The Danger of Lent

A reminder of R. Scott Clark’s great quote on Lent:

In other words, the very practice of Ash Wednesday and Lent are simply made up observances and this is the problem. It is not that one might not learn something valuable by abstaining from this or that for 40 days or that there is no value in gathering on Wednesday 40 days before Easter to remember the suffering and death of our Savior. The problem is that the human heart is an idol factory (Calvin). Once it is given license to create and impose Christian observances, it never ends. What begins with good intentions becomes a form of bondage.

Read the rest here.

Here is a great resource of articles and quotes showing Lent for the falsehood that it is.

Photo of the Week:Fallen Hero

 

In honor of fallen Richardson Police Officer David Charles Sherrard. I would write more…but words elude me. I’m grateful I was able to attend his funeral. May the LORD bless and comfort his wife and two daughters, his extended family, and the men and women who so proudly served with him on the Richardson Police Department. Hear the last radio dispatch to him here.

I know I should say more, but truly am having a hard time finding the words. I’ve tried several times, and after attending the funeral, this was the best I could do.

 

Calvin on Wives Submitting to Their Husbands

I’m preaching through 1 Peter and decided to read Calvin’s Sermons on Ephesians for the corresponding passage dealing with wives submitting to their husbands. I love reading commentaries from men of Calvin’s generation in helping me understand how the text has been viewed in history given that our culture is so completely inundated with the idolatry of the individual, also known as radical feminism.

I was going to use the following quote but decided that it was too controversial in nature. Heidi told me it was what we call a “parachute illustration.” That comes from a fellow pastor, Grover Gunn, who used an opening sermon illustration that was so horrifying in its description that, I didn’t hear the rest of his sermon. That illustration involved a man who was parachuting with a group of others and his job was to film everyone else. As they were descending, one after another pulled their chute and he continued to fall. After the last of the group opened his chute, the view from the camera became erratic, and it started spinning. The man who was filming the others, forget to put his shoot on before jumping out of the plane. He fell to his death. But alas, the camera survived and we have this horrible story to share with our congregations.

OK, if that doesn’t bother you, then Calvin’s quote will not bother you either. But it was so strong, I decided not to use it in my sermon on wives submitting to their husbands. Calvin is writing against women giving excuses for not submitting to their husbands. Peter, in his treatment, rules out the use of excuses in his passage.

Calvin writes:

“It is true that they will be so proud and arrogant to say, ‘Must my husband have authority over me?’ But in this she shows that she is unwilling for God to have any superiority over her, and that she would like to put under her foot God’s law… However, since there is no other remedy except that women have to humble themselves and to understand that the ruin and confusion of the whole human race came in on their side, so that we are all lost and cursed and banished from the kingdom of heaven—when women (I say) understand that all this came from Eve and the feminine sex there is no other way for them but to humble themselves and to bear patiently the subjection that God has laid upon them, which is nothing else but a warning to keep themselves lowly and modest.”[1]

I took it out of my sermon because it seemed to be a parachute illustration, in other words, it would detract from the larger message.

 

 

[1] John Calvin, Sermons on Ephesians, Banner of Truth, 569.

 

Is Taking a Vow In Joining the Church Forbidden By Christ?

Question: Since Jesus seems to be prohibiting the taking of oaths in the Sermon on the Mount, then how can we as believers, take vows when we join a church?

This is another great question to consider, especially since our church requires that people becoming members take membership vows before the LORD. Are we asking them to go against what the LORD has said?

  1. First, we will look at what Jesus says in Matthew 5:33-37.
  2. Second, we will determine if there is any difference between oaths and vows.

Jesus declares:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matthew 5:33-37).

On the surface, it looks like Jesus is giving a universal ban on taking oaths.  However in Matthew 26:63, we have Caiaphas the high priest putting Jesus under an oath, and Jesus accepted that oath in responding to it. This was during His trial when the high priest said, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Jesus took the opportunity to be under the oath in order to declare truthfully who He was. Jesus responded: “It is as you said.” If He were making a declaration against all oaths, then He would not have allowed Himself to be placed under an oath.

We also must look at the greater context of what He is saying in Matthew 5. There, He is declaring that we should not take oaths to heaven, the earth, Jerusalem, or the city of a great King. He was referring to a practice in which the parties only had to keep their words when they made an oath to heaven, the king, or some other greater object. This practice was deceitful because in allowed for dishonesty if an oath wasn’t taken.

What Jesus desires in us is that all our words be truthful. Our “yes” should be “yes” and our “no” should be “no.” We should speak so honestly and forthrightly that taking an oath should never be necessary. I can remember growing up hearing my grandparents speak about the mark of a man was his word. Did he keep his word? Keeping his word was everything. This is the same thing. We are to keep our word when we give it.

I like what G.I. Williamson writes about this issue.

“In the Kingdom of God which is to come there will be no oaths, for all will speak the truth in utmost purity (Rev. 21:8, 27). Meanwhile, in this present evil world falsehood remains so common that special solemn occasions may require oaths, and under proper circumstances, they may be made.”

And we do see that oaths are taken in the New Testament like the one mentioned above. We also are reminded that God Himself swore an oath to Abraham in Luke 1:73 and David in Acts 2:30. Certainly the God of sinless perfection had no need to take an oath to fallen creatures, yet He does so.

Williamson adds:

“The proper occasions upon which an oath may be taken are those in which serious and lawful interests are involved, and in which an appeal to the witness of God is necessary to secure confidence and end strife, and also whenever the oath is imposed by competent authority upon those subject to it. In that later case, especially,the taking of an oath is a duty, and its refusal is a sin.”

The point being is that Jesus is not ruling out oaths all together, but the practice of misusing oaths during His days.

Oaths and Vows

Understanding the difference between oaths and vows will help clarify the issue. When we take an oath, we are making a promise from man to man. We are declaring to those around us that we are going to keep our word in a certain regard.

A vow is a promise that we freely make to God. We are asking God to help us keep our word in regard to the vow we are making to Him. This is why we take vows in wedding ceremonies. We are asking God to help us keep our vows in marriage. The same is true when we take vows to be members of a local congregation. We are asking God to help us keep the promises we are making as members of a particular congregation.

Given that my congregation is committed to the Westminster Confession of Faith, I appeal to it in order to show that these views are not my merely my own, but are grounded in the truth of Scripture as it is explained in the WCF:

It (a vow) is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone: and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties: or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto.

Conclusion

Given all of this, since the elders of the congregation have agreed that members should take vows, then they are to do so. In requiring such, they are not out of line with Scripture and not causing anyone to sin in doing so. In the vows taken, new members are making their public profession of faith and agreeing to submit to the elders as all believers are commanded to do in 1 Peter 5:1,”Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.'”

For those who are curious, here are the questions prospective members have to answer when joining our local congregation.

  • Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners in the sight of God, justly deserving His displeasure, and without hope save in His sovereign mercy?
  • Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and Savior of sinners, and do you receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel?
  • Do you now resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as is becoming for a follower of Christ?
  • Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
  • Do you submit yourselves to the government and discipline of the church, and promise to study its purity and peace?

 

 

 

Did Evil Already Exist Before Adam Ate of the Tree?

“Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

 

The question came up in a recent Bible study: Since Adam was told in Genesis 2, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, didn’t evil already exist? In other words, for him to understand the command, did not evil already exist in the garden?

This seems like a logical question. In order for us to not be involved with something, shouldn’t we know what that something is? Not necessarily. When we have such questions posed, the only solution is to look at Scripture and make necessary inferences from what we find there.

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Prayers for Todd Pruitt, Laments for the PCA

Todd Pruitt needs to be commended. He also needs our prayers. Pruitt took a bold stand and came out last week, calling on gubernatorial candidate Mark White to repent of his position on abortion and a woman’s right to murder her unborn child. White is a Democrat running for governor in the state of Texas, and I don’t believe he has a chance of winning. So why did Pruitt call out this Democrat? Is it not the standard for the party-of-death candidates to advocate for the death of the unborn? It is. What makes this case unusual, but not as unusual as we think, is that White is also a ruling elder at a PCA church in Houston.

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Photo of the Week: Big Daddy’s Roadhouse Barbecue

Last night, we were in Lavon, TX around dinner time so we decided to eat out. The restaurant of choice was Big Daddy’s, which was established in 1999. I say that because they worked real hard to give the inside of the restaurant the atmosphere of something that was quite antiquidated as far as barbecue restaurants are concerned. In other words, the walls were covered with photos of John Wayne, and country singers that only the greyest of country music fans would know. It kind of worked. The atmosphere of the restaurant was quite nostalgic for the good old days when men were men, and they loved their women and no more. Sadly, I didn’t take any photos from inside the establishment, so you will have to venture there yourself.

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God’s Provision

Here is a gracious fact: “We receive support from the palace” (Ezra 4:14). Both the upper and the lower springs from which we drink are fed by the great King’s eternal goodness. In every moment we have been supplied with food and clothing.

Sometimes we have been reduced to a pinch. Then through our infirmity, fermented with the irritability of our unbelief, we ask, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” (Matt. 6:31). Still we have lived in the land and we have been fed. It has been especially gratifying to receive a loaf of bread from our Father’s hand. You have known poverty, but there has been a special sweetness in the daily bread that has been sent in answer to prayer. Although we do not drink water from the rock (Ex. 17:6) or find daily manna (Ex. 16:4), God’s providence still produces the same results, and we are fed and satisfied.

— Charles H. Spurgeon