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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

The Numbers Game

J. I. Packer, in his book, "A Passion for Faithfulness: Wisdom from the Book of Nehemiah" (Wheaton: Crossway, 1995), 207-209, writes:

“I have found that churches, pastors, seminaries, and parachurch agencies throughout North America are mostly playing the numbers game—that is, defining success in terms of numbers of heads counted or added to those that were there before. Church-growth theorists, evangelists, pastors, missionaries, news reporters, and others all speak as if

(1) numerical increase is what matters most;

(2) numerical increase will surely come if our techniques and procedures are right;

(3) numerical increase validates ministries as nothing else does;

(4) numerical increase must be everyone’s main goal.

I detect four unhappy consequences of this.

First, big and growing churches are viewed as far more significant than others.

Second, parachurch specialists who pull in large numbers are venerated, while hard-working pastors are treated as near-nonentities.

Third, lively laymen and clergy too are constantly being creamed off from the churches to run parachurch ministries, in which, just because they specialize on a relatively narrow front, quicker and more striking results can be expected.

Fourth, many ministers of not-so-bouncy temperament and not-so-flashy gifts return to secular employment in disillusionment and bitterness, concluding that the pastoral life of steady service is a game not worth playing.

In all of this I seem to see a great deal of unmortified pride, either massaged, indulged, and gratified, or wounded, nursed, and mollycoddled. Where quantifiable success is god, pride always grows strong and spreads through the soul as cancer sometimes gallops through the body.

Shrinking spiritual stature and growing moral weakness thence result, and in pastoral leaders, especially those who have become sure they are succeeding, the various forms of abuse and exploitation that follow can be horrific.

Orienting all Christian action to visible success as its goal, a move which to many moderns seems supremely sensible and businesslike, is thus more a weakness in the church than its strength; it is a seedbed both of unspiritual vainglory for the self-rated succeeders and of unspiritual despair for the self-rated failures, and a source of shallowness and superficiality all round.

The way of health and humility is for us to admit to ourselves that in the final analysis we do not and cannot know the measure of our success the way God sees it. Wisdom says: leave success ratings to God, and live your Christianity as a religion of faithfulness rather than an idolatry of achievement.”

July 18, 2013  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Matthew 18:15-20

Question: Pastor John, what do you do if you confront a chuch member with an offense and they do not respond. You then get another witness to confront them and they will not respond. Then the two of you go to the church eldership with the whole matter because the offender will not respond. Then the elders take the position of the offender. What in the world do you do then?

Thanks for your question. In Matthew chapter 18, Jesus outlined the sequence of steps we are to take when there is an offence between an individual and a fellow brother or sister in the church. This process is something rarely enforced today, much to our shame. However, Jesus' words still stand. He expects His disciples (including those privileged with the task of leadership) to follow His word in these matters.

Jesus, in Matthew 18:15-20 says, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."

If you have indeed followed Jesus' protocol, once you have exhausted the biblical steps mentioned here, there's really not much you can do. You have discharged your duty before God in doing all in your power to see the matter brought to justice. The Lord knows that.

The elders have then taken a position you do not agree with. Not knowing the situation, I do not know if the disagreement you have with the elders is because the they do not see enough proof that the other party is in violation of Scripture in their conduct, or whether the elders know of the violation but will not implement Church discipline. It is hard for me to comment further on the matter, not knowing any more than what you have revealed.

The only question that remains is whether you believe the matter to be so serious and such a violation of Scripture that your conscience will no longer allow you to submit to the leadership of the Church.

If you feel the elders are involved in a serious violation of Scripture, then you may well need to move on to another church. If not, in spite of your angst that they have taken the position of the other party, you should stay and submit to the leadership. In doing so, you can be sure of two things. Firstly, you have fully discharged your duty in the matter as you have followed all the steps our Lord gave us to do in Matthew 18. Secondly, you can be sure that the elders as well as the other party, will all answer to the Lord for what they have done.

I would say this though. Submission is never really tested when we all agree. Submission is in view only when there is a disagreement. Heb 13:17 is clear when it says, "Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you."

Continue reading "Matthew 18:15-20" »

February 10, 2012  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Church: A Pillar and Buttress of the Truth

“I am writing these things to you so that you may know how one ought to behave in the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” - 1 Timothy 3:14-15

Definition: A Pillar supports the roof and walls of a structure and a buttress supports a pillar, allowing it to stand stronger and higher. Therefore the Church is called to stand strong by supporting the truth of the gospel and sound doctrine.

Key Thought: The function of both a pillar and a buttress is to hold something other than itself up.

Pillar

By all accounts, when Paul wrote this letter to his son in the faith, Timothy was the pastor of the Church in Ephesus. Paul's use of imagery would not be lost either on him or his congregation. Ephesus was the home of the great Temple of Diana (or Artemis), known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

William Barclay describes this Temple as follows:

“One of its features was its pillars. It contained one hundred and twenty-seven pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold.” (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 89).

