Monday, July 24, 2006

Anglican Follies

I have not seen a movie all summer - none of them seemed worth the $9 for a ticket. There is no hockey or football to watch on television, and I don't read too many novels. So what's a guy to do for fun? Well, you can watch the never-ending, always entertaining "Anglican Follies." Yes, each week another Anglican bishop steps up to the microphone to share with the world his/her opinions on a variety of subjects - almost none of which are theological! The old joke is that being an Anglican is wonderful, as it never interferes with one's politics or religion.

I saw the next Presiding Bishoprette (Bishopress? High Priestess?) of the Episcopal Church U.S.A., the Rev. Ms. Katherine Jefferts Schori, on the CBS evening news last night. Her comments were utterly devoid of meaningful theological content. She only mentioned Christianity once, calling it "a big table" where we turn no one away (referring to homosexuals). Her goal for ECUSA was to "transform communities." Into what, she did not allude.

Ms. Schori, however, is a dullard in comparison to such flamboyant personalities as the Bishop of New Hampshire (now out of rehab), the Archiebishop of Canterbury, comedian Bishop John Spong (see above photo), and today's exhibitionist, the Bishop of London, who according to the Times of London, has declared that flying on your vacation and driving large cars to be sinful. Seriously.

Now environmentalism is indeed important, and we are stewards of God's creation, but one wishes that today's Anglicans and other liberals spent as much time on saving souls and preaching the gospel as they do fighting racism, sexism, homophobia, SUVs, etc. I was, however, astonished to read the word "sin," in the Times article. It is a sin to fly on holiday and drive a big car, says the Bishop. What is clearly not a sin in the Anglican circus is to violate the Word of God by say, ordaining women or unrepentant homosexuals. One can only feel sorrow for the godly souls who remain in that communion, and joy that Reformed folk (with the exception of the Hungarians) have no bishops to vex us with their pronouncements from on high.

I am about to drive to Nashville in my Mercury Mountaineer. So I get kudos for not flying, but demerits for not buying that Prius. Lord have mercy.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Christ Our Righteousness

A sermon from Psalm 32 on how our sins are forgiven by the imputation of Christ's righteousness.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

About the Banner

In Genesis 12:3, the Lord said to Abram, "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

Friday, July 21, 2006

Sanctification - A Lost Art?

The heart of sanctification is a daily, if not hourly, spirit of repentance. Sorrowing over sins, confession and acknowledgment before God in prayer are matched with a sincere determination to live an increasingly righteous life. Sanctification, however, is all too often the poor forgotten cousin of justification. We all exult in the good news that Jesus Christ lived a perfect life as a representative of humanity, and then endured the punishment for the sin of the world, a punishment we should have received. When we accept Christ's righteousness by faith, we are considered justified in God's eyes. Christ's perfection is imputed (i.e., credited, transferred) to us. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Many believers, however, seem content with merely their justification, and forget Scripture's persistent injunction to "Walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16, 25), or live as Christ lived (1 John 2:6), or Jesus' words, "Unless your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will in no way enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). There are even Christians who assert that you can have Christ as your Savior, but not necessarily as your Lord. This denigration of sanctification is, of course, utterly unbiblical, spiritually dangerous, and in most cases indicative of a false assurance that justification has actually occurred. For if we have been supernaturally born again to a new life in communion with Christ, then nothing will be more important to us than to live a life pleasing to God, holy and obedient to his Word.

To sanctify something means to set it apart and dedicate it unto God. We are, with the assistance and grace of the Holy Spirit, to sanctify ourselves unto the Lord. The great biblical definition of this is found in Leviticus 20:26, "And you shall be holy unto Me: for I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that you should be mine." The root of the word "holy" is to "cut" - which separates or severs a thing. God creates the church by choosing (Greek: ekklesia) out of the world a body of believers who glorify His name through faith and godliness. In the words of A. W. Pink, "The heart must be changed so as to be brought into conformity with God's nature and will: its motives, desires, thoughts and actions require to be purified" (Sanctification, p.25, italics are Pink's). He continues, "Evangelical sanctification is that holiness of heart which causes us to love God supremely, so as to yield ourselves wholly up to His constant service in all things, and to His disposal of us as our absolute Lord, whether it be for prosperity or adversity, for life or death; and to love our neighbors as ourselves."

Sanctification arises and is empowered by our union with Christ, and is the physical and spiritual expression of that bond of love between the justified soul and its Savior. Because the old Adam, the man of sin, still wars within us, our sanctification will not be complete until it is transformed into our glorification in heaven. Nonetheless, we are to strive toward absolute holiness, and the two chief means of holy living are repentance and separation. Repentance has no value if we intend to sin again, or take no measures to separate ourselves from sinful behavior, sinful lifestyles, thoughts, or sinful people. If godliness holds no attraction for us, we are not truly saved, nor are we living the life of Christ (Gal 2:20). Sanctification is the working out of our salvation, and is done with eagerness and joy.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Sunday, July 16, 2006

We Have This Ministry

A sermon on our church's ministry direction from 2 Corinthians 4:1-2.

{Calvin's pulpit in St. Peter's, Geneva}

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Prophetic Words

I've just begun reading Iain Murray's new book The Old Evangelicalism, which (like all Murray's books) is a treasure-trove of great quotes. The one below is found in the Preface, and comes from William Booth (1901). When asked to forecast changes in the church for the 20th century Booth gave this assessment:

"Religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God and heaven without hell."

Sadly prescient, I'd say.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Ooh Albinoni!

This morning I woke up, rolled over and put my Sony Walkman radio plugs in my ears. I was greeted by Albinoni's "Adagio" from his "Oboe Concerto in F Op.7 No.9." Abinoni is much appreciated for his adagios, but this particular one moved me deeply. It sounded almost modern, as if Vaughn-Williams decided to go Baroque.

Tomaso Albinoni (1671-1751) resided in Venice all his life, and produced 81 operas, but is chiefly remembered for his concerti. Much of his work was lost in the senseless bombing of Dresden. Ironically, his most famous piece of music, the "Adagio Graziotto" (i.e., "Adagio in G minor for Strings and Organ"), was not written by him at all. It was rescued from the ashes of Dresden by Remo Grazziotto, who harmonized a fragment of the bass line from what was probably a trio sonata (it is currently available on 200 cds! and in the movies: "Gallipoli," "Flashdance," and last year's "Casonova"). It is now used in countless weddings, and appears in those ubiquitous "Adagio" collections which adorn a thousand bargain bins. "Adagio For Yoga." "Adagio For Contemplation." Ad nauseum.

Anyway, you can't go wrong with the real Abinoni, and I recommend his oboe concerti, which are all available on Naxos for $6.99 at Arkivmusic, or $5.99 at iTunes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Spiritual Bankruptcy of the Religious Left

Yesterday an article appeared on CBS News Online about the increasingly vocal and visible left-wing of the Christian church. Led by the likes of Tony Campolo, Bob Edgar from the NCC, and Jim Wallis (see photo) from the Christian Century, the left has been galvanized by the success of evangelical churches and the policies of the Bush administration and the Republican controlled Congress. It is not a new movement, however. The same types of people were responsible for the Social Gospel early in the 20th century, and for the theological bankruptcy of current mainline denominations. They focus almost entirely on Jesus' call to love our neighbor, but reject or ignore Jesus' subsitutionary, atoning death on the cross, and have little interest in evangelizing the lost. For the left, Jesus is a radical rabbi who is reduced to being a prophet for us to imitate. The concepts of judgment, hell, holiness, and election are repugnant to them.

The religious left focuses not on issues of salvation, but on social concerns like poverty, the environment, and the war in Iraq. Another subject which looms large on their agenda is sexuality. Bob Edgar, the leader of the National Council of Churches, is quoted as saying, "Jesus never said one word about homosexuality, never one word about civil marriage or abortion." Any reasonably educated student of the Bible knows that such a statement is patently false and misleading. Jesus repeatedly used the Greek word porneia, which refers to all sexuality outside of the marriage between a man and a woman. This includes fornication, homosexuality, bisexuality, and adultery. Jesus condemns porneia unequivocably (cf. Mt 5:32; 19:9; Mk 7:21).

Other theologically sinful and unbiblical positions taken by the "Christian" left are support for women in ministry, abortion on demand, gay marriage, and divorce on demand.

Biblical conservatives desire to follow Jesus in loving our neighbor, caring for the poor and least among us, but we recognize that to focus entirely on social issues leaves millions of souls in danger of perishing for not hearing the Gospel of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. The leaders of the "Christian" left are false shepherds, who in the words of the prophet Jeremiah, "have healed the wound of my people superficially, saying, Peace, peace, when there is no peace" (6:14). The left would have us think we are all at peace with God, and all is well. The next verse in Jeremiah gives us the truth unvarnished: "Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the Lord" (Jeremiah 6:14).

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Digging Deeper

A sermon on discipleship from Luke 6:46-49

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Episcopal "Priestess" Sees the Light

Alice Linsley, after a twenty year study of the book of Genesis, has renounced her ordination as an Episcopal priest. She is quoted in an interview with Virtue Online that the ordination of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as a bishop, led her to rethink gender roles in light of Scripture. She rightly distinguishes that the issue is "not the ability of women, but rather God's design for the sexes and how, as a faithful Christian, I am to understand that design and its boundaries." She continues by saying that the apostle Paul "recognized that the Hebrew Scriptures teach a permanent binary distinction between men and women...When we ignore the binary distinctions established by the Creator for our benefit, there is disorder in our thoughts and actions, and humans become lost. This suggests strongly that Paul's teaching on gender was not merely to address a social problem limited to that time and place."

These are extraordinary words from an Episcopalian woman, who clearly sees that gender roles cannot be changed by man, and that to do so is, in her own words, "as old as the first rebellion." This awakening has cost Linsley, having resigned from her ministry as rector of St. Andrews church in Lexington, KY, but her reward is God's blessing on her faithfulness and adherence to the "faith once for all delivered to the saints."

{source: CBMW - Gender News}

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New Laodicea

The Reformed Church in America occupies a middle ground between liberal denominations like the United Methodists, the United Church of Christ, and those entertaining Episcopalians, and conservative orthodox denominations like the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Southern Baptist Convention. This "moderatism" is attractive to many who prefer things quiet, and who dislike arguments over doctrine or polity. We do have arguments in the RCA, we are in the middle of one of the most contentious right now, but we have a habit of raising a little ruckus about something, and then coming to a consensus that at first pleases no one, and after a while becomes the accepted norm.

Welcome to New Laodicea.

This particular plot of real estate exists in the space between the two yellow lines in the middle of the road. Traffic whizzes by on the left and on the right. New Laodicea is a windy, dangerous place, and it is hard to travel any significant distance within its borders. Our theological documents are masterpieces of goobledygook, double-speak, and cognitive dissonance. The church is pro-life, except when it is pro-choice. We ordain women to the ministry, but if you object you can stay home when one is ordained or installed. We think homosexuality is a sin, except when it's someone we know and like and who pastors a nice church on Long Island. We don't evangelize much, nor talk about hellfire, or the wages of sin. We consider ourselves nice people, the kind of people who belong in heaven. We worry about declining numbers, and so we form committees and coached networks to address this problem. Churches say they want Bible preachers, but are horrified when they encounter this type of minister - someone with firm, biblical convictions. We elect representatives to higher assemblies, but our highest leadership is appointed in secret, and unaccountable to anyone. We belong to the World Council of Churches and send representatives to the National Association of Evangelicals. Most importantly, we ignore what Jesus Christ had to say about the Old Laodicea:

"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write...'I know your works, that you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot...I will spew you out of my mouth'" (Revelation 3:15-16).

Now that's just not nice. Not positive. Not programmatically constructive. Shame on me for putting that verse on this blog!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Paganism and Feminism

My digital voice recorder reached maximum capacity in the middle of my sermon this morning, so no new podcast this week. I do, however, want to point you to Part II of the Chalcedon Foundation's article on the evangelical response to homosexuality and heresy in the RCA. There are some quotes from friends of mine, and serves as an overall helpful description of the dangers our denomination faces as we begin our "dialogue" with depravity. Here is the link.

While reading the above-mentioned article I was led by a link to a previous article on the Foundation's website about the connections between radical feminism and paganism in the mainline churches. It makes for horrifying reading, and serves as trenchant warning for the RCA if we continue to allow feminist inroads into the church. Inclusive language, feminine God-language, and tolerance of heterodox ministers who value "unity" over truth, are devilish inroads and must be firmly resisted. Here is the link to the article on paganism in the church. It is a vivid illustration of Paul's argument in 1 Timothy 2:12-15. Also, see the Lutheran (ELCA) church website

A very fine evangelical group, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMF) has a terrific website loaded with resources to combat feminist paganism (link). I read an article there about a PCA congregation in San Francisco which is leaving that orthodox and biblical denomination for the RCA! The issue is the church's disobedience over women in ministry. We are described as a "more moderate" denomination. How nice for us.

{photo: ancient goddess amulet found in Iraq}