Friday, August 30, 2013

Life for Your Soul

We live in what has often been called a "culture of death" and it does seem that we are hell-bent on proving that description true. But Christians are here in this world to show forth a culture of life, and we will seek that life together this Lord's Day. Join us!

Songs
God Himself Is Present
O Thou in Whose Presence (451)
How Lovely, Lord of Hosts to Me (Psalm 84)
There Is a Happy Land (722)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 3:27-51; Psalm 134
New Testament: Luke 19:1-27

Sermon
Worship, Wisdom, and Work series: Inheriting Grace and Glory - Proverbs 3:21-35

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sanctification in Christ Is Glorification Begun

Do you want to grow in grace?

Walter Marshall (1628-1680) gives sound counsel in The Gospel-Mystery of Sanctification.

I have summarized the main points below.



Direction One
That we may acceptably perform the duties of holiness and righteousness required in the law, our first work is, to learn the powerful and effectual means whereby we may attain to so great an end.
The scope of all is, to teach you how you may attain to that practice and manner of life which we call holiness, righteousness, or godliness, obedience, true religion….The holiness which I would bring to you is spiritual, Rom vii.14. It consists not only in external works of piety and charity, but in the holy thoughts, imaginations, and affections of the soul, and chiefly in love; from whence all other good works must flow, or else they are not acceptable to God….
The second thing contained in this introductory direction, is the necessity of learning the powerful and effectual means, whereby this great and excellent end may be accomplished….This is a very needful premonition: because many are apt to skip over the lesson concerning the means…as superfluous and useless. When once they know the nature and excellency of the duties of the law, they account nothing wanting but diligent performance; and they rush blindly upon immediate practice, making more haste than good speed.

Direction Two
Several endowments and qualifications are necessary to enable us for the immediate practice of the law. Particularly we must have an inclination and propensity of our hearts thereunto; and therefore we must be well persuaded of our reconciliation with God, and of our future enjoyment of the everlasting heavenly happenings, and of sufficient strength both to will and perform all duties acceptably, until we come to the enjoyment of that happiness.

Direction Three
 The way to get holy endowments and qualifications necessary to frame and enable us for the immediate practice of the law, is to receive them out of the fullness of Christ, by fellowship with Him; and that we may have this fellowship, we must be in Christ, and have Christ Himself in us, by a mystical union with Him.

Direction Four
The means or instruments by which the Spirit of God accomplishes our union with Christ, and our fellowship with Him in all holiness, are the gospel, by which Christ enters into our hearts to work faith in us, and faith, by which we actually receive Christ Himself, with all His fullness, into our hearts. And this faith is a grace of the Spirit, by which we heartily believe the gospel and also believe on Christ as He is revealed and freely promised to us in this, for all His salvation.

Direction Five
We cannot attain to the practice of true holiness by any of our endeavours while we continue in our natural state and are not partakers of a new state by union and fellowship with Christ through faith.

Direction Six
Those that endeavour to perform sincere obedience to all the commands of Christ, as the condition by which they are to procure for themselves a right and title to salvation, and a good ground to trust on Him for the same, do seek their salvation by the works of the law, and not by the faith of Christ, as He is revealed in the gospel and they shall never be able to perform sincere and true holy obedience by all such endeavours.

Direction Seven
We are not to imagine that our hearts and lives must be changed from sin to holiness in any measure, before we may safely venture to trust on Christ for the sure enjoyment of Himself and His salvation.

Direction Eight
Be sure to seek for holiness of heart and life only in its due order, where God has placed it, after union with Christ, justification and the gift of the Holy Ghost and, in that order, seek it earnestly by faith as a very necessary part of your salvation.

Direction Nine
We must first receive the comforts of the gospel, that we may be able to sincerely perform the duties of the law.

Direction Ten
That we may be prepared by the comforts of the Gospel to perform sincerely the duties of the law, we must get some assurance of our salvation, in that very faith whereby Christ Himself is received into our hearts: therefore we must endeavor to believe on Christ confidently, persuading and assuring ourselves, in the act of believing, that God freely gives to us an interest in Christ and His salvation, according to His gracious promise.
Observe diligently, that the assurance referred to is not a persuasion that we have already received Christ and His salvation, or that we have been already brought into a state of grace; but only, that God is pleased to graciously give Christ and his salvation to us, and to bring us into a state of grace, though we have been altogether in a state of sin and death until this present time….
The assurance referred to is not a persuasion of our salvation, whatever we do, or however we live and walk; but only in a limited way, through mere free grace in Christ, by partaking of holiness as well as forgiveness, and by walking in the way of holiness to the enjoyment of the glory of God. We shall not heartily desire or endeavor to assure ourselves of such a salvation as this is, if we be not brought first to see our own sinfulness and misery, and to despair of our own righteousness and strength, and to hunger and thirst for the sanctifying as well as justifying grace of God in Christ; that so we may walk in the ways of holiness to the enjoyment of heavenly glory.
Beware of thinking so highly of this assurance as if it were inconsistent with any doubting in the same soul.
…The reason why we are to assure ourselves in our faith, that God freely gives Christ and salvation to us particularly, is not, because it is a truth before we believe it, but because it becomes a certain truth when we believe it, and because it will never be true, except we do….

Direction Eleven
Endeavor diligently to perform the great work of believing on Christ in a right manner, without any delay, and then also to continue and increase in your most holy faith; that so your enjoyment of Christ, union and fellowship with Him, and all holiness by Him, may be begun, continued and increased in you.

Direction Twelve
Make diligent use of your most holy faith, for the immediate performance of the duties of the law, by walking no longer according to your own natural state, or any principles or means of practice that belong unto it, but only according to that new state which you receive by faith, and the principles and means of practice that properly belong thereunto; and strive to continue and increase in such manner of practice. This is the only way to attain to an acceptable performance of those holy and righteous duties, as far as it is possible in this present life.

Direction Thirteen
Endeavor diligently to make the right use of any means appointed in the word of God, for the obtaining and practicing holiness, only in this way of believing in Christ, and walking in Him, according to your new state by faith.

Direction Fourteen
That you may seek holiness and righteousness, only by believing in Christ and walking in Him by faith, according to the former directions, take encouragement from the great advantages of this way, and the excellent properties of it.

Sanctification in Christ is glorification begun, as glorification is sanctification perfected.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Seek the Lord

Looking forward to another great opportunity to seek the Lord together tomorrow.

Songs
Salvation! O My Soul Rejoice! (291)
Amazing Grace (247)
O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus (249)
Hark! the Gospel News Is Sounding (293)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 3:1-26; Psalm 133
New Testament: Luke 18:31-43

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Seeing the Source

We are going to see a certain vision, therefore, brothers, which neither the eye has seen nor the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man (1 Cor 2:9)--a certain surpassing vision that excels all earthly beauties of gold, and silver, of glades and fields, the beauty of sea and sky, the beauty of sun and moon, the beauty of the stars, the beauty the angels, all things, because it is from this that all things are beautiful.

Augustine, Fourth Homily on the First Epistle of John

Holy Desire

The entire life of a good Christian is a holy desire.

Augustine, Fourth Homily on the First Epistle of John

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting Ready to Go

I have the privilege of speaking at a couples' retreat at Three Seven's Ranch this Friday and Saturday. I'm truly looking forward to the fellowship and the time in God's Word. Before I take off, let me share with you the info you need for our Lord's Day worship.

Songs
Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing (243)
Jesus, in His Heavenly Glory (170)
Arise, My Soul, Arise (174)
Thine Be the Glory (162)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 2:1-34; Psalm 132
New Testament: Luke 18:18-30

Sermon
Richard Barber will bring the Word to us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Intended to Know Him

For of what use is existence to the creature if it cannot know its Maker? How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? They would be no better than the beasts, had they no knowledge save of earthly things; and why should God have made them at all, if He had not intended them to know Him?

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, section 11

Hypostatic Union and Theotokos

Nestorius thought it improper to speak of Mary as the mother of God. He had some valid concerns, but his response created other problems, namely, dividing the person of Christ. Cyril of Alexandria was quick to spot these problems, and here is his response to Nestorius' arguments.

...we say that the unique Word of God himself, who was begotten of the very substance of the Father, whois true God of true God, the Light of Light, through whom all things came into being, both things in heaven and things in earth, coming down for the sake of our salvation, and humbling himself even to emptying, was made flesh and became man. That is, taking flesh of the the holy Virgin, and making it his own from the womb, he underwent a birth like ours, and came forth a man of woman, not throwing off what he was, but even though he became [man]by the assumption of flesh and blood, yet still remaining what he was, that is, God indeed in nature and truth.

We do not say that the flesh was changed into the nature of Godhead, nor that the ineffable nature of the Word of God was transformed into the nature of flesh, for he is unchangeable and unalterable, always remaining the same according to the Scriptures. But when seen as a babe and wrapped in swaddling clothes, even when still in the bosom of the Virgin who bore him, he filled all creation as God, and was enthroned with him who begot him. For the divine cannot be numbered or measured, and so does not admit of circumspection.

So confessing the Word united hypostatically to flesh, we worship one Son and Lord Jesus Christ, neither putting apart and dividing man and God, as joined with each other by a union of dignity and authority--for this would be an empty phrase and no more--nor speaking of the Word of God separately as Christ, and then separately of him who was of a woman as another Christ, but knowing only one Christ, the Word of God the Father with his own flesh....Neither do we say that the Word of God tabernacled in him who was begotten of the holy Virgin as in an ordinary man--lest Christ should be thought of as a God-bearing man....

We do not divide the terms used in the Gospels of the Saviour as God or man between two hypostases, or persons, for the one and only Christ is not twofold....All the terms used in the Gospels are to be referred to one Person, the one incarnate hypostasis of the Word. There is one Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Scriptures....

Since the holy Virgin gave birth after the flesh to God who was united by hypostasis with flesh, therefore we say that she is theotokos....

("The Third Letter of Cyril to Nestorius," translated by Edward R. Hardy in Christology of the Later Fathers)

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Ad Fontes Re: Theotokos

We've been learning (here and here) about who Christ is, in particular, in light of the Chalcedonian use of theotokos, "God-bearer," about Mary. Now it is time to go back to the sources.

Why did Nestorius oppose the term theotokos? He explains in a letter to Celestine of Rome.

We have found no slight corruption of orthodoxy among some of those here, which we have treated with both sternness and gentleness. It is no small error, but similar to the corruption of Apollinaris and Arius,blending together the Lord's appearance as man int o a kind of confused combination--so much so that certain of our clergy...err like heretics, and openly blaspheme God the Word consubstantial with the Father, as if he took his beginning from the Christ-bearing Virgin, and grew up with his temple and was buried with [it]in the flesh; they even say that his flesh after the resurrection did not remain flesh, but was changed into the nature of Godhead. To speak briefly, they refer to the Godhead of the Only-begotten to the same origin as the flesh joined [with it], and kill it with the flesh, and blasphemously say that the flesh joined with the Godhead was turned into deity by the deifying Word, which is nothing more nor less than to corrupt both. They even dare to treat of the Christ-bearing Virgin in a way as along with God, for they do not scruple to call her theotokos, when the holy and beyond-all-praise Fathers at Nicaea said no more of the holy Virgin than that our Lord Jesus Christ was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary--not to mention the Scriptures, which everywhere, both by angels and apostles, speak of the Virgin as mother of Christ, not of God the Word....

Many of those who had gone astray have by the grace of the Lord repented, learning from us that what is born is properly consubstantial with the parent, and that it was to the creature of the Lord's humanity, joined with God, of the Virgin by the Spirit, that what was seen among men was committed. If anyone wants to use this word theotokos with reference to the humanity which was born, joined to God the Word, and not with reference to the parent, we say that this word is not appropriate for her who gave birth, since a true mother should be of the same essence as what is born of her. But the term could be accepted in consideration of this, that the word is used of the Virgin only because of the inseparable temple of God the Word which was of her, not because she is the mother of God the Word--for none gives birth to one older than herself. (Translated by Edward R. Hardy in Christology of the Later Fathers)

You can plainly see that Nestorius' concern was to uphold and defend the orthodox doctrine of Christ. He fought against a real error, namely, deifying the flesh of Jesus. But in doing so he misconstrued the union of Christ's divine and human natures. According to Nestorius' reasoning, it was only Christ's humanity which was born of Mary, although this humanity was indeed "joined with" Christ's deity. By doing so, he created a fissure in Christ's person. In my next post on this topic, I'll put up Cyril of Alexandria's response to Nestorius.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Why?

I hope you have never lost the child-like wonder of that question because it is going to come in handy this Lord's Day. See you then!

Songs
All Creatures of Our God and King (#59)
I Sing the Mighty Power of God (#19)
This Is My Father's World (#61)
Psalm 1

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 1:28-54; Psalm 131
New Testament: Luke 18:1-17

Sermon
Worship, Wisdom, and Work series: The Blessing of Wisdom - Proverbs 3:13-20

God Gives Himself

Grace

is one of those truths that is a bit like silver--easily tarnished and covered with grime. When Christians talk of God giving us "grace," for example, we can quickly imagine that "grace" is some kind of spiritual pocket money he doles out. Even the old explanation that "grace" is "God's Riches At Christ's Expense" can make it sound like stuff that God gives you. But the word grace is really just a shorthand way of speaking about the personal and loving kindness out of which, ultimately, God gives himself.

Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Is Science or Scripture Top Dog?

Galileo thought it was science, according to E. A. Burtt (The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Science), who described Galileo's view in this way:

"God knows infinitely more propositions than we, but yet in the case of those that we understand so thoroughly as to perceive the necessity of them, i.e., the demonstrations of pure mathematics, our understanding equals the divine in objective certainty."

Burtt went on to say,

"It was this religious basis of his philosophy that made Galileo bold to declare that doubtful passages of scripture should be interpreted in the light of scientific discovery rather than the reverse. God has made the world an immutable mathematical system, permitting by the mathematical method an absolute certainty of scientific knowledge. The disagreements of theologians about the meaning of scripture are ample testimony to the fact that here no such certainty is possible. Is it not obvious then which should determine the true meaning of the other?"

He quotes from Galileo's Letter to the Grand Duchess (1615):

"Methinks that in the discussion of natural problems, we ought not to begin at the authority of places of scripture, but at sensible experiments and necessary demonstrations. For, from the Divine Word, the sacred scripture and nature did both alike proceed....Nature, being inexorable and immutable, and never passing the bounds of the laws assigned her,...I conceive that, concerning natural effects, that which either sensible experience sets before our eyes, or necessary demonstrations do prove unto us, ought not, upon any account, to be called into question, much less condemned upon the testimony of texts of scripture, which may, under their words, couch senses seemingly contrary thereto....Nor does God less admirably discover himself to us in Nature's actions, than in the Scripture's sacred dictions."

The question at all times and places is "Who is our final authority?" Galileo, as many before him and many after him have done, turned in the wrong direction.

Friday, August 02, 2013

In All Your Ways Know Him

Just about three weeks ago, a teen from our neighborhood was shot with a .45...right in the hinder parts. The bullet entered one side of his body, traveled completely through to the other side, and then curved around his hip and came to rest in the front of his thigh. Amazingly, the bullet only damaged muscle and fatty tissue. No bones and no vital organs were touched, although the doctor solemnly warned him that he came within one centimeter of having a colostomy.

But the real tale to be told is how this dangerous event came to pass. Contrary to his mother's instructions, this young man sneaked out of his house in order to go to a party. A police officer stopped him and his friends as they were walking to the party, warning them that it was close to curfew. They lied to him, told him that they were on their way home, and promptly proceeded directly to the party. While there, with the liquor flowing freely, a gang of teens arrived outside the party house. Immediately an argument ensued, and some of the teens from the party ran inside talking about getting the guns. This scared the young man, and he tried to flee the scene with a friend. But as he left the house, the gang outside thought he was one of the group they were fighting with, and they opened fire. He escaped with his life - barely.

Proverbs 3:7-8 says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your navel and drink to your bones."  Thinking he knew more than both his mother and the policeman nearly cost this young man his life.

But the point of the text we will consider this Lord's Day is bigger than, "Listen to your parents," although that is certainly part of it. It is ultimately pointing to a relationship with the Lord. What is the way to life, to real life and true joy?

Join us this Lord's Day as we resume our consideration of Proverbs 3:1-12 and see the blessings that flow from trusting, fearing, and honoring the Lord.

Songs
O Worship the King (#46)
Call Jehovah Thy Salvation (#499)
Be Still My Soul (#500)
Take My Life, and Let It Be (#560)

Scripture Reading
Old Testament: Numbers 1:1-27; Psalm 130
New Testament: Luke 17:20-37

Sermon
Worship, Wisdom, and Work Series: In All Your Ways Know Him - Proverbs 3:5-10

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Gain

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Philippians 1:21

So grateful for the grace of Christ shining through the lives and testimonies of the folks from Colonial Hills Baptist Church.

You will be drawn to Christ if you take time to watch this video:

"Church talks about bus crash."

More on Theotokos

Following up on the information I posted here, the lecture below by Fred Sanders on "The One Person of Christ" is really good at explaining the significance of the term theotokos, "bearer of God."

Enjoy!