Knowing this background, Paul's obvious intention in describing the Church as a pillar is two fold. Firstly, He wishes to express the Church's immense dignity and value in the sight of God. Though often scorned by men, the Church is exceedingly precious and beautiful to Him.

Secondly, the term "pillar" denotes the Church's function; that of holding up the truth of God to the world around her.

Buttress

From the Ligonier Website:

Other translations use the word "foundation" in place of buttress, suggesting that the truth finds its grounding in the church, which is the Roman Catholic position. Yet Paul cannot be saying that the church establishes truth, as elsewhere he says the Word of God — the apostolic and prophetic writings — is the church’s foundation, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19–20). As the second-century church father Irenaeus reminds us, “the ‘pillar and ground’ of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life” (ACCNT, vol. 9, p. 178).

Buttress is a more appropriate term here because the apostle is emphasizing the way in which the church supports the truth. As the church faithfully obeys Scripture it lives out the truth and supports its claim that the gospel brings real change. When the church presents the gospel accurately it holds forth the truth to the world much as statues were displayed on pillars in the ancient world. The church is no afterthought but is established by the Father’s plan and Jesus’ work and used by the Holy Spirit to persuade the world of the love of God in Christ.

The NASB translates the final phrase of this verse as "the pillar and support of the truth." Concerning this, Dr. James White writes:

"The description of the Church as the "pillar and support of the truth" is thoroughly biblical and proper. There is, of course, a vast difference between recognizing and confessing the Church as the pillar and support of the truth, and confessing the Church to be the final arbiter of truth itself. A pillar holds something else up, and in this case, it is the truth of God. The Church as the body of Christ, presents and upholds the truth, but she remains subservient to it. The Church remains the bride of Christ, and as such, she listens obediently and intently to the words of her Lord Jesus Christ, and those words are found in Scripture itself." (The Roman Catholic Controversy, p. 58)


The great Reformer of Geneva, John Calvin, had a clear grasp of this issue:

"This, then, is the difference. Our opponents (speaking of the Roman Catholic Church) locate the authority of the Church outside God's Word, that is, outside of Scripture and Scripture alone. But we insist that it be attached to the Word and to not allow it to be separated from it. And what wonder if Christ's bride and pupil be subject to her spouse and teacher so that she pays constant and careful attention to His words. For this is the arrangement of a well-governed house. The wife obeys the husband's authority. This is the plan of a well-ordered school, that there the teaching of the schoolmaster alone should be heard. For this reason the Church should not be wise of itself, should not devise anything of itself but should set the limit of its own wisdom where Christ has made an end of speaking. In this way, the Church will distrust all the devisings of its own reason. But in those things where it rests upon God's Word, the Church will not waiver with any distrust or doubting but will repose in great assurance and firm constancy." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV:8:13)

God has given the Church immense dignity and has made her beautiful in His sight. As Paul stated elsewhere, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5: 25-27)

The Church is immensely precious to God, yet this is only half the story. She also has a distinct role to play in this world: holding up the truth of the word of God and the wonderful Gospel of Grace. That is her function, the very reason she exists in this world. When a so called "Church" fails to do this, or distorts the message of the Gospel, she can no longer be thought of as "the Church" at all. As Martin Luther made clear, "Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls."

- JS

September 14, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The State of the Church - Dr. Michael Horton interviews Dr. R. C. Sproul

Recorded some time ago - this video interview is still right up to date regarding the issues facing the western Church in our time. On this edition of the White Horse Inn, Michael Horton talks with R.C. Sproul, Chairman of Ligonier Ministries and author of numerous books including The Holiness of God, The Truth of the Cross, and Knowing Scripture. Together they discuss many of the themes relating to the year-long WHI theme, "Christless Christianity," and evaluate the overall health of Evangelical Christianity.

Continue reading "The State of the Church - Dr. Michael Horton interviews Dr. R. C. Sproul" »

August 30, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Heresy is not a Victimless Crime

There are times when it is necessary for Leaders to confront heretics head on because of the harm they do to others in the Church. Here's day 1 of a radio debate done this week between Dr. James White (a friend of mine) and Harold Camping, who is telling people to flee the local Church (amongst other things). Day 2 of the debate found here. Each program lasts approximately one hour. - JS

July 29, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Our Common Confession as Christians

1 Timothy 3: 14 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these things to you so that, 15 if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. 16 Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He [5] was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated
[6] by the Spirit, [7]
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.

[5] 3:16 Greek Who; some manuscripts God; others Which
[6] 3:16 Or justified
[7] 3:16 Or vindicated in spirit

Watch Dr. James White exegete this text (below)

Continue reading "Our Common Confession as Christians" »

July 25, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

How To Deal With Church Members Attracted to False Teaching?

A very helpful section of Martin Downes book Risking the Truth:

Downes:
How have you dealt with church members or students who have been attracted to, or taken in by false teaching?

