Thursday, May 10, 2018

2018 ARBCA General Assembly

The 2018 ARBCA General Assembly has come to a close. It was a wonderful time of encouragement and edification. The members of Community Baptist Church of Fargo, North Dakota were great hosts, making all feel comfortable and treating us to wonderful meals. The worship was Christ-centered and the singing was robust. Pastor Doug VanderMeulen shared that this was the largest gathering of Reformed Baptists in the history of North Dakota.

We were edified by the preaching of Dr. Liam Goligher, Pastor of the Tenth Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, who preached on the Superiority of Christ from Hebrews. The schedule included morning devotions followed by corporate prayer. Sam Waldron presented our annual Circular Letter on the subject of "The Biblical Doctrine of Death and Resurrection," zeroing in on Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 4, "Looking at things which cannot be seen." Jerry Slate gave a biographical sketch on the life of 18th Century pastor, Samuel Pearce. Pearce was one of the original signatories forming the Bible Missionary Society in 1792. Our Theological Discussion this year was on the topic of "Middle Knowledge" as formulated by the sixteenth century theologian, Luis de Molina. The open discussion was preceded by an excellent introduction by Chuck Rennie who described the doctrine as failing to take into account the perfection of God as the first cause of all things. As our Confession states: "Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without His providence . . ." (LBC 5:2).

We heard of the ongoing progress of IRBS Theological Seminary. What a blessing to be a part of establishing the first confessional Reformed Baptist Seminary in the world.

We enjoyed reports from the pastors of our six church plants. It was encouraging to hear of God's work in these new churches. They demonstrate the continuing commitment of ARBCA to plant new Confessional, Reformed Baptist churches across our country.

ARBCA received four new churches this year. Each of the pastors gave reports introducing their churches to our assembly. It is exciting to see God continuing to bless our association by adding churches committed to confessional integrity.

God is continuing to richly bless our association of churches. This year's GA was filled with an air of sincere fellowship and love among brethren committed to the work of advancing the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ across our nation and throughout the whole world. Our association is permeated by men committed to the work of maintaining  doctrinal integrity in an atmosphere committed to the propagation of the Gospel.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Subtlety of Legalism

Acts 16:31 NASB - "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” 
There are two great enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Both are dangerous and potentially damning to the soul. One is antinomianism, which denies the proper place and use of the Law in the life of the believer. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The other is legalism which places confidence in the works of the Law and human effort as the means of salvation. Both can be very subtle, which is what makes them so dangerous. 
In the book, “The Marrow of Modern Divinity” there is an interesting dialogue between an able minister of the Gospel by the name of Evangelista, and a legalist by the name of Nomista. Nomista is certain of his salvation and takes exception to Evangelista’s suggestion that he may be among the thousands who believe themselves to be Christians, but have actually denied the Gospel. Nomista’s defense of his conversion is revealing and describes just how subtle legalism can be. In fact, Evangelista warns that there is a touch of this legalism in us all. “Many poor ignorant souls amongst us, when we bid them to obey and do duties, they can think of nothing but working themselves to life; when they are troubled, they must lick themselves whole, when wounded, they must run to the salve of duties, and stream of performances and neglect Christ.” 
As Nomista describes his experience, he speaks of having been convinced of the futility of his religious condition, and was told by a minister that he must listen to godly preaching, keep the Sabbath, leave off swearing, beware of lying, and read good books.  He began spending the Lord’s Day in public and private exercises of worship and keeping God’s Commandments. Many Christians observed this change and offered the right hand of fellowship. He still felt empty, however, and realized that it was all external; that he wasn’t changed inwardly. So, he gave himself to performing duties not only outwardly, but also inwardly from the heart. He was careful to govern his thoughts and passions and suppress the risings of lust and gave himself to hearing and praying from the heart. But then he realized that God required not only active obedience, but also passive—that he had to be willing to suffer. He began to be troubled at his impatience under God’s correcting hand and his inward murmurings. He gave himself to quietly submitting to the will of God. He soon became troubled over his sleepiness, drowsiness, and heaviness in prayer and in other duties. Another minister told him not to worry, that even the best of Christians have their failings. God will accept the will for the deed; and wherein you come short, Christ will help you out. So now he felt confident that what he could not do Christ would do for him.
Do you see what was lacking in Nomista? He was trusting in his actions as the basis of his salvation. Is his experience like yours? Salvation is not doing our best and trusting Christ to do the rest. Salvation is faith in Christ’s righteousness ALONE and trusting in His atoning sacrifice ALONE. The Gospel demands faith in Christ ALONE. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.”

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump Protests

God has blessed us with one of the greatest nations in the history of the world. We have freedoms that many in the past could only dream of. We have the right to the free exercise of religion, the freedom of speech, the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of the press, and the right to keep and bear arms. These are liberties many take for granted. We also enjoy a form of government in which we are able to elect those who represent us in government. In human history filled with totalitarian regimes and dictatorships this is a wonderful blessing.

This past Tuesday we went through the process of electing our next president. Regardless of what one might think of Donald Trump, he has been lawfully elected. He went through the primary process and prevailed over a field of sixteen candidates, winning the nomination of the Republican Party. On Tuesday, in a lawful electoral process, he was elected to be the next president of the United States.

Since the election there have been numerous protests across the nation, many which have turned into violent riots. While we have the right to lawful (peaceful) assembly, these protests are wrong. Because your candidate doesn't win an election doesn't justify mass protests (temper tantrums). God gives us two duties regarding our leaders: (1) Once our leaders are duly elected we must submit to their authority. Romans 13:1 - "Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God." (2) We must pray for those placed in leadership over us.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 - "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."

I find the hypocrisy in all of this fascinating. In our generation we often hear the word "tolerance." But it is a one-sided tolerance. For those protesting, tolerance means all must accept their positions. Any other point of view must be rejected, even violently. What they are protesting is any infringement upon their autonomy. They want absolute liberty; the right to absolute self-determination. Such liberty does not exist with men. Only God has absolute autonomy. God has absolute authority; His dominion is absolute. What we are seeing in these protests is the continuing rebellion of human beings against God's rule. God declares the definition of marriage. God declares the proper expression of human sexuality. God declares the right to life, etc. What they are protesting is God's right to rule, but they will not prevail.

Psalm 2:1-4 - "Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing?  The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,  "Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!"  He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them."

God's charge to this lawlessness is clear:
Psalm 2:11-12 - "Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling.  Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"

Monday, June 27, 2016

Ashamed of the Gospel

Romans 1:16 (NASB) - "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

In this verse Paul describes the Gospel as “the power of God for salvation.” Oh that this would burn into our hearts. Paul had great confidence in the Gospel of Christ. It is God’s only way of saving men from their sins. How does a Christian demonstrate that he is ashamed of the Gospel? One way is obvious. We do not declare it to others. By our actions we declare we don’t really believe its power. But there is another much more subtle way we demonstrate we don’t believe the power of the Gospel--when direct all of our focus towards the Law without the Gospel. We bewail all of the evil in our nation. We talk about Roe v. Wade and the great wickedness of abortion. We cry against homosexuality and same-sex marriage and transgender restrooms. Every generation has had particular sins to focus upon. In the 19th century it was slavery. In the 1920’s it was alcohol and the prohibition. In the 1960s it was the drug culture, sexual promiscuity and the removal of prayer from schools.

On one hand, we must always speak clearly on moral issues. All sin is an assault against the holiness of God. But we must never preach morality apart from the Gospel. The Bible never tells us to go into the world and cry against sin apart from the Gospel. If it were possible to get every man to begin living a moral life he would still die and go to hell. The truth is, this world will never be made righteous. It will remain an evil age until Christ returns and creation is renewed. The Gospel, however, declares that Jesus "gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age" (Gal. 1:4).

As you speak against the evils of our age never forget that evil actions are merely the fruit of a sinful heart. Only the Gospel of Christ can deliver us from sin. May we be careful not to speak loudly against sin but then become silent regarding the Gospel. We must always speak about sin in the context of Christ Jesus our Savior. He alone can deliver men from their sin. The Gospel alone is the power of God unto salvation. May we never lose our confidence in the Gospel.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

How Many Children Should I Have?

How many children should I have? This is a subject that often brings out passionate feelings. The mere suggestion of limiting family size can bring out caricatures and the negative charge that they must not value children. For this reason few pastors and teachers will even broach the subject, but it is an important subject. On occasion I read articles on the subject that are thoughtful and balanced. A recent article was posted on the website of The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I have often found their positions on the role of men and women helpful, particularly in our day when few have an understanding of God's design for men and women. 

This brief article by Amanda Peacock is titled, "Go Forth and Multiply: How Many Children Should I Have." I recommend it as an unbiased, thought provoking treatment of this difficult subject, and it is given from the perspective of a woman. It can be read online or downloaded as a PDF.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Facebook Addiction

Addictions come in many forms but they all bear the same characteristics. They involve an obsession, a strong urge towards an activity that cannot be escaped. And almost everyone with an addiction denies that they are addicted. If confronted they quickly speak up in defense, "That's crazy. I can quit anytime I want." We all know the most common addictions: drugs and alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, etc. But the human flesh can easily become addicted to any activity. As Christians, we need to be discerning and guard our hearts.

One of newer forms of addiction is social media, and like most addictions, almost no one would admit to their obsession. The easiest way to test for an obsession is to see how easy or difficult it is to set it aside. Many who would cry, "nonsense" to the charge of addiction would find it almost impossible to quit Facebook for a month. It is easy to fall into the trap of idolatry.

The statistics that are being reported today are alarming. One divorce attorney says that as many as one half of her cases involve social media. In a recent CBS article the reporter shared a sad testimony from a mom: "I was spending sometimes 4-5 hours a day . . . when I should have been cooking dinner or reading to my kids or watching a movie with my husband or just talking to my husband." Her marriage came to an end. Sadly, there are Christians falling into this trap.

Social media is not intrinsically evil. Our church has a Facebook page. The problem is the insatiable desire to read the next post and the urge to post a response or express a "like" to what was posted. It becomes an obsession where you could not imagine being without your phone or other electronic device. Paul wrote: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Cor. 6:12). 

Try the test. See if you can set aside social media for a month, or even a week.

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.