Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Pray for our Nation


One of the characteristics of God’s temporal judgments upon the earth is they usually come suddenly. When Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed they most likely began their day like every other day, completely oblivious to their pending destruction. Jesus wrote of the unexpected nature of the Noaic flood: "they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away" (Matt 24:38-39).

Could it be that our own nation is in great peril? In the history of the world nations have risen and fallen following a particular pattern. (1) God raises up a nation and they are blessed. (2) Men and women take all of the glory to themselves and deny God. (3) God brings the nation down in order to demonstrate that He alone reigns upon the earth. Sadly, our own nation is following this pattern. God raised up this nation and has blessed us beyond measure but we have denied Him and believe we are the lords of our destiny. We have fallen into terrible wickedness; we call the evil good and good evil. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).

One blatant example of this is the sin of homosexuality. Our nation has determined that this is good and proper behavior. The homosexual agenda has been successful in convincing us that marriage between two men is no different than traditional marriage. And if a man wants to dress up like a woman it is perfectly acceptable. To further this wicked behavior, many churches have determined that it is righteous to ordain homosexual men (and women) to the ministry. This isn’t to say that homosexuality is a greater sin than all other sins. God will judge all sin. But our nation has determined not only that homosexuality is not wrong; it has determined that it is in fact good and proper and all must embrace this. To hold a different opinion is to be labeled a bigot, hatemonger, and intolerant person. To speak against homosexuality in our society is now completely unacceptable. Homosexuality may not be a greater sin, but our nation hasn’t yet declared murder to be good behavior or stealing good behavior. If we call murder sin or a murderer sinful we are not condemned for uttering hate speech. By embracing homosexuality as good and proper behavior our nation has declared evil to be the only right and proper choice. While our nation still stands there is still opportunity for repentance. May we as God’s people pray diligently.

Friday, March 28, 2014

"Noah" the Movie

When I heard that there was a movie about to be released about Noah and the Biblical account of the flood I thought, fantastic, what a wonderful opportunity to declare not only God's judgment upon sin, but also the grace of God's deliverance. My excitement was short lived. From all indications this film is nothing more than another display of Hollywood's contempt for God and His Word. I have no plans to view this movie, which for some, denies me the right to speak about it. Actor Russell Crowe has referred to those who criticize this movie as "stupid." I will risk coming under this label. I don't pretend this to be a review; only some statements on how our culture is continuing its slide towards secularism and the denial of God's right to reign, or as Robert Bork described in the title of his book almost 20 years ago, Slouching Towards Gomorrah.

In fairness, the producers of "Noah" do not pretend this to be a Biblical movie. Director Darren Aronofsky has stated that "Noah" is "the least biblical biblical film ever made." Then why make it? The answer is twofold. One, in order to make a lot of money, and two, to deny our accountability to God. Apparently, in this movie God is not bringing judgment upon humanity because of their sin and wickedness, but because of their abuse of the environment, over-population, and perhaps the eating of meat. Actually, this isn't surprising. As Christians we shouldn't expect Hollywood to understand all of the spiritual ramifications of God's Word. They will often miss the significance of God's redemptive purpose. For example, "The Passion of the Christ" glorified the physical suffering of our Savior while failing to portray the greater transaction as Christ came under the wrath of His Father. The words, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsake Me" cannot adequately be expressed by bleeding flesh on film. Still, the movie tried to express the Biblical account. "Noah," on the other hand, does not pretend to seek Biblical accuracy. It goes far beyond the "artistic license" the film claims in its advisory. It is a denial of the very essence of God's judgment upon the sins of humanity. It also denies the beauty of God's grace in His transforming work upon sinful men. The Biblical Noah is described in Hebrews 11:7, "By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith." Peter refers to him as "a preacher of righteousness." Aronofsky's portrayal of Noah is apparently less than a description of a preacher of righteousness. And, oh my goodness, talking about artistic license. Instead of Noah and his sons building the ark, Aronofsky has the ark being constructed by giant rock creatures who are supposed to be fallen angels. And to this add Tubal-Cain who is leading an army to hijack the ark for his own survival.

OK, the critics are exclaiming, "It's just a movie." Christians are again being described as "intolerant" or well, "stupid." We are being told to lighten up, "this isn't supposed to be a sermon." On the other hand, the Bible speaks with authority which must be given all due attention. Its words are not to be changed in order to appeal to the masses. I hope few Christians view this movie. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to be entertained? Do we need to be entertained by those who make a mockery of God's Word and deny God's demand for holiness?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Homecoming for Johnny Farese

It is with sadness and joy that I heard of the passing of Johnny Farese. Having muscular atrophy, he has been confined to bed for years unable to move or even feed himself. And yet, his testimony to the sovereign grace of God remained sure and confident. His directory of reformed churches has been a wonderful tool for those seeking Biblical churches. He is testimony to the reality that every believer is useful in our Lord's kingdom, even one who many would see as useless. He did not use his disability as reason to excuse himself from service to Christ. Instead, he used what he had to glorify Christ. His life should serve to convict those who have far more ability, and yet allow themselves to be consumed with the things of this world and do very little for our Lord's kingdom.

At this moment he is no longer in his weakness. He has seen our Master face to face. "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away" (Rev. 21:4).

Oh Lord, help us to see this life as quickly fading. Help us to keep our eyes on things above.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Beware of the Sin of Pride

Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” Paul’s immortal words were that he had finished well. He had endured until the end. May these words make an indelible mark upon our hearts. Oh, that we might finish well. There are endless ways to lose our way. The Bible is full of warnings. There seems to be endless examples of men who did not finish well. The common denominator for most failures is pride. We can become swallowed up by our own sense of entitlement.

Our attention is drawn to many of Israel’s kings who were righteous men; the Bible records that they “did right in the sight of the LORD.” But their pride was their downfall. King Asa reigned righteously but in the end he turned his trust away from God. When confronted by one of God’s prophets he became enraged and cast the prophet into prison. The last we read of his otherwise excellent life was, "In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but the physicians" (2Chron. 16:12).

Of Uzziah we read, "But when he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the LORD his God, for he entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense" (2 Chron. 26:16). God punished him with leprosy and he remained a leper to the end of his life. 

Even the righteous reigns of Hezekiah and Josiah were marred by the wretched curse of pride. As soon as we think we are immune to this sin we are in our greatest danger. Peter stood boldly and announced, "Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away" (Mat. 26:33). That very night Peter betrayed Jesus.

Our continued prayer must be, “Oh God, help me to finish well. Help me to know my weakness and my great need of your strength.” Paul knew his own weakness. God had taught him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness" (2 Cor.12:9). Paul admonishes us from the words of Jeremiah, "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord." (1 Cor. 1:31). May God grant us the grace to walk humbly before Him all the days of our life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 Expositor's Conference

I've attended the Expositor's Conference from its inception. There are a plethora of conferences with more beginning each year, far too many for any busy pastor to consider attending. I enjoy this one because of the scheduling-- Monday evening and Tuesday, and because I'm always challenged at this conference to become a better expositor of God's Word. The members of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church are always most hospitable in sacrificially serving so that the attending pastors and their wives will be comfortable.
 
This year's Expositor's Conference featured Sinclair Ferguson and Steven Lawson preaching on the theme of the empowering work of the Holy Spirit in Biblical preaching. Sinclair Ferguson's sermons were mainly from the experimental perspective of the Holy Spirit in the lives of God's people. They were a stirring reminder of the glorious gift of the Holy Spirit as we are incorporated into the family of God. Stephen Lawson's focus was more on the power of the Holy Spirit in preaching. On Tuesday afternoon Lawson gave a biographical sketch on the life and preaching of John Knox. After doing a flyby on the life of Knox, his emphasis was directed towards his powerful preaching. In a day when compromise would have been the choice of many, Knox preached with confidence and conviction.
 
A particular blessing at this year's Conference was the Truth Remains Bible Exhibit and a message on the lives of William Tyndale and John Rogers presented by the Truth Remains founder, David Parsons. It was convicting to hear once again of the unwavering commitment of these two men to produce the English translation of the Bible, eventually leading to their martyrdom. At the exhibit they actually had one of the six remaining original editions of 1534 Tyndale Bible, called the Matthew Bible. It was published by John Rogers after Tyndale's martyrdom. Rogers was converted from Roman Catholicism under Tyndale's ministry. He published this complete edition of the Tyndale Bible under the pseudonym of Thomas Matthew, thus the Matthew Bible. We were actually allowed to touch it! The photo is of my hand on this amazing gift to the English speaking world. Also on exhibit were an original edition of the Geneva Bible and a 1611 King James Bible. Being among these Bibles was a reminder of God's rich providential blessing of His Word and of the great sacrifice of faithful men in preserving it for us.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hope for the Homosexual

I read an article this morning in our local newspaper about an interview with Pope Francis aboard the papal aircraft. When asked about homosexuals he stated, "If someone is gay and searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge." It is mind-boggling how in the past 20-30 years homosexuality has become a normal and accepted life-style. Few see it as a sin issue. The recent Supreme Court action has basically declared homosexuality to be a moral good in need of constitutional protection. It would seem that few are willing to stand up and declare that this behavior is wrong.

