Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Semi-Pelagianism and my garage door

My Sears garage-door-opener is partly broken. When I push the remote garage-door-opener-button, it goes up 24 inches and stops. My friend who knows about garage-door-openers tells me that the garage-door-opener-motor is exhausted.

But I can help it work! If I press the remote garage-door-opener-button, and get out of my car in time, and lift up on my garage door, the motor keeps working! The garage door goes to the very top. Its teamwork you see! Sears and me [pardon the bad grammar. I like “me” better] working together!

So I’m going to write Sears and tell them that my plan is better than their plan. They need to reinvent a garage-door-motor that only lifts a garage door up 24 inches. That way people can help Sears. They’ll feel really good about that. And Sears will get some of the credit. They’ll also be helping people to exercise! And maybe it won’t cost them as much money to make a garage-door-opener-motor that only lifts a garage door up 24 inches.My Sears garage-door-opener is partly broken. But I can help it work! [Galatians 2:21]

Monday, December 21, 2009


Even with the myriad of "How-to" books crowding both non-Christian and Christian bookstores, it still might be a struggle to find a book title like, "How to Behave in the Household of God." It's probably not going to make the top 10 list of "How-to" books to ask for on our Amazon wish list. It sounds kind of like - hmm - a corrective maybe? "C'mon man!" It's been a stressful week. Let's do church - ugh - coming as we are and doing what we'd like? Won't that work?

Paul doesn't think so. In fact, Paul writes his first letter to Timothy so that Timothy "might know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth" [I Timothy 3:15].

Notice the relatonship of the church's behavior with "knowledge" and "truth." Churches are saints in union with the Truth. Churches hang out with truth and support [pillar and buttress] the truth against false teachers from within the church who "depart" [4:1] from the truth. Wow man! Paul doesn't sound like a area community church I heard about recently whose stated goal was to "connect people with God." What does that means? It doesn't sound like Paul. It sounds more like a vacuous Joel Osteen slogan. What a profound difference from the first words of Jesus' public ministry: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" [Matthew 4:17].

Maybe we're becoming less like Paul and Jesus and more like Fiyero from the show Wicked who sings, "Dancing through life, skimming the surface, gliding where turf is smooth." Paul's emphasis, in contrast, is on knowing "how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

stewards of a new building!

In Psalm 126:3 the psalmist writes, “The LORD has done great things for us; we are glad.” Gladness characterizes the people of God in Christ. And we are glad that, on this Lord’s Day, we’re worshipping in a new church building! Who could have imagined that God would entrust to us such a wonderful place? Our mouths are filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy [Psalm 126:2]. From three couples meeting in a living room five years ago to this memorable day, God has and continues to lavish grace and steadfast love on GBC. Thank you Pastor Colin for beginning this race. Thanks Pastor Ben for taking the baton from Colin and persevering in the race that’s been set before you. Thanks Gary for the countless hours you've spent recently making all the difficult places smooth. And thank you brothers and sisters of Grace who’ve spent hundreds of hours moving and cleaning and preparing meals and serving in countless ways. God is building His church, and the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. Our body is working together! “Praise, praise the Father, praise the Son, and praise the Spirit, three in one!” This unity will continue as we continue to devote ourselves to doctrine, prayer, the ordinances, and fellowship. Let’s also continue corporately to sing, pray, read, and preach the Word, rejoicing in the gospel with all those who love the gospel!

Monday, December 14, 2009

"No one is eternally condemned for failing to find purpose in life"

Here's a short excerpt from the Lord's Day sermon on December 6, followed by a quote I used by Michael Horton.

"So the reason not to have sex outside of marriage should not be ultimately because you might contract a sexually transmitted disease, or that there's a boatload of regret that accompanies it, or that it’s personally harmful or hurtful, or has deep ripple effects in leadership, or even because there will be spiritual consequences for you. These may all be true; however our text reminds us that sin doesn’t fall short of the glory of self-esteem or the glory of wellness or the glory of your best life now. Sin falls short of the glory of God." Lord's Day Sermon, December 6

"In the biblical perspective, that which makes sin sin is not first of all the unhappiness of shame that it brings to us and those around us, but the objective offence that it is before God. No one is eternally condemned for failing to find meaning, purpose, or fulfillment in life. But when sin is first defined vertically--that is, in reference to God--our nagging sense of unworthiness and guilt finally finds a real source and object. Only real sins can be forgiven. We cannot forgive ourselves. Even the forgiveness of other people cannot erase the debt and give us a righteous status. Only if our sins are first of all offences against God can they be objectively, fully, and finally forgiven." Michael Horton, The Gospel-Driven Life, p. 50-51 [2009]

Monday, November 23, 2009

Left Behind Alone In Your Bedroom!

Here's the introduction I scribbled together for GBC's public reading of II Thessalonians 2 for yesterday's Lord's Day service. We're trying to keep our explanations plain, short, and introductory:

In II Thessalonians chapter 2, Paul is writing to correct a false claim concerning the “Day of the Lord” [known as the Parousia] or the coming of Christ at the end of the age in power and glory. The false claim was that Christ had already returned, and the Thessalonians were really shaken up! In fact, word that is translated “shaken” in verse 2 is the same word that’s used in Acts 16:26 to describe the “great earthquake” in Philippi. So these Thessalonians were falsely alarmed that Christ had returned.

If you grew up in a Christian home like I did, perhaps you experienced the terror of waking up to find that your parents were gone! Your conclusion was that Jesus had come back and now you were left behind alone in your bedroom. When mom and dad did return, you were relieved to know that Christ hadn’t returned. In fact, Bob and Doris [mom and dad] were standing in the doorway of your bedroom at 19 Sennet Drive.

So perhaps we can understand the great sense of relief the Thessalonians experienced to know that the “Day of the Lord” had not occurred – relearning what they had heard before [v. 5]: that prior to the Parousia a rebellion must come first [v.3], followed by the revealing of the man of lawlessness [also referred to as the son of destruction or perdition] "who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship."

So, in fact, the Thessalonians hadn’t been left behind, and Paul encourages them to stand firm, giving thanks for them that they’ve been chosen of God to be saved through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in truth. He ends with a precious benediction of love, and comfort and good hope through grace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Connie, the less I know about you, the more I love you!"

We don’t sing over and over again, “Let us love and sing and wonder” – or maybe shuffle the words around singing endlessly, “Let us wonder and love and sing.” No, we love, and sing, and wonder because, as the song goes on to say, the law’s loud thunder has been hushed in Christ, and we delight in the Son who gives us light. So let’s not sing passionately about how we feel about God for no particular reason.

If my wife Connie asks me, “David, Why do you love me?” – and I say, “No reason particularly because I’m learning that the less I know about you the more I’ll love you – so lets keep our praise of each other vague like, ‘Your awesome!’ or how about ‘I praise you!' In fact, I don't even need to mention your name at all."

If I said that, I might deservedly get my you know what kicked off the porch of our yellow raised ranch house on White Birch Road. Because the truth is that the more I intimately know Connie, the more I’ll intimately love her. How much more our union with Christ. It’s what we rightly know about God, not what we don’t, that inspires greater heights of love for God in Christ. So, Father we want you to satisfy us early in the morning with your steadfast love – so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

When Were We Regenerated?

Question: When Were We Regenerated?
Answer: "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved." Ephesians 2:4-5

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

christians in the world: double listening, spiritual not spatial separation, and contextualization

Let me encourage you to pick up a copy of Tullian Tchividjian's, Unfashionable: making a difference in the world by being different [2009] published by Multnomah Books.

In chapter 8, entitled “Where in the World are Christians?”, Tchividjian explains that Christians should be people of what he calls "double listening," both listening to the world's questions and answering them from the Word. Tullian quotes Abraham Kuyper's famous line, "There is not one square inch in the entire domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, 'mine!'" So as God's "agents" of accomplishing the cultural mandate [fill, increase, be fruitful, and subdue], "we must not withdraw from the world but rather bring the standards of God's Word to bear on every dimension of human culture."

This means being "spiritually separate" without becoming "spatially separate." The mistake that modern fundamentalism made was one of "cultural retreat." Fundamentalists have seen the problem as not "in here" [in our sinful nature] but "out there." This gives rise to a kind of "self-righteousness and radical withdraw." Of course Tchividjian explains that a new kind of withdraw is seen when "traditional places of worship [turn] into sprawling campuses--cities within cities. Many churches now have their own restaurants, nightclubs, exercise programs, and yellow pages, running the risk of abandoning contact with the world." Tullian comments, "Jesus didn't invite the world to come to church; he directed the church to go into the world [John 17:18; John 17:15; Matthew 28]." Salt cannot preserve what it does not touch. Light cannot illuminate what is not dark. Tullian writes, "When we operate according to the idea "If we build it, they will come," we fail to take into account this distinct nature of new covenant ministry and mission. Instead we're called to operate with this mind-set: 'God is building: therefore we should go.'"

So we should contextualize, that is that we should be "giving people God's answers [which they may not want] to the questions they're really asking and in ways they can understand." It's here Tullian quotes Tim Keller: "To overcontextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol out of their culture, but to undercontextualize to a new generation means you can make an idol of the culture you come from." Tullian summarizes the chapter: "Instead of being culturally removed on the one hand or culturally relaxed on the other, we should seek to be culturally resistant. We're making contact with the world while colliding with its ways. We're culturally engaged without being culturally absorbed. We're to maintain a dissonant relationship to the world without isolating ourselves from it."

Great book! My prayer is that GBC will be a congregation of readers, reading the Bible first but reading widely so that we might "bring the standard of God's Word to bear on every dimension of human culture."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Newton and Double Imputation: "My breaches of the law are His, and His obedience mine."

Wow! what a great line from Newton's hymn, "Great God From Thee" that I can't get out of my head. "My breaches [a violation as of a law] of the law are His, and His obedience mine." We sang the musical setting in chapel this morning from "By Thy Mercy" -- a recent CD recorded by the guys at Indelible Grace Music http://www.igracemusic.com/

Here's Newton's text. It's Hymn No. 119 in Gadsby's Hymns [1834]. I'd encourage you to order a copy of Gadsby's Hymns and read it along with your Trinity hymnal. Here's the web address where you can order Gadsby's hymns http://www.graceandtruthbooks.com/listdetails.asp?ID=78

Hymn No. 119 Access to God in Christ-[Eph. 2:18; 3:12; Hebrews 10:19]
1. Great God! from thee there's nought concealed,
Thou seest my inward fraom;
To thee I always stand revealed
Exactly as I am!

2. Since I can hardly, therefore, bear
What in myself I see;
How vile and black must I appear,
Most holy God, to thee!

3. But since my Saviour stands between,
In garments dyed in blood,
'Tis he, instead of me, is seen,
When I appraoch to God.

4. Thus, though a sinner I am safe;
He pleads, before the throne,
His life and death on my behalf,
And calls my sins his own.

5. What wondrous love, what mysteries,
In this appointment shine!
My breaches of the law are his,
And his obedience mine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spurgeon, Total Depravity defined, a question, and how the doctrine changes us

Since in January GBC will begin exploring the Doctrines of Grace, I thought it might be helpful to begin early by asking and attempting to answer a question related to the first of these five doctrines, Total Depravity. First a classic quote on Calvinism from Charles Spurgeon:

"There is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation."

What is Total Depravity?
[Genesis 6:5; Romans 1:18-3:21; Romans 7:18; 8:7-8; Romans 14:23; Ephesians 2:1-3]

Definition 1: "Total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are totally deserving of eternal punishment." TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism

Definition 2: "Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them, whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body." The 1689 London Baptist Confession

Definition 3 "All people are conceived in sin and are born children of wrath, unfit for any saving good, inclined to evil, dead in their sins, and slaves to sin; without the grace of the regenerating Holy Spirit they are neither willing nor able to return to God, to reform their distorted nature, or even to dispose themselves to such reform" The Canons of Dort [1619]

Can't unbelievers do good things?

"We recognize that the word 'good' has a broad range of meaning. We will use it in the restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation to God are in fact not good. For example, we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that some unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in the Scripture. However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteous in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that's his will in all things [I Corinthians 10:31]. Therefore even these 'good' acts are part of our rebellion and are not 'good' in the sense that really counts in the end -- in relation to God." TULIP: What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism

How does the doctrine of Total Depravity change us?

"''But surely we must not tell the sinner that he cannot respond unless God first does a work of regeneration in him!' someone argues. 'That will make him complacent, or even despairing.' On the contrary, that is exactly what the sinner needs to know. For it is only in such understanding that sinful human beings know how desperate their situation is, and how absolutely essential God's grace is. If we are hanging on to some confidence in our spiritual ability, no matter how small, we will never seriously worry about our condition. There will be no sense of urgency. There will be time to believe later on. But if we are truly dead in sin, as the Bible says we are, then we will find ourselves in near despair. We will see our state as hopeless apart from the supernatural and totally unmerited working of the grace of God . . . Far from keeping us away from Christ, the true knowledge of radical depravity helps us abandon ourselves to his grace."
James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace: Rediscovering the Evangelical Gospel

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Power Of Silence

The following is a post by Pastor Mark Dever, a good and faithful brother ministering in Washington D.C. He has authored a number of books which are well worth your time reading. I would love to hear your comments, so don't be afraid to respond.

Making Silence Together

by mdever

One of the most frequently commented upon aspects of the morning Lord's Day service here at Capitol Hill Baptist Church is nothing we do. Or rather, it is the nothing we do. It is our moments of silence.

There's silence between various aspects of the service. I encourage service leaders to NOT do the "no-dead-airspace" TV standard of busy-ness. We LIKE "dead air space." "Dead air space" gives us time to reflect. To collect our thoughts. To consider what we've just heard or read or sung. The silence amplifies the words or music we've just heard. It allows us time to take it all in, and to pray. We have silence to prepare ourselves. We have silence between the announcements and the scriptural call to worship. We even have a moment of silence AFTER the service! I pronounce the benediction from the end of II Corinthians, invite the congregation to be seated. And then, after about a minute of silence, the pianist begins quietly playing the last hymn that we had just sung. During those few moments, we reflect and prepare to speak to others and depart. We do business with God. We prepare ourselves for the week ahead.

I'm a sound addict. Even as I write about silence now, I've got Paganini blasting in my study! But yesterday morning in church during one of our silences, I became aware of how corporate a labor such public silence is. Everyone works to be quiet. People stop moving their bulletins or looking for something in their purse. There's no movement. We, together, hear the silence. It engulfs us. It enhances our unity. It is something we all do together. Together we consider what we've just heard. Together we contribute to each other's space to think.

Why has the church forgotten this? Our culture knows it. At the most solemn moments, we have a minute of silence. And everyone listens to the silence. And thinks about why we're being silent. Why don't we do this in the church.

In the last century, E. M. Forster, in A Passage to India, referred to "poor little talkative Christianity". Perhaps there was a day when all Christians did was gather to listen to the Bible read and preached, and to prayers. But that day is long gone in most evangelical churches. These days we gather more to watch than to listen. And to sing.

But in all the noise of our choirs, and drums, and electic guitars, and organs, and praise bands, where is the solemnity? Where is the dignity and majesty that is so often indicated in the Bible by a stupified silence, soaked in awe and covered with wonder?

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that there is a time to speak and a time to be silent, but we seem to have forgotten today that there is a time for silence. God calls his people before Him in silence: "the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him," (Hab. 2:20).

Certainly as Christians we have much to rejoice over--loudly and joyfully and expectantly! But is no part of our regular assemblies to reflect the weightiness of our sinful selves before a holy God, the silence of conviction, even of sorrow? Furthermore, is no part of our regular assemblies to reflect the stunning weightiness of our forgiveness in Christ, the silence of marvel, and even the humility of some incomprehension?

We silence ourselves exactly because God has not kept silent. We silence ourselves in order to hear God speak in His Word (cf. Deut. 27:9) We silence ourselves to show our assent to God's charges against us (cf. Ps. 39:9). We silence ourselves to show respect and obedience and humility and restraint (cf. Zeph. 1:7;
I Cor. 14:34; I Tim. 2:12). We silence ourselves to search our hearts (cf. Ps. 4:4).

We silence ourselves in our own times of prayer, reading and meditation on God's Word. And we should also silence ourselves in our periods of corporate worship. Making silence together builds and unifies the church, witnesses to the majesty of God and tacitly proclaims His greatness to all who hear.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Best of John Calvin

This year the Christian church marks with joy the 500th anniversary of John Calvin's birth in 1509. The mention of his name still calls forth strong sentiments among the faithful even today, some 500 years later. While most Christians probably only associate his name with "Calvinism" as we know it, there is much more to understand and learn about this giant of the Christian faith. In a previous post I mentioned that Calvin was no mere cold theologian,but he was first and foremost a pastor.

In the preface to Calvin's sermons on Ephesians the publisher notes: "Though he was a scientific theologian who intended, God helping him, to establish solid doctrinal foundations in the Reformed churches; and though he was a lecturer to the students who met in the College at Geneva, toiling to set before them the meaning of Scripture in the clearest light; nevertheless it was not to these activities so much as to the pulpit itself that was the major part of his time was given. His primary obligation was not to fellow-scholars, nor even to his students, but to the ordinary people - citizens of Geneva and exiles, shop-keepers and merchants, the young and the old - who crowded St. Peter's day by day to listen to his sermons in French."

Emile Doumergue, Calvin's foremost biographer would agree: " That is the Calvin who seems to me to be the real and authentic Calvin, the one who explains all the others: Calvin the preacher of Geneva..."

More later on the fascinating story of how his sermons were lost and then found. But till then, here is a taste of Calvin the preacher.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mark Driscoll on What is the Church....

Linked below is a lecture given by Pastor Mark Driscoll to what seems to be a gathering of fellow pastors. His topic is: What is the church? This is my first introduction to Pastor Driscoll and what I heard resounded in my heart and mind. I think it will for you too. This is a message we all need to hear given our times. Please take a few moments and take a listen to:


Thanks to all the guys who have been encouraging me to tune into Driscoll!

Pastor Ben.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Taste of John Calvin...the Pastor

2009 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of one of Christianity's great heroes -John Calvin. Calvin was 16th century pastor, writer, theologian, scholar, and reformer of the church who lived during a time of great danger, political turmoil and ecclesiastical corruption. As an individual he suffered much from personal physical maladies which he eventually succumb to at just 55 years of age. What he accomplished during that short time is of inestimable value to the church and the world. He is probably best known for the "Institutes Of Christian Religion" which today are still widely considered as the most important piece of literature ever written, after the Bible. What many are not familiar with though are his sermons. To really understand John Calvin one must read his sermons, because in them you hear and see not only his mind but his heart as well. He was no mere cold theologian, but he was first and foremost a pastor who sought to teach and apply the truth of Scripture in a plain and loving way to those in his church, day after day.

Here is an excerpt from a sermon I recently read. It is representative of his sermons in that you can get a feel for how understands life and the world. I do not know if this quote would be considered as the "best" of Calvin. Probably not. I chose it simply because it resonated in my heart as I read it.

This quote is from a sermon he preached while preaching through the book of Acts on Sunday, April 13, 1550. His text is Acts 4:1-4.

His opening remarks are:

"Among the means by which our Lord wants our faith to be put to the test is this: Satan exerts all his power to prevent the word of God from going forth. And when his word begins to be made known, the wicked oppose it vigorously, for they are the devil's instruments for waging against God and Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. That is what Luke is now bringing to our attention. We have heard how the apostles taught the people and how that was a sign that the gospel was to be made public. But here the devil is, making serious inroads against that endeavor. It is an attempt to test the faith of the apostles and of all those associated with them. Seeing that everyone was resisting God's truth, they had to be armed with perseverance so they would not be daunted by that resistance. It is true the devil will make a valiant effort, but he will not be able to do anything against Jesus Christ, for since our Lord is seated at the right hand of God his Father (Eph 1:20-22), all creatures are in subjection to him. Consequently, when the devil tries to prevent the spread of the gospel, he can do so only with God's permission. He can do nothing on his own authority, but God gives him leeway to do everything within his power so that when there is nothing more he can do, we will realize the power of God's truth notwithstanding the fact that his truth remains victorious whenever the world and the devil come into conflict."

Ultimately we remember and celebrate the life of John Calvin some 500 years after his birth not because he was a great writer or simply because he was a brilliant mind, which he was, but rather because of what and who he wrote about. Like few other men in history Calvin was able to look at life and the world from a truly God-centered perspective. He was able to clearly see the weakness, pride, rebellion, and helplessness of man apart from God like few others.