Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Why We Love to Serve Our Savior

Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) on Christ's rule of love and our love to him in return...

The main scope of all is to allure us to the entertainment of Christ's mild, safe, wise, victorious government, and to leave men naked of all pretences, why they will not have Christ to rule over them, when we see salvation not only strongly wrought, but sweetly dispensed by him. His government is not for his own pleasure, but for our good. We are saved by a way of love, that love might be kindled by this way in us to God again; because this affection melteth the soul, and mouldeth it to all duty and acceptable manner of performance of duty. It is love in duties that God regards more than duties themselves. This is the true and evangelical disposition arising from Christ's love to us, and our love to him again; and not to fear to come to him, as if we were to take an elephant by the tooth.

"To the Christian Reader" in The Bruised Reed

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Falling Asleep with the Breast in Their Mouth

“The world shews its golden apple, it is a part of our vow in baptism to fight under Christ’s banner against the world. Take heed of being drowned in the luscious delights of it. It must be a strong brain that bears heady wine. He had need have a great deal of wisdom and grace, that knows how to bear a great estate. Riches oft send up their intoxicating fumes, which makes men’s heads giddy with pride….It is hard to climb up the hill of God with too many golden weights. Those that want the honours of the world, want the temptations of it. The world is a blandus Daemon, a flattering enemy. It is given to some as Michal to David, for a snare. The world shews its two breasts of pleasure and profit, and many fall asleep with the breast in their mouth. The world doth never kiss us, but with an intent to betray us. It is a silken halter. The world is no friend to grace; it chokes our love to heavenly things: the earth puts out the fire.”

Thomas Watson, The Christian Soldier, or Heaven Taken by Storm

Few have ever excelled the Puritans for snapping us awake out of spiritual lethargy. This passage from Watson was a gracious gift to me today.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs  

Good Works and Salvation

Put these two statements together in your heart and mind.

Paul teaches that believers are justified by faith alone and that works do not contribute to or form the basis for their justification.

Good works in Paul are necessary for salvation.

Both of these statements are precisely correct, and when you have a grasp of how they fit together properly, you will be well able to rightly enjoy and proclaim the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ!

(Both of these statements are quotes from Thomas R. Schreiner, 40 Questions about Christians and Biblical Law, 143.)

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hark! The Gospel News Is Sounding

Join us for a joy-filled Lord's Day as we rejoice in the spread of the gospel around the globe. Missionary Jeremy Pittsley and family, on their way to Kenya after serving for a year in Zambia, will be with us.

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise (#23)
And Can It Be? (#335)
Hark! The Gospel News Is Sounding (#293)
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice (#291)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 25:23-40; Psalm 119:97-112
New Testament: Galatians 4:1-20

Jeremy Pittsley

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thick Meaning

In his chapter entitled "The Lord's Last Supper in the Fourfold Witness of the Gospels" from The Lord's Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ until He Comes, Jonathan Pennington says that the Lord's Supper has many interconnected meanings and applications which he describes as "nodes of meaning within the thick, broad structure of ideas that the meaning is." He identifies five thematic nodes.

  1. The Lord's Supper is an enacted parable of Jesus' impending sacrificial death.
  2. The Lord's Supper shows the fulfillment of the Passover and the New Exodus.
  3. The Lord's Supper pictures the inauguration of the New Covenant in Christ.
  4. The Lord's Supper serves to form and re-form the community and identity of Jesus' disciples.
  5. The Lord's Supper is an appetizer of the eschatological banquet.
He concludes, "The banquet of the Lord's Last Supper as presented by the Evangelists is as rich and deeply aged as the finest wine that could be imagined."

John Wesley's Directions for Singing

John Wesley included some instructions on how to sing in the preface to Sacred Melody (1761). I came across them today in a more recent Methodist hymnal. While some of these instructions are slightly humorous, they are a gracious challenge to sing to the Lord with all of our heart.

I. Learn these tunes before you learn any others; afterwards learn as many as you please.

II. Sing them exactly as they are printed here, without altering or mending them at all; and if you have learned to sing them otherwise, unlearn it as soon as you can.

III. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

IV. Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

V. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

VI. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

VII. Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Calling into Question Our Teen Bibles

J. Todd Billings explains why modern efforts at contextualization end up conforming the church to the world.

The notion of contextualization is one that rightly recognizes there is no culture-free version of the Christian faith. All biblical interpretation and all theology emerge from a particular historical-cultural context. What is commonly inferred from this observation, however, is that theological method should be a matter of synthesizing two different spheres: biblical revelation, or "the gospel," should be combined with "culture." Thus the "gospel" is made "relevant" to the intended audience, whether that audience is the emerging generation of Western youth or a non-Western Christian who needs to encounter Christianity in something other than Western guise. Trends in evangelical publishing reflect this tendency: bright pink Bibles for preteen girls, with notes about beauty and relationships, and macho-looking Bibles for boys, with notes on sports, achievement, and health. The Bible is assumed to be something other than relevant until it speaks o the felt needs of the audience - needs that the audience has because of their sociocultural identity, rather than their identity in Christ per se.

These trends reflect a theology of accommodation that focuses heavily on making the gospel "relevant" to today's culture. But they often miss the point that accommodation is not so much a human act as a divine act...the Spirit making God's word understandable in various cultural contexts. First and foremost, according to Calvin and Bavinck, the agent of accommodation is the Spirit, not us....Rather than analyze the needs of teenage boys and make their needs the central focus of a study Bible, an attempt should be made to be humbly responsive to God's own condescension in scripture, an accommodation for which Jesus Christ (rather than our own needs) forms the substance and starting point. How do the analogies given by God in scripture disrupt and call into question our own cultural portrait of God? How should the fact that God has accommodated himself to us in Jesus Christ reorient our self-perceived needs and desires? These are the sorts of questions that should preoccupy those proclaiming the gospel today. For if we are to have genuine communion with God, we must meet God in the way that God accommodates himself to us in scripture and most fully in Jesus Christ rather than seeking to climb the ladder of self-devised analogies toward the mysterious God....

Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church, 91-3 (emphasis added)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Recommendation

Over at the Religious Affections website, there is a book recommendation written by yours truly for On the Incarnation by Athanasius. You really ought to read it (the book, not the book recommendation).

And while I'm at it, let me direct your attention again to the series on making disciples of our children by David de Bruyn. You really ought to read it!

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

What Is Truth?

In a world like ours, it is easy to get cynical. In the realm of international affairs, lying is the way business gets done. In the realm of domestic shopping, corporations treat you as a pile of consuming flesh in order to extract as much money out of you as they can. In the realm of religion, whatever works for you is fine. If this is the way life is, then does truth even exist? What is truth, anyway?

Pilate's cynical question to Jesus gives us an opportunity to explore the Truth this Lord's Day. The Truth is real, and you can know him. Please join us.

Give to Our God Immortal Praise (#53)
Joy to the World (#92)
Jesus, Lover of My Soul (#489)
How Good Is the God We Adore (#738)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 25:1-22; Psalm 119:81-96
New Testament: Galatians 3:10-29

What Is Truth? - John 18:38

Friday, February 10, 2012

Family or Clique?

The unity our church pursues is the exact opposite of the big society unity which has no spiritual coherence. If we think that our freedom to attend the church of our choice is the only good or even the greatest good, then we have turned the church into a man-made clique instead of the family of God.

Consider this explanation from G. K. Chesterton.

It is not fashionable to say much nowadays of the advantages of the small community. We are told that we must go in for large empires and large ideas. There is one advantage, however, in the small state, the city, or the village, which only the wilfully blind can overlook. The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan. But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell. A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises. It is, in the most literal sense of the words, a society for the prevention of Christian knowledge.

Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith) (2011-03-30). Heretics (pp. 77-78). Kindle Edition.

Are You the King of the Jews?

Throughout the Gospel of John, we have seen many people come face to face with Jesus. Whether they want to or not, they have to deal with who he is - the Word made flesh. In a climactic way, this is true of Pilate.When Jesus came before Pilate, Pilate's easy dismissal quickly turned into dread as he interrogated the One whose kingdom was not from here. Join us this Lord's day to worship Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords who humbly submits to death for his people!