Michael Horton:
‘Pastoral sensitivity and prudence is required in order to know whether a fellow-Christian needs ‘Law’ or ‘Gospel’. (A terrific discussion of this is found in William Perkins’ The Art of Prophesying.) So an obstinate person who persists in heresy should be warned with the threat of excommunication (as Paul treated the Galatians).

However, a struggling Christian who has been exposed to false teaching must be corrected with patience and love. This person is a bruised reed or a flickering candle, and we know how Christ treats them – for to some degree, we are all in this catagory.’

July 02, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering..

June 27, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The American Captivity of the Church by Dr. Michael Horton

christlesschristianity.jpg What would things look like if Satan really took control of a city? Over a half century ago, Presbyterian minister Donald Grey Barnhouse offered his own scenario in his weekly sermon that was also broadcast nationwide on CBS radio. Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.

It is easy to become distracted from Christ as the only hope for sinners. Where everything is measured by our happiness ratherthan by God’s holiness, the sense of our being sinners becomes secondary, if not offensive. If we are good people who have lost our way but with the proper instructions and motivation can become a better person, we need only a life coach, not a redeemer. We can still give our assent to a high view of Christ and the centrality of his person and work, but in actual practice we are being distracted from “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). A lot of the things that distract us from Christ these days are even good things. In order to push us offpoint,all that Satan has to do is throw several spiritual fads,moral and political crusades, and other “relevance” operations into our field of vision. Focusing the conversation on us—our desires, needs, feelings, experience, activity, and aspirations—energizes us. At last, now we’re talking about something practical and relevant.

Read more...

April 30, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ascension Presbyterian Church

A new congregation beginning in Beaverton, Oregon

For those of you who hadn't yet heard, I got a new job. I've been the Assistant Pastor at Intown PCA in Portland, Oregon, for the last several years. March 29 was my last Sunday there, and now I'm working with Nathan Lewis of Evergreen PCA in Beaverton to start a new church: Ascension Presbyterian (PCA).

Continue reading "Ascension Presbyterian Church" »

April 01, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Our Recent Visit to Mars Hill Church, Seattle

This last weekend on the spur of the moment my wife and I decided to drive up to Seattle for the weekend. It is a 3 hour drive from Portland and a badly needed getaway from our daily routine. After arriving in our downtown Seattle hotel our first stop was Piroshky Piroshky, a hole in the wall on the waterfront at Pike’s Market which sells incredible Russian pastries. My wife and I both love the meat-filled pastries the best and we ate a couple while we enjoyed the rare sunny afternoon on the park bench overlooking the water. It was really a blessing to sit in the sun after a solid month of grey skies. We had a lot to be thankful for. We were excited to be there and saw this as an opportunity for a time of refreshment. We were not disappointed.

Continue reading "Our Recent Visit to Mars Hill Church, Seattle" »

February 27, 2009  |  Comments (11)   |  Permalink

Nine Marks of a Healthy Church

As I announced earlier this week, God willing, this coming Sunday we will be starting King's Church in Phoenix. In seeking to comprehend and then implement a biblical strategy for this new church I have found two of Dr. Mark Dever's books to be immensely helpful.

Many of our readers would be very familiar with this written material, but perhaps there are some who have not yet heard of it. A few years ago, Dr. Mark Dever wrote Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. It is full of insight, especially in regards to what a biblical model for the church actually looks like, building on the foundation of the Gospel. As the book title would suggest, Dr. Dever outlines nine distinctive features of a church that is seeking to conform itself to a biblical pattern for church life and ministry. Here are the nine marks, summarized by an article on the 9Marks website:

1. Expositional Preaching
This is preaching which expounds what Scripture says in a particular passage, carefully explaining its meaning and applying it to the congregation. It is a commitment to hearing God’s Word and to recovering the centrality of it in our worship.

2. Biblical Theology
Paul charges Titus to "teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). Our concern should be not only with how we are taught, but with what we are taught. Biblical theology is a commitment to know the God of the Bible as He has revealed Himself in Scripture.

Continue reading "Nine Marks of a Healthy Church" »

January 15, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

King's Church, Phoenix, Arizona

NEW CHURCH IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA

Next Sunday, January 18, 2009 (at 10:00 a.m.) we will have the first meeting of King's Church. I would very much value your prayers as I serve as Pastor of this new Church plant.

Our vision: "The Gospel - Getting it Right, Living it out, Getting it out."

Full details here.

- Rev. John Samson

January 11, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Grace United Reformed Church in West Linn - New Church Plant

Immanuel’s Reformed Church of Salem, in conjunction with several West Linn families, would like to invite anyone that has an interest in learning about Christ Centered, Reformed Doctrine to come participate in the worship of our new church plant in West Linn, Oregon. Doctrines that are taught each week will be grounded in Scripture alone and summarized in the Reformed Confessions (Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, and Canons of Dordt).