We live in a day when sin, condemnation, and judgment are words so vile and hateful that they should never be uttered. The PCUSA recently rejected the Keith and Kristyn Getty song, "In Christ Alone" from its new hymnal because of the words in the third stanza, "Till on the cross as Jesus died, the the wrath of God was satisfied." They wanted to replace the words with, "The love of God was magnified." The word wrath is too offensive for this denomination to utter. When you live in a society where sin and judgement does not exist and everyone does that which is right in their own eyes all of the fences are removed. Why not pedophilia? Why not incest? Why not kill fourth trimester children (that would be after birth)?

Pope Francis' statement, "Who am I to judge" seems to be at the core of modern thought. As long as you are sincere, as long as you have good will, as long as you are searching for the Lord you are doing OK. And in a world void of absolutes, searching for the Lord takes many forms. The Bible tells us there is only one way a person searches for the Lord--through the Gospel of Christ.

Homosexuality is clearly an issue of sin, but sometimes the church has been so zealous in declaring the sinfulness of homosexuality, they have forgotten the Gospel. Through the Gospel of Christ the worst of sinners have been transformed--murderers, adulterers, robbers, drunkards, and yes, homosexuals. The Gospel is good news! It holds out forgiveness, reconciliation, and hope. Our duty as the people of God is to look upon sinners with compassion and mercy. We must never look upon those trapped in sin as if we have never been in their condition. Sin has corrupted every human being upon the earth. It manifests itself in endless ways. Homosexuality is just one expression of the depravity of the human heart.

In one sense I have to agree with Pope Francis. "Who am I to judge." Christ is the ultimate Judge before whom all men shall stand. On the other hand, the Bible is a clear revelation of the nature of sin and the condition of the human heart. God commands that all men forsake their sin and fall before the rule and reign of Jesus Christ. We must trust His perfect atoning sacrifice upon the cross where He bore the sins of His people and suffered the condemnation they deserved. We must receive His perfect righteousness to meet the perfect demands of the Law. But there is glorious hope. The homosexual can be changed. By God's Spirit he can forsake his sin and experience the love of Christ which is beyond compare. He can be restored to a right relationship with his Creator. The wrath of God can be removed. "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Count it All Joy

 
The following is from Pastor Robert Shelby, one of our pastors at Trinity Baptist Church. July 3, 2013 marks the one year anniversary of his paralyzing injury. He shares how he has followed the Biblical mandate, "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials (James 1:2).






One year ago today, several of my children and I headed out the front door on our way to our neighbors swimming pool for an early morning swimming lesson. Far from my mind was any notion that this day would be marked by a “life changing event,” as the doctor would later announce to my wife. About a half hour later or so, I began noticing the less than stellar diving skills of one of my boys. I thought that a good example would be all that was needed to improve his skill so, I told him to stand back and watch how daddy could dive into the pool with graceful form.
As I launched into the air, I kicked my feet up high, held them together and pierced the water like an Olympic diver. Suddenly, I felt the tremendous force of the bottom of the pool resisting my head as my head struck the bottom of the pool. I was briefly stunned for a moment much like a boxer who has received a powerful blow to the head, then I collected myself and thought that I needed to swim to the side of pool so that I might shake off such a hard blow.
I began trying to reach out with my hand but my arm would not move. Kicking in my mind, my legs and feet would not move either. I frantically worked through each of the muscle groups in my body trying to find any muscle or appendage that I might move to aid me in coming up from the water and reaching the side of the pool for a breath of air. In that moment it became clear to me that I was going to drown in the bottom of the pool unless someone quickly acted on my behalf. Believing that I was about to die, I prayed for a few moments rejoicing in the goodness of my God who had reconciled me unto himself through the atoning work of his son Jesus and had promised that my trust in him was not in vain.. Then, I began to praise him as I waited entering into his presence through death.
As the time was passing, my sons began to take notice that I had not come up from the water. They began working together struggling to drag my body to the shallow end of the pool and turn my face up so that they could hold my head out of the water. As they approached the shallow end of the pool my eldest son began CPR and was able to revive me until the paramedics arrived.
Later that day, the doctors told my wife, Amy that I had fractured my C5 vertebrae causing paralysis below the level of the fracture and that they could stabilize my neck by performing a surgery. What they could not tell her was whether or not the paralysis would be temporary or permanent.
After the surgery, I spent two weeks OLOL hospital in Baton Rouge and then moved on to spend another two months at Touro Hospital in New Orleans on their rehab floor. After leaving the hospital in New Orleans, I returned home to pick up where I left off two and a half months prior. Needless to say, since the injury each and every day presents a host of trials that God has called me to walk through.
Often during the past year I have considered the exhortation given by James (Jam 1:2) where we are commanded to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” These trials, spoken of by James, are manifested in the life of the Christian in numerous ways, some very obvious and others not so obvious. The trials of recent days, since my spinal cord injury, seem to be much more obvious than those trials endured prior to this life changing event.
As I have thought through this passage contemplating how I might remain faithful and obedient to our Lord, one prevailing consideration continues to stand at the forefront – that is the question, “How is it to be accomplished, the counting it all joy?”
James gives us the answer in the exhortation when he says to “Count” or "Consider."
And how do you consider? The answer is, that we consider with our mind. Counting or considering with the mind stands in contrast to considerations of feelings. In the text, James is more concerned with our thought process than how we might feel about the trial that God has ordained.
James is not saying, "feel joyful," but rather, learn to think joyfully in your trials. This does not come easy to most of us and one might wonder why such difficulty? Several factors are involved some of which can be traced to our fallen nature and dumbed down, hyper-emotional culture which has taught us to feel rather than to think. The reality is that Christians may find it a strong temptation to tackle this imperative found in James’ epistle with “feeling” or “emotion” rather than thoughtful wisdom and consideration.
Many will be inclined to think. “I am walking through a trial and I am commanded to be Joyful, to be happy… so to be obedient to this imperative I simply need to muster up happiness; that will be a faithful pursuit in honoring God. But this is the wrong approach. “Counting” or “Considering” it joy is to be rooted in the thought process. We should think like this, “I am tempted and afflicted – yet – because of the truths that are revealed in God’s word concerning his glory and our good - I will recognize this circumstance as a means of revealing the joy and the love of the father who works in me all good things.”Phil 2:13
Paul tells us that he learned to be content in every circumstance. Whether he was being assaulted from temptations arising from his internal desires or whether he was suffering the temptations to sin from external sources, Paul had learned to be content. If he was being persecuted from within the church or from the outside – Paul learned to be content – to ‘count it all joy.’ That is his own testimony given in Philippians chapter 4.
Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
“Count it all joy” means to exclude the negative emotions, exclude doubt, exclude feelings and to consider with your mind.
So, how is this accomplished? How do we experience joy in the midst of trials ? How do we engage the mind?
How do we obey the word of God, counting or considering it all joy, especially when it seems so contrary to what we have come to know throughout the course of our life? (i.e. heartache, despair, grief, disappointment, etc)
The answer is - We apply our thoughts to truths that we know, truths that are given to us in the Word of God which are intended for just such a purpose. We fill up our minds with Holy Scripture which renews our mind (as Paul commands in Roman 12:2).
We consider the words of Peter. (1 Pet 4:1) “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.”
We count trials as joy as we remember Heb 12:3-4 “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” We remember that –“In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
 We count Trials as joy as we remember or consider the words in 1 Jn 3:13 “ Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.”
 We Count it Joy as we remember the words of Paul to the church at Philippi 3:8-10 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…..that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
As you consider the trials that God ordains in the life of the Christian recognize that these trials demonstrate to us observable evidences that we are friends and followers of Christ. As we contemplate our calling and response, it will become increasingly clear that we are enduring the same suffering as Christ and striving to advance the same interest, as our Lord. We “Count it All Joy.”
Lastly we recognize that in ourselves – we can do nothing. We are born in sin, our hearts are born corrupt, and there is none righteous…. No one does good, we are born slaves of this world, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. But by grace we have received a Holy calling and by adoption we have become the children of God.
We count all things as Joy as we consider or remember the words of Paul to the church at Philippi.
 Philippians 2:13-16 “…it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life,…”
Counting it joy means considering that God is working in us and through us for his good pleasure – therefore I have no legitimate cause for grumbling or questioning – only joy in the midst of trials which lead to steadfastness and an unshakable faith.
Remembering these truths has been a great blessing to me as I have walked through the trials of this past year and indeed throughout the course of my Christian life. By God’s grace, I will continue to count it all joy as I face trials of various kinds; every struggle as a father, a husband, a Pastor, indeed every struggle which is common to these bodies of flesh.
I pray that these words of James will find a sweet place in both my heart and in yours as we faithfully follow after our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Unreasonable Thinking

