Thursday, April 25, 2013

ARBCA GA 2013 - Day Three

As usual, the annual General Assembly has gone by quickly. This final morning's devotion was led by Pastor Jason Walter from Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Escondido, CA. His text was from 1 Kings 19. He called attention to a translation/textual distinction that the KJV/NKJV reflects. In Verse 3 the NAS, ESV etc. translate the verse, "And he was afraid." More accurately, it should read as translated in the KJV, "And when he saw that . . ." It was not fear that caused Elijah to flee but frustration and disappointment. In spite of his labors in ministry, Israel had not repented; there had been no revival of the worship of God, and Ahab and Jezebel were still in control. Pastor Walker drew out two lessons regarding results in ministry.
    (1) Visible results may be deceptive because God often works imperceptibly, like a gentle blowing - a barely perceptible sound (v.12). God often keeps the results from us to keep us humble.
    (2) Visible results can often be delayed. God often works incrementally. God chose Hazael and Jehu to rid His people of their idolatry (Verses 15-18). God works incrementally and irresistibly working out His purposes.

The morning devotion was followed by missionary reports. We first heard from Pastor Matthew Brennan from Clonmel, Ireland. His church lies south of Stephen Murphy's church in Dundalk. He described the difficulty of the work in a land where only 2% of the population are Evangelicals. He ended his report by giving several exhortations to the assembly. We then heard a report from Pastor Olivier Favre from Switzerland. Switzerland is a land of 8 million inhabitants in 26 states. There are four regions with four different languages - French, German, Italian, and Romansch. There are four Reformed churches in the French speaking region. His church is now self-supporting. We also heard a report from Pastor Jim Adams on the work in Chili as well as a report from a young pastor about to go to the Middle East.
For lunch we had fresh garden salad along with chicken salad on a croissant. Also on the entree table was a large bowl of an unidentified banana-tasting whipped cream-like substance that they considered a part of the salad cuisine, but it was so tasty I also went back and had a plate of it for dessert. At my lunch-table I was able to listen to the testimony of the Chilean pastor, translated by the pastor of the Hispanic church that meets at the church in Santa Teresa, NM.

The afternoon theological discussion dealt with the issue involving translating the Bible into the various languages in Muslim nations. Shall we tamper with the translation "Son of God" if it might be offensive to Muslim people? For example one translation of Matthew 28:19 reads "in the name of the Father and His Messiah . . ." The discussion was unified around maintaining the purity of the text by maintaining a literal translation.

Because of earlier time constraints the presentation of the annual circular letter was also given at this time. This year's document was prepared by Stefan Lindblad and entitled, "Eternally Begotten of the Father" (An Analysis of the Second London Confession of Faith's Doctrine of the Eternal Generation of the Son).

We had lasagna for supper with several choices of cake for dessert.

Our evening worship began at 7:00 p.m. with more stirring congregational singing, a taste of heaven. Pastor Walter Chantry delivered his a sermon titled, "The Obedience of Christ." Continuing in Matthew 5 Pastor Chantry stated that at the center of Jesus coming to the earth was the Law. His personal behavior was a positive, active obedience to the Law--a sinless life that was imputed to us. His death was a passive obedience, also imputed to us. He stressed that the church today is not clearly teaching the Law of God. He also lamented that a large segment of the new Reformed movement has decided to ignore the Law.

With a final hymn the 2013 ARBCA GA was brought to a close and the delegates spent a season of giving farewells until we gather again next year.

Special thanks to Pastor Jon Hueni and all the saints at Grace Fellowship Church for their warm hospitality  and diligent labors in helping to make the 2013 GA a success. Trinity Baptist Church is blessed to be a part of this associatio of churches.

The 2014 ARBCA GA will convene next April 1-3 at Grace Baptist Church in Gilbert, Arizona.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

ARBCA GA 2013 - Day Two

Day two of the 2013 General Assembly began with a devotion by Pastor Patrick Harrison from Lafayette, New Jersey. Taking his text from 2 Timothy 1:1-9, he focused on the faithfulness of Timothy. Faithfulness was the hallmark of his life. He demonstrated it in his willingness to take a subservient role to his superiors. Pastor Harrison exhorted us to imitate the faithfulness of Timothy. He had a faith that was personal, sincere, and genuine. He maintained relationships that were spiritually beneficial and focused on those values that were eternal; he was well-nourished in the Word of God.

We conducted our annual ARBCA business meeting during the morning session. This was followed by a biographical sketch of John Chrysostom by Pastor Earl Blackburn from Shreveport. Chrysostom was the Bishop of Constantinople from 398-404. Referred to as the "Golden Mouth," he was known for his eloquent preaching while denouncing error and the "fashionable" Christianity of his day. He sought to maintain reverence in worship. While he was beloved by the common people his dogmatism created animosity among the elite, not the least being Eudoxia, the wife of Emperor Arcadia. This led to his eventual exile. His last words were, "Glory be to God for all things." We dismissed for lunch at 12:30 - sub-type sandwiches and chips.

