Christ is always accessible, under every condition reliable and therefore the one proper object of faith, the only safe source of confidence because in him alone is that eternal certainty which faith needs to rest upon if it is to be faith at all.
December 3, 2013
November 29, 2013
I will lay waste mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn the rivers into islands, and dry up the pools. And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.
- Isaiah 42:15-16
November 27, 2013
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I have recommended The Jesus Storybook Bible before, click here, but recently came across the idea to use it as advent readings at Adriel Booker’s blog. That seems like a great idea and I wanted to pass it on to you. If you have a particular I would also recommend Good News of Great Joy as another advent devotional. What do you do for advent devotions?
November 26, 2013
The reprinted article below is a follow up to our Member Meeting as we have proposed changing our doctrinal statement wording on “The Lord’s Day” to the wording used in another statement of faith. As a church, we do not officially recognize the “Baptist Faith and Message” as part of our doctrinal guideline. However, at least in this case, the wording was found to be very helpful to the elders in capturing what we sought to communicate and adhere to in our own doctrinal statement. While there is tons of writing on this topic to be found, this statement offers a succinct explanation.
(If you would like a very theological treatment, you might try D. A. Carson’s From Sabbath to Lord’s Day.)
The Lord’s Day – Baptist Faith & Message, Article 8
by Hershael York
Victor and Louise Lester Associate Professor of Christian Preaching;
Associate Dean, Ministry and Proclamation, School of Theology
Because God is our Creator and Redeemer, he deserves and demands the first of all that we possess. This principle is given and reiterated throughout Scripture. We are to give the Lord the firstfruits of our increase. We should give him the first minutes of our day. We should seek first his reign and rule in our lives.
When the children of Israel moved into the land of Canaan, they were not allowed to keep any of the spoils from their conquest of Jericho. Because Jericho was their first conquest, it was to be totally devoted to the Lord. Is it any wonder, then, that New Testament believers have dedicated the first day of the week to commemorate the resurrection of our Lord?
Some Christians have erroneously called Sunday the Sabbath, but the Sabbath is, by definition, the seventh day of the week. Furthermore, some Christians suggest that the Bible teaches that Sunday has replaced Saturday and serves as a “Christian Sabbath.” But admittedly, this is nowhere clearly taught in the Bible.
So why do Christians speak of “the Lord’s Day” and worship on Sunday rather than on Saturday? The answer to this important question lies in several biblical principles and practices rather than in any clear teaching or mandate of Scripture.
First, Christians need to understand that the principle of a day of rest after six days of work is rooted not in the law of Moses, but in creation. God was not tired. He needed no rest, yet he rested on the seventh day to provide a model for mankind. Jesus verified this when he taught that the Sabbath is a gracious gift of God given for the benefit of man (Mark 2:27). Since a day of rest is taught in creation and by Jesus, Christians should embrace the principle and observe a day of rest each week.
Second, even though we should observe a day of rest, we are not bound by the legal qualifications of the Sabbath as given in the law of Moses. That law was for national Israel and included precise definitions of just how much work could be allowed. The ancient Jews debated such matters as whether they could eat an egg that was laid on the Sabbath, or whether they could break a dead twig off a rose bush. Jesus ran up against this legalistic view of the Sabbath in his ministry.
Third, even though there is no clear teaching in Scripture that changed the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday, there is unambiguous evidence that the early church met to worship on the first day of the week. Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday, which was the first work day of the Jewish week, and almost immediately thereafter the Bible records the church meeting on the evening of the first day of the week (John 20:19; Acts 20:7). In his teaching on giving, Paul instructs the Corinthians to receive the offering for the poor saints in Jerusalem on the first day of the week (1 Cor 16:2). Many scholars believe that John’s phrase, “the Lord’s Day,” in Revelation 1:10 refers to the first day of the week as well.
Finally, since, like the early church, we commemorate the resurrection of Christ by engaging in corporate worship on the first day of the week, it is right and reasonable to also use this day for the day of rest in which we cease from labor that is not a work of necessity or of mercy. Individual issues and questions about whether or not we should engage in a game of touch football or watch television, etc., are best left to the individual conscience with the admonition that we strive for maximum conformity to the will and intention of God and not the minimum.
That is why Article 8 of the Baptist Faith and Message states simply and clearly, “The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
November 21, 2013
Based on something John Jefferson Davis writes in Meditation and Communion with God, I have been thinking about the focus of our spiritual lives as it pertains to our meditation on Scripture. Our meditation must be about the gospel rather than about mere tidbits of how to live more godly lives. I will explain.
Just as our natural tendency is to be religious in such a way that we want a set of guidelines to follow and a checklist to work through, we can often approach our devotional lives in such a manner even though it is inconsistent with what we claim to believe. What I mean is this: we tend to read our Bibles in such a way that we desire to learn something new or gain some additional insight that will make us a “better” Christian. The success of our personal time with our Bible open hinges on whether we glean some new insight or “discover” some nugget of truth which appeals to our hearts or confirms something we had been previously pondering. We tend to measure our devotional lives by how much knowledge we are gaining. Sometimes it is a gentle correction we seek; sometimes it is an affirmation of the way we are already living. Without such insights, we might be inclined to think our time reading and studying God’s word to be purposeless.
Davis speaks to the effect that encountering the risen Christ had upon the Apostle Paul by pointing to the fact that Paul’s understanding was drastically changed from being one of Moses and the law to one of Jesus and the Spirit.
So, how should this affect my devotional life? The gospel must be at the center of my knowledge of who God is. Whenever we find ourselves reading Scripture looking for new additions to our sanctified “to-do” list we are walking a fine line bordering on a works-based experience of God. Maybe this is the reason we often find devotional time to be such work. Maybe we don’t find any joy in this Christian discipline because we find it to be purely discipline and so lacking in gospel-saturated joy.
Does this mean our devotional Bible reading must be from the New Testament and only passages directly about the gospel? No. However, when one reads any of Paul’s letters, Paul is consistent to speak clearly about the gospel as the foundation for any call to change that he places upon his readers. One is amiss to try to make application of Ephesians 4-6 without soaking in the riches of Ephesians 1-3. Likewise, in Romans the reference to God’s mercy in 12:1 is robbed of its meaning unless we have the depths of Romans 1-11 in mind. Paul does not call people to adopt new ways of living because of any reason short of the overwhelming grace shown them by God through Jesus. Hence, whatever we are reading in Scripture we must make some attempt to connect to the truth of the gospel in very real terms.
We tend to have a passive knowledge of the gospel which we leave on the shelf more often than not. A passive knowledge can seemingly be accompanied by great biblical depth, but if the knowledge is only passive as we attempt to prayerfully approach God in private worship, we are not really worshipping. If a person cannot truly worship who is not “in Christ”, then the parallel would hold true for one’s personal devotional life. Only to the extent that I am consciously aware of what God has done through the cross of Christ am I going to be able to grasp the truths of Scripture. If I read about prayer but do not view praying as a response to the gospel, I will pray as a means of earning God’s favor. If I am exhorted to love others but do not understand this instruction in light of the love shown to me through Jesus, I will be frustrated at what I cannot do. If I am challenged to be a godly parent but without an understanding shaped by the gospel, I will only see a set of rules governing my actions which do not change my heart. Even as referenced earlier, the very call to us to be men and women who spend regular time in God’s word, if it is not always understood as a response to the gospel, will only be a legalistic effort.
November 19, 2013
The law requires works of human achievement; the gospel requires faith in Christ’s achievement. The law makes demands and bids us obey; the gospel brings promises and bids us believe.
November 12, 2013
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity