mgpcpastor's blog

Leave a comment

Romans 13:8-14 – Week Eighteen – Our Debt and Our Dress

Romans 13:8-14
Our Debt and Our Dress

The outline:
1) Our debt:
a) cannot be fully repaid.
b) is loving one another.
c) brings God’s law to action.
2) Our dress:
a) is seasonal.
b) involves taking off darkness.
c) requires putting on Christ.

Some (brief) comments:
We are to discharge a debt that can never be repaid. Infinite love has been shown to us, offering our bodies as living sacrifices means loving one another.
Christians and non-Christians each in turn.
Obedience of God’s commands is obedience to God, but expresses itself in relational terms. Loving one another is fulfilling God’s law.
We recall from Luke 10 that loving our neighbor is not an act that can be confined by preference but is defined by need. We there is need, there is our neighbor.
Love is not a benign or sentimental expression. It has rational bounds.
We are in the last days.
For the Christian darkness is dispelled and union with Christ is the day.
The time until His return is fixed and unknown. However long it is until Jesus comes back, the fact we don’t know when places an imperative upon the urgency with which we should consider our priorities.
The self-indulgent and self-centered have no place in the lives of those who have offered themselves up as living sacrifices.
In the words of John Piper we live in a war-time footing.
Darkness, sin and disobedience to God, need to be conciously set aside.
The sins mentioned are self-centered, the fruit of lax discipline and self-indulgence. The are also destructive of the community, the opposite of the actions exhorted in chapter 12.
Instead we put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Obviously this is instruction given to Christians. Putting on Christ is a concious act with concrete outcomes. Galatians 3:27.
It involves the process of being conformed to the renewing of our minds, of learning the Scriptures and showing our love for the Lord Jesus by keeping His commandments.
We clothe ourselves with Jesus, who is Christ and Lord. We live Christian.

Leave a comment

Romans 13:1-7 – Friday Bible Study

God’s Authorities and God’s People

Read Romans 13: 1-7.

Those who receive God’s mercy respond by devoting their whole lives to Him. This devotion is practically expressed in our relationships with other Christians and with those who are not Christians. Here we see how Christians live under the rule of those who may not share our beliefs.

• What sorts of governing authorities do you think Paul had in mind? (Verse 1) What sort of government would Paul have had not expectation of?
• How does verse 1 help us cross the historic divide between the experiences of the early Christians and our present situation?
• Why do you think Paul finds it necessary to stress that all authorities are instituted by God? (Verse 1)
• What is the purpose for which rulers are installed? (Verses 3-4)
• Paul is not advocating the benefit of one type of rule against another here. What do governments bring to society?
• When should we be in fear of our rulers? (Verse 4)
• The moral quality of ancient rulers is no worse than that of modern ones. What are we actually called to be subject to? (Verses 2, 5)
• Verse 5 indicates that we have two motivations to obey our rulers. What are they?
• If we cheat on our taxes, who are we cheating? (Verses 5-6)
• If our rulers seek to prevent us from obeying God, what should we do? (Acts 4:18)

Some comments.
Modern parliamentary democracy with universal suffrage would not have been envisioned by Paul when he wrote these comments. That is not to say that God is surprised. The culture of the time had monarchies, emperor worship and totalitarian regime.
Every ruler, in whatever age, has been put there by God. These comments are apt for any time.
Rulers are meant to bring order. This is not about the form of order, as such, but the contrast between order and anarchy. A bad ruler is better than no ruler at all. That does not mean that a bad ruler is a good thing, though.
Rulers are meant to bring order that promotes right conduct and brings sanction against those who break or fail to keep law.
The only time we should fear our rulers is when we have done the wrong thing.
Rulers have the sword. Note well that Paul contrasts this role of governers with the Christians who do not have the sword. The kingdom of God is not militaristic.
Civil order benefits the free spread of the Gospel.
Absent from the New Testament is any teaching that Christians tolerate their leaders and then replace them.
Obedience is not contingent on the morality or competence of the leader either. Ancient leaders (at least in biblical narrative) demonstrate great personal failings and even evil.
Our obedience demonstrates our recognition of God’s sovereignty over the world and over us. Disobedience of rulers not only incurs a penalty or punishment, but represents a violation of conscience in rejecting God’s rule.
We are actually blessed with freedom (responsibility) to participate in the policy formulation of our rulers and have the opportunity to change them by election.
Those who step outside of legal means to challenge rulers are terrorists/anarchists. Overthrowing a ruler by illegal means with a view to reinstituting orderly rule simply invites others to do the same. Consider Fiji.
Paying taxes is a concrete symbol of accepting God’s authority. It is not contingent on liking the tax-collecter or that upon which the taxes are spent.
If our rulers try to prevent us from obeying God, then we obey God, but accept the consequences. If we are able we have the freedom to leave the place where such rulers reign.

That’s your lot.

Leave a comment

Romans 12:3-8 – Friday Bible Study

Living In The Body

Read Romans 12: 3-8.

The response to God’s mercy is offering ourselves to God and seeking to grow into all that we have been saved to become.