Lost humanity has lost the ability to think clearly. The Apostle Paul describes their condition: "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper" (Romans 1:28). We were created with marvelous minds endowed with the ability to commune with God. God gave us minds able to think clearly with the wisdom necessary to wisely exercise dominion over creation; but sin has destroyed this wonderful gift. The mind of fallen man is now clouded from thinking reasonably. Two recent news headlines clearly display this muddled thinking.

In May, Kermit Gosnell was convicted of the murder of three babies--failed abortions where the babies were delivered alive and subsequently killed. We applaud the conviction; justice was done. But here is the muddled thinking. The killing of a baby one minute after birth was unacceptable; it was murder. But the killing of the same child one minute before the live birth is acceptable. It is the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion. What reasonable thinking human being fails to see the foolishness of this reasoning? For the sake of two minutes a baby is transformed from worthless tissue to a human life.

And then on June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court passed down their landmark decision on gay marriage. They struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which was approved by both houses of Congress and signed into law by then president Bill Clinton. Would anyone in their right mind possibly believe that two men could get married or that a child (adopted) could have two men as their "mommy" and daddy? In essence, the Court decided that homosexuality is a moral good that needs to be protected by law. Does this make sense?

How should we respond to this unreasonable thinking? We must declare clearly the truth of God's Word, speaking the truth in love. We must continue to declare the Gospel of Christ, the only hope of humanity. But we must also repond with grace and patience. We were once in their same condition. Paul declared, "For we also once were foolish ourselves" (Titus 3:3). It is only by God's grace that we have experienced the transformation of our mind and it is a process that is still taking place (Romans 12:1-2). While we must hate every manifestation of sin we must also demonstrate love and mercy to the sinner. And we must pray diligently that God will have mercy upon our culture that is so greatly plagued by the curse of sin.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hope for the Future

Some of our young men completed a model of our U.S. Capitol. Perhaps this new generation will be able to fix some of the mess they will be inheriting. O God, by Your Spirit, grant them a great love for Christ and great wisdom through the renewing of the mind by Your Word.

Friday, June 7, 2013

What is a Reformed Baptist

Among many today it has become trendy to call themselves, "Reformed." They believe they are Reformed because they hold to "five points." They fail to recognize that the term "Reformed" describes far more than five points. The historic, reformed faith describes an all-encompassing worldview. Below is an excellent statement of what it means to be a Reformed Baptist. It is borrowed from the Reformed Baptist Theological Review website. 

What is a Reformed Baptist?


The term ‘Reformed Baptist’ best refers to those who adhere to the Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) in practice as well as in theory.

Reformed…

The name ‘Reformed’ refers to the distinctive historical and theological roots of these Baptists. There is a body of theological beliefs commonly referred to as the ‘Reformed’ faith. Such great biblical truths as sola fide (justification by faith alone), sola gratia (salvation by God’s grace alone), sola scriptura (the Bible alone is the basis for faith and practice), solus Christus (salvation through Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (the fact that God alone is to receive glory in the salvation of sinners) are all noted hallmarks of the Protestant and Reformed faith.

Yet, the Reformed faith is perhaps best known for its understanding that God is sovereign in the matter of man’s salvation. This is to say that God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen or elected certain sinners for salvation. He has done so sovereignly and according to His own good pleasure. Additionally, the Reformed faith teaches that, in time, Christ came and accomplished salvation by dying for the sins of those elected by God. Furthermore, the Reformed faith teaches that the Holy Spirit, working in harmony with the decree of the Father and the death of the Son, effectually applies this work of redemption to each of the elect in their personal conversions. As a result of this emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation, the Reformed faith also promulgates the ‘doctrines of grace’: doctrinal truths which set forth the total depravity of man, the unconditional nature of God’s election, the limited or particular nature of Christ’s atonement, the irresistibility of the effectual call and the perseverance and preservation of the saints.

The Reformed faith, however, touches on far more than these foundational truths regarding God’s glory in salvation. It is also concerned with God’s glory in the church, in society, in the family and in the holiness of the believer’s life. The Reformed faith has a high and God-centered view of worship, regulated by the Word of God alone. The Reformed faith embraces a high view of God’s law and of His church. In short, the Reformed faith is no less than a comprehensive world and life view, as well as a distinctive body of doctrine.

