Saturday, April 30, 2011

Just Added - Trusting God

Jerry Bridges' precious insights into the perennial questions concerning suffering and God's sovereignty has now been added to the resource directory.

TRUSTING GOD
Jerry Bridges

Category: Apologetics
Click Here To Order
Because obeying God makes sense to us. In most cases, His laws appear reasonable and wise, and even when we don’t want to obey them, we usually concede that they are good for us. But the circumstances we find ourselves in often defy explanation. When unexpected situations arise that appear unjust, irrational, or even dreadful, we feel confused and frustrated. And before long, we begin to doubt God’s concern for us or His control over our lives. Adversity is hard to endure and can even be harder to understand. If God were really in control, why would He allow the tragic auto accident or crucial job loss? How could He permit cancer in a loved one or the death of a child? In an effort to strengthen his own trust in God during a time of adversity, Jerry Bridges began a lengthy Bible study on the topic of God’s sovereignty. What he learned changed his life, and he now shares the fruit of that study with you in Trusting God.

Friday, April 29, 2011

What Is Biblical Discipleship And Growth (Part 5)

Mark Dever, in his book "Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church", outlines the key factors in biblical discipleship and growth. Today, continuing from part 4, we'll look at the fifth component of biblical discipleship and growth.

6. Biblical Understanding of Church Membership

A biblical understanding of church membership probably sounds like the most boring subject covered thus far in this series. But if we understand what a true Christian is, and what a real church is, then membership in a local church becomes a deep longing for those who are the bride of Christ.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen." Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. "Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Revelation 7:9-17).

That is an exciting picture. But if you talk to many professing Christians today they will complain and give you a huge list of negative things about the church. Paul Washer commented on this:

I want to talk about finding the church, in other words, stopping the slander. If you want to be endeared to me, then treat my wife with the greatest respect. If you want to be on my bad side, then slander my wife. The accusation of infidelity and immorality is the hindrance in the work of missions.

We have experts who tell us over and over that there is little difference between the actions of the church and the actions of a fallen world. We hear experts that there is just as much immorality in the church as there is in the world. I am here to tell you that angers me because it is a lie. The experts do not even know what the church is. The church today is absolutely beautiful, and I will have words for anyone who says anything else. Because we are talking about Christ’s bride.

The church is in a process of sanctification. Yes she has her weaknesses; yes she has failings. Our bride is broken and humble and believing her master, and she is following him and being changed by him in a way that exalts the power of God in salvation. We are calling Christian that which is not Christian, and it has led to the slandering of the bride of Jesus Christ. Because of our watered-down view of the gospel, our superficial views of regeneration and conversion, because we believe that God is enough to save from the condemnation of sin but not enough to save from the power of sin.

It is not the fault of a liberal political party; it is the fault of pastors. Even conservative, fundamental pastors.


As we examine the topic of a biblical understanding of church membership, I will try to answer these three questions:

1. What is a true church?

2. Why should we join a church?

3. What things does church membership call us to do?

In today's post I will focus solely on the first of these three questions because it addresses the biggest problem - a problem created/perpetuated by the abundance of "seeker sensitive" churches that many of us have “left behind”. If I can answer and clear up the issue of defining church biblically, then I believe everything else will happen naturally.

Theologians through church history have made a distinction between what they call the “visible church”, the “invisible church”, and sects/cults/false churches. The greek word used for church in Scripture is “ekklesia” which describes the called out ones. All true Christians all over the world. These are the ones Jesus prayed for in John 17. This is every name written in the Lamb's Book of Life. Do we know every name written in that book? That is why we call the whole body of Christ the invisible church. There is no real argument here. It is when we discuss the visible church that the big problems start.

The expression of the local congregation where we find ourselves on Sundays is one example of a visible church. It is something we see every time we visit an area where professing believers gather to worship God and hear His word preached. These local churches are visible churches. The seven churches in Revelation are visible churches with one of them on the edge of apostacy by departing from the Gospel. The Laodiciean church was close to becoming an apostate or false church and was being strongly warned to repent by our Lord Himself. Professing believers gather in a visible church but we are always aware that there is always tares among the wheat, goats among the sheep, and false converts among true Christians in a visible church. The visible church is called to deal with this through church discipline but some goats are able to wear a sheep suit all their life as Judas did. I once told Ray Comfort that I am so thankful for him being the first person to teach me about false conversion. It has helped in many ways but none more so than in harmonizing passages that I used to find difficult.

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us (1 John 2:19).

John says that true Christians or members of the invisible church cannot apostatize: "for if they were of us, they would have continued with us." The fact that these professing Christians departed from the church is empirical proof that they were never true Christians. On a recent visit to the USA, a friend with Arminian theology asked me “Who perseveres until the end” and I said “the elect”. He then asked me “who are the elect” and I said “those who persevere”. Brothers and sisters, this may make our head spin but it is easily understood in the Sovereign mind of God. It is ultimately He who will divide the sheep from the goats.

When God saves someone they become a part of the invisible church. They then need to find a true visible church to join.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25).

This is where a lot of the problems happen. Rick Warren, for some very strange reason, recently preached to a lot of reformed pastors (at Desiring God 2010). During his “talk” he rebuked them for teaching too much Scripture and not enough application. Why would Rick Warren say something so incredibly stupid and unbiblical? Because his church growth philosophy has perverted how he defines a visible church. When he sees a large group of people who pray a sinners prayer but keep living in their old way he doesn't see false converts – he sees people who have not been taught how to apply all the teaching that they are getting too much of. Guess what will happen if I start teaching all my fornicating friends the application of waiting until they are married? They don't sin because they have never been taught application, they sin because they are evil, and love their sin, and hate God, and so did I, but God saved me and gave me a new heart with new desires, and now I am called to preach this Gospel to all those wicked sinners because God loves to save wicked sinners just like me!

When we look for a visible church to join we need to look much deeper than seeing a building with a sign that says church. The reformers fought against the false church of Roman Catholicism all their lives. To this day the Catholic church denies salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. The council of Trent pronounces damnation on anyone who believes that.

If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema (Council of Trent, Canons on Justification, Canon 9).

The Reformers defined a true Church in article 29 of the Belgic Confession:

Article 29 of the Belgic Confession

We believe that we ought to discern diligently and very carefully from the Word of God what is the true church, for all sects which are in the world today claim for themselves the name of church.1 We are not speaking here of the hypocrites, who are mixed in the church along with the good and yet are not part of the church, although they are outwardly in it.2 We are speaking of the body and the communion of the true church which must be distinguished from all sects that call themselves the church.

The true church is to be recognized by the following marks: It practises the pure preaching of the gospel.3 It maintains the pure administration of the sacraments as Christ instituted them.4 It exercises church discipline for correcting and punishing sins.5 In short, it governs itself according to the pure Word of God,6 rejecting all things contrary to it7 and regarding Jesus Christ as the only Head.8 Hereby the true church can certainly be known and no one has the right to separate from it.

Those who are of the church may be recognized by the marks of Christians. They believe in Jesus Christ the only Saviour,9 flee from sin and pursue righteousness,10 love the true God and their neighbour11 without turning to the right or left, and crucify their flesh and its works.12 Although great weakness remains in them, they fight against it by the Spirit all the days of their life.13 They appeal constantly to the blood, suffering, death, and obedience of Jesus Christ, in whom they have forgiveness of their sins through faith in Him.14

The false church assigns more authority to itself and its ordinances than to the Word of God. It does not want to submit itself to the yoke of Christ.15 It does not administer the sacraments as Christ commanded in His Word, but adds to them and subtracts from them as it pleases. It bases itself more on men than on Jesus Christ. It persecutes those who live holy lives according to the Word of God and who rebuke the false church for its sins, greed, and idolatries.16

These two churches are easily recognized and distinguished from each other.