It is our prayer that this new local church will continue to attract families together who have a passion for the gospel, which is the announcement of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone..

If you feel God’s leading to become part of a new church plant in West Linn, or just want to learn more about Reformed theology, please join us! Our Sunday morning Worship service is held at the Sunset Fire Hall. Worship Times: 10 a.m. & 6 p.m.

Website: www.gracewl.org


January 09, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Helpful Links 9-17-08

Fads, Schemes, And Gimmicks - The Spurgeon Fellowship Winter 2008
Essays from Art Azurdia, Sinclair Ferguson and James Sweeney on methodology and defining evangelicalisms boundaries in ministry.

A Prolegomenon To Biblical Exposition by R. Kent Hughes - two excellent lectures which should be required for all pastors. Introductions . . . Illustrations . . . Transitions . . . Outlines . . . Conclusions. The acquisition of communicative skills seems to dominate present day discussions of preaching. But before a preacher ever seeks to master certain techniques he must be mastered by certain convictions. What are the foundational presuppositions indicative of a biblically informed commitment to preaching?

The Book of Leviticus - major update to the Leviticus sermon manuscripts page at Monergism.com. Anyone studying or preaching through this book will find this a great resource.

Preaching Christ in a Postmodern World (35 Free Downloadable MP3 Classes) by Dr. Edmund P. Clowney and Dr. Timothy J. Keller- Requires iTunes.

Difficult Questions, Certain Answers (.pdf) by Nathan Pitchford.
Many Reformed folk often ask for good gospel presentations. Here's one. Its a Reformed, Redemptive Historical Gospel Tract

September 17, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Dr. Michael Horton interviews Dr. R. C. Sproul

With the topic being Christless Christianity and the state of Evangelicalism today, Dr. Michael Horton interviews Dr. R. C. Sproul on the White Horse Inn (approx. 54 minutes):

September 09, 2008  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

An African-American Vision in the PCA

HT: Anthony J. Carter

May 07, 2008  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Greg Hawkins tells about the big changes Willow Creek is making.

Apparently there are some big changes afoot at Willow Creeek, the mothership of seeker sentitive churches.

The "Out of Ur" blog reports:

Today, Greg Hawkins, executive pastor at Willow, recapped the study and then shared some changes that the church is now making in response to the research. He said they’re making the biggest changes to the church in over 30 years. For three decades Willow has been focused on making the church appealing to seekers. But the research shows that it’s the mature believers that drive everything in the church—including evangelism.

Hawkins says, “We used to think you can’t upset a seeker. But while focusing on that we’ve really upset the Christ-centered people.” He spoke about the high levels of dissatisfaction mature believer have with churches. Drawing from the 200 churches and the 57,000 people that have taken the survey, he said that most people are leaving the church because they’re not being challenged enough.

Continue reading "Greg Hawkins tells about the big changes Willow Creek is making." »

April 11, 2008  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Series on the Ancient Church by Rev Charles Biggs

Monergism.com has just posted a great series on the ancient church by Rev. Biggs
Ancient Church History by Rev. Charles Biggs

October 30, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Unity of God's Covenant People

To understand the relationship between the Church and Ethnic Israel, I encourage you to first and foremost submit your thinking to the whole counsel of scripture and find your method of interpreting of the Bible from the Bible itself! Wisdom does not come on this issue from extra-biblical sources but rather we must ask the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word, and, according to the Word, the meaning of the Law and Prophets are found and explained in Jesus Christ.

The Apostle said, "no matter how many promises God has made, they are "yes" in Christ" (2 Cor. 1:20), These very promises are the fulfillment of the covenant blessings promised to Abraham that all the people's of the earth would be blessed through Him. "He redeemed us in order that the blessing promised to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit" (Galatians 3:14). The kingdom of God is a kingdom only because Jesus is the King who reigns over it and so only those who are united to Christ are members of this kingdom.

Continue reading "The Unity of God's Covenant People" »

October 18, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Dangers of the Therapeutic Gospel

I just read an incredibly good article on "the therapeutic gospel" at the 9marks web site by David Powlison. It shows the state of the church in general (the bad news) but points the way forward towards a new reformation in preaching. It has stirred me up no end. God wants His pulpit back. You will find the article here. - John Samson

July 19, 2007  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Top Two Multiplying Churches in US are Reformed

Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in New York was ranked the number one multiplying church in America.

Based on a survey sponsored by Leadership Network, Outreach Magazine's 2007 list of the top 25 multiplying churches placed Redeemer on top, Mars Hill Church in Seattle second and NorthWood Church in Keller, Texas, third. All three churches have planted a total of 100 churches since their founding.

Read More here...