Out of this theological understanding came a great stream of confessions and creeds: the Synod of Dort, The Savoy Declaration, The Westminster Confession of Faith and The Heidelberg Catechism. Similarly, this Reformed tradition produced some of the great names of Church history. John Calvin, John Knox, John Bunyan, John Newton, the famous Bible commentator Matthew Henry, the great evangelist George Whitefield, the great American theologian Jonathan Edwards, Adoniram Judson, William Carey, C.H. Spurgeon, A.W. Pink and a host of others all held tenaciously to the Reformed faith. We must underscore that Reformed Baptists do not hold these truths because of blind allegiance to historic creeds. Nor, do Reformed Baptists hold them merely because great men of church history stood in this tradition. Rather, Reformed Baptists hold these truths because Jesus and the apostles so clearly taught them.

The confession of faith embraced by Reformed Baptist churches takes its place among, and is deeply rooted in, these historic Reformed documents. In most places the 1689 Confession is an exact word for word copy of the Westminster and the Savoy. Consequently, the term ‘Reformed’ Baptist is not a misnomer. Reformed Baptists stand firmly on the solid ground of the Reformation heritage.

Baptist…

The name ‘Baptist’ summarizes the biblical truths concerning both the subjects and the mode of baptism. To speak of the ‘subjects’ of baptism, we refer to the truth that baptism is for disciples only. Reformed Baptists owe a great debt to the Reformed paedobaptists because their writings have shaped, challenged, warmed, and guided them again and again. Yet, the Bible is not silent about the issue of baptism. The fact that baptism is for disciples only is the clear and indisputable teaching of the Word of God. The subjects of baptism are not to be discovered in Genesis but in the Gospels and in the Epistles. Baptism is an ordinance of the New Covenant which must be understood in the light of New Covenant revelation. There is not one single shred of evidence in the pages of the Old or New Testament to support the notion that the infants of believers are to be baptized. Every biblical command to baptize and every biblical example of baptism, as well as every doctrinal statement regarding the symbolic nature of baptism, proves that it is for disciples only. The Bible is equally clear concerning the mode of baptism. The term ‘mode’ refers to the fact that baptism is properly and biblically administered by immersion in water. The common Greek word for immersion or dipping is the word used in the New Testament. The argument that the word has an occasional historic example meaning ‘to pour’ or ‘to sprinkle’ is surely special pleading. There are perfectly good Greek words which mean ‘to sprinkle’ and ‘to pour.’ Yet, the New Testament employs the word for immersion.

The name Baptist is also meant to convey that only those who are converted and baptized have a right to membership in Christ’s church. This is often referred to as a regenerate church membership. A careful reading of the NT epistles shows that the Apostles assumed that all the members of Christ’s churches were ‘saints,’ ‘faithful brethren,’ and ‘cleansed by Christ.’ Sadly, many Baptist churches today are more concerned with having a ‘decisioned membership’ and a ‘baptized membership’ rather than a regenerate membership. It is the duty of the pastors and people of true churches to ensure, according to the best of their ability, that no unconverted person makes his or her way into the membership of a church.

Reformed Baptist…

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by their conviction regarding the sufficiency and authority of the Word of God. While all true Christians believe in the inspiration and infallibility of the Word of God, all do not believe in the sufficiency of the Bible. All true Christians believe that the Bible was ‘breathed out’ by God and that it is infallible and without error in all of its parts. To deny this is to call God a liar, and hence, to lose your soul. But while all true Christians believe this, all do not seek to regulate the life of the church in every area by the Word of God. There is a common belief, whether it is clearly stated or not, that the Bible is not a sufficient guide to tell you ‘how to do church.’ This is behind much of what we see in the modern church growth movement and it is founded by and large upon a belief that the Bible is silent regarding the nature and purpose of the church. It is for this cause that many feel the freedom to ‘reinvent the church.’ For some reason, many believers seem to argue that God has no principles in His Word concerning the corporate life of his people! In these days, the clarion cry of all Christ-appointed shepherds of sheep needs to be that of the prophet Isaiah: “To the law and to the testimony! If they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them.”