• Why do you think Paul stresses humility as the first practical issue in addressing the Christian life?
• Paul seems to be addressing a wrong direction that being a living sacrifice can take in verse 3. What is it?
• Who is the only one that Christians should measure themselves against?
• What should be the fruit of that measurement?
• How does Paul view the Christian and the Church in verses 4 and 5?
• What is the emphasis of our place in Christ’s body?
• Our skills and gifts as Christians are different. What implication can we draw from that?
• How does that fact relate to Paul’s emphasis in verse 3?
• What does verse 6 suggest about any gifts that we have?
• That being the case, how does that affect our use of our gifts?
• If we have a gift, what does the body have?
• If the body has a need, what does one of us have?
• The list of gifts is representative, not exhaustive. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28) These are examples, not the final word.
• How should we bring God’s Word to bear on others? (cf. verse 3)
• Who should our service be about?
• What is the aim of teaching?
• Exhortation reminds us we are part of a body. How is it important in effect?
• What should our motive be in giving?
• What should be the character of those who lead?
• Why should mercy be mixed with cheerfulness?

Some comments.
Verse three continues from verses one and two which instruct us to offer ourselves as living sacrifices and be conformed to the renewing of our minds. At the same time it is a brief aside, this is not a self centered process that leads to pride and a sence of attainment, but is expressed in growing humility and service.
The idea of a ‘measure of faith’ is not so much centered on the amount of faith that God has given us, but on the perfect faith expressed by Christ. It is that which we ‘measure’ ourselves against and always find plenty of reason to by humble.
We are part of the body of Christ. Salvation is a corporate experience with individual implications, not an individual experience with corporate implications.
Even the fact that each of us have giftings, yet none of us have all gifts demonstrate that Christian community (ie the church) is clearly Paul’s expectation for believers.
‘Lone Ranger’ Christian is an oxymoron. It just doesn’t follow.
This limitation of our gifts should also promote humility, no-one can do it alone.
Our gifts are not given to us for our own sake, they are for other Christians. To withhold them is to deny others what God actually intends for them.
We see the fruition of our gifts in what they bring to others, not in enlarging ourselves. This is not a self-centered activity.
We have a gift, the body has a need. The body has a need, someone has a gift. This is not the same as a skill. Sometimes a skill will not be the gift the body needs. We need to focus on the body, not ourselves. We don’t tell the body ‘this is my gift, you better receive my ministry’.
The list is not exhaustive of gifts, but representative, there are others. This is about the way in which we express our gifts.
Bringing God’s Word in a corrective (prophetic) way needs humility. Everyone’s going to be corrected in this way sooner or later. (Again and again)
Service should be about the needs of others being met, not about attention being drawn to the server.
Teaching is about seeing others grow in knowledge, not in your knowledge being displayed.
Exhortation reminds us that no-one should be left behind, that the advancement of one is vital to the advancement of us all.
Giving is an expression of (cheerful) generosity.
Those who lead are committed to the advancement of those who follow, not in the status of leadership.
Mercy needs to be mixed with cheerfulness, lest our mercy eventually become a source of dissension and resentment toward others.

That’s your lot.

Leave a comment

Orthodox or Sectarian? Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity

I’ve started reading Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity.
In some ways it is an unremarkable book.
Horton lays a charge that the US church is at risk of embracing what is termed ‘Moralistic, Theistic Deism’. In this climate the invitation to come to God is based on the desire for improvement in the individual and its teaching emphasis is on personal development. While the Gospel may be affirmed on the church’s website list of beliefs or incorporated into its bylaws it is not referenced in a direct manner in teaching ministry. The Gospel is not so much denied as simply put in a secondary position.
When I say that the book is unremarkable, I mean that this argument is pretty obvious.
I’ve attended services where people have come forward or raised their hands after an invitation to hand their lives over to God or receive God’s healing. Afterward those who have responded are described as ‘salvations’.
When I mentioned the basic thesis of Horton’s book to some local ministers on Wednesday morning all of them recognised what I was talking about. (This included a Baptist, Pentecostals and Salvationist.) Unremarkable, and not in a good way. This tendency is already evident outside the US church.
What is odd is that John Frame, a reformed theologian, has written a highly critical review of Horton’s book. You could read it here if you want.
It is not so much a review, but an attempt to completely dismantle and disprove not only Horton’s central contention, but argues that the orthodoxy that Horton seeks to champion is in itself unbalanced and misdirected. He seeks to defend those that Horton criticises as being within the bounds of orthodoxy, while summarising his review with ten principles which are intended to summarise Horton’s position, while demonstrating that position is unscriptural.
It is extraordinary given that both these men are theologians from a reformed/calvinist background. This is someone he basically agrees with on substantial doctrinal formulations.
R. Scott Clark responds to Frame’s review by identifying how its content reveals a philosophy that concedes reformed distinctives in favour of broad evangelicism. A very broad evangelicalism which basically imputes all sorts of meanings on very questionable teachings in order to charitably include them. Read Clark’s piece here.
Eric Landy on the White Horse Inn blog offers another defence of Horton by responding to Frame’s summary ten principles. (White Horse Inn is an online home to Horton, so don’t be too surprised.)
So, what to make of this?
Well it takes a lot of work just to read a book. Thought you all should know that. Books of this type are a discussion, and in the age in which we live that discussion takes place very quickly (though Horton’s book was published last year) and can traverse the world.
Secondly, there is a tension in reformed theology between broad calvinism and more classical tendencies. Various luminaries will line up on one side or the other. A few others will plead for everyone to just get along. Daryl Hart offers commentary on Horton/Frame, and points out a historic problem which he believes Frame is flirting with.
Thirdly, there continues to be a movement in evangelical Christianity which is oblivious to the marginalisation of the centrality of the atoning death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ as both the only ground for the forgiveness of our sin and the enabler of our life as God’s obedient children.
Watch this space.
(I’ll review Christless Christianity in full at a later time.)


