Excitement & Alarm with Today’s Reformed Camp

14 09 2006

An exciting and alarming by-product over the increased excitement in reformed theology is the intense individual identification with the reformed theological framework. Of course this is exciting because reformed theology is by in large biblical. However, there are some contemporary trends that are alarming.

For example, when I hear a sermon by a well known contemporary preacher quoting Calvin, Luther & Spurgeon more than the Bible I become concerned. I listen to a guy referring to what Calvin said as if it is authoritative and binding in my life. I need to listen to what Calvin (or anyone for that matter) says because it reflects what God says.

Reformed heroes are not our authority the Bible is. I know that guys do not intend to do this but they end up elevating the dead guys with nice lettuce (hair) to a position of authority, thereby circumventing one of the great Solas of the reformation (Sola Scriptura). And in so doing we create our own little protestant Magisterium. Again I know this is not the intention but what else am I to conclude when guys repeatedly appeal to men as their authority to make their homiletical points?

The preacher is called to ‘preach the word’ (2 Tim. 4.2). This is done by giving the meaning of the text (according to God) to the hearer with personal application. This is not accomplished by quoting and interacting with theologians for 45 minutes while giving a courteous tip of the hat to the text by simply reading the passage.

So to preachers: are you primarily providing and reinforcing theology or are you primarily there to operate on hearts by giving your hearers the word of God?

And to those who sit under the preaching ministry of another: Are you primarily there to learn more about the reformed heritage and concepts or are you primarily there to have your heart operated on by the sacred scalpel of truth (Heb. 4.12)?

The faithfully preached word will provide and reinforce theology and illicit passion in the life of the Christian. My fear is that, even with good motives, some today are not being clear and faithful with the Bible as their ultimate authority and means by which we are sanctified. So I challenge myself and others to ensure that our theology and emotions are derived from the text and not the other way around.

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5 Deadly Ism’s

13 09 2006

I highly recommend a sermon delivered by my pastor this weekend entitled “5 Deadly Ism’s”. Pat walked through these 5 theological danger spots in a very helpful manner.

The (free) audio is available here: listen or download.

Faithful pastors warn the church of impending dangers; there is a biblical precedent for this as demonstrated by the Apostle Paul (Acts 20.28ff; 1 Tim. 4).

1st Deadly ISM: Pragmatism

2nd Deadly ISM: Mysticism

3rd Deadly ISM: Antinomianism

4th Deadly ISM: Legalism

5th Deadly ISM: Pelagianism

Below is a brief summary:

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Christianity Today highlights Calvinism

21 08 2006

sept-ct-cover.jpgIn the upcoming edition of Christianity Today (CT) the current popularity of Reformed Theology will be highlighted in an article entitled Young, Restless, Reformed.

I am definitely looking forward to reading this article (minus the corny picture of Edwards as a homeboy and a soap opera reference with caviler intimations)

Consistent with their history of highlighting what is popular in the evangelical movement CT will highlight this growing theological trend in the church.

 

Once could have seen this coming when they interviewed Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, when he said, “The two hot theologies today are Reformed and emerging.”

Reformed Theology is growing and this is a good thing. It is great to see the popularity surrounding the writings of the reformers and the puritans.

This is particularly encouraging if you look at what has happened historically with the increase in this solid, biblical or reformed theology. In a word: revival.

We of course are familiar with the great number of folks born again when Martin Luther and the reformers were used by God to herald the glory of Christ through the recovery of the doctrine of justification. But who can forget the great harvest of souls that were won through the reformed preaching and writing of Baxter, Bunyan and Owen?

Consider also in our own country when in 1729 the Westminster Confession was accepted in the colonies, and then early in the 1730’s God uses the preaching of Jonathan Edwards to unsettle callous hearts with the gospel. In 1740 George Whitfield arrives in the colonies to stoke the flames kindled by Edwards. Then also early in the 1800’s the Second Great Awakening begins with a great outpouring of the Spirit of God upon those who are preaching, specifically preaching the doctrines of grace. We also see Princeton Seminary open in 1812 to accommodate and accelerate this revival of preaching.

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Why study Justification?

10 06 2006

Definition: Justification is the instantaneous and irreversible legal act of God’s grace in which he forgives the believer’s sin and credits Christ’s righteousness to them. This divine declaration of the unrighteous as righteous in his sight is not due to the believer’s merit, but is solely through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Great Texts: Romans 3.21-28; 4.1-6; 5.1-3, 16-18; Gal. 2.16, 20, 21; Phil. 3.8-9

7 Motives to continually give yourself to the study of justification by faith alone:

1. It supremely & uniquely exalts the glory of God

When we think about what gives God pleasure we are immediately drawn to the cross. For it is here upon Calvary’s wood that the Son of God vindicated the divine character through the unfathomable amplification of perfect righteousness while extending the unfathomable mercies of perfect love.

There is nothing in the entire world that so puts God on display like rebels declared perfect, fairly and justly! For even the consideration of God providing sufficient righteousness (Rom. 3.21-28), never to be removed from those who had been deficient in righteousness (Rom. 1.18-3.19) is enough to cause guilt laden sinners to rejoice. But this is not a possibility, but rather a reality!! God has and is justifying rebels! And it is here in the justification of sinners by grace, through faith, wholly independent of human striving or merit that we see God uniquely and supremely exalted.

2. It supremely & uniquely helps you to understand who Jesus Christ is

Most heresies hang themselves on either the person or the work of Christ. Is Jesus Christ fully God and fully man, or is he all man or is his all God. The orthodox & biblical view is of course that he is 100% God (Col. 2.9) and 100% man (Gal. 4.4-5). Did Christ redeem sinners in addition to their works or independent of their works? If Justification is by faith + works, then Christ’s substitutionary atonement is not the sole basis for justification. However, if justification is by grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone, then we have a full service Savior, who died as a substitutionary atonement, accomplishing exactly what the Father intended.

In light of justification by faith alone, who is Christ? He alone is the sufficient savior (Acts 4.12), he alone is the sufficient righteousness (Jer. 23.5), he alone is the sufficient mediator (1 Tim. 2.5), he alone is the sufficient priest (Hebrews 7.25; 9.1-14; 10.10), and he alone is worthy of worship (Rev. 5.9-12).

Matthew 1:21 21 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."

3. It supremely & uniquely helps you to understand who you are

Since the biblical doctrine of justification is inherently an assassination of human pride, the constant meditation over it is critical in fostering a biblical anthropology, or doctrine of man. Over and over again, we see the Scriptures rhetorically ask where boasting plays in with divine grace in justification based upon Christ’s death…and the answer is there is none, because there is no room for it!!! The only thing we contribute to salvation is our sin! God provides the high priest and the sacrifice; even propitiating divine wrath with the blood of the Son of God (Rom. 3.25; Heb. 9.12).

What could possibly be better than God’s honest assessment of mankind in light of the cross? He declares with devastating resolve that we are sinners incapable of earning his favor, completely devoid of merit and aggravating his wrath by continuing to exist in this posture (Rom. 3.10-18; Eph. 2.1-3; Col. 1.21).

This is why boasting in ourselves is biblically ridiculous (Rom. 3.27-28; 1 Cor. 1.29); however, boasting in Christ is biblically relished!

Galatians 6:14 14 But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

4. It serves as the basis for sanctification

If one has not been declared perfect then they may not be striving to perfection because they are without the ability to do so. But when God saves a sinner, he imputes Christ’s righteousness to them and then begins the process of conforming the imperfect sinner into the image of perfection, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans chapter 6 highlights the connection between our union with Christ in his death (v. 5) and our union in life (v.5b-11). Because we have been justified(declared righteous), we are able to be sanctified (made progressively holy).

The reality of present peace with God, even clinging to divine righteousness is the drive for the pursuit of the image of Christ. In other words, the positional reality of justification is the basis for the increasingly practical reality of progressive sanctification.

5. It is the fuel for effective service

Why do we serve? It is simply because of what Christ did. Do you need anymore fuel to serve than to consider the service that Christ rendered: Mark 10:45 45 "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

Our paths in service in the body are always illuminated by Calvary.(cf. Eph. 4.1-15).

6. It is the basis for godly relationships

Why do we forgive on another? Why do we bear with one another? Why do we tolerate one another? Why do we show honor to one another? Why do we give preference to one another? Why do we love on another? It is because of justification by faith alone!

Ephesians 4 & 5 are rooted in understanding that believers are to actually be different than the world and this difference is to be motivated by the death and resurrection of Jesus! Consider just a few: speaking the truth (4.25); work instead of stealing (27); clean speech (29); removal of anger, wrath, & bitterness (31); kindness, tender-heartedness, forgiveness, & love (32), purity (5.3-4).

But do you see what is right in the middle of it all?

Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

It is all tied to what Christ did on the cross , as our substitute (gave himself up for us), that we might live for him ( be imitators of God, as beloved children, walk in love)

7. It is the distinguishing mark of biblical Christianity

Biblical Christianity is only ‘religion’ in the world that maintains God’s independence. It is biblical Christianity alone that presents God as the only doer in salvation. God maintains his holiness, justice, righteousness, while expressing his love, mercy and forgiveness through Jesus. When this is received by grace and through faith God is exalted and man is humbled…and this is just the way God likes it!!