Saturday, July 28, 2012

Three Witnesses to Independence

“Civil power is earthly and natural, reaching only the external man; but ecclesiastical power is spiritual, regarding the internal man and the conscience. The latter is not regulated by natural reason, civil laws and human statutes, by which states are governed; but the Word of God alone and the canon of the Scriptures dictated by the Holy Spirit. It is not exercised in a political and worldly, but in a spiritual and mystical manner by the keys of the Kingdom of heaven and by the sword of the Spirit and other similar weapons; not carnal, but the power of God to the pulling down of strongholds and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4,5). It administers the sacraments, which are seals, not of any earthly or civil privilege, but of mystical union with Christ and of His spiritual benefits. Nor does it regard any other end than the edification of the body of Christ, the establishment of His Kingdom and the salvation of sinners” (Francis Turretin [1623-1687], Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 18.29.16).

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, 1789).

“God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, XVII).

The Jesus of the Bible, the Bible of Jesus

The claim to disregard the statements of Scripture on certain topics because “Jesus didn’t say anything about it” is illogical, illegitimate, and shows a willful ignorance even of what Jesus said. “But He [Jesus] answered and said, "It is written, 'MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD’” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:3. Those who reject Scriptures inconvenient to their accommodation of the sinful behavior of human beings in a theoretical preference for a simple “what Jesus said” model ignore the fact that Jesus Himself quoted the Scriptures of the Old Testament as authoritative. Often.

Further, any claim to accept Jesus’ words but reject the words of the rest of the New Testament ignores one important fact: Jesus’ words are recorded for us by the Apostles (who wrote the rest of the New Testament often rejected by this false-confessing crowd).

Jesus Himself acknowledges and endorses the fact that His disciples would go on to carry forth and apply His teaching: “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word (John 17:16-20). To believe in Jesus is to accept the teaching of His Apostles as recorded in the New Testament.

“And [Jesus]...said, ‘Have you not read that He Who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate’” (Matthew 19:4-6). Two things:
  • Turns out He did say something about the definition of marriage.
  • The Lord quotes from Genesis 1:27; 2:24. If He doesn’t throw out ancient Scripture because it’s inconvenient to “the truth of our day,” neither can we (and still claim to follow Him).

Accept the Corner Stone

“The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:22,23). The LORD will build according to His design, regardless of man’s preferences.

And His people will rejoice and enter into what He builds: “Open to me the gates of righteousness; I shall enter through them, I shall give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous will enter through it...blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD; we have blessed you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and He has given us light; bind the festival sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar” (118:19,20,26,27).

Jesus is that corner stone rejected of men, eternally chosen of God (Matthew 21:33-45//Mark 12:1-11//Luke 20:9-19). “...let it be known to all of you...that...Jesus Christ the Nazarene, Whom you crucified, Whom God raised from the dead...He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:10-12).

The building of God, the Temple: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being THE CORNER STONE, in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in Whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22). Notice, by the way, the Trinity: we are the Father’s dwelling, of which the Son is the chief corner stone, in which the Holy Spirit eternally dwells.

The building of God, Zion: “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the Word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord. And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.’ This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,’ and, ‘A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense’; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed. But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:1-10).

Believe in the Chief Corner Stone and be saved today.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Help Us See Grace

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing [παιδεύουσα] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:11-14).

Holy Spirit, use Your Word to shape our understanding of grace, that it may not be a tool to quiet our consciences as we live like the world, but that grace would be seen as a disciplining, correcting, loving work of God to make us long for Him and to live to be instruments for His work in the world.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Growing Strong in the Faith

On how “to grow strong in the faith of the Gospel”: “Why, surely, the best advice and counsel that I can give you, is to exercise that faith which you have, and wrestle against doubting, and be earnest with God in prayer for the increase of it. ‘Forasmuch,’ says Luther, ‘as this gift is in the hands of God only, Who bestoweth when, and on whom, He pleaseth, thou must resort unto Him by prayer, and say with the apostles, “Lord, increase our faith,”’ (Luke 17:5). And you must also be diligent in hearing the word preached; for as ‘faith cometh by hearing’ (Rom. 10:17), so is it also increased by hearing. And you must also read the Word, and meditate upon the free and gracious promises of God; for the promise is the immortal seed, whereby the Spirit of Christ begets and increases faith in the hearers of all His. And lastly, you must frequent the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and receive it as often as conveniently you can.”
- “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” (1645)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Boston on the Ordinary Means

A beautiful reminder that the Word and Table are the means Christ uses to build up His people: “It is in the courts of our God where the trees of righteousness flourish, Psalm 92:13. The waters of the sanctuary are the means appointed of God, to cause His people to grow as willows by the water courses. Therefore drink in with ‘desire, the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby,’ 1 Peter 2:2. Come to these wells of salvation; not to look at them only, but to draw water out of them. The sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is in a special manner appointed for these ends. It is not only a solemn public profession, and a seal of our union and communion with Christ; but it is a means of most intimate communion with Him; and strengthens our union with Him, our faith, love, repentance, and other graces, 1 Corinthians 10:16, ‘The cup of blessing, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?’ And chapter 12:13, ‘We have been all made to drink into one Spirit,’ Give yourselves unto prayer; open your mouths wide, and He will fill them. By these means the branches in Christ may be further nourished, grow up, and bring forth much fruit.”
- Thomas Boston (1676-1732), “Human Nature in its Four-Fold State of Primitive Integrity”

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Means of God's Knowledge, Life, Presence

“But thanks be to God, Who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God(2 Corinthians 2:14-17).

  • “...knowledge of Him...” = “...the word of God...”
  • “...from life to life...”
  • “ from sincerity, as from God, we speak Christ in the sight of God...”
This is how He manifests His knowledge, life, Presence: through His Word proclaimed. It is unbiblical (against what He has said & commanded, "the word of God") to seek these things from Him elsewhere. Gather to Him and hear Him unto knowledge, life, His Presence. And give Him thanks!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Speak a Clear Atonement

“...Christ Jesus, the reconciling Word. In Him, the attributes of God unite in glad unanimity in the salvation of guilty men, they meet and embrace in such a manner as else were inconceivable either to our just fears or to our enlightened hopes. God is as true as if He had fulfilled every letter of His threatenings, as righteous as if He had never spoken peace to a sinner’s conscience; His love in undiminished splendor shines forth, but no other of His ever-blessed characteristics is eclipsed thereby. It is the custom of modern thinkers (?) to make sport of this representation of the result of our Lord’s substitutionary atonement, but had they ever been themselves made to feel the weight of sin upon a spiritually-awakened conscience, they would cease from their vain ridicule. Their doctrine of atonement has well been described by Dr. Duncan as the admission ‘that the Lord Jesus Christ did something or other, which somehow or other, was in some way or other connected with man’s salvation.’ This is their substitution for substitution. Our facts are infinitely superior to their dreams...”
- Charles Spurgeon, “The Treasury of David,” pg. 453 (commenting on Psalm 85:10)

Lord, take away our “something or other,” “somehow or other,” and “some way or other,” and speak the depth of Your atonement through us with conviction & sharp clarity...
  • ...through the proclaimed Word: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...” (1 Corinthians 2:1,2; 15:1-4).
  • ...and through Your Table: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes” (11:26).

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gospel Love & the Covering of Sin

“He who conceals [מכסהֿפשע] a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9). What does it mean to cover a transgression of another with love as a goal?

We do not cover our own trangressions; that is the work and right of God upon our humble confession of sin: “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered [כסוי]! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide [כסיתי]; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’; and You forgave the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5). It is not our place to hide, or cover, our own sin. We must humbly confess it to God, Who conceals the sin of His covenant people under atoning blood: “You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered [כסית] all their sin” (Psalm 85:2). This was true in the Old Testament, and is true today in the New Testament: “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:5-10). The goal of God’s sin-covering in Christ is also love, love that is an inseparable part of His character and being, as described in our Proverb for today. In fact, biblical love as attributed to God must be understood in connection with our sin and the Father’s covering of that sin in Christ: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).

It is a sin before God for us to cover our own transgression. We saw the consequences of this in the confession of the Psalmist above (32:3,4). Job, in appealing to God, protests that he has not concealed his sins before God: “Have I covered [כסיתי] my transgressions like Adam, by hiding my iniquity in my bosom, because I feared the great multitude, and the contempt of families terrified me, and kept silent and did not go out of doors? Oh that I had one to hear me! Behold, here is my signature; let the Almighty answer me! And the indictment which my adversary has written, surely I would carry it on my shoulder, I would bind it to myself like a crown. I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him” (Job 31:33-37). The wisdom of God also testifies to this: “He who conceals [מכסה] his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion” (Proverbs 28:13).

We humbly confess our sins with repentant attitudes before God and He is faithful to cover those sins in Christ, the Person of the Trinity Who manifests the Father’s love to us. As we saw above (1 John 4:7-11), this sin-covering love then becomes the pattern of our loving relationships with each other in the covenant people of God. We imitate God’s love when we cover the transgressions of others: “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers [תכסה] all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12). Paul makes this connection, as well: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you” (Colossians 3:12,13).

“He who conceals [מכסהֿפשע] a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends” (Proverbs 17:9). Let God and the love of those in the covenant community of God with us be the coverers of our humbly confessed sin. In this is Christ-exalting, God-centered love. True love.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Cease Striving

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, Who has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two; He burns the chariots with fire. ‘Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’ The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold”
(Psalm 46:1-11).

This is a war Psalm (along the lines of Psalm 2). “Cease striving” (“Be still” in the K.J.V.) is a command of the LORD of hosts (Commander of the armies of the heavens and the earth) to the nations and peoples of the world as they oppose His people (therefore Himself).

If a “ceasing of striving” = knowledge of the LORD, then “striving” = ignorance of the LORD. Opposition to and persecution of the Church is proof of the world’s ignorance of the one true God.

“We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater; therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering. For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-10).

“God is in the midst of her [“...the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High,” the Church], she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.”
“ Me you...have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Good Things

“All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful [טוב] heart has a continual feast. Better [טוב] is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better [טוב] is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served with hatred...a man has joy in an apt answer, and how delightful [טוב] is a timely word...bright eyes gladden the heart; good [טובה] news puts fat on the bones” (Proverbs 15:15-17,23,30).

Gather at the Table and Word, beloved Church. He feeds His people good things.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Our High Priest of Theology

I've been reading "Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way," by J.I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010). The authors suggest that our question in evangelism and discipleship these days is not "what has the God of grace revealed that his servants should learn in order to honor Him?" but "how much (that is, how little!) do I need to know in order to be saved and live for God?" (pgs. 68-69). We have Vacation Bible School coming up in a few weeks. Our denomination's material has - for over a decade - used the acronym A.B.C. in presenting the Gospel to children. Based on Romans 10:17, "Admit you're a sinner," "Believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins," and "Confess Jesus as Lord" is a good start, but it's not the end of knowledge of God. Sadly, by the way we hear theology bad-mouthed these days, it would seem that "A.B.C." is not just the starting point, but the only point. "Just love Jesus - theology's just divisive trouble that gets in the way of that." This seems to overlook the risen Lord's final command to His disciples in Matthew's Gospel: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (28:18-20).

"A.B.C." or "just love Jesus" may be a good start (though "just loving Jesus" omits our sin and the Gospel's command to "repent"), but we are not obeying the Great Commission with these things alone. There is a "teaching" that is involved that never ends. This "teaching" does not start with our "felt needs" or "life situation" or us at all, but with the One Who "has been given...all heaven and on earth." He is Commander, there are commands, and we are to be the commanded. This is the fullness of obedience to the Great Commission. It starts with knowledge of God and His will for His servants.

Despise not theology, beloved. Jesus Himself, in His "high priestly prayer" in John 17, identifies theology as the key to eternal life: "This is eternal life, that they may know You [theology], the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent" (17:3). The fullness of evangelism and obedience to the Great Commission goes far beyond a bare and basic confession. It continues to be taught and grows in knowledge of the Father and Son through the instruction of the Holy Spirit, Who teaches in and through His Church.

Jesus, as He prays for the apostles and "those also who believe in [Jesus] through their Word" ("the entire number of the elect, all those who have been, who are, or who shall be gathered into one under Christ
," 17:20). This prayer is not just for a bare confession, but for knowledge of God - theology:
  • "...they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You have Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me" (17:7,8). Jesus' giving of the Father's words to the disciples was considerably more than a presentation of "A.B.C." For Jesus, the foundation was to be built upon over an extended period of time - our whole lives from regeneration to the first death. Otherwise, why would the "Spirit of truth" (not the "Spirit of pragmatism") be promised to the Church?
  • "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth" (17:17). This is a prayer request for the Father - through the "Spirit of truth" by His Word, see 1 John 5:6 - to take the disciples beyond the initial bare confession of faith.
  • "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me" (17:22,23). "Knowledge" is key to evangelism. What knowledge? The fullness of knowledge that the Father gave the Son and the Son taught to the disciples.
  • "O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known; so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them" (17:25,26). There's a lot of "knowing" going on here for us to just dismiss theology (the science of knowing God).
Packer and Parrett, in analyzing the waning of the Anglican Church around 1600, give two reasons: "...the poor spiritual quality of many clergy plus the obstinate certainty of many parents that learning the Faith with precision was really needless..." (pg. 65). May we avoid both of these weaknesses as the Church, "the pillar of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Let's "A.B.C." our children (and the adults, as well) all day long, but also teach them theology (which assumes we're growing theologians in Spirit and truth ourselves) continuously. Parents, demand spiritual richness from the leaders of the Church and become growing teachers of theology to your children through catechesis.
This is what Jesus, "the High Priest of our Confession" (Hebrews 3:1), prayed and continues to pray before the Father.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bless the City

“By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted” (Proverbs 11:11).

  • “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon, ‘Build houses and live in them; and plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and become the fathers of sons and daughters, and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; and multiply there and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare’” (Jeremiah 29:4-7).
  • “And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give. Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city” (Matthew 10:7-15).
  • “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1,2).
  • “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, XVII).

Bless the city in prayer for sake of the Kingdom and the King of kings’s Gospel.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Do You See the Judgment Seat?

A life blind to the judgment seat of the King: “...the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire, and the greedy man curses and spurns the LORD. The wicked, in the haughtiness of his countenance, does not seek Him. All his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.’ His ways prosper at all times; Your judgments are on high, out of His sight...he says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it’...he has said to himself, ‘You will not require it’” (Psalm 10:3-5,11).

A life that sees the judgment seat of the King: “...He Who prepared us for this very purpose is God, Who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage...we walk by faith, not by sight - we are of good courage...we also have as our be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God...for if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that One died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 2:5-11,13-15).

Live life with His judgment seat in sight.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Wisdom & Folly from Garden to Gospel

A timeless tale:

“Wisdom...calls from the tops of the heights of the city: ‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks understanding she says, ‘Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding’” (Proverbs 9:1,3-6).
  • The Gift In the Garden: “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die’” (Genesis 2:16,17).
  • The Gift in the Gospel: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand...those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1,2,17).

“The woman of folly...[is] calling to those who pass by, who are making their paths straight: ‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,’ And to him who lacks understanding she says, ‘Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant’” (Proverbs 9:13-17).
  • Rejecting the Gift in the Garden: “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
  • Rejecting the Gift in the Gospel: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4).

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Hear in the City, Go to the House

Hear in the City: “Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out: ‘To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men...’” (Proverbs 8:1-4).

Go to the House: “Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars; she has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table; she has sent out her maidens, she calls from the tops of the heights of the city: ‘Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!’ to him who lacks understanding she says, ‘Come, eat of my food and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, and proceed in the way of understanding’” (9:1-6).

Instructions Overlooking the Promised Land

“These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel across the Jordan in the wilderness...‘Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it, so that you and your son and your grandson might fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. O Israel, you should listen and be careful to do it, that it may be well with you and that you may multiply greatly, just as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates’” (Deuteronomy 1:1; 6:1-9).

Gather, pilgrim Church. Word of God, speak.
Listen, pilgrim Church. Word of God, speak.
Be careful to do, pilgrim Church. Word of God, speak.
Hear, pilgrim Church. Word of God, speak.
Love, pilgrim Church. Word of God, speak.
Teach, pilgrim Church. Word of God, speak.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Parents, Draw From the Deep Well

“My son, observe the commandment [מצוה] of your father and do not forsake the teaching [תורה, the “Law of covenant-love,” see 31:26b] of your mother; bind them continually on your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you. For the commandment [מצוה] is a lamp and the teaching [תורה] is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:20-23).

Father and mother don’t have to teach from their own wisdom, experience, or creativity; in God’s covenant community of faith they draw it from something much deeper:
  • “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments [מצוה], My statutes and My laws [תורה] (Genesis 26:3-5).
  • “Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, ‘All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!’ So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’ Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank. Now the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me on the mountain and remain there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law [תורה] and the commandment [מצוה] which I have written for their instruction’” (Exodus 24:7-12).
  • “And you shall again obey the LORD, and observe all His commandments [מצוה] which I command you today. Then the LORD your God will prosper you abundantly in all the work of your hand, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your cattle and in the produce of your ground, for the LORD will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers; if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments [מצוה] and His statutes which are written in this book of the law [תורה], if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. For this commandment [מצוה] which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach...but the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it” (Deuteronomy 30:8-11,14).
  • Joshua “said to them, ‘You have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have listened to my voice in all that I commanded you. You have not forsaken your brothers these many days to this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God. And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as He spoke to them; therefore turn now and go to your tents, to the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you beyond the Jordan. Only be very careful to observe the commandment [מצוה] and the law [תורה] which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments [מצוה] and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.’ So Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents” (Joshua 22:2-6).
  • “As David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying, ‘I am going the way of all the earth. Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments [מצוה], His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law [תורה] of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn, so that the LORD may carry out His promise which He spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons are careful of their way, to walk before Me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel”’” (2 Kings 2:1-4).
  • “Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments [מצוה], My statutes according to all the law [תורה] which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the shall not fear other gods, nor bow down yourselves to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them. But the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice. The statutes and the ordinances and the law [תורה] and the commandment [מצוה] which He wrote for you, you shall observe to do forever; and you shall not fear other gods. The covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. But the LORD your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies’” (2 Kings 17:13,35-39).
  • “So Abijah slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David, and his son Asa became king in his place. The land was undisturbed for ten years during his days. Asa did good and right in the sight of the LORD his God, for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers and to observe the law [תורה] and the commandment [מצוה](2 Chronicles 14:1-4).
  • “Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah; and he did what was good, right and true before the LORD his God. Every work which he began in the service of the house of God in law [תורה] and in commandment [מצוה], seeking his God, he did with all his heart and prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:20,21).
  • “Now the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants and all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons and their daughters, all those who had knowledge and understanding, are joining with their kinsmen, their nobles, and are taking on themselves a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law [תורה], which was given through Moses, God’s servant, and to keep and to observe all the commandments [מצוה] of GOD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes; and that we will not give our daughters to the peoples of the land or take their daughters for our sons” (Nehemiah 10:28-30).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What It Means to Love Jesus

Obedience - what it means to love our Jesus Who is God, Lord, and King:
  • “...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God...showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:5,6//Deuteronomy 5:9,10).
  • “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, Who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • “You shall therefore love the LORD your God, and always keep His charge, His statutes, His ordinances, and His commandments...listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul...keep all this commandment which I am commanding you to do, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 11:1,13,22).
  • “...observe all this commandment which I command you today, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in His ways always” (Deuteronomy 19:9).
  • “...I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments” (Deuteronomy 30:16).
  • “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Joshua 22:5).
  • “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, Who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5).
  • “O Lord, the great and awesome God, Who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Daniel 9:4).
  • “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
  • “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).
  • “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:2,3).

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Show Yourself to Be the Church

“Jesus answered them, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, “YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM [quote from Isaiah 6:9,10].” But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear’” (Matthew 13:11-16).

“And He was saying to them, ‘To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that WHILE SEEING, THEY MAY SEE AND NOT PERCEIVE, AND WHILE HEARING, THEY MAY HEAR AND NOT UNDERSTAND, OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT RETURN AND BE FORGIVEN [quote from Isaiah 6:9,10]’” (Mark 4:11,12).

“And He said, ‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT UNDERSTAND [quote from Isaiah 6:9]’” (Luke 8:10).

“For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM [quote from Isaiah 6:9,10].’ These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him” (John 12:39-41).

“When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word, ‘The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, “GO TO THIS PEOPLE AND SAY, ‘YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; AND YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES; OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES, AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM [quote from Isaiah 6:9,10].’” Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen’” (Acts 28:23-28).

“I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? ‘Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE’ [1 Kings 19:10]. But what is the divine response to him? ‘I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL’ [quote from 1 Kings 19:18]. In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God's gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, ‘GOD GAVE THEM A SPIRIT OF STUPOR, EYES TO SEE NOT AND EARS TO HEAR NOT, DOWN TO THIS VERY DAY [quote from Isaiah 6:10]’” (Romans 11:1-8).

Gather, Church, hear and be healed.

Gather, Church, hear and be forgiven.

Gather, Church, hear and understand.

Gather, Church, hear and see.

Gather, Church, hear and perceive.

Gather, Church, hear and show forth God’s gracious choice of you.

This is what shows the gathered Church to be God's true Church: they gather and hear.