Monday, August 31, 2009

Timothy George on Baptists and the Lord's Supper

In the previous post, I included an excerpt and a link to Timothy George's recent article in Christian History ("What Baptists Can Learn from Calvin"). Michael Spencer has asked Dr. George to comment on the following question (somewhat related to that article): “How can Baptists respond to Catholic and Orthodox Christians who challenge our view of the Lord’s Supper as having no deeper historical/Biblical roots than Zwingli?”

Read Dr. George's answer here.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What Baptists Can Learn from Calvin

Timothy George, the dean of the seminary from where I graduated (Beeson Divinity School), has written an excellent article for Christian History on "What Baptists Can Learn from Calvin." Here is an excerpt:

The year 2009 marks two important anniversaries in the history of the Christian church: the birth of John Calvin at Noyon in France in 1509, and the birth of the modern Baptist movement at Amsterdam in 1609. Both events are being celebrated with numerous symposia, publications, and conferences, but few people are asking what these two events, separated by the century of the Reformation, have in common. Baptists are fiercely independent and refuse to recognize any human figure as a standard of faith. Today's Baptists would agree with what the nonconformist Samuel Hieron said in the 17th century:

We do not hang on Calvin's sleeve
Nor yet on Zwingli's we believe:
And Puritans we do defy,
If right the name you do apply.

Are Baptists Calvinists? If a Calvinist is a person who follows strictly the teachings of John Calvin, then in three important respects Baptists are not, and have never been, Calvinists. Calvin was a pedobaptist (practicing infant baptism); Baptists are credobaptists (believers' baptism only). Calvin believed in a presbyterian form of church government; Baptists are congregationalists. Calvin believed that the civil magistrate should enforce both tables of the law (moral responsibilities towards God and towards one's neighbor), suppressing heresy and blasphemy by force if necessary. Baptists believe in religious liberty for all persons.

For all that, Calvin remains the most formative theological influence in the development of the Baptist tradition. Unfortunately, many Baptists today know only the ungenerous stereotype of Calvin that depicts him as "the dictator of Geneva wielding the whip of logic and driving a chariot named the sovereignty of God harnessed to mean-spirited steeds called predestination and total depravity" (Charles Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, 14). It is said that on occasion so-called liberal Christians stand before the famous statue of Calvin in Geneva and hurl eggs at the dour likeness looking down at them!

2009 is a good time to look again at Calvin's theology and its relationship to the Baptist movement. Here are five theological principles Baptists can learn from Calvin.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Invitations of the Gospel

The Fountain
Samuel Davies, 1723-1761

Today the living streams of grace
Flow to refresh the thirsty soul;
Pardon and life and boundless bliss
In plenteous rivers round us roll.

Ho, ye that pine away and die,
Come, and your raging thrist allay;
Come all that will, here's rich supply,
A fountain that shall ne'er decay.

"Come all," the blessed Jesus cries,
"Freely My blessings I will give."
The Spirit echoes back the voice,
And bids us freely drink and live.

The saints below, that do but taste,
And saints above, who drink at will,
Cry jointly, "Thirsty sinners! haste,
And drink, the spring's exhaustless still."

Let all that hear the joyful sound,
To spread it through the world unite;
From house to house proclaim it round,
Each man his fellow man invite.

Like thirsty flocks, come let us go;
Come every color, every age;
And while the living waters flow,
Let all their parching thirst assuage.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Preachers as Interpreters and Exegetes of Revelation

I am currently enjoying Iain Murray's Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace. As I read today, I was reminded again of the fact that true, faithful preaching must be expositional in nature. In other words, preachers must view themselves as messengers of God - on a divine errand, carrying a message that is not their own. Or, as Murray puts it on page 42:
The preacher's first and supreme concern has to be that his words are an expression of the mind of God in Scripture. "If any many speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11). The preacher is nothing unless he is an interpreter and exegete of revelation. Apart from that he has no right to command the attention of his fellow men. To expect the Holy Spirit to give his aid to what are merely our ideas is to desecrate the pulpit (italics mine).
Preachers, read that last sentence again and meditate on it as you prepare for this Sunday!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Great Quotes on Preaching

Thabiti Anyabwile has a number of excellent quotes related to preaching that can be read here.