O Worship the King (#46)
Psalm 2
Jesus Shall Reign (#51)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 24; Psalm 119:65-80
New Testament: Galatians 3:1-14

Behold Your King - John 18:28-19:16

P.S. The version of Psalm 2 that we will be singing is probably unfamiliar to many of you, so please take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with it here.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Can a Church Member Resign Membership?

Over at the 9Marks Blog, there have been two important articles dealing with church authority and church membership. I  draw your attention to it here because it dovetails with discussions we have had at our church.

The first article is "Pastors, Don't Let Your People Resign into Thin Air" by Bobby Jamieson. Here's a money quote:

Hebrews 10:24-25 commands us not to forsake assembling together. Therefore, any professing Christian who quits going to church is living in habitual, unrepentant sin. And the way a church addresses unrepentant sin is not by merrily sending that person on his way, but by removing their affirmation of “member” and “brother” (Matt. 18:15-17; 1 Cor. 5:1-13). When the player quits showing up on game day, the team has to take back his jersey.

 This article provoked a strong reaction, so Jonathan Leeman provided a follow-up post to address the following questions.

1. What authority does a local church have?
2. What is church membership?
3. Isn't the church a voluntary society?
4. Can a church say "no" to a resignation?
5. Can a church abuse its authority?

I recommend these articles to you if you are thinking through these issues.

High Country Baptist Church of Colorado Springs

Friday, February 03, 2012

Jesus Alone

A lot of attention has been paid to Peter by Christians, and it is easy to see why. Both heroic and tragic, Peter seems to embody the best and the worst of Jesus' faithful Eleven. He is an irresistible figure. We readily identify with him.

However, when the apostle John tells us the story of Jesus' trial and Peter's denial, the spotlight is not on Peter. It is on Jesus. In fact, John tells the story of Peter's denial in such a way as to blazingly reveal that Jesus alone fulfilled the Father's will and accomplished redemption. This takes us right to the heart of the story of redemption. Join us this Lord's Day to look to Jesus alone.

"These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (#137)
The Savior of the World (#127)
Hallelujah! What a Savior (#128)
Not All the Blood of Beasts (#136)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Exodus 23:20-33; Psalm 119:49-64
New Testament: Galatians 2

Jesus Alone - John 18:12-27

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Christian Hearts in Love United

Last night we learned a hymn by the Moravian leader Nicolaus von Zinzendorf - a sincere expression of our union with one another in Christ. This is a good hymn to sing and to pray about our church. Here is one version of it from hymnary.org.

Christian hearts, in love united:
Seek alone in Jesus rest;
Has He not your love excited?
Then let love inspire each breast;
Members--on our Head depending,
Lights--reflecting Him, our Sun,
Brethren--His commands attending,
We in Him, our Lord, are one.

Come, then, come, O flock of Jesus,
Covenant with Him anew;
Unto Him Who conquered for us,
Pledge we love and service true.
And should our love's union holy
Firmly linked no more remain,
Wait ye at His footstool lowly,
Till He draw it close again.

O what boundless love did Jesus
To His enemies display;
May His holy pattern teach us,
How love ought to bear the sway.
O that we, His steps to follow,
'Midst affliction, scorn, and spite,
And His sacred Name to hallow,
Did each other more excite;

Then the souls He joined together
Will, according to His prayer,
Be accepted of His Father,
And His kind protection share:
As Thou art with Him united,
Lord, may we be one in Thee,
And, by genuine love excited,
Serve each other willingly.

Grant, Lord, that with Thy direction,
"Love each other" we comply,
Aiming with unfeigned affection,
Thy love to exemplify.
Let our mutual love be glowing;
Thus with all men plainly see,
That we, as on one stem growing,
Living branches are in Thee.

O that such may be our union,
As Thine with the Father is,
And not one of our communion
E'er forsake the path of bliss:
May our light'fore men with brightness,
From Thy light reflected, shine;
Thus the world will bear us witness,
That we, Lord, are truly Thine.

Offices of Worship and Hymns: with tunes, 3rd. ed., revised and enlarged, 1896