Reformed Baptists have a conviction that the Bible and the Bible alone defines what a church is. The Bible and the Bible alone defines the offices of the church. The Bible speaks of their number (two offices--elders and deacons), their qualifications and their function. The Bible is a sufficient guide regarding what worship is and how it is to be given, as well as who can be a church-member and what is required of those members. The Bible is also sufficient to instruct about what the church ought to do, how to cooperate with other churches, how to send out missionaries, train men for the ministry and a host of other things related to God’s will for His people.

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by an unshakable conviction that the church exists for the glory of God. Because the church exists for the glory of God, the worship of God and the Word of God are central to its life. The church is God’s house and not man’s. It is the place where He meets with His people in a special way. However, this does not mean that it is to be a dull, grim, unfeeling, insensitive place. The place where God dwells is the most glorious place on earth to the saint and it is an oasis to the thirsty soul of a sinner seeking the grace of God. However, the place of God’s dwelling is also solemn and holy. “How awesome is this place, it is none other than the house of God and the gate of heaven,” was Jacob’s exclamation in Genesis 28. It is this conviction that explains the reverence and seriousness of the Reformed Baptist worship of God.

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by their conviction that the local church is central to the purposes of God on the earth. The present time is the time of parachurch organizations. It is the time of independently-minded Christians who float from place to place without ever committing themselves to the church. This attitude is not only spiritually dangerous, but it is thoroughly contrary to the revealed mind of God. While many have rightly diagnosed the failure of the church to do its mission, the answer is not to abandon the church, but rather to seek its reformation and its biblical restoration. The church alone is the special dwelling place of God upon the earth. The great commission of the church is fulfilled as preachers of the gospel are sent out by local churches to plant new churches by means of conversion, baptism, and discipleship. Many well-meaning organizations are seeking to take upon themselves the task that the living God entrusted to His church. To whom has God entrusted the missionary mandate? To whom did God give instructions for the discipleship and encouragement and shaping of believers? To whom did God entrust the equipping of the saints and the training of men to lead the next generation? If the all-sufficient Bible answers that all these are the responsibilities of the local church, we are not free to ignore it in light of the status quo.

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by their conviction that preaching is foundational to the life of the church. How is God most often pleased to save sinners? How is God most often pleased to exhort, challenge, and build up his saints? How is Christ most powerfully displayed to the mind and heart? It is through the preaching of the Word of God! Therefore, Reformed Baptists reject the trends of the day toward shallow teaching, cancelled preaching services, the giving of the services of worship over to testimonies, movies, drama, dance, or singing. The Word of God is to be central in the worship of God. Paul warned of the day that would come when professed churchmen would no longer tolerate sound doctrine. He stated that according to their own desires they would heap up for themselves teachers who would tickle their itching ears. The apostolic command thundered forth to Timothy, that in the midst of such mindless drivel he should ‘Preach the Word!’

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by the conviction that salvation radically alters the life of the convert. It is tragic that such a thing needs to be mentioned. Today is the day of decisionism. The idea is that one prays a certain formula prayer and is therefore declared to be saved. It matters not whether one breaks with sin or pursues holiness. One can live like hell and go to heaven! What a bargain! Many popular Bible teachers claim this as a great defense of the grace of God. This is a “turning of the grace of God into licentiousness.” When Paul describes the conversion of the Ephesians he uses the greatest antonyms in the human language: “you were darkness but now you are light in the Lord.” And in 2 Corinthians 6:14 Paul asks the rhetorical question: “What fellowship has light with darkness?” Jesus is a great Savior. He does not leave His people in their lifeless condition. Jesus came to save His people from their sins. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature. Jesus came to make a people zealous for good works. It is an unbiblical notion that a man can embrace Christ as Savior and reject His Lordship. The word of God nowhere teaches that Christ can be divided. If one has Christ at all, one has received a whole Christ--Prophet, Priest, and King.

Reformed Baptists have a conviction that the Law of God (as expressed in the Ten Commandments) is regulative in the life of the New Covenant believer. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:19 that, “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” The present age is an antinomian (lawless) age of Christianity, which makes no demands on its ‘converts,’ but God’s way of holiness has not changed. The law written on the heart in creation (Romans 2:14, 15) is the same law codified in the Ten Commandments on Sinai and the same law written on the hearts of those who enter into the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33 and 2 Corinthians 3:3). The Apostle John wrote “He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” Jesus told His disciples that the way in which they would demonstrate that they truly loved Him was by obeying His commandments. Jesus said in Matthew 7 that many professing Christians will find themselves cast out on the last day because they were “practicers of lawlessness” who did not do the Father’s will. Among the laws of God none is so hated as the thought that God requires believers to give of their time to worship him and to turn from worldly pursuits. In recent years many have leveled an unrelenting attack upon the Fourth Commandment. The Presbyterian pastor and Bible commentator Albert Barnes once wrote,

“There is a state of things in this land that is tending to obliterate the Sabbath altogether. The Sabbath has more enemies in this land than all the other institutions of religion put together. At the same time it is more difficult to meet the enemy here than anywhere else: for we come into conflict not with argument but with interest and pleasure and the love of indulgence and of gain.”