June 27, 2007  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Musings On "The Distinctive Church"

"This church is different!" Fine, but why? Because everyone there is young and hip? Because everyone is Reformed? Because all the parents keep their kids out of public schools? Because the music is good and loud and original? Because there are icons and candles and an ancient liturgy to connect us to the historical church? Because you'll never see a jumbo-tron or overhead projector in the sanctuary? Because good coffee is available before, during, and after the service? Because the pastor isn't afraid to use coarse language? Because the church office refrigerator is full of microbrews? (I could go on…)

Hopefully your local church won't want to be defined or distinguished by anything except the Gospel. If the Word of Christ is central to your identity and mission, good. By definition, then, your church would seek to remove all other hurdles than the Gospel between people and God. The attitude of, "If you're not different like us, we don't like you," is a major blockade to be removed. Once these barriers are gone, and all you have left is the grace of God through Jesus Christ, then you have a distinctive church… only, it's what the church has always been, and what it should be. What does that do for your distinctiveness?

May 20, 2007  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Shopping for the Right Church

As a general rule, the results of American capitalism have been good when one is at the grocery store. A dozen brands and a dozen varieties of every conceivable item compete for one's attention, and promise dependable quality at a reasonable price. And if any of these items fails to deliver the expected quality, one might cast it aside without a second thought, and turn to any number of more satisfactory products. This is not at all a bad arrangement when one is shopping for groceries; but the stark truth is that, in America (and, to a large degree, in the rest of the world), people have developed a consumer's mindset which extends far beyond the supermarket. In fact, even in the process of pursuing opportunities to be involved with the body of Christ in its local expression, many consumer-minded Christians approach the task much as they would look for the best milk and eggs: they shop around, and when they find a church which meets their expectations, or at least when they have discovered which one comes closest, they summarily forget whatever other churches are in the area, and devote themselves to that one exclusively.

Continue reading "Shopping for the Right Church" »

February 25, 2007  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Not Right Teaching, But Right Living

In our local newspaper on Sunday, there was a story about the emergent church, The title of the article is "Unchurched? Dechurched? Rechurched? Your prayers may be answered." Here is a quotable quote from Paul Metzger from Multnomah Bible Seminary: "These communities span the theological spectrum, drawing from ancient as well as contemporary sources of spirituality." He goes on to say, "For many of them, it's not about right-thinking or right-teaching, it's more about right-living."

Does that not strike you as an odd statement? How can you have right living without right teaching or right thinking? It is not as if orthodoxy and orthopraxy are mutually exclusive. Yet a close look at the Text of Scripture would have us be aware that orthopraxy (practice) is dependant upon orthodoxy. That is why Paul, in his epistles begins with several chapters of doctrine before He gets into how we should respond to it (See Eph 1-3, 4-6; Rom 1-12, 13+). If we do not know who Christ is, then He simply becomes a wax nose conforming to the latest fashion and our religion becomes indistinguishable from other world religions of human effort.

If the basis of our faith were orthopraxy more than orthodoxy then we could think wrong thoughts about Christ all day, as long as we remain well-behaved. This would amount to nothing more than a religion of behavior modification or moralism. The Scripture makes clear, however, that to the degree we think wrong thoughts about God, to that same degree we commit idolatry. If we reject what Christ taught about himself, in favor of only His teachings about how to behave and treat one another, then we strip the gospel of its substance and turn the grace of God into something about us. Our orthopraxy should, rather, arise our of what He has done for us. The new life in us animates our love for God.

Related Essays
"Reimagining Christianity": The Way Back to Rome by Richard Bennett

October 17, 2006  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

2006 Pacific Northwest Reformation Conference

Come join the Monergism crew for a conference in the Pacific Northwest:The Last Days: What Does the Bible Teach?
in Lynden Washington on September 15&16 2006 at Lynden United Reformed Church. if my memory serves me correctly the conference is free and it will most likely be standing room only! (Seating for about 500 people)

Speakers:
Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, President, Westminster Seminary California and Professor of Church History
Dr. Michael Scott Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics Westminster Seminary California, Host of White Horse Inn

Schedule:
Friday, Sept. 15 7:00 PM
Session 1- When Will These Things Be? Christian views of end times--Dr. Godfrey

Saturday, Sept. 16 Times TBD
Session 2- Jesus Our Prophet: Matthew 24--Dr. Godfrey
Session 3- Holy War, Holy Land--Dr. Horton
Session 4- Q&A with Dr. Godfrey and Dr. Horton
Session 5- Israel and the Church--Dr. Godfrey

Click here for more info...

August 17, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Self-Worship

"When we believe that we should be satisfied rather than God glorified in our worship, then we put God below ourselves as though He had been made for us rather than that we had been made for Him." -Stephen Charnock

Many times I wonder which god is being worshipped in our churches, and where this god developed his characteristics.