We returned at 4:45 for the second of our theological discussions. The topic was "Two Kingdom Theology." The Christian lives in the realm of two kingdoms. While the Christian's allegiance is to the Kingdom of Christ, he is to acknowledge the legitimacy of the civil magistrate. This is consistent with our confession. While Christians may be involved in midst of their culture it isn't the church's business to insert itself into the culture. The issue of a "One Kingdom" theology is the position that the church (and the individual Christian) should expend energy in seeking to transform culture through their efforts. This is to see our role as that of co-redeemer. We reject the "One Kingdom" position. We are not able to make the ultimate change in our culture that can only take place through the Gospel and regeneration.

Supper today consisted of a taco meat over rice served with side trimmings of lettuce, cheese, peppers, etc. Dessert was a cherry crunch pie.
The evening worship service began at 7:00 p.m. with congregational singing. The singing of our assembly is always rich--a multitude of primarily male voices singing loudly, filling the heart with the praise of God. During the evening worship service Pastor Walt Chantry spoke on the "The Public Preaching of Christ." His text came from the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. After setting an introduction describing the early preparatory years of Christ (Chapters 3-4) with Jesus entering the Temple at age 12, His baptism, and wilderness temptation, Pastor Chantry gave a verse by verse exposition of our Lord's sermon.
   (1)  Verses 3-11 - Jesus opens with benedictions to lift and encourage His hearers.
   (2)  Verses 13-16 - Special encouragement - Let your light shine that they might see your good works.
   (3)  Verse 17 - Jesus pivots and changes direction and directs attention upon Himself. In other words His sermon was Christ centered
   (4)  Chapter 6 - Practical instruction on worship, condemning the seeking of personal praise through our works, prayers, and fasting. The only proper motive is to be seen of God to His glory.
   (5)  Chapter 6:19 - Practical teaching on wealth demanding a sincere searching of the heart. Where is your attention, your priority? That which has captured your heart will direct your actions.
   (6)  Chapter 16:25 - Further practical teaching regarding worry.
   (7)  Chapter 7 - With this chapter we find the darker part of the sermon dealing with the question, "Who will enter." It isn't the one who says but the one that does. It is the righteous, not the lawless.
   (8)  Chapter 7:24 - The final illustration: The one who hears and does is building upon the Rock. What does your religious building look like? Are you doing our Lord's commands? Good works are evidence of true religion. Pastor Chantry closed with practical application regarding the lawlessness of our contemporary generation.

We ended our day physically spent but spiritually refreshed. Connecting with the brethren provides great opportunity for encouragement and gleaning from one another as iron sharpens iron.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ARBCA GA 2013 - Day One

The 2013 ARBCA General Assembly is being hosted by Grace Fellowship Baptist Church in Bremen, Indiana. Once again, the host church has devoted great energy towards making the delegates comfortable. The theme of this year's conference is "The Life of Christ."

The GA began on Tuesday, April 23, at 8:30 a.m. Pastor Martin Nish opened the assembly with a devotion. His text was Philippians 4:14. The Philippians shared in Paul's distress; they made his afflictions their own. Pastor Nish gave two exhortations. (1) As we share with one another this week may share in the lives of one another; enter into the afflictions and struggles of one another. (2) Just as the Book of Philippians is Christ centered, may Christ be exalted in all that we do this week.

The devotion and prayer was followed by miscellaneous business: roll call of churches, recognition of guests, reports, etc. This year we will be receiving 6 new churches into our association. Each of the prospective churches gave a PowerPoint presentation describing their church. It was great hear about these congregations, most of which are newly constituted church plants. We dismissed for lunch at 12:45. Our lunch cuisine was a savory chili.

We returned at 4:45 for the first of our theological discussions, which was on the topic of local or regional associations of churches. Several pastors who have formed local associations in Texas, California, and Georgia spoke on the advantages of these associations as well as logistics in forming them.
Supper began at 5:45 - mashed potatoes, green beans, and chicken Alfredo with apple pie for dessert.

The evening worship began at 7:00 p.m. We began with the robust singing of a hymn. Pastor Walt Chantry delivered a sermon, "The Miracles of Christ." He began in Matthew 11 stressing the importance of the Word of God -- that miracles were used with the Word and Spirit to impart faith, but if they were not willing to hear the mighty Word, the miracles made no difference. Then Pastor Chantry took us to 1 Cor. 13 concluding that "that which is perfect" is the Word of God, the completion of the Scriptures. He stressed there are two extremes today. First, there are the new or neo-Calvinists who claim to be "open" to the charismatic gifts rejecting the cessation of the revelatory gifts. Their position is contrary to the Reformed tradition. Second, there are those who deny the miracles of Christ--the supernatural. They want a religion free from the Word of God.

Day one of the GA was blessed of the Lord. The fellowship of the brethren was most edifying.

Friday, April 12, 2013

"Abba Father" NOT "Daddy"

The expression, "Abba Father" is found three times in the New Testament: Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6.  In both Romans and Galatians we find it in the context of the Holy Spirit bearing testimony to the adoption of those in Christ and the wonder of this relationship. Through this relationship we are able to cry out, "Abba, Father." "Abba" is a Syriac or Aramaic word that intimates filial affection and parental tenderness. It denotes the blessing of being able to approach God as one of His own children and addressing Him as "Father." It speaks of His love and care for us and of our confidence in approaching Him as a child approaches his father.

