encourage you to read them. I will link to them as he publishes them.

He begins the first essay, "Genuinely conservative Christianity is hard to find. Discovering people who understand Christian conservatism is even harder. Many Christians think that they are conservatives when, in fact, they are committed to alternative liberalisms in significant aspects of their thought and practice." Yet he notes that when we compare contemporary Christianity to the Christianity of even two hundred years ago, the differences are startling. If conservatives are conserving something, just what is it that they are committed to conserving? What is conservative Christianity, anyway?

Read the whole thing.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Facing Facebook Squarely

Albert Mohler has more good thoughts on using Facebook wisely. Here are his main points.

1. Never allow social networking to replace or rival personal contact and communication. God made us to be social creatures that crave community. We cannot permit ourselves to substitute social networking for the harder work of building and maintaining personal relationships that are face to face.

2. Set clear parameters for the time devoted to social networking. These services can be seductive and time consuming. Social networking (and the Internet in general) can become obsessive and destructive of other relationships and higher priorities for the Christian.

3. Never write or post anything on a social networking site that you would not want the world to see, or anything that would compromise your Christian witness. There are plenty of young people (perhaps older persons now, too) who are ruining future job prospects and opportunities by social networking misbehavior. The cost to Christian witness is often far greater.

4. Never allow children and teenagers to have independent social networking access (or Internet access, for that matter). Parents should monitor, manage, supervise, and control the Internet access of their children and teens. Watch what your child posts and what their friends post.

5. Do not allow children and teens to accept any "friend" unknown to you. The social networking world can be a dangerous place, and parental protection here is vital.

6. Encourage older friends and relatives to sign up and use the technology. Grandparents can enjoy keeping up with grandchildren and with friends and loved ones separated by distance or mobility.

7. Use the social networking technology to bear witness to the Gospel, but never think that this can replace the centrality of face-to-face evangelism, witness, and discipleship.

8. Do all things to the glory of God, and do not allow social networking to become an idol or a display of narcissism.

The fifth anniversary of Facebook is a milestone in American culture -- and a good time for a reality check. We were made by our Creator to be social creatures, but made for far more than mere social media.

The Firstborn Among Many Brothers

God has a goal in his great plan of salvation, and it isn't just to get us out of hell. It is, rather, to bring honor to himself in the person of his Son by making him the firstborn among many brothers. That might sound strange to our ears, but it simply means that we bring honor to him by becoming like him. It's wild and strange, I know, but it is not mysterious, thanks to the Bible. We have a word for the process that God takes us through to accomplish this goal. It is sanctification. I invite you to join us as we participate in this process this Lord's Day!

Songs
Blessing and Honor (#10)
O Father, Thou Whose Love (#29)
Our Great Savior (#434)
Psalm 130
Psalm 119d
Be Thou My Vision (#462)

Scripture Reading
1 Peter 2-3

Sermon
Blessed Be God for Blessing Us in Christ with Sanctification - Romans 6:1-14

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Surprise by a Lack of Love

An exhortation from Ryle about loving Christ:

"'Man,' said a thoughtless, ungodly English traveller, to a North American Indian convert, 'Man, what is the reason that you make so much of Christ, and talk so much about Him? What has this Christ done for you, that you should make so much ado about Him?'

The converted Indian did not answer him in words. He gathered together some dry leaves and moss and made a ring with them on the ground. He picked up a live worm and put it in the middle of the ring. He struck a light and set the moss and leaves on fire. The flame soon rose, and the heat scorched the worm. It writhed in agony, and after trying in vain to escape on every side, curled itself up in the middle, as if about to die in despair. At that moment the Indian reached forth his hand, took up the worm gently and placed it on his bosom. 'Stranger,' he said to the Englishman, 'do you see that worm? I was that perishing creature. I was dying in my sins, hopeless, helpless and on the brink of eternal fire. It was Jesus Christ who put forth the arm of his power. It was Jesus Christ who delivered me with the hand of his grace, and plucked me from everlasting burnings. It was Jesus Christ who placed me, a poor sinful worm, near the heart of his love. Stranger, that is the reason why I talk of Jesus Christ, and make much of him. I am not ashamed of it, because I love him.'

If we know anything of love to Christ, may we have the mind of this North American Indian! May we never think that we can love Christ too well, live to Him too thoroughly, confess Him too boldly, lay ourselves out for Him too heartily! Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this I believe will surprise us most, that we did not love Christ more before we died.

The Schleitheim Confession (Part 2)

The articles which we discussed and on which we were of one mind are these 1. Baptism; 2. The Ban [excommunication]; 3. Breaking of Bread; 4. Separation from the Abomination; 5. Pastors in the Church; 6. The Sword; and 7. The Oath….

Fourth. We are agreed [as follows] on separation: A separation shall be made from the evil and from the wickedness which the devil planted in the world; in this manner, simply that we shall not have fellowship with them and not run with them in the multitude of their abominations. This is the way it is: Since all who do not walk in the obedience of faith, and have not united themselves with God so that they wish to do His will, are a great abomination before God, it is not possible for anything to grow or issue from them except abominable things. For truly all creatures are in but two classes, good and bad, believing and unbelieving, darkness and light, the world and those who [have come] out of the world, God’s temple and idols, Christ and Belial; and none can have part with the other….

From this we should learn that everything which is not united with our God and Christ cannot be other than an abomination which we should shun and flee from. By this is meant all popish and anti-popish works and church services, meetings and church attendance, drinking houses, civic affairs, the commitments [made in] unbelief and other things of that kind, which are highly regarded by the world and yet are carried on in flat contradiction to the command of God, in accordance with all the unrighteousness which is in the world. From all these things we shall be separated and have no part with them for they are nothing but an abomination, and they are the cause of our being hated before our Christ Jesus, Who has set us free from the slavery of the flesh and fitted us for the service of God through the Spirit Whom He has given us.

Therefore there will also unquestionably fall from us the unchristian, devilish weapons of force—such as sword, armor, and the like, and all their use [either] for friends or against one’s enemies—by virtue of the word of Christ, Resist not [him that is] evil.

Let me just add a brief comment on this section of the confession. The Anabaptists' zeal for purity was admirable, and their willingness to stand by these beliefs under persecution compels respect. Nevertheless, the statement above represents a classic example of the error of taking part of the truth and making it into the whole truth. This distorts the truth and results in untruth.