Many (of we) modern evangelicals seem to think that the purpose of a church service is to entertain, exhilarate, and energize. Some of us go to church, not so much to worship God, to stand in awe of His grace to us in Christ, to stir up our affections for Him but rather to consume, sit back, fancy the musical experience and apply the self-help advice we gleaned during the sermon. The pastor is expected to be to be clean-cut, non-offensive and smooth, the musicians to be talented and contemporary, the congregation to be good-looking, middle-class, look and act like you (homogenous unit principle). A great majority of us appear to actually select our churches, not by the sound and dynamic preaching of the Scriptures, but by these outward considerations alone! Some newspapers have even begun to go around and rate churches on these externals as one would a local restaurant. There you have it, a worship of consumerism - In other words this new mentality we have embraced is none other than the worship of self. Then we self-righteously attack those who differ from us, who do not use the seeker sensitive model, and lose sight of the fact that the worst enemy is, more often than not, the person we see in the mirror.

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August 16, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

David Wells on "Churchless Christianity"

"...This attitude which diminishes the significance of being in church and which will not tolerate any inconvenience has had a strange incarnation overseas, if I can use that word. American missiologists like Ralph Winter have been strenuously advocating “churchless Christianity” as a new and exciting strategy. Their thought is that believers in other religious contexts need not separate themselves from those contexts but can remain in them as private believers, thereby preserving themselves from any kind of harm. This, of course, is easier to do in a Hindu context in which one is allowed to choose one’s own god from among the many that are worshipped. Christians, quietly and privately, are simply choosing to worship Jesus and ignoring the other gods and goddesses in the temple. They are never baptized, never make a public declaration of their faith, and never become part of a church. This arrangement is, of course, much harder to carry off in Islam. Nevertheless, Winter and others now estimate that there are millions of these “churchless” believers concealed in other religions. And is this not where American evangelicalism is headed? In fact, there are already millions of believers concealed in their own living rooms whose only “church” experience is what is had from one of the television preachers. Is it really a coincidence, then, that it is American evangelicals who are energetically arguing for the wisdom of a comparable strategy in the mission field in respect to their religious contexts? I think not!

Here we have an unholy alliance between raw pragmatism, a Christianity without doctrinal shape, one that in fact separates between having Christ as savior and Christ as Lord (an option that the N.T. never holds out to us!), and a lost understanding of the necessary role which the local church should have.

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August 15, 2006  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

PCA General Assembly Overture on FV, NPP Theology Adopted

The following may be of great interest to any persons in the PCA or anyone following the Federal Vision, Auburn Avenue controversy.

At the recent PCA General Assembly an overture concerning Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul, Shepherdism and Auburn Avenue Theology was raised. Some of these viewpoints have brought confusion on theological definitions and concepts that appear to strike at the heart of the gospel and the vitals of religion...

Therefore, be it resolved that the Rocky Mountain Presbytery overtures the 34th PCA General Assembly to erect an ad interim committee (RAO 8-1) to study the above named viewpoints and their formulations, and other similar viewpoints which are deemed by the committee to pertain to the above named viewpoints. Further, to determine whether these viewpoints and formulations are in conformity with the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, whether they are hostile to or strike at the vitals of religion, and to present a declaration or statement regarding the issues raised by these viewpoints in light of our Confessional Standards.

This Overture was brought to the committee. Bills and Overtures committee issued a majority report recommending we not form the study committee. There was a minority report in place of the B&O committee recommending we do form the study committee. The minority report prevailed in the assembly, so there will be a report at the next General Assembly on this matter. The GA voted on it and decided that a commission be established. It may take quite a white before there are any results. in other words ... this overture THAT A COMMISSION BE ESTABLISHED was adopted.

Read the entire document which includes much more...

PCA General Assembly to appoint formation of a study committee to study the matter and report back at a future General Assembly." OVERTURE 2 from Rocky Mountain Presbytery

This is another related overture: Declare Auburn Avenue Session Heterodox; Appoint Commission to Discipline Auburn Avenue Session; Appoint Commission to Discipline TE Steve Wilkins" (pdf)

Here is an official PCA GA page with a listing of overtures for this assembly listed: It is #2

June 24, 2006  |  Comments (20)   |  Permalink

Engagement with Secular People

by Tim Keller

The gospel removes any sense of superiority toward those who don’t share our beliefs. We respect and remember what it is like to seriously doubt Christianity. We therefore expect not-yet-believers in almost every facet of Redeemer’s ministry and life, and we make every effort to engage and address their questions and concerns. One of the main ways we do this is with the missional mindset that makes worship and small groups a place where Christians and non-Christians grow together.

In general the church’s communication and preaching must continually chip away at the main “defeaters,” the main, widely held objections to Christianity that form an “implausibility structure” keeping most people from solid faith thought because “all the smart people I know don’t believe Christianity.”

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June 22, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Hospitality in a Cold World

Be kindly affectionate to one another . . . , given to hospitality. —Romans 12:10,13

The word for hospitality in the Scripture means “a love of strangers.” Something that does not really come naturally to me. I know it is my own tendency to avoid taking the initiative to meet and befriend others. My heart naturally can be cold and unreceiving. But by prayer through the word of God, hospitality, I have witnessed, breaks down barriers and build bridges to other people. It can make strangers and stragglers feel welcome.