His favorite (and mine too) reads as follows:
"I preach as though Christ was crucified yesterday, rose from the dead today, and is coming back tomorrow." -- Martin Luther

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

William Cowper on the Pulpit

Ray Ortlund recently posted a reflective poem by William Cowper called "The Pulpit." I loved these lines:
There stands the messenger of truth. There stands
the legate of the skies; his theme divine,
his office sacred, his credentials clear.
By him, the violated law speaks out
its thunders, and by him, in strains as sweet
as angels use, the gospel whispers peace.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Conventional Thinking Blog

Al Mohler has restarted the Conventional Thinking blog - a blog dedicated to the issues of importance for the Southern Baptist Convention and its churches.

Here is the post that contains the video of his recent address, "The Future of the Southern Baptist Convention."

And here is a post on the news story that Baptist Press ran about that address.

For those of you who are Southern Baptists (and for those who aren't but still find interest in the goings on of the SBC), this will be a good site to check from time to time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Conversion Hymn

I Once Was Dead in Sin and Strife
M. Justin Wainscott, © 2008

I was once was dead in sin and strife,
And knew no will but mine;
But God has quickened me to life
By sovereign grace divine!

To base desires I was a slave,
And under their control;
But Jesus Christ is strong to save;
He freed my shackled soul!

Although my heart was hard as stone,
And vile with ev’ry beat;
For all my sins Christ has atoned.
In him I stand complete!

My blinded eyes were shut by sin,
The dark my only sight.
But God, in mercy, opened them,
And flooded me with light!

My lifeless tongue was resting lame,
No words my mouth could bring;
Till on my lips God put his name,
And loosed my tongue to sing!

And sing I shall to Christ my King,
My Savior and my God;
Loud praises I will ever bring.
I’ll glory in his blood!

And when from earth I shall depart,
And when it’s time to die;
I’ll join the saints and sing my part
In songs of praise on high!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Hymn for Ordinary Christians

Bob Kauflin has a great post about the story behind Thomas Chisolm and his hymn, "Great Is Thy Faithfulness." Check it out here.

Christ-Centered Worship

If the blurbs mean anything (and they don't always!), Bryan Chapell's new book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, should be worth reading and contemplating.
"This will be the first book I give people--or turn to myself--on the practice of understanding, planning, and leading in corporate worship."
- Tim Keller, senior pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church; author of The Reason for God

"Destined to become one of the best resources available for improving the practice of Christian worship."

- Philip Ryken, senior minister, Tenth Presbyterian Church, PA

"An astonishingly helpful book. It is theologically rich, especially when it comes to showing, in detail, how the nature of the gospel ought to shape our public services. . . . No one will agree with everything he has written here, but only the most ignorant could not profit enormously from this thoughtful and stimulating book."
- D. A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
I certainly enjoyed Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching, so I am looking forward to reading this.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons

Whether you are primarily a preacher of God's Word or a listener of God's Word preached, Christopher Ash's little booklet, Listen Up! A Practical Guide to Listening to Sermons, is a valuable resource for you and your church. Phil Dunn has a helpful review of it here at the Unashamed Workman blog. Here is his conclusion:
In summary then, I can't speak highly enough of this little booklet. I honestly can't imagine anyone reading it and not finding it immensely helpful (and that includes older Christians too). Are there any drawbacks – well, I really couldn’t think of any! It’s short (only takes about 5-10 minutes to read), it’s clearly laid out, and it’s easy to understand. And if the reader takes the content to heart he/she is bound to benefit and enjoy God's word much more. My advice – grab a copy for yourself – or even better get one for each member at your church!
To read an online sample of the booklet, click here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spurgeon on Christless Preaching

Tony Reinke, in a recent blog post, provided six excellent quotes from Charles Spurgeon on the utter necessity of preaching Christ. Here is the first:
The motto of all true servants of God must be, “We preach Christ; and him crucified.” A sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it. No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.
Read them all here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Holy Spirit Told Me to Preach What I Prepared

Michael Patton has an interesting post at the Parchment and Pen blog titled, "I Was Going to Preach This, But the Holy Spirit Led Me to This"...and Other Stupid Statements. Here is an excerpt:

Does my title give me away? So much for being coy with my proposition. Let me say that this post is going to get me in trouble with some dear friends who preach God’s word every week. My message to them: Bear with my critique. I pray that my thoughts will be considered as “wounds from a friend”—a very fallible friend.

Here, let’s start this way. Have you ever heard someone (probably a preacher or teacher in the church) say something like this:

“I had prepared all week to teach on __________, but the Holy Spirit changed my lesson at the last minute.”

I have. Dozens of times. The idea it conveys is that the particular message that was prepared was not of God (at least at that time) and this new message was most certainly of God. In fact, the new message is miraculously of God! Why? Because I did not really prepare for it. It must have been God who prepared it. “I just step back when that happens and let God do his thing. Who am I to interrupt God?”

