Monday, 25 September 2017

The Privileged Planet

The Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 7:1 "Of God's Covenant with Man".

"The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto Him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition [enjoyment] of Him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which He has been pleased to express by way of covenant".

Recently, a Christian friend of mine recommended a documentary DVD called "The Privileged Planet". What a great DVD it is and I am so thankful that I have now watched it twice. It is also available in book format.

Hollywood's movies have made the quest for extra-terrestrial life a given that such life exists. Not only do they assume it exists, but that it is abundant in the universe. Since the 1960's millions and millions of dollars have been spent on monitoring the airwaves coming into earth and there has been no sign of complex life that can communicate thus far.

The scientists in this DVD explore what factors are necessary for complex life to exist on any planet in the universe. There are many factors, of which earth fits them perfectly and obviously. However, the statistical chance of all these factors coming together to make this happen are virtually impossible. We know it is not by chance, but this DVD reinforces for us, that the fingerprints of the God of the Bible are all over this universe. From the mathematical laws to the force of gravity, to solar eclipses to the place of the earth in the Milky Way, it is all orchestrated by the Living God.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Genesis 1:1-5).


Day Four of Creation:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. Genesis 1:14-19.

In closing, did you note the tiny part of the sentence in 1:16 "and the stars". There are billions of them, but for the LORD God it is a single work of his fingers in one single day. This God sent his son, who took the name Jesus to save sinners from sin. Hallelujah, what a Saviour!

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Word and the Spirit

The necessity to understand the Word and the Spirit from a biblical perspective is most necessary. Today, there is a general mis-understanding among people, as to how the Word of God and the Holy Spirit work in the church and in the world. The second question of the Westminster Larger Catechism is most instructive on this point. What does it say?

Q. 2. How does it appear that there is a God?
A. The very light of nature in man, and the works of God, declare plainly that there is a God; but his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him unto men for their salvation.


This key phrase here is delightful and instructive: "his word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal him [God] unto men for their salvation". This means that the work of the word and the Holy Spirit are inseparable; they distinct, but without division. The latter is a key theological principle. For example the Three Persons of the Trinity are distinct, but without division.
1 Corinthians 2:10 "But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God".

It is both the Word and the Spirit who reveal the truth. The truth of salvation is dependent upon both sources of revelation or should we say those of revealing power. Let us look at both aspects briefly.

1). The Word of God
A Protestant truth is that the Word of God is restricted to the written holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. The divinely inspired 66 books of the Bible. This truth alone is one that is departed from, by many. The Roman Catholic Church do not restrict the Word of God so narrowly and they permit other sources, which they claim to be the Word of God, such as their own tradition. We believe this to be false. The section of the church who have been led astray by so-called Charismatic influences, they believe that the Bible forms part of the Word of God, but that God speaks in many other ways, such as prophecies, dreams, visions, angels and such like. These supposedly, add to the way of revelation, however, this is more unstable and misleading than the Roman Catholic position. This position opens the door to widespread error.

Therefore, I contend on the basis of Scripture itself, that the written Scriptures are the only source of infallible revelation for salvation, for the church.

2. The Holy Spirit
This question two of the Catechism asserts that the "word and Spirit only do sufficiently and effectually reveal ... ". The written Scripture alone is not sufficient for revelation to man according to this question and answer. It is this part of the catechism's answer which also needs addressing. The necessity of the Holy Spirit to reveal is often a truth neglected and little spoken of. Why is that? I do not know why. Perhaps for some, it might be for fear of being unbiblical, in thinking that if one emphasises the Holy Spirit that it may appear Charismatic or for some other reason.

However, on the basis of Scripture and the historic teaching of the church, we must contend for the co-equal necessity of the work of the word and Spirit in the church. We must pray that the written word of God would be unashamedly displayed through public reading and preaching, but also that we would be pray for the help of the Holy Spirit to reveal that truth from Scripture. May our Lord help us in this pursuit by His grace.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Praying for Spiritual Discernment

Philippians 1:9-11 "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God".

Do you note Paul's primary threefold cord of requests in prayer for this church at Philippi? He prays for:

Love
Knowledge
And Discernment

It is the need for spiritual discernment that I want to emphasise. It is the great need for spiritual; discernment that I want to urge us auto pray for as individuals, families and also congregations/denominations. Do you pray for this and how often? If you do not then we can be assured that your spiritual discernment will be weaker than the Lord intends it to be.

There are many spiritual snares, temptations and pitfalls and the church desperately needs an increase in spiritual discernment. Philippians 1:10 "... so that you may approve what is excellent ...". This means to know the difference between what is spiritually right and what is spiritually wrong!

Discernment means a "capacity to understand". A capacity to understand is vital to the spiritual life and witness of the church. We need discernment regarding doctrine, Christian morals, what should and should not take place in public worship and so forth. Perhaps someone should write a good book on discernment from an Evangelical and Reformed perspective.

I hope that this blog post exhorts us to action to pray for spiritual discernment on a regular basis.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Covenant Faithfulness

It has been my joy to write this blog for a number of years. My aim is to encourage "whosoever that would read" to move towards a Calvinistic and Reformed path. One that honours the written Scriptures and the truths therein, so that reform takes place in our ideas, regarding the doctrine of God, our thoughts about the church and public worship, the doctrine we hold and the way the church should be governed under Christ.

Once bad habits set in, it can be hard to change them, but if the Holy Spirit is at work then a change of direction, in our thinking and action is more than possible. We are living at a juncture in the West, where the church is largely in a state of spiritual confusion. Due to wrong teaching, many churches have no moral compass, other than what the consensus thinks is morally right. Without a robust love of the Ten Commandments, this is no surprise. Quite often I hear the phrase in discussing biblical truth: "I do not agree" or "I cannot accept that ... " or "I have a different opinion". These comments may be valid, but often they underlie a thought pattern that we can all believe what we want rather than being submitted to the right interpretation of Scripture. Romans 4:3 is crucial as Paul asks: "What does the Scripture say?".

Simply put, the Book of Deuteronomy offers many valuable lessons for the church today. Why? The message is the same as for the New Testament church as to what the Covenant LORD expects from his people in every age, in every continent. It is this. He expects Covenant faithfulness. But, what does that look like in practice?

Deuteronomy chapters 4, 6 and 8 are helpful to summarise what covenant faithfulness is to look like among the people of God.
4:1-2 “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules that I am teaching you, and do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.

4:4-5 "But you who held fast to the LORD your God are all alive today. See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.

4:9 "Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children—".


How may we summarise these truths? The people of the Covenant LORD are to walk in covenant faithfulness by:

*Listening to the statutes and rules
*To do these statutes and rules
* Not adding or taking away from the commandments, that you may keep them and obey them
* Hold fast to the LORD and do the LORD's commandments
*Take care and keep your soul diligently
* Teach your children and your children's children to do the same

In essence, covenant faithfulness means to hear and listen carefully to the Scriptures being faithfully read and taught faithfully publicly. The Bible is not primarily a private book, but the possession of the whole people of God. We are to do then the commandments and to keep the teaching faithfully. As the Lord Jesus said in John 14:15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments"; John 14:21 "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me"; John 15:10 "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love". Here Christ Jesus is effectually summarising the same teaching that is found in Deuteronomy.

Covenant faithfulness is what the LORD requires of his people. Let us pray that the whole church would desire to walk in covenant faithfulness by his grace.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Let's Study the Westminster Larger Catechism

The Westminster Larger Catechism contains 196 questions and answers. It is in my view one of the best documents to teach the church her doctrine and duty, that has been produced in the history of the church. Why then you may rightly ask is it so little known and used? This is a fair question and one that is not easy to answer.

In an age when an appreciation for history is quite low, never mind church history it is not surprising that little attention is given to historic documents such as this Larger Catechism. There is always the constant pursuit, by sinful man, for the new methods or the novelties as well. We must not pander to this lust in the church. Solomon rightly taught that: 'and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us' Ecclesiastes 1:9-10.

None-the-less I would like to contend that people begin to read and study this document. If you are an elder, how about teaching it in Adult Sunday School class or the midweek meeting?

It is easy to find this Catechism on the internet, just put it in the search engine. There is a new book coming out also by Evangelical Press in September/October this year which is called "The Westminster Standards in Modern English with Essays". It will probably be in hardback and this will make this an enduring contribution to the church for the coming years. This book could be used to study this Catechism.

My conclusion is: Let's study the Westminster Larger Catechism!

Monday, 14 August 2017

The True Israel of God

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 1 Cor 3:16-17.

There is much confusion today about the biblical place of modern day Israel as a nation. Some believe that the emergence of Israel on the world map has huge significance biblically. Some Christians believe that the rebuilding of a third temple in Jerusalem will be one of the major signs of prophecy before the return of Christ. But is this the case?

The Bible verse from 1 Corinthians teaches us that the church is the temple, not Jerusalem's temple, one which was destroyed in AD 70. Even if this temple was rebuilt, the LORD God would not be present there, in a Redemptive sense. It therefore would have zero prophetic significance.

Fresh questions need to be asked polemically, in order to answer false claims that are made by dispensationalist Christians. However, we need to go further than simply answering false claims; we desire to know also the truth of the Scriptures more clearly.

There are two resources that I would like to point us to, in order to help us on this subject of the true Israel of God.

1. O. Palmer Robertson's book called "The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow". This is a gripping read with many fresh insights into the types and shadows of Old Testament promises.

2. A sermon by Rev Nick Batzig called "Jesus, the True Israel of God" (https://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=726171058490) is excellent. This wonderful sermon goes further than giving apologetic answers. Nick expounds that the Son of God is the fulfilment of Israel's promises. Israel is a person. Listen to it and be blessed, as well as having meaningful answers to spiritual questions.

When we are the point that much money is wasted on Israel dispensationalist projects, such as rearing red heifers in Texas because they are supposedly needed for future temple sacrifices, then we need to teach Christians properly. False doctrine, leads to false ideas of how to serve the Covenant LORD, which can then lead to disaster.

Let's pray for a recovery of biblical truth regarding the true Israel of God.

Friday, 4 August 2017

There is the need for prayer for the recovery in the church of ...

The Summer time affords the chance, for me at least, to step back and reflect. In my assessment there is the need for urgent prayer for the the professing evangelical church on a number of fronts. I will make a list of these points for further consideration and I intend to blog on them. My small contribution, is intended to stir and stimulate a biblical interest in truth. I continue to be discouraged as a Christian at the lack of lively interest and attention given by many professing Christians in the Bible and the truths contained therein.

Here is a list of points which need further elucidation from Holy Scripture and prayer for their recovery in the church.

1. The Lord's Supper.
Perhaps top of the list is the right administration in the church of the Lord's Supper. The elders are supposed to guard the Lord's Table to ensure that only those who are worthy partakers, do indeed partake. The amount of confusion in the way the Lord's Supper is administered in many places, leaves a question open. Can a church be a true church, and not administer the Lord's Supper in a biblical and reverent manner?

1 Cor 11:27-29 "Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself".

2. Reverence in public Christian Worship.
Hebrews 12: 28-29 "Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire".

The order of the day in most professing circles is to consider, how can we be contemporary in worship? The Bible asks a very different question, which is: How does the Covenant Lord require to be worshipped? The high point of public worship should be the reading and the preaching of sound doctrine out of Scripture, so that the hearers can draw near to the Living God with "reverence and awe" (Hebrews 12:28) and in "Spirit and truth" (John 4:24).

3. The recovering of a love for preaching.
Preaching is the "backbone of the church" and the church cannot survive and thrive without. No amount of Christianity Explored courses, evangelism or music driven worship can replace it. Professing Christians may not desire preaching and when this happens it is a symptom of spiritual illness; something that the people themselves may not realise. Paul the apostle corrected the Corinthians and he taught them: "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" ( 1 Cor 1:22-23). "We preach", Paul said, but it was the non-Christian Jews who sought signs instead, and not the true church.

4. The rejection of the obsession with extra-biblical revelations.
The so-called Charismatic movement with its many tentacles has been one of the most damaging movements in the late 20th and early 21st Century's. Why? Despite the Scripture's warnings that nothing is to be added or taken away from Scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32, Proverbs 30:5-6) and Revelation 22:18-19), this movement has displaced the pre-eminence of the Bible in the church with its quest for extra-biblical experiences and revelations outside of the Bible. "There is nothing new under the sun" with this quest, because the Quaker movement did the same thing, yet today the Quakers are a barren, fruitless and unbiblical monument to warn us. The warning "Remember Lot's wife" could be said of the Quakers to warn Charismatics and stop their wrong pursuits: Remember the Quakers.
To bring someone back out, of Charismatic chaos and confusion is often very difficult, because it is now a new and deeply ingrained tradition. When its claims are challenged by the Bible, Charismatic adherents defend their position using unbiblical arguments and opinions, and they often do not realise they are doing it. John MacArthur has done the church a service with his books called "Strange Fire" and "Charismatic Chaos".

Charismatic heresies need addressing with clarity, boldness and persistence to rescue people from this mass of false teaching.

5. Love for the laws and commandments of Scripture; Too often there is a rejection of the commandments of God in favour of a rule-less religion
Have you ever heard a professing Christian say "I am under grace not law. Holding to the Ten Commandments is legalism!". This statement has a ring of plausibility for many, despite the fact that it reveals a completely false message and a false gospel. The Lord Jesus stated clearly: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" John 14:15. A gospel presentation that talks about revelling the grace of God, and yet holds to a message that never mentions the Covenant Lord's commandments, imperatives and rules, is a false one.

6. For fresh clarity on eschatology: the common notion around is a two-stage rapture theory or a theology which replaces the church with the State of Israel (Christian Zionism).
This dispensational approach to the Bible, instead of a Reformed covenantal approach to Scripture, must be challenged. What often begins with a seemingly innocent desire to study the "end times" often ends up in a quagmire of flawed propositions, one's which are not supported by Scripture. We need to hold all truths in balance with Scripture. An obsession with so-called end times events replaces the whole panorama of biblical truths for a fascination with a handful of ideas. I have never met a Christian who holds to dispensational teaching and yet remains balanced.

7. A clear understanding of biblical church government: Feminism is now gripping the church
The rise of women teaching in the church and their holding office to lead men and women in the church is revealing and fast-paced. The Holy Spirit has spoken that women are not permitted to teach or to exercise authority over men. Women are not permitted to hold the office of elder, minister and deacon. There are ample opportunities for service for men and women, but only qualified men may hold public office.
What does this yielding to feminism reveal? It shows a desire in part of the church, to be like the world and that they will substitute a desire to be like the world with Scripture. It is a trade-off and one that grieves the Holy Spirit. 1 Timothy 2-3. Titus 1 and the whole of Scripture teach that qualified and godly men only are to rule, lead and teach the church.

8. Covenantal baptism
Any approach to baptism which negates the teaching of the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, needs to be brought under scrutiny. Such approaches to baptism, opens the door to relegating the 39 books of the Old Testament to a lowered position. This is dangerous. Paul instructed Timothy that "All Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable ..." (2 Timothy 3:16).

9. A love of and the pursuit of personal and corporate holiness.
It seems as if the talk of holiness is "out of fashion", but it is in fashion in the eyes of heaven. Without holiness no one can see the LORD. Holiness is not an optional extra for Christians it is the very essence of Christianity. Do you agree and have you thought about your personal holiness in recent times?

Each of these points needs unpacking in order to help Christians to navigate their way of out these spurious teachings and if need be, out of churches that promote such teachings. It is the duty of Christians to be loving, but they must also seek out churches that hold to historic and biblical truth.