Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No Right to Homsechool

A court in New Hampshire ordered a 10 year old girl to be placed in public school. Her mother had been homeschooling her since the 1st grade. The court said it found 10 year old Amanda, "generally likable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level."

Yet the court went on to argue, "it would be remarkable if a ten-year-old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view."

The court agreed with the plaintiff (the young girl's father whom she does not live with) that Amanda, "appeared to reflect her mother's rigidity on questions of faith . . . Amanda's relationship with her father suffers to some degree by her belief that his refusal to adopt her religious beliefs and his choice instead to spend eternity away from her proves that he does not love her as much as he says he does."

You can read the story here.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Life at Sovereign Grace--chapter 2

Christ-centered Delight

We believe our new life is a result of our union with Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-2, 12-21), the only Mediator between God and Man (1 Timothy 2:5). We believe that all things were created through Jesus, for Jesus, and therefore are about Jesus (Col. 1:15-20).

Have you ever seen an organization or group that forgot their mission? When an organization gets off mission it often does dumb and unproductive things. I recently thought of some examples of a person or organization getting off mission:

  • McDonald’s went off mission when they made the McRib.
  • Carl’s Jr. went of mission when they tried to sell beer.
  • Ford went off mission when they made the Pinto.
  • The Dixie Chicks went off mission when they started talking about politics.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger went off mission when he ran for Governor of California.

My point is that when someone or some organization loses its sense of mission it becomes ineffective. When a church gets off mission it ceases to function as a church and becomes something else:

  • It becomes a nice place for your family to learn good values.
  • It becomes a great place to make friends you enjoy hanging out with or just to network.
  • It becomes a place to help save your marriage, or to heal after a divorce.
  • It becomes a place that offers alternative activities that are safer and more moral.
  • It becomes a place for social action on behalf of the poor.
  • It becomes a place to hear good lessons on how God can improve your life and business.
  • It becomes a place for political action on behalf of a particular party or cause.
  • It becomes a place where we can assuage any guilt we might feel by participating in our weekly religious ritual.

When the church gets off mission it becomes many things (some of which are good, but are not the central purpose of the church). When the church is off mission it does not become a place where Jesus Christ is glorified and delighted in as Lord and Savior above all else. The church ceases to be a place where men and women are brought to joyful faith and repentance by the proclamation of the glory of Christ and his gospel. The church ceases to be a place where those men and women are challenged to develop in their love for Christ and his gospel and then go and declare His gospel to the ends of the earth! In other words, the church is no longer a body of people devoted to their Head. The church is not Christ-centered and Gospel-centered.

Sovereign Grace believes we should be a Christ-centered church. We should delight in the person and work of Jesus Christ as the only hope we have. We do so because we believe we cannot participate in God-exalting delight apart from Christ-centered delight. All true biblical delight is mediated through Jesus. This is why Paul says in Romans 5:11, “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Delight must occur through the mediation of the Son. We are sinners who cannot approach our Holy God in worship apart from the sinless life, sacrificial death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is why Paul repeats himself in the second half of verse 11 stating, “through whom we have now been reconciled.” If not for Jesus, we could not rejoice or delight in God.

Many people today claim we can worship or delight in God apart from Christ. They claim God can be worshipped in the context of other religions; all one needs is sincere faith regardless of what that faith is in. When people say this they are making the case that what is important to God is the virtue of our faith, rather than the virtue of the object of our faith. However, the Bible is clear that God’s acceptance of us is based on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Bible makes it clear that if you don’t have Christ, you don’t have the Father.

John 5:23

Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him

John 8:19

They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also.

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus is the object of our faith at Sovereign Grace. We trust and delight in his person and his work. We know that he is the only mediator between God and man, and that we are completely in need of him. In fact, we know that the testimony of Scripture is clear that God-exalting delight is delight that is Christ-centered. Just think of all God has done for us through Jesus in Scripture:

    • He Created us through the Son (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16).
    • He Sustains us through the Son (Col. 1:16).
    • He Rules over the nations through the Son (Matt. 28:18).
    • He Spoke to us through the Son (John 1:1; Heb. 1:1-2).
    • He Elects the church through the Son (Ephesians 1:3)
    • He Gave and Kept the law for us through the Son (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4).
    • He Atoned for our sins through the Son (Rom. 3:25-26).
    • He Gives us spiritual life through the Son (2 Cor. 5:17).
    • He Justified us through the Son (Rom. 3:21-24).
    • He Sanctifies us through the Son (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:22)
    • He Hears and Answers our prayers through the Son (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:16).
    • He Rules the church through the Son (Col. 1:18).
    • He Sent the Spirit through the Son (John 16:7; Rom. 8:9-10).
    • He will resurrect and glorify us through the Son (1 Cor. 15:20-23).

The centrality of Jesus for our delight in God is clear in the first eleven verses of Romans 5---it makes reference to Jesus 10 times in eleven verses. In doing so, Romans 5 gives us a short overview of what Christ has accomplished for us.

  • He is our justification v. 1
  • He is our peace with God v. 1
  • He is our access in the grace in which we stand v. 2
  • He is our hope of glory v. 2
  • He died for us while we were ungodly and sinners v. 6, 8
  • He is our redeemer, and propitiatory sacrifice, and final salvation from wrath v. 9
  • He is our reconciliation v. 10

Christ-Centered = Gospel-Centered

When we say Sovereign Grace is Christ-centered we are saying we are Gospel-centered. What is the gospel? The word “gospel” means “good news.” As pastor and author Tim Keller has said, “The gospel is good news, not good advice.” The gospel is the news of what has been accomplished, and not the message of what we must now do. When you watch or read the news you learn about something that happened; you do not receive instructions on what you are to do. The gospel is the good news that Jesus kept both the precept and the penalty of the Law for us.

What is the precept of the law?

God requires perfect holiness from his people. God has given commands to his people called, “precepts,” to show us what his holy requirement consists of. However, we are both guilty and corrupted through the fall of Adam. Therefore, we are born sinners and we continually sin. Jesus, as the second Adam, kept God’s Law, or “precepts,” perfectly for us (Matt. 5:17-18; Rom. 10:4; Heb. 4:16). If we are united to him through faith, we have his perfectly righteous life credited to our account (2 Cor. 5:21).

What is the penalty of the law?

God’s justice requires that the violation of his law be vindicated. This vindication is the “penalty of the law.” The vindication of God’s righteousness can only be accomplished through suffering eternal wrath. Jesus suffered God’s eternal wrath on the Cross. He fulfilled the just “penalty of the Law” and thus God’s wrath was satisfied on Him. Therefore, if we are united to Christ through faith, our punishment has been credited to his account and we are forgiven for our sins. As a result of the work of Christ, God’s holiness is vindicated and we are forgiven and counted righteous (Rom. 3:21-26).

The Gospel is for the church and for the world

Often, this gospel is proclaimed to people for the purpose of seeing them saved. However, we believe this same gospel is necessary to our sanctification (growth in holiness in addition to salvation). It is when we reflect on the truth of what God has accomplished for us and in us in the past and what he will accomplish for us and in us in the future, we are strengthened in our faith to trust what he is accomplishing in us and through us in the present. Since we believe the gospel is central to all of Christian life, we hold it as central in all we do as a church. We believe in shaping a community of saints that are driven by the gospel in all of their disciplines, singing, service, declaring and defending of the faith.

Gospel-centeredness is also why we structure our corporate worship service in the manner that we do. We want to communicate the Christ-centered gospel even in the order of our service. Therefore, we start with prayer acknowledging the holiness and majesty of God, move to confession and repentance for sin, and read about the promise of the gospel. After this, we hear the Word preached and receive communion (which is a visible picture of the gospel). Finally, we take an offering last so that our emphasis is on what Christ has done for us and not our offering to him. Our offering is merely a response of thanksgiving to his glorious gospel.

Finally, this is why we preach, structure our small group studies, choose children’s curriculum, and plan men’s events and women’s events in the manner we do. We always want to stress God’s holy law, our sin, and God’s provision of Christ to keep the law’s precept and penalty for us. We do not stress these doctrines because we have a morbid fascination with sin and condemnation. We stress them because we delight in Christ as our only hope. We stress them because we want to be brought to the end of ourselves and look no more to our good works, but look only to Christ and him crucified.

But, you might respond, “how can a sinner believe in Jesus or delight in the Father, when our delight, our rejoicing, our love is directed toward this world because we are dead in our sins and trespasses?” This is why we are a Spirit-dependent church, which is the subject of our next chapter.

Recommended Books:

The Cross-Centered Life, by CJ Mahaney

The Truth of the Cross, by R.C. Sproul

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How old is the doctrine of the rapture?

video

God-exalting Delight

As I write chapters for the Sovereign Grace membership book, "Life at Sovereign Grace," I am posting them here for comment / correction etc. My desire is to see this book become a help to people who are considering covenanting with our church. If you have any comments, changes etc., let me know! Thanks!

We believe God does what He pleases (Psalm 115:3, 135:6) and that He is pleased to exalt Himself in all things (Isaiah 48:9-11). As His people, we seek to exalt Him in all that we do (Psalm 115:1).

Do you ever get asked questions in which you know the agenda of the person asking based on how the question is asked? Ever been asked a question you feel like is a bit of a trap? It is kind of like someone asked you, “Did you stop beating your wife?” Well, I feel a bit like this when I am asked one of the following questions:

1. So, does Sovereign Grace believe in the Holy Spirit? Is the Spirit at work during your worship services?

2. So, is Sovereign Grace’s worship emotional like one of those charismatic churches, or are you more of a Bible teaching church?

I have no desire to answer either of these questions because I fundamentally reject the premise upon which they are founded! Here is the premise:

Biblical worship is defined by the type of music, quality of music, ability of the music leader to draw us in, the overall feeling I derived from the music time, or by orderliness, good theology, and proper decorum.

The fact is you could have the greatest band, a service overflowing with emotion, the highest sense of decorum and orderliness, the best theological instruction, the greatest demonstrations of the miraculous, and still be a congregation full of spiritually dead people whose attempts at worship are nothing more than self-gratification. The reason for this is because biblical worship is not primarily about music style or expressiveness during singing, or even teaching correct doctrine.

Biblical worship is primarily about delighting in God above all else. Your whole life is either one of delighting in God or delighting in something else. Either we live our daily lives rejoicing in and delighting in God above all else, or we live them in idolatry.

So, while worship certainly should express itself musically, in accurate biblical teaching, in Sunday corporate gatherings, communion, offering, and prayer, worship is far more than these individual elements combined. All of these can be practiced as ends in themselves for the gratification of the worshipper in the act of worship rather than as delight in the One who is being worshipped. We can worship during prayer, bible reading, preaching, singing, communion, offering, small groups, serving the children, greeting visitors, and even setting-up and tearing-down, if we do so as an exercise of our delight in God. We can worship while working our jobs, playing with our kids, spending time with our spouse, participating in activities and entertainment, if all of those activities are done as an exercise of delight in God. In all of those activities we are either ascribing ultimate value and worth to God, or to someone or something else. Therefore, we are either worshipping and delighting in God, or committing idolatry.

We commit idolatry when our delight is driven by passion for something or someone created (as an end), rather than delighting in God, the Creator. Let me ask you a few questions that will get at where your delight is:

  • When you are about to lose face for something you have done, do you lie to save your reputation with people? Then, you delight is in your reputation with man, rather than in God.

  • When you are tempted to sexual sin with your girlfriend or boyfriend do you generally give in? Then your delight is in physical gratification, or relational intimacy, rather than in God.

  • When you and your spouse disagree on something, do you generally end up in a fight? Then your delight is in being right or getting your own way, rather than in God.

  • When your children have an important school assignment or sporting event, do you generally prioritize those activities over regularly participating in the corporate worship of God? Then your delight is in your children and their worldly success or happiness, rather than in God.

  • When you have the opportunity to spend money on eating out, entertainment, toys, new furniture, cars, houses etc, do you spend that money even if it means you will not be able to give regularly to the work of ministry or for the needs of others? Then your delight is in worldly wealth and personal pleasure, rather than in God.

  • When your spouse is not honoring God with their life and thus failing to hold up their responsibilities in the marriage, do you begin to let go of your responsibilities, reciprocate with unloving behavior, and complain to others? Then your delight is in security, or feeling loved and respected, or in marriage as an end in itself, rather than in God.

  • When someone at your church mistreats you, or you believe a different decision should have been made about something like buildings or programs, do you generally gossip and complain to others or leave the church? Then your delight is in being respected or being listened to when you have a different opinion, rather than in God.

  • When God’s Word confronts a belief that you hold dear, do you generally reject it because it does not seem right or good to you or because the mystery of it seems too hard to understand? Then your delight is in your own mind, rather than in God.

Are you like me, someone who notices they just answered, “yes” to more than one of these questions? Then, we have similarly discovered that the root cause of our sin is that we worship the creature rather than the Creator. Our delight is in someone or something, rather than in God. So, how do we become a church whose delight is in God and who delight in everything else as a delight in God?

We do so by believing who God is for us through Christ and by the Spirit. It is our trusting and believing who God is for us through Christ that motivates our deepest experience of joy and delight. In Romans 5:11, the Apostle Paul says, “we rejoice in God through Christ…” Paul has already said we rejoice in our hope of glory and in our sufferings, both of which are ultimately rejoicing in God, because they both demonstrate He will be ours.

In verse 11, he comes to a culminating point. He says, “we rejoice in God through Christ.” This means we exult in God, we boast in God, we delight in God, we worship God---we ascribe ultimate worth and value to God. What are we believing that leads to our rejoicing or delighting in God?

Paul has just said in verse 1-11 that God has justified us, made peace with us, given us access to himself, guaranteed our future glory, given us the gift of suffering to draw us closer to himself, poured out His love in our hearts, and proved his love in sacrificing his Son for His enemies. When we trust in him and meditate on who he is and what he has done we are moved to rejoice in, boast in, exult in, and delight in him. To understand what Paul is saying in Romans 5:11 is to understand what Sovereign Grace means when we say we Delight in God. Our goal in this section of the Life at Sovereign Grace book is to help you understand what biblical Delight in God is.

What is biblical Delight?

First, biblical delight is God’s work. Biblical worship or delight springs from God’s delight or rejoicing in being God. God’s work is to bring glory to Himself through giving His people the gift of delight in Him. Often, people object that it seems selfish for God to delight in being God and to do everything for the purpose of giving us delight in him. We reply that God could delight in nothing greater than himself and could offer us no greater gift than delight in him. For God to work to the end of bringing us delight in some created thing is for God to withhold the greatest possible gift from us!

We believe God’s work is such that our delight is a Trinitarian delight. It is delight directed to the Father, through the Son, and is empowered by the Spirit. We have based our first three core values around these three prepositions “to,” “through,” and “by.” In this chapter we only plan to cover our delight being directed to the Father. We will deal with the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the second and third chapters.

Biblical Delight is directed to the Father

In Romans 5:11, Paul concludes that a Christian who is reflecting on God and His work will direct his delight or rejoicing to the Father; this is why he says we rejoice in God. We know he has distinguished between the Father, Son, Holy Spirit in this text based on his use of “Jesus Christ” in this verse and throughout the passage, and his use of the “Holy Spirit” in verse 5. We must remember that all rejoicing in God is ultimately a rejoicing in the Father. When we delight in Jesus we delight in the Father because Jesus ever lives for the glory of the Father (John 17:1-5). When we delight in the Holy Spirit we delight in both Jesus and the Father because the Spirit was sent to apply the work of Jesus to our hearts, which causes us to delight in the Father (Ephesians 1:3-14; Galatians 4:4-6).

Delight in God is the spontaneous response to all that God is for us through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit! In other words, all our delight is to be God-centered. All our delight is to be in our Father.

You may wonder why I keep talking about our delight in God and not about God being glorified. Doesn’t the idea of us seeking to delight in God seem a bit me-centered and not really God-centered? The answer to this question is that when our delight is turned outward to the Father, it is not seeking happiness, joy, or delight as an end in itself, it is obedience to the command that we delight, rejoice, or be happy in the Lord. It is through our delight in God that he is glorified. Author and Pastor, John Piper has said it this way, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”

Paul clearly indicates that we are to rejoice. It is good and even biblically commanded to be happy, joyful, or full of delight. However, we are happy in, delighting in, or rejoicing in God the Father. We are not delighting in our feelings, or comforts, or favorable outcomes. We are delighting in God. Our delighting, rejoicing, or boasting is God-exalting![1]

God-exalting

Sovereign Grace believes in missions, evangelism, and service that are supremely interested in God’s glory and not man’s salvation. Although man’s salvation and good is a goal, God’s glory is the goal. Therefore, all of our ministry efforts are centered in the desire to see our church delight in God. So, whether we are discussing corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, small group ministry, children’s ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, or missions, we are focused on and directed to God being exalted through our delight in him.

Further, we believe God has told us how we are to delight in him in corporate worship. He has not only commanded the end of our delight, he has commanded the means. We believe God has commanded us to delight in him through reading, studying, teaching, and meditating on his word. We believe he has commanded us to delight in him through prayer, singing his praises, and through the administration of the ordinances (baptism and communion). We want to honor God by delighting in him in the manner he has commanded and not by creating new ways to delight in him that simply please us and have never been commanded by him. Therefore, we restrict our corporate worship to the means God has commanded.

God has created and redeemed man for the praise of his own Glory! And, we believe for God to receive the glory he must do the work! He is the one who planned everything for his glory and he is the One who does the work so that he is glorified. In the next two chapters, we will look at how God has done, is doing, and will do this work.

Recommended Books:

Desiring God, by John Piper

The Pleasures of God, by John Piper

Children of the Living God, by Sinclair Ferguson



[1] We have created a mission and core values as a church, which are based upon our convictions with regard to delighting in God. Please see Appendix #1 for our Mission and Core Values.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Atheists and Debaptism...


The newest movement among American and British atheists is the debaptism ceremony. I am not joking! Anyone else see the irony of atheists having their own religious ceremonies? See the story here.

They even have their own "debaptism certificates." This above is an actual example!

Choosing Thomas

If you have not seen this video, then please take 10 minutes to watch it. Extremely encouraging story of a couple who gave are understand the value of life!