Can I say something? (Wait, let me hide behind something first . . .There.) That is a stupid statement!

My basic thesis is this: The type of assumptions required to adopt the occurrence of such homiletic detours is irresponsible both to yourself and to your audience and misunderstands the way God works in the life of the church.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Don't Undervalue Christ's Redemption

These are comforting words from the Puritan, Isaac Ambrose:
Many a humble soul is apt enough to complain, "Oh! if I had not been so great a sinner, if I had not committed such and such transgressions there might have been hope." This is to undervalue Christ's redemption; this is to think there is more in sin to damn, than in Christ's sufferings to save, whereas all thy sins to Christ are but as a little cloud to the glorious sun, yea, all the sins of all the men in the world, are but to Christ's merits as a drop to the ocean.

I speak this not to encourage the presumptuous sinner, for alas, he hath no part in this satisfaction, but to comfort the humbled sinner, who is loadened with a sense of his sins; what though they were a burden greater than he can bear, yet they are not a burden greater than Christ can bear. There is in Christ's blood an infinite treasure, able to sanctify thee and all the world; there is in Christ's death a ransom, a counter-price sufficient to redeem all the sinners that ever were or ever shall be.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Monergism's Banner of Truth Sale

4th Annual Banner of Truth Sale

Every Banner of Truth title at Monergism Books is now available for the absolute lowest price anywhere online. PLUS get an additional 5% discount if you order by Friday, August 21st! In order to take advantage of this sale you will need to:
  • Make sure you are logged in as a registered user.
  • Place at least $25 worth of Banner of Truth titles into your shopping cart.
  • Enter coupon code banner at checkout.
If you can find a better price on these titles anywhere online, Monergism Books will match it!

Shop the sale here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Defending Musical Diversity

Kevin DeYoung has a thoughtful and balanced post on musical diversity within a church's corporate worship. Here is his conclusion:
I am not arguing for a mechanical implementation of Psalms, hymns, contemporary songs, and non-Anglo songs. We should not make one week Psalms and another week non-Anglo songs, and we don’t have to get all four categories in every service. But singing from these four traditions, as we often do, is good for our church, not least of all because no one can claim absolutely “they use my kind of music here.” Then, Christ–sung in our songs, called up in our prayers, and heralded in the preaching–will be the glue that holds us together, and not music. That’s the kind of unity in diversity worth celebrating.

Read the whole thing here.

Malnourished Gluttons

I have been thinking lately on the fact that we twenty-first century Americans have more at our disposal than any other previous generation, and yet we seem to be missing so many of the good qualities that characterized those who went before us. Though we have multiple outlets for social interaction, we are individualistic and lonely. Though we live in the information age, most of the information we value is rather trivial. Though we have more "stuff" than we could ever need, still we lust for more. And on and on I could go.

As I was contemplating and lamenting this sad state of affairs (specifically, how I am just as guilty of this dilemma), a term came into my mind to describe us - malnourished gluttons. And as I thought more about that term, I realized just how fitting it was. So, I penned the following words to describe those of us who are twenty-first century Americans.

Malnourished Gluttons
M. Justin Wainscott, 2009

Malnourished gluttons,
We're full with hunger pain;
Parched amidst a flood,
And thirsty in the rain.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Christ Crucified

Both of the following quotes remind us of the supreme importance of proclaiming Christ crucified (whether in preaching publicly to fellow sinners or in preaching privately to our own souls):

Let us look upon a crucified Christ, the remedy of all our miseries. His cross hath procured a crown, his passion hath expiated our transgression. His death hath disarmed the law, his blood hath washed a believer's soul. This death is the destruction of our enemies, the spring of our happiness, and the eternal testimony of divine love. --Stephen Charnock

All the simplicity in the world can do no good, unless you preach the simple gospel of Jesus Christ so fully and clearly that everybody can understand it. If "Christ crucified" has not His rightful place in your sermons, and sin is not exposed as it should be, and your people are not plainly told what they ought to believe, and be, and do — your preaching is of no use! --J.C. Ryle

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Hymn for Afflicted and Doubting Hearts

Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart
John Newton, 1725-1807

Based on Isaiah 41:10, 14; 54:4-11

Pensive, doubting, fearful heart,
Hear what Christ the Savior says;
Every word should joy impart,
Change thy morning into praise.
Yes, he speaks, and speaks to thee,
May he help thee to believe;
Then thou presently wilt see
Thou hast little cause to grieve:

Fear thou not, nor be ashamed;
All thy sorrows soon shall end,
I, who heaven and earth have framed,
Am thy Husband and thy Friend;
I, the High and Holy One,
Israel's God by all adored,
As thy Savior will be known,
Thy Redeemer and thy Lord.

For a moment I withdrew,
And thy heart was filled with pain;
But my mercies I'll renew;
Thou shalt soon rejoice again;
Though I seem to hide my face,
Very soon my wrath shall cease;
'Tis but for a moment's space,
Ending in eternal peace.

Though afflicted, tempest-tossed,
Comfortless awhile thou art,
Do not think thou canst be lost,
Thou art graven on my heart;
All thy wastes I will repair;
Thou shalt be rebuilt anew;
And in thee it shall apear
What the God of love can do.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Glimpse into 18th Century Worship

Ever wondered what it would have been like to participate in the corporate worship of an 18th century colonial church in America? "A Divine and Supernatural Light" blog has a great post on that very subject. Check it out here.

Sinclair Ferguson on Lessons from the Puritans

As I was reading Sinclair Ferguson's introductory essay, "Puritans - Ministers of the World," in The Westminster Directory of Public Worship: Discussed by Mark Dever & Sinclair Ferguson, I was struck by two statements he made - one related to expository preaching and the other related to preaching sin.

Why Expositional Preaching Is So Important
"These men (the Puritans that drew up the Westminster Directory of Public Worship) recognized that, as a general rule, the way Christians read the Bible privately is shaped by the model of exposition they regularly hear from the pulpit. That is why this principle is not only essential to the integrity of pastoral preaching but central to the whole ethos of a congregation's life."
Why Preaching Sin Is Essential to Preaching Grace
"The Puritans treated this as a pastoral as well as a theological formula: grace makes sense to us only in the light of the sin to which it provides the remedy. Consequently, the more sensitive we are to sin, misery and danger, the more clearly we will grasp the wonder of God's salvation. Grace is only 'amazing' when we see that it is a 'wretch like me' it saves. Only sinners seek Jesus as a Savior!"

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dealing with Doubt

If you ever struggle with besetting sins that cause your heart to doubt (and who doesn't?), Jerry Bridges offers helpful counsel for your soul in this excerpt from The Gospel for Real Life:
Accompanying our sincere desire to obey God will be a heightened sensitivity to our indwelling sin. Often it is our increased awareness of sin that causes us to doubt our salvation or to give Satan an inroad into our minds to suggest that "a Christian wouldn't sin like you do." But think about that accusation for a moment. Satan would certainly not suggest such a thought to an unbeliever. Rather, he wants unbelievers to be complacent about their sin. So turn the tables on Satan and your own internal doubts. Ask yourself if those accusations or doubts are not really a sign that you do trust Christ.

There is a story about Martin Luther, perhaps apocryphal, that in a dream he saw Satan standing before him with a long list of his sins. Luther supposedly asked, "Is that all of them?" to which Satan replied, "No, there are many more." Luther then said, "Put them all down and then write across the whole lot of them, 'The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from all sin.'" Whether this story is true or not, it teaches us how to deal with doubts caused by our sin. We are not to deny or minimize them. Instead we should take them to the cross and see Jesus bearing those sins for us. That very act will motivate us to deal with those sins that are causing our doubts.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

J.C. Ryle Quotes

You may remember Eric Kowalker from his old site, "Gospel Reminders." Well, now he has started a new blog that aims to "expose Christians to the writings of J.C. Ryle by providing Christ-centered quotes Monday-Friday to stir your mind to the glory of God." Make sure you either bookmark this site or sign up to receive the daily quote via email. Check it out here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Marriage, Sex, and the Christianity Today Cover Story

If you haven't seen it yet, the cover story for the most recent issue of Christianity Today is Mark Regnerus' article, "The Case for Early Marriage." The gist of Regnerus' argument is that too many American evangelicals have delayed marriage, which has resulted in so many examples of Christian young people being unable to refrain from premarital sex. Here it is in his own words:
Evangelicals tend to marry slightly earlier than other Americans, but not by much. Many of them plan to marry in their mid-20s. Yet waiting for sex until then feels far too long to most of them. And I am suggesting that when people wait until their mid-to-late 20s to marry, it is unreasonable to expect them to refrain from sex. It's battling our Creator's reproductive designs.
I encourage you to read both Regnerus' article as well as Al Mohler's thoughts about early marriage in his most recent blog post.

A Reminder to Those Who Preach

"No man preacheth that sermon well to others that doth not first preach it to his own heart."

-- John Owen