An Encouraging Day as a Discipleship Pastor

In every profession, there are good days and bad days. Days that are more difficult and days that are easier. Too often, I’m afraid, we remember the bad days more than the good. We remember the slumps of the tough days more than the joys of the fruitful days. I’ve had many difficult days in ministry. But I’ve also had many exciting, fruitful days. Yesterday was one of those exciting days, and I want to revel in it for just a bit.

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J. Gresham Machen, A Biographical Essay

Introduction

Throughout the history of Christianity, certain theologies, ideologies, and philosophies have arisen and threatened the church’s understanding of the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. One such theology is the modern liberalism that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which the main character of this essay describes as “an attempt to solve the problem of historic Christianity’s relation to modern culture.”[1] In an attempt to solve this “problem,” modern liberalism became rooted in naturalism and discarded the supernatural particulars of the Christian message such as the virgin birth, substitutionary atonement, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ as mere symbols of the more general aspects of religion.[2]

Modern liberalism taught that the essence of Christianity is to be found in its general ethical principles rather than in the event of the Son of God dying for the sins of His people. Liberalism made its way into many churches, denominations, and seminaries by the dawn of the twentieth century and was threatening to overpower historic Protestantism in its popularity and acceptance. However, church history often demonstrates that when a harmful theology arises, God raises up a voice to expose, correct, and provide clarity for the church. In the early decades of the twentieth century in the United States, that voice was J. Gresham Machen’s.

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The Center and Core of the Whole Bible

I’ve been reading through Ned Stonehouse’s biography of J. Gresham Machen, the conservative New Testament professor at Princeton Seminary who stood against the liberal theology that was making inroads in the Presbyterian Church of America in the 1920s and 1930s.

Throughout the Book, Stonehouse highlights key sections from Machen’s works. In one of them, titled What is Faith?, Stonehouse recounts where Machen clearly sets forth what he believes to be the “center and core” of the whole Bible: the grace of God. And I couldn’t agree more. He writes,

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Ernie Reisinger on Doctrine and Christian Experience

Green and Yellow Photo Quotes Fall Twitter Post

I’ve been working my way through Geoff Thomas’s biography of Ernie Reisinger and came across one of the clearest explanations of my own views regarding the importance of doctrine and Christian experience. Thomas quotes from Reisinger’s pamplet entitled Doctrine and Devotion,

“Doctrine is to Christian experience what bones are to the body. A body without bones would be like a lump of “glob,” utterly useless. Likewise, Christian experience without roots is like cut flowers stuck in the ground. They may look pleasant for a while, but ultimately they will fade. The other side of this truth must also be taken into account, that is, bones without flesh are but a dead skeleton. Doctrine without experience is useless.’

Thomas provides helpful additional commentary, “It is not enough to speak of immediate experiences of God without doctrinal knowledge. God must be worshipped in truth as well as in Spirit. Truth can be stated in real words, and when that is done there is Christian doctrine. To be a disciple of the Lord Jesus without knowing what Christ taught must be a vain quest. It is impossible to over-emphasize the importance of sound doctrine in the Christian life. Right thinking about all spiritual matters is imperative if we are to have right living. As men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles, so sound Christian character does not grow out of unsound doctrine. The church that neglects to teach sound biblical doctrine weakens church membership. It works against true unity. It invites instability in its fellowship. It lessons conviction and puts the brakes on vital progress in the congregation.”

He concludes regarding experience, “Mark well that apostasy from the faith has never resulted from a prayerful and diligent submission to God’s Word. If the great doctrines do not produce and develop such Christian character of true zeal, genuine holiness, self-denial, and evangelism, then those doctrines are not being held properly or else they have become an end in themselves.”

May God grant that we recognize the importance of and continue growing in both Christian doctrine and experience!

Magnifying Christ as the Sovereign God of Technology

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In our day and age, we have technophiles, technophobes, and people in the middle. Technophiles are incredibly enthusiastic about technological developments, while technophobes are deathly afraid of them. But the Christian can stand comfortably balanced between the two, because the God of all of this stuff- all our technology, rules over it all.

Technology is a tool, and tools are given to us by God. The first stone Adam used to crack open a coconut was a tool. It was a token of technological advancement. As the centuries have passed, God has given us the resources and abilities to continue advancing our tools. These tools are not inherently good or bad in themselves. However, they can find themselves in the hands of a person doing good or evil, something beneficial or detrimental. They are not new “gods” unless we revere and worship them as such. They are neutral. However, as Doug Wilson points out in Ploductivity, technology is a form of wealth. The Bible describes wealth as a blessing, but a blessing that can easily turn our hearts away from God (Deut. 8:10-20). Therefore we must view our technological tools with grateful suspicion. We should be grateful for the blessing that they are and desire to use them to honor God. But we should be suspicious of our hearts that can quickly turn blessings into a means of forgetting the God who blessed us in the first place.

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The Red Sea: Salvation is of the Lord

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Two sets of water. Two miracles. Two fundamental lessons on salvation.

The parting of the Red Sea and the Jordan River are much more than neat miracle stories. They are central events in the unfolding drama of redemption that proclaim who God is and the nature of His salvation. In this post, I will discuss one fundamental lesson of salvation revealed in the first of these events.

The Red Sea

Imagine the scene at the Red Sea: God had promised to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt and into land he promised to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Through many miraculous signs and wonders, God moved the stubborn heart of Pharaoh to momentarily allow Israel to leave. In dramatic fashion, the people evacuate Egypt, Pharaoh changes his mind and pursues Israel, and Israel seems to be trapped by the impassibility of the Red Sea. Their first thought isn’t to turn to God for help (easy to judge, but unfortunately we often do the same), but to complain and grumble against Moses and declare that they were better off in Egypt (see Exodus 14:10-12). Moses responds, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today” (Exod. 14:13).

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Does God Desire To Show Some of His Attributes More Than Others? -Dr. David Holt

God “much prefers” to express His compassion and grace than His judgment and discipline.  I can relate to this as a father.  I “much prefer” to be gracious and giving to my children rather than discipline them for disobedience.  I will do the latter if their behavior warrants it, but I “much prefer” the former.

And so it is with God and us. He “much prefers” that we remain in intimacy and obedience with Him, so that He can bless, help, show compassion, empower and reward us. But if our behavior warrants His judgment and discipline, He will have to express that. Continue reading “Does God Desire To Show Some of His Attributes More Than Others? -Dr. David Holt”

The Never-Changing God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Our God NEVER changes. One may think, “great, how is that of use to me?” It is of great importance to us! Think of the ways that Jesus responded to the crowds in the first chapters of Mark: there were three different instances when Jesus was almost crushed by crowds of people. He even had to tell his disciples to prepare a boat that He could get in if the crowds started to crush Him (yes, that many people were running to Him!) When He went home to sleep that night, the scriptures say that the entire town was at His house! Yet, He skipped his meal, stayed and ministered to and loved on the people so much that his own family remarked that he was “out of his mind.” So, if He never changes, He still has this disposition, and He still reacts this way to those who run to Him.

Here is solid comfort. Our human nature cannot be relied on, but we can rely on God! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God does not change. If He changed as we do; if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if He were controlled by His mood, who could reveal their secrets to Him? However, we can bring Him praise and worship, because He is ever the same! His purpose is fixed, His will is stable, His Word is sure. Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty oceans of life try to sweep us away. (My translation of A.W Pinks Attributes, pp 692 Kindle)

Think about it. His character is permanent. He could never change for the better, for that would imply that there was something about Him that needed improving before, and thus, He wouldn’t be a perfect God. He has always been, and forever will be, the same, perfect, God. The permanence of His character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises:

For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”               Isaiah 54:10

His promises are true. His hatred of sin endures forever. His love for His children never changes. His satisfaction with the sacrifice His Son paid for our sins will never change…Aren’t you glad that our God never changes?

Looking Unto Jesus- Charles Spurgeon

“Looking unto Jesus.” —Hebrews 12:2

“It is ever the Holy Spirit’s work to turn our eyes away from self to Jesus; but Satan’s work is just the opposite of this, for he is constantly trying to make us regard ourselves instead of Christ.

He insinuates, ‘Your sins are too great for pardon; you have no faith; you do not repent enough; you will never be able to continue to the end; you have not the joy of His children; you have such a wavering hold of Jesus.’

All these are thoughts about self, and we shall never find comfort or assurance by looking within. But the Holy Spirit turns our eyes entirely away from self: He tells us that we are nothing, but that ‘Christ is all in all.’

Remember, therefore, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee—it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that be the instrument—it is Christ’s blood and merits.

Therefore, look not so much to thy hand with which thou art grasping Christ, as to Christ; look not to thy hope, but to Jesus, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Jesus, the author and finisher of thy faith.

We shall never find happiness by looking at our prayers, our doings, or our feelings; it is what Jesus is, not what we are, that gives rest to the soul. If we would at once overcome Satan and have peace with God, it must be by ‘looking unto Jesus.’

Keep thine eye simply on Him; let His death, His sufferings, His merits, His glories, His intercession, be fresh upon thy mind; when thou wakest in the morning look to Him; when thou liest down at night look to Him.

Oh! let not thy hopes or fears come between thee and Jesus; follow hard after Him, and He will never fail thee.

‘My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesu’s blood and righteousness:
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesu’s name.’”

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–Charles Spurgeon, “June 28 – Morning” in Morning and Evening (Geanies House, Fearn, Scotland, UK: Christian Focus, 1994), 378.