(1. Rev 2:9. 2. Rom 9:6. 3. Gal 1:8; 1 Tim 3:15. 4. Acts 19:3-5; 1 Cor 11:20-29. 5. Mat 18:15-17; 1 Cor 5:4-5, 1 Cor 5:13; 2 Thes 3:6, 2 Thes 3:14; Titus 3:10. 6. John 8:47; John 17:20; Acts 17:11; Eph 2:20; Col 1:23; 1 Tim 6:3. 7. 1 Thes 5:21; 1 Tim 6:20; Rev 2:6. 8. John 10:14; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18. 9. John 1:12; 1 John 4:2. 10. Rom 6:2; Phil 3:12. 11. 1 John 4:19-21. 12. Gal 5:24. 13. Rom 7:15; Gal 5:17. 14. Rom 7:24-25; 1 John 1:7-9. 15. Acts 4:17-18; 2 Tim 4:3-4; 2 John 9. 16. John 16:2).

In Part 6 we will look at the questions of why we should we join a church and what things does church membership call us to do?

Go On To Part 6
Go Back To Part 4
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rob Bell - Out Of The Closet



Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins, has caused a firestorm of controversy among the wider evangelical community. Though it has already provoked a lot of discussion within this forum alone, I am not willing to put it out of its misery just yet. There are far wider ramifications than the obvious heresy of "Pastor Bell". This is fast becoming a watershed moment of a false teacher who finally managed to cross the evangelical line in the sand. False teachers have generally tended to thrive over the last few decades in a prevailing climate of "civility", tolerance, and the good old benefit of the doubt. But notice has now been served that an evangelical community that has tolerated too much for too long still has a threshold - a threshold that took Rob Bell by surprise. Bell's surprise at the outrage over his book may well have more to do with overplaying his hand than a genuine belief in his own orthodoxy.

But has Bell actually done us all a great service by turning our discernment radars on and being increasingly overt in his attacks on the historic Christian faith? I do hope this will become the shockwave that causes much needed climate change in the evangelical world - because that line in the sand took six years too long to cross.

Even back in 2005 Bell was peddling his wares:

When people use the word hell, what do they mean? They mean a place, an event, a situation absent of how God desires things to be. Famine, debt, oppression, loneliness, despair, death, slaughter--they are all hell on earth. Jesus' desire for his followers is that they live in such a way that they bring heaven to earth . . . What's disturbing is when people talk more about hell after this life than they do about Hell here and now. As a Christian, I want to do what I can to resist hell coming to earth (Rob Bell - Velvet Elvis p148).

Rob Bell may say he isn't a universalist, but it's kind of like Bill Clinton giving a sworn testimony:

This reality, this forgiveness, this reconciliation, is true for everybody. Paul insisted that when Jesus died on the cross he was reconciling ‘all things, in heaven and on earth, to God. This reality then isn’t something we make true about ourselves by doing something. It is already true. Our choice is to live in this new reality or cling to a reality of our own making (p83).

We also learned early on that Bell's copy of the Bible is a "Robert Schuller severely abridged" version:

I can’t find one place in the teachings of Jesus, or the Bible for that matter, where we are to identify ourselves first and foremost as sinners (p130).

He also did away with that tired notion of differentiating between believers and unbelievers:

If the gospel isn’t good news for everybody, then it isn’t good news for anybody (p167).

Bell realized that many problems of the historic Christian faith could be solved by humanizing God and elevating man:

Who does Peter lose faith in? Not Jesus; he is doing fine. Peter loses faith in himself. Peter loses faith that he can do what his rabbi is doing. If the rabbi calls you to be his disciple, then he believes that you can actually be like him. As we read the stories of Jesus’ life with his talmidim, his disciples, what do we find frustrates him to no end? When his disciples lose faith in themselves…. God has an amazingly high view of people. God believes that people are capable of amazing things. I’ve been told I need to believe in Jesus. Which is a good thing. But what I’m learning is that Jesus believes in me. I have been told that I need to have faith in God. Which is a good thing. But what I am learning is that God has faith in me (p124-125).

And none of this is a problem if you think that Sola Scriptura was a foreign exchange student you met in the 80's:

It wasn’t until the 300s that what we know as the sixty-six books of the Bible were actually agreed upon as the ‘Bible’. This is part of the problem with continually insisting that one of the absolutes of the Christian faith must be a belief that “Scripture alone” is our guide. It sounds nice, but it is not true. In reaction to abuses by the church, a group of believers during a time called the Reformation claimed that we only need the authority of the Bible. But the problem is that we got the Bible from the church voting on what the Bible even is. So when I affirm the Bible as God’s Word, in the same breath I have to affirm that when those people voted, God was somehow present, guiding them to do what they did. When people say that all we need is the Bible, it is simply not true. In affirming the Bible as inspired, I also have to affirm the Spirit who I believe was inspiring those people to choose those books (p67-68).

Let's hope that this controversy causes the "evangelical line in the sand" to have a seismic shift towards the Apostle Paul:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Lest We Forget



Lest We Forget - An Anzac Day Meditation by Nick Booth

Today Australia paused to reflect, in gratitude and honour, the enormous sacrifice of so many brave young men in the battlefields of the world. The day is predominantly concentrated on the tragedy of the Gallipoli campaign (ANZacs - Australia and New Zealand army corps) and the slaughters of the Western Front in World War I (WWI). The Australians, consisting of a fully volunteered force, rushed at the opportunity to make their mark as a new country and to forge a national identity, proudly unique among the British Empire. They did distinguish themselves as they had planned, but by a ‘baptism of fire’. Over 50% of their servicemen were killed or wounded (leaving a devastating hole in that generation of Australian men). They were well known and feared by enemy armies and their British high command, for their reckless daring, disdain for British superior officers, valiant mateship, and sense of humour in times of unspeakable adversity.

Christians should be able to see clear Biblical and Gospel footprints all over Anzac day or Remembrance Day. The whole subject becomes infiltrated with the glory of Jesus Christ. For those who cannot differentiate between the value of a human life and a tree, and have trouble recognizing how we differ from our "distant monkey cousins", it is worth remembering that so far there has never been any battle or campaign that involves multiple continents or tribes of chimpanzee’s, trying to rid the world of a dictatorial, ruthless Nazi-chimp emperor and his evil band of storm trooping spider monkeys.

Please consider these points:

1. PRAISE GOD THE CREATOR
For human beings created in the image of God.

2. PRAISE GOD FOR HIS MORAL CHARACTER AND HIS GREAT COMPASSION IN IMPLANTING IT WITHIN US
WWI highlights that there is a distinct moral code written into the heart of every human being created in the image of God that represents the character of their Creator.

3. PRAISE GOD FOR THE GOSPEL’S POWER TO DESTROY SIN
Wars, injustice, and tragedy should immediately remind us of SIN and it’s horrific pervasiveness, and the incomprehensible love and action of the Savior in providing the means to escape its grip.