Inviting someone to your home is an ideal way to start serving in this way. I have appreciated it when people have done this for me in the past, especially when I was new to an area. And when you invite new friends into your home, use your culinary skill and eat with them (Acts 2:46, 20:11; 1 Cor 16:19) and then take the time to pray with them before they depart. They will appreciate it more than you know. Show appreciation to leaders, hurting families and teachers by inviting them into your home. There are many wandering, isolated persons who need this ministry of hospitality. Consider how much you appreciate it when, perhaps in those rare occassions, others have done this for you. I think human beings all appreciate this and it is a means God uses to minister the gospel through you. When living overseas, I was especially struck with the natural tendency of Chinese people to be hospitible to people. Many Christians could learn from them.

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June 02, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Visible Vs. The Invisible Church

What do we mean when we make the distinction between the visible and invisible church? And what is the reason for this distinction? Starting around the 4th century - the expression "Visible Church" was refered to by theologians, not to a building, but to the members on the rolls of a local church. In other words, all persons who are members of a local church are considered to be a part of the visible church.

On the other hand, the invisible church refers to those persons who have actually been regenerated or quickened by the Holy Sprit, God's elect or true believers. Augustine referred to the church as a mixed body, a visible people, but this people has both tares and wheat, as described by Jesus. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect church, and there will always people in the church there with bad motives or are there for the wrong reason. There will always be people who claim to love Christ but whose heart is far from Him. Many, Jesus says, will say on that day, did we not do this and that in your name? Jesus wil then say, "I never knew you". These are descriptions of some people now sitting in your local church and Jesus says of them that he "never knew them!!!" Some persons are in church for show, to be seen by men as pious, others perhaps for a social club or to show of their ability to wax eloquent when discussing theology. These persons hearts are completely invisible to us, but of course, they are not invisible to God and only He can know who is truly regenerate, so we must be generous in our judgements.

The following is a detailed description of the orthodox doctrine of the visible and invisible church as explained by Pastor Brian Schwertley. It is well worth reading and quite helpful:

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May 24, 2006  |  Comments (16)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

We Are Not Peddlers of God's Word

"Pelagianism is the natural heresy of zealous Christians who are not interested in theology." - J.I. Packer, "'Keswick' and the Reformed Doctrine of Sanctification."

Churches which preserve their cognitive identity and distinction from the culture will flourish: those who lose them in the interests of seeking success will disappear.

In our churches we may have made a deal with postmodern consumers but the hard reality is that Christianity cannot be bought. Purchase, in the world of consumption, leads to ownership but in the Church this cannot happen. It is never God who is owned. It is we who are owned in Christ. Christianity is not up for sale. Its price has already been fixed and that price is the complete and ongoing surrender to Christ of those who embrace him by faith. It can only be had on his own terms. It can only be had as a whole. It refuses to offer only selections of its teachings. Furthermore, the Church is not its retailing outlet. Its preachers are not its peddlers and those who are Christian are not its consumers. It cannot legitimately be had as a bargain though the marketplace is full of bargainhunters.

For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's Word..." II Cor 2:17

No, let us think instead of the Church as its voice of proclamation, not its sales agent, its practitioner, not its marketing firm. And in that proclamation there is inevitable cultural confrontation. More precisely, there is the confrontation between Christ, in and through the biblical Word, and the rebellion of the human heart. This is confrontation of those whose face is that of a particular culture but whose heart is that of the fallen world. We cannot forget that.

David F. Wells, Above All Earthly Pow'rs: Christ in a Postmodern World, pg. 308-309

May 20, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Brethren, We Have Met to Worship

Do we ask for 'holy manna' from above when we preach? Michael Ross says that asking for holy manna from above seems foreign to a generation of preachers reared in an age of church growth methodology and pragmatic church programming. {related to this] William moore put George Atkins words to music in 1825:

Brethren, we have met to worship and adore the Lord our God; Will you pray with all your power, while we try to preach the Word? All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down; Brethren, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Brethren, see poor sinners round you slumbering on the brink of woe;
Death is coming, hell is moving, can you bear to let them go?
See our fathers and our mothers, and our children sinking down;
Brethren, pray and holy manna will be showered all around.

Sisters, will you join and help us? Moses’ sister aided him;
Will you help the trembling mourners who are struggling hard with sin?
Tell them all about the Savior, tell them that He will be found;
Sisters, pray, and holy manna will be showered all around.

Is there a trembling jailer, seeking grace, and filled with tears?
Is there here a weeping Mary, pouring forth a flood of tears?
Brethren, join your cries to help them; sisters, let your prayers abound;
Pray, Oh pray that holy manna may be scattered all around.

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other, too;
Let us love and pray for sinners, till our God makes all things new.
Then He’ll call us home to Heaven, at His table we’ll sit down;
Christ will gird Himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

This is one of America's revival hymns. For "it was authored during the middle years of America's Second Great Awakening ... God will work through a human agency to bring man to salvation in Christ and to renew a slumbering sin-sick Church...God works through His ordinary means of grace with extraordinary power when these normal means of grace are baptized with the unction of the Holy Spirit. Worship, preaching, prayer and fellowship can be empowered by God the Spirit so that sinners are converted, the lethargic are enlivened in soul and the Church is revived.

Iain Murray said,

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May 13, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Corporate Confession of Sin

Corporate worship, as our local church understands it, is a time of joyful covenantal renewal which includes confession of sin, responsive prayers, corporate song, the preaching of the gospel and the covenantal climax of communion in the Lord's Supper. To be frank, I never personally thought I would like liturgy in a church, but after experiencing it, I have found it to be a much more meaningful form of worship because of its connection to history, the corporate body and the depth of its ability to illumine the covenant. One of the most meaningful times of the worship service to me and my wife has been the practice of the corporate confession of sin at the beginning of a worship service. Many churches have put aside the corporate confession in favor of only music but the church has historically made the corporate confession central to worship. For most it makes the time of worship more authentic and joyful for it strikes a blow against self-righteousness and humbles us before God as we say what we know to be true of ourselves. It reminds us that we are not better than others and that it is only grace (an alien righteousness) which makes us what we are. God remembers, in the covenant in Christ's blood, not to treat us as our sins deserve. In it we pray for personal sin, for the sins of our local church, our local community, our nation and world.

But Corporate confession of sin would bring only despair were it not for our knowledge of God’s faithfulness to His covenant promise, His forgiveness and mercy. It is dangerous to dwell on ourselves and our sin if we do not also rememeber that God delights in forgiving us. So I personally deeply appreciate when after we have confessed the pastor says, "...but if your faith is in Jesus Christ this morning, then I can assure you, based on the sure promise of the Word, that your sins are forgiven....

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May 05, 2006  |  Comments (12)   |  Permalink

Bottom Up Vs. Top Down Theology

"In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself" (2 Cor 5:19).

Does not that one text of Scripture pretty much sum up the central truth of our faith? This is the heartbeat of the Christian religion for it speaks of the Divine act that takes place at the decisive climax in the unfolding drama of redemptive history. Good theology is about what God has done for us in Christ. We can only do theology at all because God, out of sheer grace, has chosen to unveil Himself (to make Himself known) through His acts and speech on the stage of the world. He does this through a series of acts and verbal communications, which He freely initiates, specifically in the events of the history of Israel and ultimately in the Person of Jesus Christ. The acts of God are all redemptive and they all ultimately point to Christ. After the series of redemptive events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus Himself enters the drama as one of us in the culminating and decisive act of the Play so to speak. This covenantal focus of the Bible helps us to rightly understand that true religion consists in what God has done for us in Christ.

The Gospel is about God acting on and speaking to us onto the stage of world history. A truly orthodox evangelical theology affirms the priority of the Word and Acts of God in Christ (ultimate) over our response of faith, obedience and spiritual experiences (penultimate). The Divine Word revealed in Christ is supreme over all man-made religions which would speculatively formulate a 'bottom-up' theology of fallen human actions over Divine actions. What is most distressing is, although the most urgent task and function of the church is to make known the gospel to men and women in the world, there is still utter confusion in the world as to what the Gospel is. I am not someone who likes controversy and I have a burden for souls. But unfortunately the confusion about the gospel is not confined to people outside the church, but rather, has itself been produced by those within its walls. This means that the Word of the Gospel must be proclaimed as clearly to those in and outside the church. The re-evangelization of the church is, therefore, itself one of our greatest tasks, if not the greatest. Many Christians evangelize with a four-point presentation gospel, thinking the job is done when someone prays a prayer, but fail in the arena of continued discipleship to those who believe. It is little wonder why this has been so ineffective for creating long-term zealous Christians who are used of God to themselves reproduce.

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April 04, 2006  |  Comments (16)   |  Permalink

Its scary being a Pastor! by Pastor John Samson

Ever thought about why we do Church? The schedule of meetings is not always convenient, we have to deal with people who sometimes rub us the wrong way... it would seem so much easier to be a Christian at home - except in doing so, we would not be living as disciples of Christ.

Obviously, we need to make allowances in our thinking for the housebound Christians who are physically impeded from getting to the corporate gathering. But for all of us who are able bodied disciples, Christ, through His apostles in the God breathed scriptures, commands us to be regularly attending services. He also summons us to live under pastoral rule and care (Heb 10:25; 13:17).

Alright - so God wants us to participate in this thing called "church." But what exactly is "Church"? What are the priorities in the life of a church?

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March 23, 2006  |  Comments (8)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink