Should it be according to thy mind?

James Durham comments on Elihu’s words in Job 34:

Observe from the words (v. 33): Should it be according to thy mind? Folks would [ever] have God guiding the world according to their mind and will. There is not a more unreasonable thing to seek to take the guiding of the world out of God’s hand, and yet this is the ground of our fretting and complaining, and not submitting to God, because we get not our will. Therefore when the heart rises, say to yourselves, Should dispensations come as you would, or as God would? This one word may stop our mouth, whether should God or we have the guiding of matters?

Every complaint against God’s providence amounts to a claim that we are a more fit Sovereign than He, that we know better than He how to rule the world and order all the events of history. The unbeliever, because he lacks the knowledge of God, is moved in his ignorance to arrogance.

O LORD, how great are thy works!
And thy thoughts are very deep.
A brutish man knoweth not;
Neither doth a fool understand this. (Psalm 92.4–6)

A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil:
But the fool rageth, and is confident. (Proverbs 14.16)

But the believer yields himself with humility even to the darkest providences of God. As a disciple follows his Master’s example, the believer follows the perfect example of the Lord Christ.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2.8)

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Martin Luther on our treasures in Christ

D.G. Hart at the Old Life Theological Society blog has a beautiful quotation from Martin Luther regarding the treasures that all believers have in Christ regardless of the differing measure of our faith.

File Luther46c

In this Christian brotherhood no man possesses more than another. St. Peter and St. Paul have no more than Mary Magdalene or you or I. To sum up: Taking them all together, they are brothers, and there is no difference between the persons. Mary, the Mother of the Lord, and John the Baptist, and the thief on the cross, they all possess the selfsame good which you and I possess, and all who are baptised and do the Father’s Will. And what have all the saints? They have comfort and help promised them through Christ in every kind of need, against sin, death, and the devil. And I have the same, and you, and all believers have.

But this also is true, that you and I do not believe it so firmly as John the Baptist and St. Paul; and yet it is the one and only treasure. It is the same as when two men hold a glass of wine, one with a trembling, the other with a steady hand. Or when two men hold a bag of money, one in a weak, the other in a strong hand. Whether the hand be strong, or weak, as God wills, it neither adds to the contents of the bag, nor takes away. In the same way there is no other difference here between the Apostles and me, than that they hold the treasure firmer. Nevertheless, I should and must know that I possess the same treasure as all holy Prophets, Apostles, and all saints have possessed.

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Hallowed Be Thy Name

Westminster Larger Catechism Question 190

Q. What do we pray for in the first petition [of the Lord’s Prayer]?
A. In the first petition (which is, Hallowed be thy name), acknowledging the utter inability and indisposition that is in ourselves and all men to honour God aright, we pray, that God would by his grace enable and incline us and others to know, to acknowledge, and highly to esteem him, his titles, attributes, ordinances, word, works, and whatsoever he is pleased to make himself known by; and to glorify him in thought, word, and deed: that he would prevent and remove atheism, ignorance, idolatry, profaneness, and whatsoever is dishonourable to him; and, by his overruling providence, direct and dispose of all things to his own glory.

Psalm 99.1–3
The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved. The LORD is great in Zion; and he is high above all the people. Let them praise thy great and terrible name; for it is holy.

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Book Review: Grounded in the Gospel

51tHYdcc72L._SL160_.jpgDr R. Scott Clark at the Heidelblog links to a book review on the Valiant for Truth blog of Westminster Seminary California regarding Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way by Packer & Parrett.

Building upon the work of D. A. Carson, George Barna, and other analysts of Evangelical culture, Packer and Parrett survey the landscape providing a helpful analysis of where American Christianity is and why. They discuss the obstacles to the practice of catechesis, the foundations necessary for catechetical instruction to thrive, the building of believers, and the goals of such methods of instructing and nurturing. As committed Evangelicals Packer and Parrett believe it is their duty to outline the biblical data that was drawn upon by the early Church, the Reformation, and the Puritans which provided the basis for such nurture and exposition of the faith.

In laying out some of the very basic elements of this unfamiliar practice, Packer and Parrett hope to show that there is nothing to fear from this ancient and historic Christian method of instruction and how it is needed today. They argue for its acceptance and propagation because it is a “thoroughly biblical idea and practice,” it has “proven to be essential and effective at numerous critical junctures in the life of the church,” it is both “ancient and essential,” it is holistic, and it involves “instruction that is foundational for faith development throughout one’s life” (29-30). These scholars argue for nothing less than a renewal and recommitment on the part of Christians to catechize young and old in the basics of the faith, in spite of the many things that seek to grab the church’s attention.

Read the rest of the review at the Valiant for Truth blog.

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Puritan Evangelism

Evangelism must rather be conceived as a long-term enterprise of patient teaching and instruction, in which God’s servants seek simply to be faithful in delivering the gospel message and applying it to human lives, and leave it to God’s Spirit to draw men to faith through this message in his own way and at his own speed.

J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, pp. 163-164

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Art, Nakedness, and Redemption

Following on yesterday’s post, I thought it would be helpful to share this thoughtful article at Reformation 21 by the Rev. William VanDoodewaard, Associate Professor of Church History at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Here is an excerpt.

Adam and Eve were naked, without sin. Yet in the Garden, after their sinful rebellion, Adam and Eve realized their nakedness, creating fig leaf coverings for themselves. This awareness is unique to the humans, as animals continued in their “naked” state unperturbed. God declared the fig leaves insufficient, and in an act which theologians see as a picture of redemptive history, killed animals, providing Adam and Eve with adequate coverings of skin through a bloody act. After this point, Scripture’s testimony over and over again is that nakedness in contexts outside of marriage and necessity is shameful, spiritually destructive, a denial of the reality of sin and God’s holiness.

Where God displays His redemptive activity in contexts of extra-marital nakedness He clothes His people. Ezekiel 16 exemplifies this pattern in Scripture: God graciously redeems and clothes His bride, covering her nakedness and making her beautiful. Her God-given covering is not a denial of beauty, but rather a redemptive rescue and restoration to appropriate, glorious, public beauty, after she had been an object of abandoned, uncovered shame. The bride, however, turns to play the whore, prostituting herself, taking off her beautiful clothes, giving her naked beauty, now rebel, distorted and cheap, to any passer-by. Her disrobing outside of marriage is an outward expression of her inner rejection of God’s redemption. She calls men to join her in violating God’s perfect law.

The disrobing, redemption-rejecting woman of Ezekiel stands in stark contrast to the bride of the Song of Solomon, whose nakedness is truly beautiful. It is reserved for her husband, given to him alone–a “step that does not establish deep intimacy, but one which presupposes it.” [3] Even in the literary description of the marital sweetness and joy of the inspired Song a poetic modesty remains. [4] There is also a glorious foreshadowing here of the relationship of Christ and His Bride, the church, who is clothed as well–by His redemption.

VanDoodewaard concludes his article with these poignant words.

To reject nudity in art and film is no denial of artistic ability, nor of created beauty. It is a realistic, careful, humble acknowledgment of God’s redemptive work in Christ and His precepts for a grace transformed, holy, happy life in a fallen world. This includes the need for covering nakedness. Real redemptive activity seeks to preserve and rescue from sin by pointing men and women to Christ and His Word. Knowing this redemption, Paul, by the Holy Spirit, declares:

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality… will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God… you were bought at a price, therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

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“In essentials, unity…”

Modern evangelicalism frequently places a minimal emphasis upon doctrine, ostensibly for the purpose of fostering a wider unity. On the Westminster Seminary California Valiant for Truth blog, Dr. Michael Horton has some very useful thoughts on the division between essentials and non-essentials and the pursuit of a “mere Christianity.”

Horton

In the Great Commission, Jesus did not say, “Go therefore into all the world and preach the gospel, making everyone memorize the Four Spiritual Laws, and then keep multiplying converts.” He commanded the church to “make disciples” by proclaiming the gospel, baptizing, and “teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded.” People do not have to know everything that the Bible teaches—or even to understand all of its major doctrines—in order to be received as professing members of Christ’s body. However, when they become Christians, they are enrolled in a school of lifelong discipleship. Not everything in Scripture is equally clear or equally important, but everything is essential for us to know. God did not reveal everything that he might have revealed to us, but whatever he has revealed to us is necessary.

Read Dr. Horton’s article The Whole Faith Is Essential: Part 1 and Part 2.

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Grounded in the Gospel

This looks like an interesting read.

51tHYdcc72L._SL160_.jpgGrounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way

“Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the essentials of the faith has been known as catechesis–systematic instruction in faith foundations, including what we believe, how we pray and worship, and how we conduct our lives. For most evangelicals today, however, this very idea is an alien concept. Packer and Parrett, concerned for the state of the church, seek to inspire a much needed evangelical course correction. This new book makes the case for a recovery of significant catechesis as a nonnegotiable practice of churches, showing the practice to be complementary to, and of no less value than, Bible study, expository preaching, and other formational ministries, and urging evangelical churches to find room for this biblical ministry for the sake of their spiritual health and vitality.”

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Longing for the Spirituality of the Church

The closing words of Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen…

JGMachen.jpg“Is there no refuge from strife? Is there no place of refreshing where a man can prepare for the battle of life? Is there no place where two or three can gather in Jesus’ name, to forget for the moment all those things that divide nation from nation and race from race, to forget human pride, to forget the passions of war, to forget the puzzling problems of industrial strife, and to unite in overflowing gratitude at the foot of the Cross? If there be such a place, then that is the house of God and that the gate of heaven. And from under the threshold of that house will go forth a river that will revive the weary world.” — J. Gresham Machen

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Thinking Biblically About Church Architecture

Laon.jpgIn the (http://www.ligonier.org/rym/broadcasts/video/architecture/) for Renewing Your Mind, Dr. Sproul emphasises the following principle.

Every form is an art form, and even the way we construct buildings says something about our worldview. Throughout the history of the church, architecture has revealed something about man’s concept of God and of worship.

At the outset Dr. Sproul corrects any misconceptions that may arise regarding God’s omnipresence. We are not to think that God resides only in specific locations. Neither are we to think that only certain locations are appropriate as places for worship. In the New Testament, location is a secondary matter in relation to worship. A congregation may rightly assemble for worship in any location that will allow them to engage together in the sacred acts commanded by God.

To give a biblical context to the concept of church architecture as a Christian art form, Dr. Sproul develops the concept of sacred space as we find it revealed in the Old Testament, pointing out that it is the manifestation of the holy presence of God that shaped this concept of sacred space. It is this understanding of the holy presence of God that informed classic Christian architecture as we find it, for example, in the majestic cathedrals of Europe. Continue reading

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