4. PRAISE GOD FOR HIS JUSTICE
Wars remind us of the Biblical intentions of God to show His glory through the establishment of governments and authorities to establish and uphold JUSTICE. Governments may have abused this position, but clearly God’s justice is crystal clear in His instruction to minister justice in accordance with His character.

5. PRAISE GOD FOR HIS SUPREMACY
Despite how close the human race has come to obliterating itself in war, God’s grace is evident simply in the fact that we still manage to live through such enormous atrocities. The Christian has so much comfort in these times of devastating loss because of the promise of Jesus Christ:

And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" Matthew 28:18.

6. PRAISE JESUS CHRIST FOR HIS CROSS
Wars should point us to the greatest atrocity ever committed - the slaughter of the Creator of the universe nailed to a wooden cross. We must remember that, as Martin Luther said, “we all carry in our pockets His very nails”. Men start wars, men fight them, men are responsible for inconceivable evils - both inside and outside of battle. If we start pointing our finger in atrocities, then we should be prepared to see it pointing straight back at us. Look carefully at the words of Jesus:

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

I am often staggered at the response of Christian brethren who, while enjoying the luxury of being the beneficiaries of the freedom won with the blood of their ancestors, exercise that freedom to dismiss the chance of recognizing the sacrifice of people who lay down their lives for those they do not know.

Recognizing and remembering the valor of our brave soldiers, airmen, sailors, policemen, service volunteers etc.., is not an effort to compete with the memory of Christ - it’s meant to INVOKE the memory of the far greater sacrifice of Christ. It does not aim to achieve a glorification of war - it’s a chance to glorify Christ. These men were His instruments and, for many, it definitely was a “Purpose Driven Death”. Who can fathom how God spared so many nations in the outcomes of great wars.

Christians should be joining the crowds that line the streets surrounding cenotaphs and military monuments on these special days. Not to mock the commemorative practices of many, some of whom do not know Christ, but to see the value of human life and honor memories of those who shadow our Lord’s example. So today I will get up ridiculously early and stand side by side with many other Australians for the one day of the year that we reflect on the valor, tragedies, and memories of my countrymen in battle defending my freedom, and I’ll go even if I’m only standing there amongst people who do not know God.

It was an honor to stand there with you today Nick - Cameron

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Preaching Easter Sunday At Hope Christian Church

I have just been asked to fill a pulpit at very short notice. I will be preaching in Brisbane (Springwood to be exact) tomorrow morning (Easter Sunday) at Hope Christian Church (in the Springwood Seventh Day Adventist Church Building), 121 Barbaralla Drive, Springwood, QLD 4127 (see map below). So if any of the Brisbane readers want to come, I'd love to see you there. Why meet in a Seventh Day Adventist venue? Answer - it's always free on Sunday!

The sermon preached will be: "A Rugged Cross, An Empty Grave, And A Throne In Heaven".


View Larger Map

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Is Good About A Friday Where A Just Man Was Condemned?

I have often been criticized by professing Christians in Denmark for talking too much about Christ's death on the cross. Can we please move onto something more interesting? They tell me that once you are saved it is time to move on to other more important things in the new life. Excuse me! What song are believers going to sing for all eternity?

And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth." Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" (Revelation 5:9-13)

In heaven we will sing about a murder. Why should we "move on" from the cross when we will sing about it in eternity. We don't move on from the cross - we need to grow in our understanding of it and our thankfulness for it. Yes, there are other subjects in the Bible - but they all point to the cross.

If we preach on love it should point to how God demonstrated His love by dying for us while we were sinning.

If we preach on faith it should point to our need to trust in Christ and His completed work on the cross.

If we preach on giving it should point to the One Who gave His life on the cross.

If we preach on marriage it should point to the Bridegroom Who went to the cross for His bride.

How much more should we speak of the blessed Savior on "Good Friday". A day where A Gospel where, in the words of John Macarthur:

Christ was not a sinner, but was treated as if He were, so believers who have not yet been made righteous are treated as if they were righteous. Christ bore their sins so that they could bear His righteousness. God treated Him as if He committed believers’ sins, and treats believers as if they did only the righteous deeds of the sinless Son of God (excerpt from John Macarthur's Commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:21).

If that doesn't excite you then you need to spend more time thinking about God's righteousness and your sinfulness. And then look to the glorious cross.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Update From Australia

Warning: contains food references that may be meaningless to people who live outside Australia.

My family is now more than half way through our trek down under and it has been so great to escape the icy tundra of Scandinavia for the sub-tropical atmosphere of Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. It has also been a great blessing to have Grandma and Grandpa at arms length to play with the kids and spend time getting to know them better. One of the major challenges has been not to gore food that I have been deprived of for the last four years. I have spent my fair share of time thus far devouring Tim Tams, meat pies, musk sticks, Chico Babies, Fruit Tingles, Solo, Crunchie Bars, and all the other good stuff that Elvis would have eaten if he grew up in Australia. And it's great to eat cuts of meat carved straight off the side of a cow rather than one of those pathetic european sausages full of random animal parts from random animals.

Coming back after four years has also helped to give some much needed perspective on how beautiful this part of the world is - and it can all be viewed in a t-shirt for 12 months of the year (even though Denmark has great summers the other eleven months are problematic)! The kids have spent almost the entire first month here in the pool and it has been great to see the bare flesh on their arms and legs once again. Going outside of the house no longer requires the logistical planning equivalent to invading a small country (my wife always points out that I am a man who is highly prone to exaggeration - which is why I said "small country" ok)!

It has been exciting to catch up with many of my old friends and a whole stack of new ones who have tracked me down through my blog and youtube videos. Several preaching invitations have ensued and I have been more than willing to accept those offers (for those of you in Brisbane and South East Queensland who are interested, I will be preaching in Brisbane two times on Sunday May the 8th. Firstly at 9:30am at Hope Christian Church and at 6:00pm at Christian Witness Ministries Fellowship).

Another great thrill during this trip has been the opportunity to go out open air preaching again with my Bullhorn Guy Fraternity friends. And speaking of open air preachers, my arrival has coincided with the departure of my good friend Joshua Williamson from Operation 513. After many years of delivering pizzas so that he could buy tracts and get through Bible college, Josh has now taken up a full time pastoral position at a Reformed Baptist church in the provincial city of Goulburn. We are all going to miss Josh's big voice thundering down the main street of Brisbane but I am so thrilled that he will be able to provide for his young family and devote himself fully to the noble pursuit of preaching. It was great to see you off last weekend Josh. And I was not alone, I know that every lame sissy boy liberal pastor, college lecturer, and Baptist Union appeaser in Brisbane was also thrilled to see you leave town.

Many of the readers have heard about Josh when he has featured on Wretched Radio and TV. In commemoration of Brisbane's loss and Goulburn's gain, here are a couple of great videos from when Josh was featured with Todd Friel on Wretched TV during his last trip to the USA. They feature an open air sermon followed by an interview with Todd:





Miss you already Josh . . .

Monday, April 18, 2011

18 April - Martin Luther's Date With Destiny

Facing Certain Death
Summoned to Worms, Luther believed that he was going to his death. He insisted that his co-worker, Philip Melanchthon, remain in Wittenberg. "My dear brother, if I do not come back, if my enemies put me to death, you will go on teaching and standing fast in the truth; if you live, my death will matter little." Luther at Worms was 37 years old. He had been excommunicated by the Pope. Luther would have remembered that the Martyr, John Hus, a Century before had travelled to Constance with an imperial safe conduct, which was not honoured. Luther declared: "Though Hus was burned, the truth as not burned, and Christ still lives... I shall go to Worms, though there be as many devils there as tiles on the roofs."

Luther's journey to Worms was like a victory parade. Crowds lined the roads cheering the man who had dared to stand up for Germany against the Pope.

Before the Emperor
At 4 o' clock on Wednesday 17 April, Luther stood before the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire. Charles V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, ruled all the Austrian domains, Spain, Netherlands, a large part of Italy and the Americas. At 21 years old, Charles V ruled over a territory larger than any man since Charlemagne.

Amidst the pomp and splendor of this imperial gathering, stood the throne of the Emperor on a raised platform. It was flanked by Spanish knights in gleaming armour, 6 Princes, 24 Dukes, 30 Archbishops and Bishops, and 7 Ambassadors.


Luther was asked to identify whether the books on the table were his writings. Upon Luther' confirmation that they were, an official asked Luther: "Do you wish to retract them, or do you adhere to them and continue to assert them?" Luther had come expecting an opportunity to debate the issues, but it was made clear to him that no debate was to be tolerated. The Imperial Diet was ordering him to recant all his writings. Luther requested more time, so that he might answer the question without injury to the Word of God and without peril to his soul. The Emperor granted him 24 hours.

Confrontation
The next day, Thursday 18 April, as the sun was setting and torches were being lit, Luther was ushered into the august assembly. He was asked again whether he would recant what he had written. Luther responded that some of his books taught established Christian doctrine on faith and good works. He could not deny accepted Christian doctrines. Other of his books attacked the papacy and to retract these would be to encourage tyranny and cover up evil. In the third category of books, he had responded to individuals who were defending popery and in these Luther admitted he had written too harshly.

The examiner was not satisfied: "You must give a simple, clear and proper answer... will you recant or not?"

"Here I Stand"
Luther's response, first given in Latin and then repeated in German, shook the world: "Unless I am convinced by Scripture or by clear reasoning that I am in error - for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves - I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against ones conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen."

Amidst the shocked silence, cheers rang out for this courageous man who had stood up to the Emperor and the Pope. Luther turned and left the tribunal. Numerous German nobles formed a circle around Luther and escorted him safely back to his lodgings.

Condemned
The Emperor was furious. However, Prince Frederick insisted that Charles V honour the guarantee of safe conduct for Luther. Charles V raged against "this devil in the habit of a monk" and issued the edict of Worms, which declared Luther an outlaw, ordering his arrest and death as a "heretic."

Kidnapped
As Luther travelled back to Wittenberg, preaching at towns on the route, armed horsemen plunged out of the forest, snatched Luther from his wagon and dragged him off to Wartburg Castle. This kidnapping had been arranged by Prince Frederick amidst great secrecy in order to preserve Luther's life. Despite the Emperor's decree that anyone helping Luther was subject to the loss of life and property, Frederick risked his throne and life to protect his pastor and professor.

Wartburg Castle
For the 10 months that Luther was hidden at Wartburg Castle, as Knight George (Junker Jorg), he translated The New Testament into German and wrote such booklets as: "On Confession Whether the Pope Has the Authority to Require It; On the Abolition of Private Masses" and "Monastic Vows." By 1522, The New Testament in German was on sale for but a week's wages.

A Time of Change
The Reformation not only brought about sweeping changes in the church, but dramatic changes in all of society. First of all the Reformation focused on bringing doctrines, forms of church government, and of worship and daily life into conformity with the Word of God. But this of course had tremendous implications for political, economical, social and cultural life as well.

God's Word Above All Things
Luther revised the Latin liturgy and translated it into German. Now the laity received the Communion in both bread and wine, as the Husites had taught a Century earlier. The whole emphasis in church services changed from the sacramental celebration of the Mass as a sacrifice, to the preaching and teaching of God's Word. Luther maintained that every person has the right and duty to read and study the Bible in his own language. This became the foundation of the Reformation: a careful study of the Bible as the source of all truth and as the only legitimate authority, for all questions of faith and conduct.

The True Church
The Church is a community of believers, not a hierarchy of officials. The Church is an organism rather than an organisation, a living body of which each believer is a member.

Luther stressed the priesthood of all believers. We do not gain salvation through the church, but we become members of the Church when we become believers.

Reformation Basic Principles
Luther dealt with many primary issues, including:

1. Authority - the Bible alone is our authority and not the councils or leaders of the Church. The Bible is above tradition.

2. Salvation - is by the grace of God alone, accomplished by the atonement of Christ alone, received by faith alone. Grace comes before sacraments.

3. The Church - the true Church is composed of the elect, those regenerated by God's Holy Spirit. Regenerate Church membership.

4. The Priesthood - consists of all true believers. The priesthood of all believers.

The Battle Cries of the Reformation
The Protestant Reformation mobilised by Luther rallied around these great battle cries:
Sola Christus - Christ alone is the Head of the Church.
Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone is our authority.
Sola Gratia - Salvation is by the grace of God alone.
Sola Fide - Justification is received by faith alone.
Soli Deo Gloria - Everything is to be done for the glory of God alone.

Luther's Legacy
Despite Luther being declared an outlaw by the Emperor, he survived to minister and wrote for 25 more years, and then died of natural causes, 18 February 1546.

In spite of many illnesses, Luther remained very active and productive as an advisor to princes, theologians and pastors, publishing major commentaries, producing great quantities of books and pamphlets, and he completed the translation of The Old Testament into German by 1534. Luther continued preaching and teaching to the end of his life. He frequently entertained students and guests in his home, and he produced beautiful poems and hymns, including one hymn that will live forever: "Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God).

Luther also did a great deal to promote education. He labored tirelessly for establishment of schools everywhere. Luther wrote his Shorter Catechism in order to train up children in the essential doctrines of the faith.

It has been common to portray Luther as a simple and obscure monk, who challenged the pope and emperor. Actually Luther was anything but simple or obscure. He was learned, experienced and accomplished far beyond most men of his age. He had lived in Magdeburg, Eisenach and was one of the most distinguished graduates of the University of Erfurt. Luther travelled to Cologne, to Leipzig, and had crossed the Alps, and travelled to Rome. Luther was a great student, with a tremendous breadth of reading, who had excelled in his studies, and achieved a Master of Arts and Doctorate in Theology in record time. He was an accomplished bestselling author, one of the greatest preachers of all time, a highly respected theological professor, and one of the first professors to lecture in the German language, instead of in Latin.

Far from being a simple monk, Luther was the Prior of his monastery and the district vicar over 11 other monasteries. Luther was a monk, a priest, a preacher, a professor, a writer, and a Reformer. He was one of most courageous and influential people in all of history. The Lutheran Faith was not only adopted in Northern Germany, but also throughout Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland.

Luther was a controversial figure in his day and has continued to be considered controversial to this very day. There is no doubt that Luther's search for peace with God changed the whole course of human history. He challenged the power of Rome over the Christian Church, smashed the chains of superstition and tyranny and restored the Christian liberty to worship God in spirit and in truth.

"For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to Salvation for everyone who believes ...or in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, the just shall live by Faith." Romans 1:16-23

This Article is taken from: The Greatest Century of Reformation by Dr. Peter Hammond

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Just Added - Till He Come

Spurgeon's timeless collection of communion sermons has just been added to the resource directory.

TILL HE COME
Charles Spurgeon
Category: Heroes, Puritans, And Reformers
Click Here To Order
Spurgeon is most famous for his pastorship at London's Metropolitan Tabernacle, where he regularly preached to huge crowds. In his lifetime, Spurgeon preached to over 10,000,000 people and published over 55 books, sermons, and meditations which have been translated into 34 languages. Till He Come is a collection of addresses centered on the Lord's Supper. Some were preached to the congregation at Metropolitan, while others were spoken to small groups of Christians Spurgeon hosted on Sundays to celebrate communion. The collection addresses a diverse range of scriptures, but all stick to the common theme of Jesus' symbolic last meal. It will prove helpful to anyone looking for further insight on this interdenominational practice and will encourage believers to "do this in remembrance of me."

Friday, April 15, 2011

What Is Biblical Discipleship And Growth (Part 4)

Mark Dever, in his book "Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church", outlines the key factors in biblical discipleship and growth. Today, continuing from part 3, we'll look at the fifth component of biblical discipleship and growth.

5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And I answered, "O Lord GOD, you know." Then he said to me, "Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD." So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, "Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live." So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. (Ezekiel 37:1-10)

That is a picture of evangelism. Evangelism contains three necessary ingredients:

Firstly, the God of the resurrection. Programs, therapy, and positive thinking cannot raise the dead. Only God can. Unless the Holy Spirit breathes upon the valley of dry bones then all our programs are nothing more than skeleton re-arranging.

The second ingredient in evangelism is the prophet or preacher. It is God who converts but God chose the “foolishness of preaching” (1 Corinthians 1:21) to resurrect those who are dead in sin. The prophet must speak to the valley of dry bones knowing that he can do nothing unless God does a supernatural work. The prophet must also be careful to proclaim the message God told him to speak and nothing else.

The third ingredient in evangelism is dead bodies. That was us prior to conversion and that is the condition of everyone in the world who is not a Christian. The Bible declares all unconverted men to be dead in sin. So what is the problem that causes this?
True growth in a church requires biblical evangelism and God to move by the power of His Holy Spirit.

If we were to break down presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ into five essential elements then I would explain it in this order i) the Holiness of God; ii) the sinfulness of man; iii) the necessity of judgment; iv) the atoning work of Christ and His resurrection and; v) man’s response that requires repentance and faith (for a detailed examination of these five points then go here). Other people may break it down in different ways but these five points encapsulate the necessary truths one must understand in order to come to saving faith. This message God has given to His church is both offensive and foolish to the unconverted sinner.

The popular thought among “seeker sensitive” proponents is that growth in attendance verifies success and validates the methodology. But is this a valid form of measurement? Following this logic Noah must have been an abject failure as an evangelist. To be sure he was a great ship builder but he was also a preacher of righteousness for around 100 years. After a century of Noah’s evangelistic endeavors how many people got on the boat – his wife, his three sons and the wives of his three sons. Think about it, Noah endured decade after decade without a “church growth manual” to improve his ark attendance. How long would most modern mission boards have given Noah before they cut his funding. Few would argue that the problem was Noah’s preaching and Scripture seems to suggest otherwise. It seems pretty clear that the reason no one listened to Noah was that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”. Noah’s success as a preacher should be measured by his faithfulness to the message God charged him with and so too should it be with the preachers of modern times. The church growth phenomenon has placed unnecessary pressure on many faithful preachers in the field as congregation size becomes a criteria that prevails over faithful preaching.

Some people will be critical of this analogy concerning Noah. Without a doubt healthy church attendance can be a reflection of faithful preaching and God’s favor. But my contention here is that this should never be our starting point. Several years ago I took part in some campus evangelism at a major university in Australia. Christian leaders on the campus were very interested in methodology and results. The first question asked was “does it work?” to which I responded “wrong question”. Their first port of call in evaluating my material and methodology should have been the question “is it biblical”? If everything we do is not grounded in Scripture then our labor can be like window dressing on a house with no foundation.

This pragmatic thinking where the end justifies the means is very prevalent in many of today’s mega-churches and can be a very dangerous road to travel. Our deceitful human hearts can be quick to embrace ideas that deliver a desired outcome. One key figure within the seeker sensitive movement said this “Create a service that is intentionally designed for your members to bring their friends to. And make the service so attractive, appealing, and relevant to the unchurched that your members are eager to share it with the lost people they care about”. Did you notice the emphasis he placed on preaching content? No, me neither.

While many professing Christians can quote John 3:16 with ease the verses that follow seem to have been highlighted with invisible ink. Yet they contain the missing information. Verses eighteen through twenty have this to say:

He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the Light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:18-20)

Scripture teaches plainly that unconverted humanity cannot find God for the same reason that a thief can never find a policeman. I cannot find anywhere in Scripture where we are instructed to make our churches more attractive to the “unchurched”, but there is ample evidence of God growing His church and men preaching His message. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart. Only God can change the human heart, and the “foolishness of preaching” is the method God chose to facilitate that change.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:21-24)

Go On To Part 5
Go Back To Part 3
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Story Behind Martin Bashir's Rob Bell Interview

If you live under a rock and haven't already seen this then you need to go back to this earlier post which contains Martin Bashir's sensational interview of Rob Bell. Bashir is famous for exclusive media interviews with famous people including Lady Diana and Michael Jackson. It seems that Bell showed up for the interview expecting a secular interviewer who would not venture into the realm of biblical exegesis and church history. Bashir was like a dog on a bone when it came to Bell's distorted retelling of history and selective use of Scripture. It was a long time coming and it is a shame that this didn't happen a long time ago by a theological heavyweight. Bell was left looking like a little boy waiting outside the headmaster's office.

Of interest to many after the interview was whether Bashir is a Christian, and what was the story behind such a provocative interview. Paul Edwards of "The Paul Edwards Show" interviewed Bashir and found out whether or not he is a committed Christian and if the blog rumors are true that he attends Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. For those of you who are curious about the story behind the interview, and what makes Martin Bashir tick, you will find this to be a fascinating interview.



In this first segment Martin Bashir points out Rob Bell's disgraceful handling of history, Scripture, and the beliefs of Martin Luther. I was already aware of Bell's Luther quote and how reprehensible it is. Gene Edward Veith, a Lutheran, had this to say on the subject on his Cranach blog:

The evangelical blogosphere is all abuzz over a new book entitled Love Wins by the influential evangelical pastor and author Rob Bell, in which he argues for universalism, the notion that God will save everyone, whether or not they have faith in Christ. I had assumed that this debate did not concern us Lutherans, since we have our theology thoroughly worked out and this is just not an issue in our circles. But now I learn that Bell enlisted Martin Luther in his cause, quoting a letter from 1522 in which he said that no one could doubt that God could save someone after death.

Now Luther, in his long and tumultuous and developing career, said all kinds of things, including things that were flat out wrong. They mean nothing for Lutheran theology, which is defined by the confessional statements collected in the Book of Concord. But Westminster Theological Seminary Professor Carl Trueman dug out what Luther actually said (in bold with Bell’s quotation in CAPITALS):

If God were to save anyone without faith, he would be acting contrary to his own words and would give himself the lie; yes, he would deny himself. And that is impossible for, as St. Paul declares, God cannot deny himself [II Tim. 2:13]. It is as impossible for God to save without faith as it is impossible for divine truth to lie. That is clear, obvious, and easily understood, no matter how reluctant the old wineskin is to hold this wine–yes, is unable to hold and contain it.

It would be quite a different question whether God can impart faith to some in the hour of death or after death so that these people could be saved through faith. WHO WOULD DOUBT GOD’S ABILITY TO DO THAT? No one, however, can prove that he does do this. For all that we read is that he has already raised people from the dead and thus granted them faith. But whether he gives faith or not, it is impossible for anyone to be saved without faith. Otherwise every sermon, the gospel, and faith would be vain, false, and deceptive, since the entire gospel makes faith necessary. (Works, 43, ed. and trans. G. Wienke and H. T. Lehmann [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1968], 53-54; WA 10.ii, 324.25-325.11)


Talk about taking something out of context! Bell takes a sentence out of Luther while ignoring what he says about it! And ignoring Luther’s conclusion, that, yes, faith in Christ is necessary for salvation.


Bell's despicable actions in using the great reformer to support his heresy should give us a clear picture of the lofty heights Rob Bell has achieved as a theological clown. The rest of the interview between Paul Edwards and Martin Bashir can be heard below in the following three audios where Bashir reveals the truth about his own convictions:





Monday, April 11, 2011

I Just Visited Hillsong Brisbane

Newtaste just commented on a recent post where I discussed some new information that had come to light regarding Hillsong's removal of a line from a Bible verse. Newtaste said that:

In the past few months, the invitation to accept Jesus and/or the prayer has included saying sorry for sinning, asking Jesus for forgiveness, turning away from sin and the reality of Hell. It is not at every Hillsong service, and it was lacking on Sunday night at Norwest, but the elements were there on Saturday night at Waterloo and have been at Norwest on previous Sunday nights. There has been a noticeable change at Hillsong, noticeable to me anyway.

Cameron, you may well have influenced the change, as it was at the end of a sermon by Joel A'Bell that I first noticed it. Who knows!! But it is probably time for you to move on to another topic.


Newtaste, I have two things to say in response to your comment:

1. I hope you are right, and

2. If you are right, then that information is taking a long time to filter into Hillsong's Brisbane campus.

A couple of weeks ago, my friends Josh Williamson and Heath from Perth decided it would be interesting to check out a Friday night service at Hillsong's Brisbane campus during my tour down under. It was a kind of surreal experience because it was the same place that I studied twelve years ago back in the day when it was Garden City AOG.

One of the first things I noticed was that they had assembled a very impressive rock band for their worship services (disclaimer - my assessment of musical prowess may only be quoted at the risk of your own personal credibility). The music was deafeningly loud and I am still undecided as to whether that is a revelation of their volume or my age (41 at last count).

The crunchy guitars (just trying to sound relevant ok) certainly did little to bury the lack of theological content in the songs as did the smoke machine (smoke machines were cool on Countdown in the 70's - another worthy nominee for my Lame Attempst At Relevance Series). But that was all par for the course as the night progressed. To my surprise the sermon started out surprisingly good with an excellent word study on the Greek word "Skandalon" (where the English word "scandal" comes from). I braced myself to eat my words. But here's the question - if you were to preach a sermon on scandals surrounding the life of Jesus, where would you finish that sermon? I would have thought it to be a no-brainer that it would have to culminate with the greatest scandal of all:

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (1 Corinthians 1:21-23).

Instead, the sermon that night never ventured such lofty highest. In fact it stayed mired in the realm of moralistic stories until it closed with a tragic attempt at a gospel presentation which featured a denial of God's Sovereignty (perhaps unwitting), no mention of sin, no mention of judgment, no mention of the atoning work of Christ, and drumroll please - no mention of repentance. Newtaste, I see no reason to amend my assessment of the Gospel according to Hillsong.

Josh Williamson did try and speak with the preacher after the service but was rapidly brushed aside. Heath went up into the post service follow up room but nobody spoke to him. Like I said - par for the course!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Just Added - Confessions And Creeds

Knowing our church history is one of our highest learning priorities after the study of Scripture itself. This fascinating and educational list of creeds and confessions from church history will be a helpful resource in the study of Christian doctrine, knowledge of church history, and identifying "modern heresies" that usually turn out to be recycled old heresies. The following list can also be found in the "store" section in the right hand column of this blog under the heading of Confessions and Creeds.

APOSTLES' CREED
First Or Second Century AD

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The Apostles' Creed is an early statement of Christian belief, possibly from the first or second century, but in its current form more likely post-Nicene Creed in the early 4th Century AD. The theological specifics of the creed appear to be a refutation of the early heresy of Gnosticism. The Apostles' Creed is widely used by a number of Christian denominations for both liturgical and catechetical purposes, most visibly by liturgical churches of western tradition, including Lutheran churches, Anglican and Episcopalian churches. Important note: the word catholic, as it appears in this creed, refers not to the Roman Catholic church but to the church universal.


NICENE CREED
325 AD

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The Nicene Creed is a Christian statement of faith accepted by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and most Protestant churches. It gets its name from the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), where it was initially adopted, and from the First Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.), where a revised version was accepted. Thus it may be referred to specifically as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed to distinguish it from the original 325 A.D. version. The original Nicene Creed adopted in 325 ended just after the words, "We believe in the Holy Spirit..." Content was added at the First Ecumenical Council of Constantinople in 381 A.D.; hence the name "Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed", which refers to the modified or updated creed. The Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus (431 A.D.) reaffirmed the creed in this form and explicitly forbade making additional revisions to it. There have been other subsequent creeds formulated to guard against perceived heresy, but this one, as revised in 381 A.D., was the last time both the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Orthodox) churches were in united agreement on a Credo. This creed is not to be confused with the later Athanasian Creed.


ATHANASIAN CREED
340 - 397 AD

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The Athanasian Creed is a statement of Christian doctrine traditionally ascribed to Athanasius (298 - 373 A.D.), Archbishop of Alexandria. However most of today's historians agree that in all probability it was originally written in Latin, not in Greek, and thus Athanasius cannot have been the original author. Its theology is closely akin to that found in the writing of western theologians, especially Ambrose of Milan (340 - 397 A.D.). It was designed to clearly affirm the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity as opposed to forms of Arianism. This creed really highlights the critical importance that the early church placed on defining God rightly. After all, anything else is idolatry!


COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON
451 AD

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The Council of Chalcedon was an ecumenical council that took place from October 8-November 1, 451 A.D at Chalcedon, a city of Bithynia in Asia Minor. It is the fourth of the first seven Ecumenical Councils in Christianity. It repudiated the Eutychian doctrine of monophysitism, and set forth the Chalcedonian Creed, which describes the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity.



BELGIC CONFESSION
1561

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The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Reformed Churches is the Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation "Confessio Belgica." "Belgica" referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession's chief author was Guido de Bras, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.
During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to the most terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Bräs prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would "offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire," rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession. Although the immediate purpose of securing freedom from persecution was not attained, and de Bräs himself fell as one of the many thousands who sealed their faith with their lives, his work has endured. The text, not the contents, was revised again at the Synod of Dort in 1618-19 and adopted as one of the doctrinal standards to which all officebearers in the Reformed churches were required to subscribe. The confession stands as one of the best symbolical statements of Reformed doctrine.


HEIDELBERG CATECHISM
1563

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The Heidelberg Catechism is a Protestant confessional document taking the form of a series of questions and answers, for use in teaching Reformed Christian doctrine. It has been translated into many languages and is regarded as one of the most influential of the Reformed catechisms. Elector Frederick III, sovereign of the Palatinate from 1559 to 1576, commissioned the composition of a new Catechism for his territory. Frederick wanted to even out the religious situation of the territory, but also to draw up a statement of belief that would combine the best of Lutheran and Reformed wisdom and could instruct ordinary people on the basics of the newfound Protestant version of the Christian faith. One of the aims of the catechism was to counteract the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and so it based each of its statements on the text of the Bible. The Catechism is divided into fifty-two sections, called "Lord's Days," which were designed to be taught on each of the 52 Sundays of the year. The Synod of Heidelberg approved the catechism in 1563. In the Netherlands, the Catechism was approved as well as the great Synod of Dort, which adopted it as one of the Three Forms of Unity, together with the Belgic Confession and the Canons of Dort. Elders and deacons were required to subscribe and adhere to it, and ministers were required to preach on a section of the Catechism each Sunday so as to increase the often poor theological knowledge of the church members. In many Dutch Reformed denominations this practice is still continued.


SECOND HELVETIC CONFESSION
1566

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The word "Helvetic" is Latin for "Swiss." The setting of the Second Helvetic Confession is Swiss-German Reformed Protestantism.
After the great Reformer Ulrich Zwingli died in battle in 1531, Heinrich Bullinger succeeded him as minister of the church in Zurich. Bullinger was a model Reformed minister. In 1561, Bullinger composed the document that later became known as the Second Helvetic Confession. The churches of Switzerland adopted Bullinger's confession as their new confession of faith. Soon finding wide acceptance throughout Europe and beyond, it was translated into French, English, Dutch, Polish, Hungarian, Italian, Arabic, and Turkish. Reflecting the theological maturity of the Reformed churches, the Second Helvetic Confession is moderate in tone and catholic in spirit. From the opening paragraphs it emphasizes the church and its life and affirms the authority of the Scriptures for the church's government and reformation. By including an article on predestination, the confession asks the church to trust in God's free and gracious election of its membership in Jesus Christ. At the same time, the confession addresses the practical life of the gathered community, detailing matters of worship, church order and conflict, ministry, the sacraments, and marriage.


CANONS OF DORDT
1618

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The Canons of Dordt constitute the judgment of the Synod of Dordt held in the Dutch city of Dordrecht in 1618-1619.
These canons are in actuality a judicial decision on the doctrinal points in dispute from the Arminian controversy of that day. Following the death of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), his followers set forth a Five articles of Remonstrance (published in 1610) formulating their points of departure from the stricter Calvinism of the Belgic Confession. The Canons of Dordt is the judgment of the Synod against this Remonstrance. However, Arminian theology later received official toleration by the State and has since continued in various forms within Protestantism. The Canons were not intended to be a comprehensive explanation of Reformed doctrine, but only an exposition on the five points of doctrine in dispute. These Canons set forth what is often referred to as the Five Points of Calvinism. Today, the Canons of Dordt form one of the confessional standards of many of the Reformed churches around the world, including the Netherlands, Australia, and North America.


WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
1646

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The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been influential within Presbyterian churches worldwide. In 1643, the English Parliament called upon "learned, godly and judicious Divines", to meet at Westminster Abbey in order to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England. Their meetings, over a period of five years, produced the confession of faith, as well as a Larger Catechism and a Shorter Catechism. For more than three centuries, various churches around the world have adopted the confession and the catechisms as their standards of doctrine, subordinate to the Bible. The Westminster Confession of Faith was modified and adopted by Congregationalists in England in the form of the Savoy Declaration (1658). Likewise, the Baptists of England modified the Savoy Declaration to produce the Second London Baptist Confession (1689). English Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists would together (with others) come to be known as Nonconformists, because they did not conform to the Act of Uniformity (1662) establishing the Church of England as the only legally-approved church.


BAPTIST CONFESSION OF FAITH
1689

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This is the Confession that has been adopted by my home fellowship in Denmark and of which C. H. Spurgeon said - 'Here the youngest members of our church will have a body of Truth in small compass, and by means of the scriptural proofs, will be able to give a reason of the hope that is in them.' The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith was written by Calvinistic Baptists in England to give a formal expression of the Reformed and Protestant Christian faith with an obvious Baptist perspective. This confession, like the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) and the Savoy Declaration (1658), was written by evangelical Puritans who were concerned that their particular church organization reflect what they perceived to be Biblical teaching. The creation of the 1689 Confession is linked to Early English Baptist history and the differences between the “General” and “Particular” brands of Baptist belief. In the early 17th century, English Baptists were mainly a loose organization of churches, rather than an established denomination. With the advent of Arminianism at around the same time, many Baptist churches adopted the Arminian concepts of Christ's atonement and man's free will. The General Baptists were so-called because they held to an Arminian general atonement, in which Christ died for all alike. On the other hand, many Baptists rejected the teaching of Arminianism and asserted that a Christian's salvation was ultimately the work of God and his sovereign choice. These Baptists were called “Particular” because they held to the Calvinistic particular atonement, in which Christ's atonement was limited to those whom God had chosen to save. Both General and Particular Baptists suffered severe persecution from the established Church of England. Virtually all Baptists had left the established church because they were convinced that the Bible did not support either an Episcopalian form of church government, nor the role of the Monarch in determining the affairs of the church. The assertion by Baptist churches that only adult converts could be Baptized also put them at odds with the Church of England. Though many of the Presbyterian Puritans also opposed the Baptist view of believer Baptism, this document did much to affirm the vital common ground they shared with the Particular Baptists in their understanding of Scripture and salvation.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Is Biblical Discipleship And Growth (Part 3)

Mark Dever, in his book "Nine Marks Of A Healthy Church", outlines the key factors in biblical discipleship and growth. Today, continuing from part 2, we'll look at the third and fourth components of biblical discipleship and growth.

3. A Biblical Understanding of the Gospel

I have already said so much about this subject on this very blog that I will mention some things just briefly.

We must get the Gospel right. Paul pronounces damnation on anyone who changes it in any way:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)

The gospels we hear and the gospels we preach – how do they stand up? Is God presented as someone Who is outside in the rain wishing we would invite Him inside? Or is He so holy that He cannot come near sinners without destroying them?

Is man presented as a victim who needs a lot of therapy and self esteem? Or is man presented as a guilty criminal with no other hope than the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Is it about happiness or righteousness? Therapy or atonement?

Is it a Gospel where God ignores our sin and forgives us because we tell Him we are sorry? Or is it a Gospel where God's demands of righteousness must be met and His wrath must be satisfied.

Is it a Gospel where that righteousness is fulfilled and that wrath is satisfied in the Penal Substitutionary work of Jesus Christ alone? Or is the cross only about Jesus feeling our pain and giving us an example?

Is it a gospel where we only have to say a prayer to be saved or is it a Gospel that calls on all men everywhere to repent from their sinful ways and put all their trust in Christ?

Discipleship and growth happens in churches where the Gospel is rightly preached – and nowhere else.

4. A Biblical Understanding of Conversion

To understand growth better we also need to understand conversion rightly. Something needs to be said with regard to the relationship between conversion and discipleship because there is a lot of confusion on this issue. I was involved in a large church in Australia where the thinking was that conversion is all about getting people to walk to the front and pray the prayer. It is then that the hard and frustrating work of “discipleship” begins where Pastors spend endless hours trying to get these “converts” to start behaving like “disciples”. But the Bible paints a very different picture.

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:25-27)

Ok, Ezekiel 36, Cameron's back on his hobby horse! Maybe your right but you have to admit that it's a fantastic hobby horse. Here we see that conversion is a miraculous transforming work of God from a creature dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) to a new creation that loves God. Paul says that “if any man be in Christ he is a new creature”. And how does this miraculous work of conversion manifest? God will cause us to walk in obedience to His ways – that is a disciple. When you are truly converted you become a true disciple. Discipleship should be the joyous experience of guiding someone who loves God so much that he is hungry to learn every way to please Him and serve Him.
As an extra note – what about repentance? Let's go back to Ezekiel 36:

Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. "Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was in the sight of all who passed by. And they will say, 'This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden, and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited. 'Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the LORD; I have rebuilt the ruined places and replanted that which was desolate. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it. (Ezekiel 36:31-36)

Even true repentance is a work of God. So that we might be a living testimony to the transforming work of God. Jesus said that:

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

This love does not make us a disciple, it shows that we are disciples. If a church is full of people that hate each other then is the answer that the Pastor should tell them that they should start loving each other because they are a church? Or should he use it as an indicator that maybe they aren't truly converted? Paul Washer said:

We hear from experts that there is just as much immorality in the church as there is in the world. I am here to tell you that angers me because it is a lie. The experts do not even know what the church is. The church today is absolutely beautiful, and I will have words for anyone who says anything else. Because we are talking about Christ’s bride.

The church is in a process of sanctification. Yes she has her weaknesses; yes she has failings. Our bride is broken and humble and believing her master, and she is following him and being changed by him in a way that exalts the power of God in salvation. We are calling Christian that which is not Christian, and it has led to the slandering of the bride of Jesus Christ. Because of our watered-down view of the gospel, our superficial views of regeneration and conversion, because we believe that God is enough to save from the condemnation of sin but not enough to save from the power of sin.


A biblical understanding of the Gospel and conversion will go a long way towards reforming and biblically informing our understanding of the church - both visible and invisible. This series will continue next week where a biblical understanding of evangelism will be discussed. More to come . . .

Go On To Part 4
Go Back To Part 2
Go Back To Part 1

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Rob Bell's Love Wins - What They Are Saying

Rob Bell's brazenly heretical book "Love Wins" has caused a firestorm of controversy which started with his promotional video. Though the controversy is, by my estimation, five years late (go here and scroll down for earlier articles on Bell), there are some positives to "emerge" from all of this. One of the positive aspects to this saga is that when people become more overt in their apostasy/heresy, they make it far easier for undiscerning church goers to decide when to run full speed out the door. Another interesting illumination is found in the number of high profile people who have responded and taken a side. Thank you, thank you, thank you for removing that boggy middle ground and finally drawing up some battle lines!!! The following list of "for" and "against" may prove most helpful to you the reader in being selective about which wells we drink from . . .

FOR

It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ…Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination — without a trace of the soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction - Eugene Peterson (back cover endorsement)

Wow! Let's just hope that the spaceship returns soon to take Eugene home. If you were ever deluded enough to believe that "The Message" is a legitimate Bible translation, this latest comment from Peterson should seal the deal. "Without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction" - yeah right!!!

Rob Bell is NOT a Universalist (and I actually read “Love Wins”) . . . I know many readers will want my opinion on whether or not Rob is in fact a Universalist . . . I’m not sure; read the book for yourself and figure it out . . . I strongly doubt Rob would describe himself as a “Universalist.” But even if he did, I would recommend Love Wins just as enthusiastically as I already have - Greg Boyd

The gaps in Greg Boyd's self refuting statements are getting shorter all the time. It seems that Greg Boyd is open to a lot of things and not just theism!

A great book, well within the bounds of orthodox Christianity and passionate about Jesus. The real hellacious fight is between generous orthodoxy and stingy orthodoxy. There are stingy people who just want to consign many others to hell and only a few to heaven and take delight in the idea. But Rob Bell allows for a lot of mystery in how Jesus reaches people - Richard Mouw

Richard Mouw is the president of the very large and influential Fuller Theological Seminary. I have been asked before for an opinion on Fuller Seminary and I'll give it right now - don't go there, don't send your kids there, don't send them any money, and the leader of the Seminary has no clue what the "bounds of orthodox Christianity" are.

Rob has come to see that the biblical story is bigger and better than a narrative about how souls get sorted out into two bins at the end of time . . . A courageous minority will become more courageous because of Rob's courage in this book . . . to seize this opportunity, displaying the courage to differ graciously . . . and speak up for Rob whenever the opportunity presents itself - Brian McLaren

AGAINST

It is unspeakably sad when those called to be ministers of the Word distort the gospel and deceive the people of God with false doctrine - Justin Taylor

Farewell Rob Bell - John Piper

The Emerging Church movement is known for its slick and sophisticated presentation. It wears irony and condescension as normal attire. Regardless of how Rob Bell’s book turns out, its promotion is the sad equivalent of a theological striptease. The Gospel is too precious and important to be commodified in this manner. The questions he asks are too important to leave so tantalizingly unanswered. Universalism is a heresy, not a lure to use in order to sell books. This much we know, almost a month before the book is to be released - Al Mohler

...there are dozens of problems with Love Wins. The theology is heterodox. The history is inaccurate. The impact on souls is devastating. And the use of Scripture is indefensible. Worst of all, Love Wins demeans the cross and misrepresents God’s character - Kevin DeYoung

Repent of it, Rob: repent because there’s no shame in turning away from even decades of wrong teaching to turning over a new leaf and teaching that Jesus saves sinner from their own sins and from God’s displeasure if they repent and believe. That is actually the message of the NT, and it ought to be your message if you’re really concerned with the real people you meet every day - Frank Turk

Bell's latest heresy neither surprises nor interests me. What does intrigue me is the tragic drift of popular, mainstream evangelicalism. Here we see clearly why the evangelical movement is in grave trouble: The passions of today's self-styled evangelicals are easily aroused in defense of someone who makes a career dabbling around the edges of truth. Rob Bell likes to play with damnable heresies as if they were Lego bricks, and yet anyone who points out the glaring errors in Bell's teaching will be met with a wall of angry resistance from young, self-styled Christians who grew up in the evangelical mainstream. Where is that much passion ever employed these days in defense of the truth? - Phil Johnson

Bell is an inveterate syncretist who loves to blend “progressive” and politically correct dogmas with eastern mysticism, humanistic jargon, and Christian terminology. His teaching is full of barren ideas borrowed directly from old liberalism, sometimes rephrased in postmodern jargon but still reeking of stale Socinianism. What Bell is peddling is nothing like New Testament Christianity. It is a man-centered religion totally devoid of both clarity and biblical authority. - John Macarthur

One critique of your book says this, there are dozens of problems with love wins. the history is inaccurate, the use of scripture indefensible. that’s true, isn’t it . . . you’ve indicated one of the problems with the book, you’re creating a Christian message that’s warm, kind, and popular, for contemporary culture but it’s, frankly, according to this critic, un-biblical and historically unreliable. that’s true, isn’t it . . . you’re amending the gospel so that it’s palatable to contemporary people who find, for example the idea of hell and heaven very difficult to stomach. so here comes Rob Bell, he’s made a Christian gospel for you and it’s perfectly palatable, it’s easy to swallow - Martin Bashir (interviewing Rob Bell)

If that doesn't clear it up then this video will (here is the video it is a response to) . . .

Robbed Hell - C.A.S.T. Pearls Presents from Canon Wired on Vimeo.