In modern times it has become popular and trendy for pastors to teach that "Abba" is equivalent to the English word, "Daddy." Some have taught that "Abba" was a form of baby-talk, similar to one of our children saying, "da-da." Many respected teachers have adopted this position. John MacArthur writes in his Commentary on Galatians, "Abba is a diminutive of the Aramaic word for father. It was a term of endearment used by young children of their fathers and could be translated "daddy" or "papa." I recently heard one radio teacher declare that it would be perfectly acceptable for him to open his pastoral prayer at the beginning of the worship service by calling upon God using the word "Daddy." I can appreciate the desire to stress the tenderness and warmness of our relationship with God, but calling God "Daddy" is not only an inaccurate understanding of the expression, "Abba Father," it fosters an attitude of disrespect and an unholy familiarity.

There are several reasons we must reject this interpretation of "Abba." First, the text doesn't support this interpretation. I'm not fluent in Aramaic but it is my understanding there were other diminutives to express childish words for father: "baba," "babbi," "abbi," "pappya," etc. which would carry the idea of "daddy." But in all three Biblical occurrences the word "Abba" is used. It is left untranslated but is followed by the Greek word for "Father" so that the Greek-speaking readers would understanding the meaning being conveyed. In other words, "Abba" should be understood in the formal sense of "Father."

Second, we find Jesus using the expression in Mark 14:36. It is in the context of His agonizing prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion. Are we really to understand Him to be crying out to His Father, "Daddy!" Daddy implies a childish attitude of immaturity. Jesus was about doing His Father's business. Although, He had an intimate and eternal relationship with His Father there was no hint of immaturity.

Third, when His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He revealed the proper way we are to address God. "Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name . . ." (Matthew 6:9). He begins with the blessedness of our adoption as we call upon God, "Our Father." But, immediately He reminds us that God is unlike any earthly father. He is God above, "which art in heaven." He isn't "Daddy" but our Heavenly Father who dwells in glorious light. The first petition is, "Hallowed by Thy name." "Oh God, make Thy name glorious upon the earth." Somehow, "Daddy" doesn't adequately express the glory of God revealed in the model prayer.

While we have the infinite blessing of adoption; of being heirs and joint heirs with Christ; of being able to approach God as a loving Father who loves us and cares for us as a Father to His dear children, we must never diminish His infinite splendor with common thoughts and irreverent titles. He is the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. He is forgiving, yet infinitely holy. He is loving, yet fearful in judgment. He is Father and wonderful in His imminence, and yet He remains infinitely holy and distinct from His creation.

The Church today is plagued by an unholy familiarity with God. We barge into His presence as we would come into the presence of a man. We pretend that He should accept any form of worship that seems right to us. We sleep through the worship service and daydream about our common affairs because we fail to recognize we have entered into the presence of "Holy, Holy, Holy." Speaking to Him with the title, "Daddy" is just another example of our failure to worship Him as glorious and Almighty, full of splendor and majesty. "To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ or Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever, Amen" (Jude 1:25).

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Great is Your Reward

We are saved by grace through faith alone. Our justification is not at all based upon any work of human merit. The cross of Christ is the basis of our hope and we find infinite comfort in its sufficiency. Paul declared, "May it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, though which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Galatians 6:14).

Justification by faith alone, however, never supposes a life void of activity. Paul also declared, "So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12). The wonderful passage on God's salvation by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9) also adds, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them" (Eph. 2:10).

We have the promise of a sure reward. Our labor is not in vain - "Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). Yes, we have a sure reward reserved for eternity, but the reward of a life well-lived in faithfulness to Christ has wonderful benefits now; what sweet comfort our conscience will bring in our final hours. William Gurnall writes, "Life is a time for working, and death for receiving the reward suitable to the work. Hence it is when death is approaching, conscience (if not seared and past all feeling) is then carried back to review what the man has been doing, for whom he has been laboring, and therefore must bring in heavy tidings to the sinner of his approaching misery. Then it rips up all the stitches of that false peace which the ungodly wretch had been bolsered up with, and tells him that now the righteous judge is at hand to pay him the dismal wages due to him for all the wicked works he has done, which makes the thoughts of death a terror to him. But the sincere Christian, who has labored faithfully in the Lord's work, then has a pleasant prospect to behold when he looks back upon his conscionable walking, and can thence make his humble appeal to God, and desire Him to remember how he has walked before Him in truth, and with a perfect heart. Oh what joy is this to his poor heart, that his conscience bears him witness that he has endeavored to walk before God with godly simplicity and not in guile? He can cast himself upon the mercy of God in Christ, and breathe out his soul with a joyful expectation of being received into the kingdom of glory" (The Christians's Labor and Reward, p.30).

May God grant you the grace and mercy to press on with your eyes fixed firmly upon our glorious Redeemer. May His radiance outshine anything that may distract you from His Kingdom and His righteousness. "Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). You have a sure reward, "an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. 1:4-5).