John Bunyan wrote, “A man shall show his heart and life, what they are, more by one Lord’s Day than by all the days of the week besides. To delight ourselves in God’s service upon His Holy Day gives a better proof of a sanctified nature than to grudge at the coming of such days.”

Modern man is so addicted to his pleasures, his games and his entertainment that the thought that he must give them up for twenty-four hours to worship and to delight in God is seen as legalistic bondage. It is a particular grief to see those who profess to love Jesus Christ shrink from turning from their own pleasures. To God’s people, who love His law and meditate upon it to the delight of their blood-bought souls, such a commandment is not bondage, but a precious gift.

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by a conviction regarding male leadership in the church. This age has witnessed the feminization of Christianity. God created two sexes and gave to each a different corresponding role. While the sexes are equal in Creation, the Fall and Redemption, God has nonetheless sovereignly ordained that leadership in the home, the state and the church is to be male. Those whose minds have been unduly influenced by this generation find Reformed Baptist worship, leadership and family structure to be jarring. When the Bible speaks of husbands and fathers leading the home it is not culturally conditioned. When the Bible speaks of men leading in prayer, teaching, preaching and serving as elders and deacons, Christians must bow with submissive and dutiful hearts. Culture must not carry the day in the church of Jesus Christ!

Reformed Baptists are distinguished by a conviction regarding the serious nature of church membership. Reformed Baptists take seriously the admonition of Hebrews 10:24, 25 to “stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Reformed Baptists take seriously the duties and responsibilities of church membership. In other words, membership actually means something in Reformed Baptist churches. There ought not to be a great disparity between Sunday morning and evening attendance. The same membership is expected to be at all the services of the church. It is impossible for one to share in the life of the church in the manner which God intended and yet be willingly absent from its public gatherings. Few churches would make such a demand, but biblical churchmanship presupposes such a commitment to God, the pastors and to the brothers and sisters.

Adapted from a sermon by Jim Savastio, Pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, KY. Edited by Francisco Orozco.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Freed to Serve

Christians often fail to recognize the nature of their life in Christ. We have been set apart as the servants of Christ. It appears as a great paradox. On one hand we enjoy a marvelous liberty in the Gospel. The Law ceases to exercise dominion over us. It can no longer condemn us. Our flesh no longer dominates us and Satan's shackels have been shattered. On the other hand, we have entered a life of servitude to Christ. We have exchanged masters. Instead of serving the flesh and sin we are now the servants of Christ and of righteousness (see Romans 6:16-22). Jesus describes His yoke as a light yoke (Matthew 11:28-30). The Law is no longer an impossible burden but a delight. We joyfully obey and serve our gracious Master.

Paul describes this relationship in Romans 1:1 using the Greek word, doulos. It literally refers to a slave who has been purchased by his master. The NASB translates it "bond-servant." The Christian Standard Version actually uses the word "slave." A slave is under the full dominion of his master. Paul further describes this relationship in 1 Cor. 6:19-20 -- "do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." Coming to Christ is dying to self and receiving Him as our Lord and Master. It is to humbly bow in submission to Christ and declare His right to rule over us.

How does our life of service reveal itself practically? For the Christian it is largely a matter of how we view ourselves through the transfoming grace of regeneration and the renewing of our mind. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul commands his readers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice which he describes as our "spiritual service of worship." As followers of Christ our lives are characterized by the denying of self (Matthew 16:24-26). Notice in Romans 1:1 that Paul's chief description of himself was that of a servant. He saw himself as a servant even before seeing himself as an Apostle. In Ephesians 5:21 Paul wrote, "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." He then described how this affects our lives. Wives submit themselves to their husbands as they serve Christ. Husbands give themselves sacrificially for the well-being of their wives. Children submit to their parents; slaves to their masters, and on and on.

How do you view your life? Before God saved us our greatest desire was to satisfy oursleves; we were slaves to sin and our own flesh. But now the passion of our life is how we might serve Christ and His church. Does this describe the desire of your heart? Are you a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ?