Two Kinds of Books: Two Messages


Tim Challies, in his review of the book Girl, Wash You Face by Rachel Hollis helps us understand that there are only two kinds of books being written for Christians today.

It has long been my observation that there are two kinds of books being marketed to Christians. There are some whose foundational message is what you need to do and others whose foundational message is what Christ has already done. The first make a model out of the author, the second make a model out of Jesus. The first place the burden for change on personal power while the second place the burden for change on Christ’s power. It is clear that Girl, Wash Your Face falls squarely in the first category.

Of course, the books that sell the most are the ones that tell us what to do. This is Humanism 101, which is also described as picking yourself up by your bootstraps, believe in yourself, and you are told the world is your oyster. Humanism is a works-based religion in which the adherents are given instructions and told to follow those instructions in order to achieve happiness. It comes in many forms with multiple requirements and the message of society is humanism.

Continue reading

Culturally Significant?

In order to be the spiritual successor of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, the OPC had to become culturally significant.

Those words were penned in Fighting the Good Fight: A Brief History of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, by D.G. Hart and John Muether. In the early 1940s, there were those in the OPC who feared that the denomination would not be socially involved enough, and they were seeking to bring about a committee to make sure they didn’t drop the social-agenda ball.

Hart and Muether had already shown that the identity of the OPC never was to have a politically-active mindset. In fact, members of the OPC had fought against it from the beginning of the denomination’s history.

Not that they were always silent. They did send letters to like-minded churches in South Africa with concerns about apartheid long before it became popular to bring up the topic in the 1980s. But the OPC has never been one to jump on the political and social bandwagons that we see so many churches doing today.

Continue reading

Preach With Authority

We live in a day in which the church truly needs men who will boldly proclaim the word of God. Some might think that we already have that. I wish it were true. But far too many men enter the pulpits of their churches with the idea that they are going to give an inspirational chat, instead of proclaim the divine mysteries of God. In other words, they fail to preach with authority.

 

Continue reading

Doctrine and History are Essential for Christianity

J. Gresham Machen shows the importance of realizing that our faith is a faith rooted in history and that history leads to doctrine. For Christians, doctrine and history are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other and you cannot have true the Christian faith without history and doctrine.

…the message of the resurrection was not isolated. It was connected with the death of Jesus, seen now to be not a failure but a triumphant act of divine grace; it was connected with the entire appearance of Jesus upon earth. The coming of Jesus was understood now as an act of God by which sinful men were saved. The primitive Church was concerned not merely with what Jesus had said, but also, and primarily, with what Jesus had done. The world was to be redeemed through the proclamation of an event. And with the event went the meaning of the event; and the setting forth of the event with the meaning of the event was doctrine. These two elements are always combined in the Christian message. The narration of the facts is history; the narration of the facts with the meaning of the facts is doctrine. ‘Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried”— that is history. “He loved me and gave Himself for me” — that is doctrine. Such was the Christianity of the primitive church.

Machen is showing the necessity for sound doctrine in the Christian faith. Liberals, and in our day progressives, always seek to subvert biblical doctrine with their own doctrine. I use to think that liberals were trying to do away with sound doctrine. Machen helped me see the they are not. They are trying to do away with biblical doctrine for their own doctrine. In light of 1 Timothy 4:1, we can see the true reality: Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.

My point: we will be drawn to one doctrine or another. Either we look to biblical doctrine, or man’s doctrine. The first is rooted in the nature of God, the latter in the rebelliousness of man.

Kevin DeYoung On Biblical Social Justice

“My less-than-exciting conclusion [on studying Biblical social justice] was that we should not oversell or undersell what the Bible says about justice. On the one hand, there is a lot in the Bible about God’s care for the poor, the oppressed, and the vulnerable. There are also plenty of warnings against treating the helpless with cruelty and disrespect. On the other hand, justice, as a biblical category, is not synonymous with anything and everything we feel would be good for the world. Doing justice means following the rule of law, showing impartiality, paying what you promised, not stealing, not swindling, not taking bribes, and not taking advantage of the weak because they are too uninformed or unconnected to stop you.

So for simplicity sake, let’s take biblical “social justice” to mean something like “treating people equitably, working for systems and structures that are fair, and looking out for the weak and the vulnerable.”

Read entire article here.

Against the Generic “god”

“I am the way the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

John Calvin, in his commentary on John 14:1-6, points out that many people will mention God only, but never refer to Christ in their religion. In doing so, they will be easily blown about by every wind of doctrine.

Calvin writes:

Proud men are ashamed of Christ’s humiliation, and, therefor, they fly to God’s incomprehensible Divinity. But faith will never reach heaven unless it submit to Christ, who appears to be a low and contemptible God, and will never be firm if it (does) not seek a foundation in the weakness of Christ.

This reminds me of one woman who was facing death, who refused to actually look to Christ and be saved. It was gut-wrenching because both my wife and I tried to help her see the need to trust in Christ alone for salvation. She would not have Christ. She was far too comfortable with the generic god of her faith, even telling this god that she wanted to live for 10 more years. Sadly, she didn’t have 10 more weeks.

Continue reading

Machen: Definition of Paganism

From Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen defines paganism as the following:

Paganism is that view of life which finds the highest goal of human existence in the healthy and harmonious and joyous development of existing human faculties. Very different is the Christian ideal. Paganism is optimistic with regard to unaided human nature, whereas Christianity is the religion of the broken heart.

Machen is not saying that Christianity ends with a broken heart, but that it starts with a broken heart because those who become Christians have a consciousness of sin, whereas pagans do not. We can see paganism all around us. We see it in the exaltation of the human spirit, and the self. We see the priests of it everywhere, from Joel Osteen, to Zig Ziglar, to Oprah, all proclaiming the goodness of man. It’s in our schools, universities, work places, entertainment, and homes. And in the midst of it all, we cover it up with our prosperity.

Continue reading

2 Seconds of a Three-Hour Movie — Matt Chandler on How We View Our Lives

From Matt Chandler’s Book, Take Heart, quoted on the Wee Flea.

Saint Augustine, the fourth-century bishop of Hippo, said that to be human is to have your face pushed up against a stained-glass window. You see some color, but you see a lot of glass fragments. It is only given to God and those who are with him to be back far enough to see the whole window. To put it differently, to tell God the Father that he should do things differently is to step into a three-hour-long movie for two seconds, and then step back out and lecture the director on the storyline. That’s what it’s like. You just don’t know, and he— the fountain of life— does.

This helps keep God’s sovereignty and our limited ability to understand it, in perspective.

The Sabbath and the NFL

Another great quote from R. Scott Clark. This time, he shows the NFL has been a danger to the Christian family longer than same-sex marriage. The NFL defiles the Sabbath.

The Sabbath is just as basic to the creational pattern as marriage (Matt 19:4, 8; Mark 2:27). In that regard, the NFL has been a threat to the family and to Christian piety rather longer than same-sex marriage. Before the 1950s, college football was king and professional football was more like a semi-pro league. In the 1950s, however, professional football moved to Sundays to fill television time and the rest, as they say, is history.

In view of that, I wonder if the LORD has given His church over to the problems of same-sex marriage because we were not faithful in the first things, honoring Him on the LORD’s day. Instead of engaging in the idolatry of the NFL, let us worship the Triune God alone.

Fundamentalist and the Sabbath

Too funny not to share, from R. Scott Clark:

The fundamentalists (used here in the post-Machen sense of the word) think that creation refers entirely to the length of the creation days. In their approach to Scripture, the main thing for which Genesis is good seem to be to establish the age of the earth by adding up the chronologies and to refute 19th century geology and paleontology. They spend hours defending “creationism” while breaking the Sabbath at the creation museum (open from 12:00 PM to 8:00 PM on Sundays).

It never occurs to them, that the Sabbath/LORD’s Day, was actually given before sin entered the world. God set it aside for a purpose and a reason, yet so many think He did away with the day in the New Testament. I’m sure the LORD of the Sabbath, Christ Himself, will have something to say to that.

Believing Every Word of the Bible, While Denying What It Actually Says

From Randy Alcorn’s Poor Interpretation Lets Us “Believe” the Bible While Denying What it Actually Says:

Historically, theological liberals denied Scripture, and everyone knew where they stood. But today many so-called evangelicals affirm their belief in Scripture, while attributing meanings to biblical texts that in fact deny what Scripture really says. Hence they “believe every word of the Bible” while actually embracing (and teaching) beliefs that utterly contradict it…

…We rightly call upon people to read their Bibles, but it seems many spend much more time reading INTO the Bible than reading OUT of it. So nearly everything they read becomes merely an echo of what they already think or what most people around them are already saying. God gave us His Word to teach, rebuke, correct, and train our thinking (2 Timothy 3:16), not so we could interpret it away into something that’s just a mirror image of our preferred beliefs.

Turning Away So Soon!

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).

John Calvin writes in his sermon on Galatians 1:6 the following:

In fact, what Paul says here about the Galatians is far too much in evidence today. Those who have been taught the gospel become discontented after three years [or so] if they do not have some novelty or other, for they have ‘itching ears’. Many vain people backside because they are not content with the truth in the gospel. They always want to be moving house [as it were] because they need some new thing to feed their foolish imaginations. Others grow dissatisfied when they see that the gospel has not brought them any of this world’s goods. There are even some who turn away when they find that they may well be persecuted, and have many enemies. Thus, you can see how many desert our LORD Jesus Christ, not just as one generation succeeds another, but even as those who appear to be His followers turn and rebel after three, or perhaps ten years.

The question and battle for all of us: are we satisfied with Christ as He is presented in the gospel? Or do we want more?

Continue reading

In Bruising Ourselves

We must join with God in bruising ourselves. When He humbles us, let us humble ourselves, and not stand out against Him, for then He will redouble His strokes. Let us justify Christ in all His chastisements, knowing that all His dealing towards us is to cause us to return into our own hearts. His work in bruising tends to our work in bruising ourselves. Let us lament our own perversity, and say: Lord, what a heart have I that needs all this, that none of this could be spared! We must lay siege to the hardness of our own hearts, and aggravate sin all we can. We must look on Christ, who was bruised for us, look on Him whom we have pierced with our sins. But all directions will not prevail, unless God by His Spirit convinces us deeply, setting our sins before us, and driving us to a standstill. Then we will cry out for mercy. Conviction will breed contrition, and this leads to humiliation. Therefore desire God that He would bring a clear and a strong light into all the corners of our souls, and accompany it with a spirit of power to lay our hearts low.

From The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA, 1998, p. 11-12.

When the Chief Shepherd Appears

Except pastors retain this end in view, it can by no means be that they will in good earnest proceed in the course of their calling, but will, on the contrary, become often faint; for there are innumerable hindrances which are sufficient to discourage the most prudent. They have often to do with ungrateful men, from whom they receive an unworthy reward; long and great labors are often in vain; Satan sometimes prevails in his wicked devices. Lest then, the faithful servant of Christ should be broken down, there is for him one and only one remedy,–to turn his eyes to the coming of Christ.

From John Calvin’s commentary on 1 Peter 5, specifically verse 4: and when the Chief Shepherd appears.

 

Rob Bell and His Cleverness

Rob Bell is up and about again with a new documentary on how he became enlightened and became a heretic at the same time. He thinks that being a heretic is a good thing, but alas, this just shows his foolishness. Brett McCracken reviews Bell’s documentary along with another movie about another heretic entitled “Come Sunday,” and does a good job of showing that both these men have nothing to offer but a powerless message.

Continue reading

Good Hope is a Hope That is Drawn From Scripture

J.C. Ryle:

It is not enough to have good feelings about the state of our souls. We may flatter ourselves that all is right, and that we are going to heaven when we die, and yet have nothing to show for our expectations but mere fancy and imagination. ‘The heart is deceitful above all things.’–‘He that trusted in his own heart is a fool‘ (Jer. 17:9, Proverbs 28:26).

I have frequently heard dying people say that ‘they felt quite happy and ready to go.’ I have heard them say that ‘they felt as if they craved nothing in this world.’ And all this time I have remarked that they were profoundly ignorant of Scripture, and seemed unable to lay firm hold on a single truth of the Gospel! I never can feel comfort about such people. I am persuaded that there is something wrong in their condition. Good feelings without some warrant of Scripture do not make up a good hope.

Quotes and More

In the comments section of The Demise of the PCA, Alec wrote the following:

Have you heard of Matthias Loy? He was a faithful Lutheran in Nineteenth Century at the time when the Lutherans were facing the issues the Presbyterians faced 50 years later with the troubles that came to a head at Princeton. Dr. Loy wrote the following in his autobiography:

“The history of the Church confirms and illustrates the teachings of the Bible, that yielding little by little leads to yielding more and more, until all is in danger; and the tempter is never satisfied until all is lost. It seems but a small concession that we are asked to make when an article of our confession is represented as a stumbling block to many Christians which ought therefore in charity to be removed, but surrendering that article would only lead to the surrender of another on the same ground, and that is the beginning of the end; the authority of the inspired Word of our Lord is gradually undermined.” The Story of My Life

I thought it was a great quote, making the point of denominational and seminary drift, along with the church. When we will not stick to the truths of the Bible, we all drift, which we must not do. This is one reason I appreciate the creeds, like the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism. These two documents help keep us grounded in what the church has concluded to be the important doctrines of the faith.

But given all that, I couldn’t help think of Alec’s quote when I read what John Newton preached back in 1779, concerning the passage “speak the truth in love,” from Ephesians 4:15.

The Bible is the grand repository of the truths that it will be the business and the pleasure of my life to set before you. It is the complete system of divine truth to which nothing can be added and from which nothing can be taken with impunity. Every attempt to disguise or soften any branch of this truth in order to accommodate it to the prevailing taste around us either to avoid the displeasure or court the favor of our fellow mortals must be an affront to the majesty of God and act of treachery to men. My conscience bears me witness that I mean to speak the truth among you.

Amen and amen.

 

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

A.W. Pink Defines What is Meant by God’s Sovereignty

A.W. Pink defines the sovereignty of God in the following way:

“What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhood of God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Daniel 4:35).

“To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psalm 115:3).

“To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is ‘The Governor among the nations’ (Psalm 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the ‘Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords’ (1 Timothy 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.”

Calvin on 1 Peter 2:9 A Chosen Race

“…it appears more fully how incomparable is God’s goodness towards us; for He sanctifies us, who are by nature polluted; He chose us, when He could find nothing in us but filth and vileness; He makes His peculiar possession from worthless dregs; He confers the honor of the priesthood on the profane; He brings the vassals of Satan, of sin, and of death, to the enjoyment of royal liberty.”