Worldliness…

Our men’s group is reading through Scott Manetsch’s great book on the care of Geneva’s pastors in the 16th century, Calvin’s Company of Pastors. In the fourth chapter on pastors’ households he begins with a poem by Antoine de Chandieu that brought me much conviction this morning. May God grant to us repentance for our envy, love of the world, and living in such a way that we think our portion is in this life…

Never having and always desiring,
Such are the consequences for him who loves the world.
The more he abounds in honor and riches,
The more he is seen aspiring for more.
He does not enjoy what belongs to him:
He wants, he values, he adores what other people have.
When he has everything, it is then that he has nothing.
Because having everything, he desires everything still.

Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1John 2:15).

Sexual Confusion in the Presbyterian Church in America…

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-5-33-07-pmAn article written by PCA Chaplain Chuck Williams recently surfaced. Chaplain Williams brought charges against Christ Presbyterian Church‘s Senior Pastor Scott Sauls in the Nashville Presbytery based upon the toxic teaching at CPC’s Same-Sex Attraction Forum (April 2015). The results of Williams’ quixotic mission are chronicled in his article. Pastor Sauls responded here with some bad Christology, flowery emoting, and antinomian hand-wringing.

Chaplain Williams posted a link to his article on a Facebook group comprised of 1600 PCA teaching elders and ruling elders. As you might suspect, he was promptly dragged through the mud by men who think there is nothing sinful about men desiring men and women desiring women. Williams handled himself well. A few of the men who opposed Williams on his FB post were those who argued in a similar manner for the formation of the study committee on women’s ordination on the floor of this year’s General Assembly (transcripts here). As you look at the history and trajectory of other denominations, the ordination of women and acceptance of homosexuality, effeminacy, and sexual perversion quickly follows. It is now conceivable that the PCA is attempting to outdo those denominations by simultaneously opening the offices of Christ’s Church to women and promoting the acceptance of homosexual perversion.

Last year when CPC’s SSA Forum was still fresh, a few volunteers made transcripts of all of the videos. After studying those transcripts, I teamed up with a few others to write some articles. You can find them here:

How should the church approach homosexuality (I): Christ Presbyterian Church, Nashville; a case study…

How should the church approach homosexuality (II): the removal of masks…

How should the church approach homosexuality (III): Homosexual desires are sin…

How should the church approach homosexuality (IV): what Scott Sauls gets right…

How should the church approach homosexuality (V): “Biblical friendship” as a Trojan horse?…

How should the church approach homosexuality (VI): Who is exempt from pursuing marriage?…

Here is one of my contributions to the series (part II of the previous links)… And please pray that God would use the division occurring in the PCA for the repentance of His people, the purity of the Church, and the revealing of those who are approved. Continue reading

It could be worse…

thumb_169__overlayExcerpt from a letter John Calvin wrote to Heinrich Bullinger:

At present, I am relieved from very acute suffering, having been delivered of a calculus about the size of the kernel of a filbert. As the retention of urine was very painful to me, by the advice of my physician, I got upon horseback that the jolting might assist me in discharging the calculus. On my return home I was surprised to find that I emitted discolored blood instead of urine. The following day the calculus had forced its way from the bladder into the urethra. Hence still more excruciating tortures. For more than half an hour I endeavored to disengage myself from it by a violent agitation of my whole body. I gained nothing by that, but obtained a slight relief by fomentations with warm water. Meanwhile, the urinary canal was so much lacerated that copious discharges of blood flowed from it. It seems to me now that I begin to live anew for the last two days since I am delivered from these pains.

I think I’ll go drink a few pints of water now…

Pick your Bible reading program: 88-day or whole-year…

BibleReading2015Read God’s Word once, or twice, or four times through next year. Both suggested programs are straight through the Bible…

88-day (pdf)

Whole Year (pdf)

More creative options here.

For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another…"

085490400132983363688A sermon on James 5:16-18…

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit (James 5:16-18).

We come to a passage that causes us a great deal of discomfort, even pain. Just the thought of confessing our sins makes us squirm. To do that means admitting we are sinners—even that we are sinners who sin, if you get my drift. Our pride doesn’t like to admit such things. And, yet, we know that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (as James wrote earlier in his letter). So, it is our obligation, with the help of the Holy Spirit whose work it is to “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (as it says in John 16:8), to constantly fight our pride. One of the most useful and devastating weapons to use in that battle against our pride is the confession of our sins.

On this topic, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who I have quoted before, wrote the following in his great book Life Together:

The root of all sin is pride… I want to be my own law, I have a right to my self, my hatred and my desires, my life and my death. The mind and flesh of man are set on fire by pride; for it is precisely in his wickedness that man wants to be as God … In the confession of concrete sins the old man dies a painful, shameful death…

That putting to death of sins is what Scripture calls the mortification (putting to death) of the flesh. Bonhoeffer, drawing our attention to the process, the fight, of Christians actively participating in the Spirit’s work of making us more and more holy, is echoing the words of the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “…if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Rom. 8:13), and His letter to the Ephesians: “…in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Eph. 4:22-24).

This mortification of the flesh, this pursuit of holiness is the entire life of the Christian… Continue reading

Sickness by J.C. Ryle…

jcryle12Good words from J.C. Ryle on the benefits of sickness…

He whom thou lovest is sick. — John 11:3

The chapter from which this text is taken is well known to all Bible readers. In life-like description, in touching interest, in sublime simplicity, there is no writing in existence that will bear comparison with that chapter. A narrative like this is to my own mind one of the great proofs of the inspiration of Scripture. When I read the story of Bethany, I feel “There is something here which the infidel can never account for.” — “This is nothing else but the finger of God.”

The words which I specially dwell upon in this chapter are singularly affecting and instructive. They record the message which Martha and Mary sent to Jesus when their brother Lazarus was sick: “Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick,” That message was short and simple. Yet almost every word is deeply suggestive.

Mark the child-like faith of these holy women. They turned to the Lord Jesus in their hour of need, as the frightened infant turns to its mother, or the compass-needle turns to the Pole. They turned to Him as their Shepherd, their almighty Friend, their Brother born for adversity. Different as they were in natural temperament, the two sisters in this matter were entirely agreed. Christ’s help was their first thought in the day of trouble. Christ was the refuge to which they fled in the hour of need. Blessed are all they that do likewise!

Mark the simple humility of their language about Lazarus. They call Him “He whom Thou lovest.” They do not say, “He who loves Thee, believes in Thee, serves Thee,” but “He whom Thou lovest.” Martha and Mary were deeply taught of God. They had learned that Christ’s love towards us, and not our love towards Christ, is the true ground of expectation, and true foundation of hope. Blessed, again, are all they that are taught likewise! To look inward to our love towards Christ is painfully unsatisfying: to look outward to Christ’s love towards us is peace.

Mark, lastly, the touching circumstance which the message of Martha and Mary reveals: “He whom Thou lovest is sick.” Lazarus was a good man, converted, believing, renewed, sanctified, a friend of Christ, and an heir of glory. And yet Lazarus was sick! Then sickness is no sign that God is displeased. Sickness is intended to be a blessing to us, and not a curse. “All things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose.” “All things are yours,—life, death, things present, or things to come: for ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.” (Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 3:22-23). Blessed, I say again, are they that have learned this! Happy are they who can say, when they are ill, “This is my Father’s doing. It must be well.”

I invite the attention of my readers to the subject of sickness. The subject is one which we ought frequently to look in the face. We cannot avoid it. It needs no prophet’s eye to see sickness coming to each of us in turn one day. “In the midst of life we are in death.” Let us turn aside for a few moments, and consider sickness as Christians. The consideration will not hasten its coming, and by God’s blessing may teach us wisdom.

In considering the subject of sickness, three points appear to me to demand attention. On each I shall say a few words.

  1. The universal prevalence of sickness and disease.
  2. The general benefits which sickness confers on mankind.
  3. The special duties to which sickness calls us.

Continue reading

More on contentment (Burroughs)…

Before your conversion, before God wrought upon your souls, you were contented with the world without grace, though you had no interest in God nor Christ; why cannot you now be contented with grace and spiritual things without the world? If you yourselves were content with the world without grace, there is reason you should be content with grace without the world. Certainly there is infinitely more reason. You see that many men of the world have a kind of contentment; they do not murmur or repine with the world, though they have no interest in God and Christ. Then cannot you have as much contentment with God and Christ, without the world, as they can, with the world, without God and Christ? It is an infinite shame that this should be so.

-Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Hunger after righteousness…

What an encouragement is this to hunger after righteousness! Such shall be filled. God charges us to fill the hungry (Isaiah 58:10). He blames those who do not fill the hungry (Isaiah 32:6). And do we think he will be slack in that which he blames us for not doing? Oh come with hungerings after Christ and be assured of satisfaction. God keeps open house for hungry sinners. He invites his guests and bids them come without money (Isaiah 55:1, 2). God’s nature inclines him and his promise obliges him to fill the hungry. Consider, why did Christ receive ‘the Spirit without measure’? (John 3:34). It was not for himself. He was infinitely full before. But he was filled with the holy unction for this end, that he might distil his grace upon the hungry soul. Are you ignorant? Christ was filled with wisdom that he might teach you. Are you polluted? Christ was filled with grace that he might cleanse you. Shall not the soul then come to Christ who was filled on purpose to fill the hungry? We love to knock at a rich man’s door. In our Father’s house there is bread enough. Come with desire and you shall go away with comfort. You shall have the virtues of Christ’s blood, the influences of his Spirit, the communications of his love.

-Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes

Self-denial, which brings contentment…

It is a hard lesson. You know that when a child is first taught, he complains: This is hard; it is just like that. I remember Bradford the martyr said, ‘Whoever has not learned the lesson of the cross, has not learned his ABC in Christianity.’ This is where Christ begins with his scholars, and those in the lowest form must begin with this; if you mean to be Christians at all, you must buckle to this or you can never be Christian. Just as no-one can be a scholar unless he learns his ABC, so you must learn the lesson of self-denial or you can never become a scholar in Christ’s school, and be learned in this mystery of contentment. That is the first lesson that Christ teaches any soul, self-denial, which brings contentment, which brings down and softens a man’s heart. You know how when you strike something soft it makes no noise, but if you strike a hard thing it makes a noise; so with the hearts of men who are full of themselves, and hardened with self-love, if they receive a stroke they make a noise, but a self-denying Christian yields to God’s hand, and makes no noise. When you strike a woolsack it makes no noise because it yields to the stroke; so a self-denying heart yields to the stroke and thereby comes to this contentment.

—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment

Contentment…

Oh, take heed you do not speak in a scornful way of the ways of God; grace has the power to turn afflictions into mercies. Two men may have the same affliction; to one it shall be as gall and wormwood, yet it shall be wine and honey and delightfulness and joy and advantage and riches to the other. This is the mystery of contentment, not so much by removing the evil, as by metamorphosing the evil, by changing the evil into good.

—Jeremiah Burroughs, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment