TRUST: Reliability of Apostolic Witness

“The whole of the Christian faith is based on certain historical realities, occurrences and statements that happened sometime in the past.  These events have to do, fundamentally, with the identity of one man, Jesus of Nazareth.  Can we trust the information we have about Him?”

Read entire article:  Matthew and John on the Witness Stand

PEEVISH: In “Reformed” Style

Something I posted over at Andrew Fuller Study Center:

—————

Clark says: “Baptists were not recognized as Reformed. Why not? Because paedobaptism was regarded as essential to the Reformed faith.”

Okay. And why should I care if this notion of “REFORMED” faith is something I fit into as Clark says I should? Brothers, let Clark have his playpen-understanding of “REFORMED”. Let him kick and scream that we are “have-not’s”. Let him have his corner. Let him make more of “REFORMED” than the essence of Christianity…Christ crucified, our only boast.

Of course we are thankful for the Gospel-awakening that took place during Reformational times. We’d be arrogant if we didn’t appreciate and learn from the unveiling of the Gospel in those days. However, shame on us (!) if we fail to keep our focus upon Christ alone, boasting about Him!

Let’s bear with our brother, Clark, who sees us as misfits, stepchildren, stillborns. He will bear (even so now) the consequence of clinging more tightly to a debatable doctrine, than he does us in Christ.

Let’s bear our brother up in prayer before the Father of all believers.

(((PS…Clark’ demeanor reminds me of my own when I’m peeved at those I once stood with, whom I once thought well of, but afterward see them as betraying me in this way or that.)))

DOGMATISM: Flesh-beat-en(-ing)

A thought or two regarding Fundamentalism.

A leading characteristic of Fundamentalism would be Dogmatism.  This is really nothing more than a Letter-driven (as opposed to Spirit-driven (Gospel-based and -contextualized)) approach.  Instead of a ‘faith’ in Christ orientation, the Dogmatist’s way is generally one rooted in ‘fear’ – though lip service is paid to the Gospel.  The latter has a way of *driving* sheep (the believer, the local church) this-way-and-that, whereas the former sees the Gospel ministry as one of *guiding* the sheep in the Way (in faith toward Christ…for all of salvation…sanctification included). 

Here’s what I’m getting at… anything that is said/done in the name of Christ that isn’t consciously and intentionally – rooted and grounded in the Gospel – is something other than a Gospel ministry, no matter how “moral”/”biblical” it sounds.  Ours is not to be “biblical” but “Christian” and I think we can be found standing in the former without possessing the latter necessarily.  We are not then to be found in Moses seat (Mt.23.2).  Subscription to “biblical norms” does not mean one is clinging in faith to Christ for each and every aspect of salvation…including His growing us up grace and knowledge of Him (i.e., sanctification, godliness). 

Paul puts it this way…there are those of us who “have the form (appearance) of godliness, but essentially deny its power” (2Tim.3.5).  For godliness is not ours to strive after as some commodity on the shelf that is just there for our taking, but the very working of God in us a faith and love, that, consistently beholds Christ’s righteousness/godliness (1Tim.1.4), and are thereby sovereignly and progressively brought into the likeness of His Image (2Cor.3.18).  In this way, Paul thought of Christ as our sanctification (1Cor.1.30).  The Gospel itself (the truth about Christ’s incarnation, righteousness, death, resurrection, and ascension…His doing not ours) is the only thing whereby God brings about the peaceable fruits of righteousness among His people (Phil.1.11; Col.1.6).

In other words, the Flesh can strive in form and yet never connect to the Source…Christ crucified and risen (Rom.8.3-15).  How we answer the following betrays our actual stance toward God and our brother:  “Are disciples of Christ made by 1) inputting the right commands, or are they 2) fashioned by beholding (Christ’s glory in the scandal of the Cross) and thereby found living in the Way?”

As I’ve said before…fundamentalism is readily found wherever people are finding their hope to be in their law-keeping and not Christ’s (even where we don’t do this in regards to justification, but more so sanctification). This is true of even we who claim to embrace the doctrines of grace.  A sounder grasp of the relationship of the Law/Gospel (particularly what the two have to do with Christ himself) genuinely and lastingly keeps things in a Christian perspective.

Just two cents worth.

Covenant: A Governing Thought

One more program from Issues, Etc.. 

Go here, to listen to Kim Riddlebarger discuss the differences/similarities between Calvinism and Lutheranism.   Helpful conversation.  Kim expresses pretty well the basic difference as having to do with the biblical notion of “covenant(s)” and how it needs to govern one’s reading of Scripture.   

ELECTION & Declaring Independence

Another informative and refreshing program at the White Horse Inn:    Election & Declaring Independence

The boys’ discussion pertained to :

1)     Election: It is in the Bible…everyone believes it — in some sense 

 

2)     Electing: Who is doing it?  (see Rom.8.28-30 – “called according to his purpose” not according to ‘foreknowledge’)

 

3)     Reprobation: The result of Adam’s work — Now man’s birth right and will

Election: On the basis of Christ’s work — God had to do all that pertains to salvation

 

4)     Modern Western Struggle w/ Sovereignty: In a climate of Independency  — “Hey, wait a minute; I did at least a little something right!”

 

5)     ‘Christ choosing you’ & ‘You choosing Christ’: It’s both, with the latter as the fruit of the former – see Jn.1.12-13; Eph.2.8-10; Phil.2.12-13 — We believe because He has made us willing and able to do so…thru the Gospel.

 

6)     Salvation (from ‘east to west’) is from the Lord — Just as there’s ‘no where’ and ‘no place’ that God is not Creator, so too, there’s no where in the believer’s faith that He’s not the Creator of New Life.

Vote! A Biblical Mandate?

Are we bound by a biblical mandate to vote?  If not, what place does the ecclesiastical sphere have in imposing such as a question of morality?  Personally, I suppose mine is at least an average interest in things political, yet, I have my doubts as to this being of the essence to one’s being a earnest disciple of Jesus Christ, witness to the Gospel itself.

Dan Bryant (a former assistant attorney general to the US Dept. of Justice and a theologically reformed brother) reasoned that, for the church to keep from “losing its way” and to be “relevant,” it needs “to precisely have a gaze beyond here and now.  There’s a kind of appropriate inattentiveness to the here and now because the church needs to be caught up with these unchanging great eternal questions and issues.  There is a God.  He is not silent.  He has revealed himself…  That revelation is profoundly relevant to every human on earth.  It [the church] has a lot to do with out trying to become relevant politically, and to try to become relevant politically is to ultimately lose its way.”
 
Bryant further remarked that, “Here’s the relationship.  When you grasp biblical Christianity in all its glorious and colorful highs and lows, and what God has actually done for sinners like us, it produces a humility you take out into the policy arena [or whatever calling you have], ready to acknowledge that you’re not sure what’s right; you’re not sure of the best way forward.  Let’s hear from different perspectives and people.  That’s the relationship perhaps: less of a certainty about the right policy agenda, and more of a proper circumspection and humility.”
 
Dogmatism beyond the bounds of biblical orthodoxy is always susceptible to making non-essentials, essential. 
 
Dan McBride (member of the Democratic Party and a theologically reformed brother) has this to say about “essentials.”  “The risk of trivializing the mission of the church and reducing it to just another civil society interest group is a risk we always have to keep our eyes on.  The risk of the gospel being trivialized and becoming just a kind of political plank is a horrible risk we must avoid at all costs.”  
 
McBride goes on to speak of the “key distinction: the church as the church, distinct from Christians in their this-worldly calling.  …[T]he church as the church has a specific mandate.  It’s in Holy Scripture, and its mandate is not to do politics.  It is to hold forth Christ as the only way that sinners can be reconciled to a holy God.  When it extends beyond that writ, that biblical mandate, it’s left its charter behind.” 
 
Moreover, McBride explains, that: “Folks may recall the old expression that said, “In essentials, unity; in the nonessentials, diversity; and in all things, love.”  Today, those have been inverted.  The Christian right or the Christian left now define the essentials often in political terms and they demand unanimity of view on their pet political prescriptions.  The nonessentials have become doctrine.”
 
Bryant and McBride were both part of a round-table on the White Horse Inn program with Mike Horton. 

In need of a Gospel-driven theology

Someone by the name of “Chris” wrote:

Do you notice how all of those four problems [within the common Charismatic focus] ultimately come down to issues around the person and work of Jesus (addressing your four points in turn):

– Ignoring the significance of Jesus.
– Misunderstanding the work of Jesus.
– Confusion over the uniqueness of Jesus in redemptive history.
– Spiritual deafness to the voice of Jesus (”My sheep know my voice”).

Go here: Cerulean Sanctum for the whole story.

Theology and Practicality

Donald Macleod once wrote:

“Theology exists in order to be applied to the day-to-day problems of the Christian church. Every doctrine has its application. All scripture is profitable and all the doctrine is profitable. Similarly all the application must be based on doctrine. …As a Pastor one meets with these difficulties daily. They are standing problems. Yet Paul, as he wrestles with both of them, has recourse to the most massive theology. It’s not only that you have the emphasis on the unity between theology and practice but you have the emphasis on the applicability of the profoundest theology to the most mundane and most common-place problems. …He is telling them: You have these practical problems; the answer is theological; remember your theology and place your behavior in the light of that theology. Place your little problems in the light of the most massive theology. We ourselves in our Christian callings are to be conscious of this. We must never leave our doctrine hanging in the air, nor hesitate to enforce the most elementary Christian obligations with the most sublime doctrines.”

Gospel Truth precedes Godliness

Gabriel Wilson once wrote: “I heartily with you regret the great decay of practical godliness, but wonder the less of it, seeing truth is a-going; and you may believe it is vain to talk of the recovery of religion in its practice and power, in order to the revival of truth, and setting matter of doctrine to rights, for this I humbly conceive is not the due order. It will be but a perfuming and supporting a dead carcase, or forcing water forth a flint, to essay (i.e., to perform or attempt something) holiness of heart and life, without the knowledge and belief of the truth.

The gospel is a doctrine according to godliness. The love of the Spirit, and the belief of the truth, are inseparable. The doctrine of Christ being once believed and received, then, and not till then, will godliness natively and inseparably result from, and accompany it; and this, if you look back, has been the blest order in all times of reformation in the church, the light of truth coming in, the Spirit of God coming along, making it effectual to change the hearts and lives of men. O that the Sun of righteousness would return, and rise on us with his life-giving, healing light and heat!”

What?! I thought Jn.3.16 said it all?

Thomas Foxcroft on Gospel Ministry:   “Ministers then must study to feed their flocks with a continual feast on the glorious fullness there is in Christ; they must gather fruits from the branch of righteousness, from the tree of life for those who hunger, not feeding them with the meat which perishes, but with that which endures to everlasting life. They must open this fountain of living waters, the great mystery of godliness, into which all the doctrines of the gospel that are branched forth into so great a variety do, as so many rivulets or streams making glad the city of God flow and concenter.”

 

Our Confession

Lee Irons said:    “To exalt the Reformed confessions is to downplay the primary New Testament confession that “Jesus is Lord.” I’m not a Reformed person who happens to be a Christian. I’m a blood-bought Christian who happens to believe in the Reformed understanding of the gospel. And I do not view myself as a superior Christian for having this belief. It is only by the grace of God that I understand what I do of the grace of God, and even then I betray it all too often in my practice.

Faith, A Regulative-Principle

Christian Cryder:  “If Justification By Faith is the heart of the gospel, and Sanctification By Faith is its lifeblood, then Worship by Faith explains the reality of our fellowship with God.  …[O]ur churches will die when we fail to understand the gospel – that we are justified by faith, sanctified by faith, and that our worship is made pleasing in faith.”

“godliness” without Gospel

Mike Horton: “We see this pattern in the New Testament epistles especially in Romans. It is interesting that whenever Paul completes a doctrinal “hike” through God’s gracious election, redemption, calling, justification, and sanctification in Christ the vista from such dizzying peaks leads him to break out in praise. “What shall we say then in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God, how unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out; for of him and to him and through him are all things, to him be the glory forever, Amen.” Only then does Paul say in Romans 12, “I appeal to you therefore, in view of God’s mercies to present your bodies a living sacrifice.”

You see folks, the story generates doctrines, which generate genuine emotion leading to grateful obedience. When we begin to take any of these stages for granted, and its usually the earlier ones that get lost first, we assume the Gospel and loose not only our sense of wonder at God’s amazing grace, but the only hope of genuine experience and transformation. We end up with what Paul called a “form of godliness while denying its power.” Power not only at the beginning of the Christian life, but in the middle, and the end, not only for conversion, but for growth and discipleship is always the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”

If not Christ, then what?

Bill Wilder:  “If I could issue a plea to our pastors and priests and ministers of the Word in the world today, it would be this: Give me Christ, or else I die.

“I mean that in the most specific sense—not just what Christ can do in me or to me or for me or through me (or the church or the world), but Jesus Christ himself, clearly portrayed as crucified and preached as having been raised from the dead. Not Jesus Christ as the assumption or foundation or the means for all that is preached, but as its very content and core.

“So, please, preach Christ. Preach him in all of Scripture….

“This is what I need to hear. Because my attention is so easily drawn to lesser things—to my plans, my ambitions, my problems, my triumphs, my failures, my family, my friends, my church, my community. So, please, turn my eyes upon Jesus. Help me to look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely clear in the light of his glory and grace.


“Do you want me to repent of my sins? Then show me Jesus—in his robust goodness and love and self-sacrifice. Linger on that. Do you want to bring me to hope in the midst of suffering? Then show me Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross and scorned its shame. Do you want me to know what it really means to be human? Then show me Jesus in his cruciform love and resurrection glory. Do you want me to worship God? Then show me Jesus, the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.


“What I really need is a vision (not of myself or my community or even the church or the world but) of Christ! Give me that and all these things will be added unto me.

 

G’muse: What more essential thing is there to preach upon and worship than the Lamb of God who is the essence to all our existence now and forever?  Sadly, going to church on Sunday is too often (commonly) a taste of death, for Jesus Christ ends up merely an appendage to so much else that claims centrality.  Hence, the tail ends up wagging the head.

 

 

 

Affirming and Appropriating Christ as Lord and Savior

Today, I find myself to have an ever greater affinity with a growing number of Continental/Presbyterian brethren, who, continue at one and the same time to: a) affirm essential elements of the Truth held within the historic Reformed faith; while, b) seeking to appropriate a maturing theological-historical understanding in thier handling of the Text.  Many are coming to the point of seeing that their presuppositions need to be more biblically grounded and that these need to be carefully employed within a self-consistent body of truth which builds upon Christ crucified, the Gospel reign, the Law fulfilled and faded. 

 

We live in interesting times; indeed, there’s an excitement to be found as men dig deeper into the manifold riches of Christ.  Truly, the Lord continues to adorn His bride with an increasingly sanctified mind about Him, thus growing her up in a fuller maturity in the graces of the mind of Christ and fruit of the Spirit, whereby the Truth effectually sanctifes inwardly and serves outwardly. 

 

Glory to God, that, the bride need not take herself too serious while she grows obsessed with Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Irons(ing) out Gospel-sanctification

 

Lee Irons:  

“[I]t is not only justification but sanctification that has been merited by Christ. The merit of Christ, then, does not make sanctification optional but in fact a necessary part of salvation. Your sanctification is rooted in the merit of Christ. Christ has not only merited the right and title to heaven for his people, he has also merited the regeneration and progressive sanctification of his people. Both are grounded in the merit of Christ.

“You can see the connection between imputed righteousness and sanctification in Romans 8:9-13.

“The Roman Catholic Church rejects the notion that the ordinary Christian can and should have full assurance that they will go to heaven. They argue that this will lead to license for sin. It will breed carnal security. For if heaven is already in the bag, then why bother living a holy life? But the paradox of the gospel is that it is precisely the opposite. Only if you have full assurance of your right and title to heaven on the ground of the merit of Christ can you begin to fight against your sins. Only the believer who is fully assured that they are glory-bound is able to get up after they have sinned and move foreward in the confidence that their sins do not condemn them.

“The imputed merit of Christ, then, so far from leading to license for sin, is in reality the only way the believer can have any hope of fighting against sin and making progress in sanctification.

 

GOSPEL-PUNCH-PACKED SERMON!!!

This is very likely one of the most succinct explanations of how the Gospel pertains to ALL faith and practice that I’ve yet heard!  Mike Bullmore has confirmed in this one message what I’ve been striving to grasp and communicate for a number of years now.

Thank you, MIKE!

Mike Bullmore, The Life: Applying the Gospel to ALL of Life