P&D post: At Liberty to ‘Trespass’

I was thinking about Christian liberty the other day on my walk. I wrote up a little illustration on it and posted it to Proclaim & Defend. You can read it here.

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message on worldliness

I preached on 1 Jn 2.15-17 today, partly the fruit of recent discussions here. You can find the audio and notes at the link below.

And the World is not Idle (1 John 2:15-17)

As a supplement to our Romans series, we go to 1 Jn 2.15-17 to look at a complicating factor in our sanctification, the temptation of the world. The world tempts us because it orients its system along the lines of our fallen natue, something we find very appealing. The shocking fact of this passage is that believers themselves can fail of their love for God because of their love for the world.

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today 99 becomes 50

My American friends might not know what that headline means. I would guess almost all of my Canadian friends would.

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why are young people leaving church?

Another interesting CT article asks this question.

The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church

More than in previous generations, 20- and 30- somethings are abandoning the faith. Why?

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decisions, decisions

What if you don’t recall the hour of your “decision for Christ”? Or, as this old article at Christianity Today asks, “How can I know I’m a Christian if I can’t remember when I first responded to the gospel?”

The question reveals, I think a faulty view of salvation and assurance of salvation. In light of our recent discussion of revivalism here, I thought the article asked an interesting question.

The whole idea of a “decision for Christ” is largely a revivalistic phenomenon. As the article says:

Much of American Protestantism has been influenced by revivalism, which places great emphasis on "making a decision for Christ" in a public, definitive way. These "moments of decision" often become the crucial evidence that one is saved. Other Protestant traditions, less influenced by revivalism (including some Reformed and Lutheran churches), may be content to leave the conversion experience unclearly identified, putting the focus on identification with the church. Both of these traditions have benefits, as well as potential problems.

In a recent comment, our e-friend Tracy makes a good point, I believe:

If I’m preaching to lost folks, I preach Christ crucified and call for them to close with Christ immediately and publicly. Before I close, I tell them if they have any questions, either they can come to the front at the invitation time or they can see me after the service. I always stress that Christ desires their immediate salvation. So I declare the gospel, spell out its terms, and call them to close with it.

I agree with that. We need to call folks to decisions.

But what about some who can’t remember the specifics of their decision? (Perhaps it was a long time ago, perhaps it was when they were very young, perhaps they remember bits, or perhaps they remember nothing at all.)

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the meaning of godliness

I recently preached a message on the subject of ‘Godliness and Dignity’ based on the two terms found in 1 Tim 2.2. The more I consider the subject, the more important I think it is. The concept seems to be disappearing in the collective mind of the modern church.

What is godliness?

Godliness is a manner of life dominated by reverence for God that is displayed in a respect for other men that is visible to outside observers.

The word translated ‘godliness’ in the New Testament is eusebeia. According to Kittel, the root ‘seb-’ has the idea of ‘shrinking back’ or ‘falling back from’. With the prefix ‘eu-’ we could call it the ‘good shrinking back’. It is good because the term eusebeia speaks often of a proper attitude to the gods – piety – which is reflected in one’s conduct to men. Perjury, for example, is not godly. Caring for a dying father is godly. This conduct reflects an attitude of reverence towards deity and respect towards men.

In the New Testament, the term is occurs mostly in the pastoral epistles where its meaning is very parallel to Greek usage. It refers to conduct in relation to God, conduct that is no ascetic constraint but is positive expression of faith in the new life that now is and the life that is yet to come (1 Tim 4.7-8). This conduct is displayed by care of widowed mothers because such conduct pleases God (1 Tim 5.4). It is a life that is motivated by the Lord’s return, a life lived with ‘eternity in view’, since the things of this life are to be destroyed (2 Pt 3.10-11).

Godliness isn’t just private piety – it is visible piety. The gospel of grace teaches us that we are to live it out in this present world, before witnesses (Titus 2.11-12). It is to mark out the man of God, who, in contrast to the deceivers who trouble the church, is to pursue godliness rather than riches, content with his reward in heaven rather than profit on earth (1 Tim 6.1-12). It is that life to which God has provided the things pertaining to its essence and its conduct through the full knowledge of who called us by his own glory and excellence (2 Pt 1.3). God is excellent, the believer is called to excellence in this life.

In 1 Tim 2.2, the term is connected with the term ‘dignity’ (translated ‘honour’ in the KJV). Godliness speaks to the conduct of one’s life before God; dignity speaks to the quality of that life by virtue of a transformed inner man.

Godliness is given lip service today. For many people, if considered at all, it seems to simply mean, “having the right theology.” In the ancient world, some thought godliness merely meant keeping the rituals of religion, whether it be the Law of the Jews or the cultic practices of the Greeks. I am afraid many Christians today are quite satisfied with that kind of godliness today. “Get the form right, and I am all right.”

What we are after is a heart religion that reverences God and accordingly respects men. A heart religion that is no friend of the world, but a friend of God. Can it be that Christians who embrace the world and its ways are also friends of God? Are they godly?

It may be that godly Christians will come to differing applications on some specific matters of conduct, but the life of every godly Christian will be headed in the same direction: with fear toward God and respect towards men that outside observers can see – and will not confuse with worldliness.

Godliness is a manner of life dominated by reverence for God that is displayed in a respect for other men that is visible to outside observers.

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a man of the book

I’d like to recommend an excellent article by one of my old professors, Dr. Stewart Custer. In “Biblical Balance," he writes advocating that we become less shallow in our Scriptural understanding and really get to know our Bibles. I am afraid that most of us are ‘sound bite’ Christians. We treat the Bible like the media treats newsmakers – we take a slice of words that we think represents all of truth on a subject and think we know what the Author meant.

Dr. Custer starts his article this way:

Many people use Scripture for their own purposes. I am referring to sincere Christians who use the Scriptures to reinforce their own private interpretations of the Bible and of life. Many of these people are very godly individuals. I know of preachers whose personal dedication to the Lord is unquestioned, but who have certain doctrines for which they are notorious. They plug these things as though they were the great truths of revelation, when they happen to be of private interpretation.

Most fundamentalists would say they have a handle on the idea of holiness. Dr. Custer points out there are approximately 600 references to the word ‘holiness’ in the Bible (leaving aside passages that don’t specifically use that word). How many of those passages would you say you have thoroughly studied? What kind of grasp do you have on holiness, according to the Scriptures?

Our culture is filled with media, as Dr. Custer points out. All kinds of noise blares at us, demanding our attention. We live fast paced lives. We are ‘Martha’ Christians. We need to learn to be ‘Mary’ Christians, and sit at the feet of Jesus.

Turn off our televisions and our computers. Turn off our ipods and iphones. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (Mt 11.29)

I can tell you that I was mightily convicted by this little article this evening

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Canada Day

Today we had an inter-church picnic. Besides our church, there are two other independent Baptist churches in our city. They are both small mission works like us. Another church from an hour and a bit north of us also joined us. I didn’t count, but we had well over 50 people, maybe into the 60s.

To my state-side friends that might not seem like much. To us it seems a great blessing to be able to gather together, to fellowship, to hear the Word, to play games, to sing our anthem, to know that the gospel message that calls men OUT from the world and all the taints of worldliness is not something we hold to quiet and alone in our little, struggling churches, wondering if we are the only ones. No, it is the great God and Saviour of our souls that unites us, our Lord Jesus Christ. It is his church and we are grateful to be a part of it.

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a good post on holiness

I’d like to call your attention to a blog by Marty Colborn, ‘What About Holiness?’ Marty writes very thoughtful pieces on the Christian life, but this one is particularly timely. I think he gets it exactly right. You don’t produce holiness by works, but you holiness will produce works in keeping with itself.

Many who accuse fundamentalists of an over-emphasis on externals assume that fundamentalists believe that conformity to outward standards will produce holiness. I haven’t found that to be the case in my experience in numerous fundamentalist churches. What I have heard taught is essentially what Marty highlights in his post.

Here’s a sample:

In thinking about my own life, I can say that I need to be more holy, and that there are many things that distract me from that pursuit of holiness. I am sure that some of these things show up externally, in behaviours, and not simply in my innermost being where no one else can see.

I encourage you to read the whole thing.

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the pleasure of anger

I just completed the first volume of The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, a set I picked up a few weeks ago. The set is the first two volumes of three, the third just came out recently in hardback and isn’t yet included in the paperback version. The books are about 1000 pages each, so it is quite a task to read, but I found the reading so fascinating, I couldn’t put it down. Even the early letters,when Lewis was still a boy, reveal keen intellect and interesting insight (and breadth of reading).

The first volume also reveals the mind of a totally lost man. His conversion comes at the end of the first set of letters, but one has to say that he exhibits the pride and malice of a lost man in all his educated sophistication through the years prior to his conversion.

I’ll not debate the quality of his conversion, certainly he uses terms unfamiliar to us. It is quite clear that a real change took place in his life and he left us with many valuable works as a result.

In one of his letters, he makes an interesting observation about the pleasure of anger.

The pleasure of anger — the gnawing attraction which makes one return again and again to its theme — lies, I believe, in the fact that one feels entirely righteous oneself only when one is angry.

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