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Archive for January, 2009

RFA021The following is a reprint from the January edition of Tabletalk Magazine published by Ligonier Ministries.

In making disciples, Jesus commanded they be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and to teach them to observe all that He commanded. The second aspect of this commission (we dealt with the first last month), teaching disciples to obey Jesus, is first and foremost the duty of pastors and teachers — to teach the people the Scriptures and secondly to exhort them to faithfully commit the Word to heart. To put it in simple terms, the people look to their pastor for instruction; they see him as the key person in the church.

It is a fact of life that people come to the worship service usually for only one hour, half of which is taken up by singing and praying. This implies that the second half is for biblical instruction for a period that lasts more or less for thirty minutes. As a result, unless there is diligent Scripture reading at home, a knowledge of the Bible’s content leaves much to be desired. The well-known statistician George Barna conducted a survey of Bible knowledge among American church- goers and came to this conclusion.

It is also quite striking that the aspect of church life that receives the greatest amounts of time, attention, and energy — that of teaching people the content of the Bible — is one of the two areas in which people feel least equipped. The recent trend toward the adoption of technology to help in the teaching of important biblical truths is a welcome addition to the toolbox of our preachers and religious educators. Yet the research still suggests that most people do not feel as if they are learning enough about God, the Christian faith, or their role in the world — and most of them don’t seem to care.

There is more. Last year the successful preacher Bill Hybels, pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church, reported that he had failed the twelve thousand members of his mega-church. He acknowledged that he made a mistake in not producing spiritually mature Christians. He reached people by the thousands, but he did not make them disciples. Hybels is not alone. Upon self-examination, pastors agree with him. The goal of every pastor is to equip church members to go into the workaday week with the knowledge of God’s Word and apply it to every facet of life. That is, the one who buys and sells must realize that God’s all-seeing eye always observes every transaction. To put it differently, all of us are always in the presence of God, a concept encapsulated in the Latin coram Deo.

On October 10, 1898, the Dutch theologian and statesman Dr. Abraham Kuyper delivered his Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary. In them he set out a Christian worldview by stating that there is not so much as the space of a square inch of which Christ has not said, “It is mine.” Therefore, anyone who fills a respectable occupation in life must always be subservient to Jesus in that occupation. Because in Him, so Paul writes, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). This means that all life’s facts and figures are the property of Christ.

A distinction must be made between the concept that the church is an organization or an organism. In most organizations individual members are asked to pay annual dues, but when a member at some time fails to contribute the money, his membership is dropped as a matter of fact. This illustrates that an organization is not a living entity, as there is a businesslike approach to membership. By contrast, to say that the church is an organism, we immediately sense that an organism is alive. An organism throbs with life and constantly grows and expands. It takes an all-encompassing approach to life: the rearing of children in a Christian home; the relationship of husband and wife in an atmosphere of love and trust; the guiding and directing of teenagers to live a life that honors God; reaching out to those who are in need and supplying their wants; visiting the sick and the elderly; praying fervently for the coming of God’s kingdom.

In other words, the church is not merely a place where people gather on Sunday morning for an hour or two. It is not merely listening to the pastor’s sermon, which often is forgotten within twenty-four hours. It is taking the Word of God seriously into all the components of everyday life and applying Scripture’s teachings to business and labor, to the relation of medical doctors and patients, to lawyers and their clients, to teachers and students, to the duties of government officials and ordinary citizens, to presidents, prime ministers, and legislators, and to every one of us in respect to those who have been given authority over us.

How then shall we live and look to the future? By trusting the Lord our God and by obeying His precepts. Living with Him day by day spells a future that is bright with radiant glory, for it is God who is leading us along life’s pathway. With the psalmist we say, “Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3).

Dr. Simon J. Kistemaker is professor emeritus of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, and is author of The Parables. This article is part one of a two-part series on the mission of the church.

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New Blog Link

thideologyI’ve added the blog Thideology to our blog list. Chip is an old friend from college who has a lot of insight on relevant issues. What I like most are his reviews of the Nooma Videos by Rod Bell. This is an update on his reviews. You can find his review of “Breathe” here, “Open” here, and “You” here. I would encourage you to pass these along to anyone who is watching the series without discernment.

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spurgeon I found the following excerpt at Team Pyro. It is from “The First Sermon in the Tabernacle,” a sermon delivered on Monday afternoon, March 25th, 1861, at the dedication of the then-new Metropolitan Tabernacle in London. C.H. Spurgeon took the occasion to lament the growing tendency of secular courts and governments to meddle in church affairs, such as cases of church discipline, heresy trials, and other matters over which the state has no valid jurisdiction. In this passage, Spurgeon puts his finger on what he saw as the gravest danger posed by the established church. I thought it might be fitting on this Inauguration Eve.

I fear there are times coming when the minister will not be true to his duty unless he goes further, and preaches Christ as the sole King of the Church.

There has been a disposition on the part of the state, especially with regard to the Free Church of Scotland, to exercise power and judgment over church decrees. No king, no queen that ever lived, or can live, has any authority whatever over the church of Christ. The church has none to govern and rule over her but her Lord and her King.

The church can suffer, but she cannot yield; you may break her confessors alive upon the wheel, but she, in her uprightness, will neither bend nor bow. From the sentence of our church there is no appeal whatever on earth. To the court of heaven a man may appeal if the sentence of the church be wrong, but to Caesar never. Neither the best nor the worst of kings or queens may ever dare to put their finger upon the prerogative of Christ as the head of the church.

Up, church of God! If once there be any laws of man passed to govern thee, up, dash them in pieces! Let us each catch up the war cry, and uplift the lion standard of the tribe of Judah; let us challenge the kings of the earth and say, “Who shall rouse him up?” The church is queen above all queens, and Christ her only King. None have jurisdiction or power in the church of Christ save Jesus Christ himself.

If any of our acts violate the civil laws, we are men and citizens, and we acknowledge the right of a state to govern us as individuals. None of us wish to be less subjects of the realm because we are kings and priests unto God. But as members of Christian churches we maintain that the excommunication of a Christian church can never be reversed by the civil power, or by any state act, nor are its censures to be examined, much less to be removed, mitigated, or even judged.

We must have, as Christ’s church, a full recognition of His imperial rights, and the day will come when the state will not only tolerate us as a mere society, but admit that as we profess to be the church of Christ, we have a right by that very fact to be self-governing, and never to be interfered with in any sense whatever, so far as our ecclesiastical affairs are concerned.

Christ must be preached, then, and exalted in all these respects, or else we have not preached a full Christ.

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mpj030939000001Here is an article entitled “A Godly Man is a Lover of the Word” by Thomas Watson. It was taken from “The Godly Man’s Picture”, a Puritan Paperback published by the Banner of Truth. I ran across it at the National Center for Family Integrated Churches website. The following is the conclusion of the article.

Question: How shall we know that we love the reproofs of the Word?

Answer 1: When we desire to sit under a heart-searching ministry. Who cares for medicines that will not work? A godly man does not choose to sit under a ministry that will not work upon his conscience.

Answer 2: When we pray that the Word may meet with our sins. If there is any traitorous lust in our heart, we would have it found out and executed. We do not want sin covered, but cured. We can open our breast to the bullet of the Word and say, “Lord, smite this sin.”

Answer 3: When we are thankful for a reproof: “Let the righteous strike me; It shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; It shall be as excellent oil; Let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.” (Psa. 141:5). David was glad of a reproof. Suppose a man were in the mouth of a lion, and another should shoot the lion and save the man, would he not be thankful? So, when we are in the mouth of sin, as of a lion, and the minister by a reproof shoots this sin to death, shall we not be thankful? A gracious soul rejoices when the sharp lance of the Word has pierced his abscess. He wears a reproof like a jewel on his ear: “Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold is a wise reprover to an obedient ear.” (Prov. 25:12).

To conclude, it is convincing preaching which must do the soul good. A nipping reproof prepares for comfort, as a nipping frost prepares for the sweet flowers of spring.

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895618The following was inspired by the opening segment of the White Horse Inn that aired on December 7, 2008, entitled, “Mega-Churches Respond to the Reveal Study”.

In Christendom today, most of what many churches do is geared toward Sunday. Everything that happens on Monday through Saturday is in preparation for Sunday as if nothing else takes place the rest of the week. In numerous membership classes, thousands of people have been and will be told that they are responsible to find their place of service and “plug in” if they are going to be a member of such-and-such church. And most of those “ministries” are carried out on Sunday. I know because I have led some of those classes. The problem is, you cannot find a biblical precedent for that kind of philosophy. Yes, we are to gather and “consider one another”, we are to spur one another on, we are to teach one another, we are to serve one another, we are to fellowship with one another. But these are all effects of the true reason for our gathering. They aren’t the reason we gather.

Our purpose for gathering this Sunday morning and every Sunday morning is not to serve, but to worship and receive. Let me say that again. We have not gathered so that we might serve one another or be involved in some kind of ministry. We have gathered to worship and receive. We gather every week to corporately honor, adore, ascribe worth to and praise the Lord God Almighty who fills the whole earth with His glory and to hear from Him through His Word. We also gather to worship and receive through the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism (These elements do not occur every week, but they occur often and are a part of the reason for our gathering). We do not come to do – we come to receive.

We gather on the Lord’s Day to call you away from your doing, not to call you to do. We believe you are involved in Godly vocations each and every day as you relate to your spouses, as you parent, as you fulfill your God-given assignment in the marketplace, as you interact with your neighbors, etc. And we believe the Lord’s Day is a day for you to rest and to receive. It is a day to rest from your labors, not multiply them. It is a day that a dear friend of mine once said, is a day to come and soak so that you are able to wring yourself out on others throughout the rest of the week.

Yes, it is a different mentality, especially for a Southern Baptist Church. But it is our mentality. So our call to worship is a call to come and receive. Consider yourself invited.

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