Christ-Centered Worship – A Book Review

With ‘Christ-Centered Worship’ Bryan Chapell has produced a great contribution to the worship of the Christian Church, particularly those churches in the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition.
Chapell encourages us to ‘think of worship in gospel terms’ and to do this in distinction of thinking ‘only in evangelistic terms.’ As we meet together as the people of God the Gospel informs our activity and the order in which we perform it.
The book is divided into two parts. A significant portion of the first part compares the service orders (liturgies) of the Church of Rome in the pre-Trent/reformation period; Luther; Calvin; Westminster; along with Robert Rayburn, who is selected as a pivotal modern figure in the expression of worship services.
In doing so, Chapell identifies many common themes and contrasts the varying theological and cultural situations which contributed to differences in expression, content and style. His intention is to demonstrate that behind these liturgical developments is a recognition that the sum of the whole is greater than any single constituent part. The sum of the whole is a representation and affirmation of God’s gracious saving work on behalf of an unworthy and sinful people.
So: ‘we begin with adoration so that all will recognise the greatness and goodness of God. In the light of His glory, we also recognise our sin and confess our need of His grace. Assurance of His pardon produces thanksgiving. With sincere thanksgiving , we also become aware that all we have is from Him and that we depend on His goodness for everything precious in our lives. Thus, we are compelled to seek Him in prayer for our need and His kingdom’s advance. His loving intercession makes us desire to walk with Him and further His purposes, so our hearts are open to His instruction and long to commune with Him and those He loves. This progress of the gospel in our lives in the cause of our worship and the natural course of it. We conclude a service of such worship and the natural course of it. We conclude a service of such worship with a Charge and Benediction because the progress of the gospel is God’s benediction on our lives.’ (pg 116)
The Gospel is recapitulated over and over again because even redeemed people need to hear and respond to God’s saving grace. Not in the original sense of being saved all over again, but in the continuing sense of always recalling that our approach and acceptance is always based on Christ. It is Christ-centered.
As the first half of the book concludes Chapell identifies the components of Christ-centered worship. Calls; prayers; Scripture readings; music; offerings; creeds & affirmations; benedictions; rubrics (explanations and transitions); sermon; sacraments; expressions of fellowship; testimonies and reports; oaths & vows; ordinations & commissionings; church discipline; fasting; and other. Chapell identifies with a regulative principle, but maintains the elements listed in the Westminster standards are representative, not exhaustive.
The second half of the book is a rich and comprehensive collection of resources that expand on the various components. Having argued for a liturgy that is biblically based and historically informed, Chapell draws from a diverse selection of sources, old and new, as he outlines how the components may be expressed with freshness and variety, while still achieving their core purpose. All his choices reflect quality and clarity.
Sample Worship service orders are provided as are some songs, readings, affirmations and benedictions. I’m not going into them in depth, but they are half of the book’s 300 page length.
I’d be very disappointed if Christ-centered Worship is not a standard text on the subject of worship at our theological colleges and found in the studies of our pastors. It is not the last word on the form and conduct of our worship, Chapell is at pains to point out that when the gospel is central the expressions by which it is affirmed in the varying components can and should vary in order that God’s people can worship with engagement and freedom.
Highly recommended.
Christ-centered Worship will be available at Koorong.

1 Comment

Religion and Atheism Collide – Wilson and Hitchens

Here’s a link to a Huffington Post article entitled: ‘Collision: Is Religion Absurd or Good for the World?
In it Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens provide a taste of the arguments which have been captured on the DVD ‘Collision’.
The product summary for ‘Collision’ goes like this: ‘The documentary COLLISION pits leading atheist, political journalist and author Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) against fellow author and evangelical theologian Pastor Douglas Wilson on a debate tour arguing the topic “Is Religion Good For The World?”. Lives and worldviews collide as Hitchens and Wilson wittily and passionately argue the timeless question, proving to be perfectly matched intellectual, philosophical, and cinematic rivals. COLLISION is directed by prolific independent filmmaker Darren Doane (Van Morrison: To Be Born Again, The Battle For L.A., Godmoney).
So, these articles are something of a teaser.
Brief grabs.
Wilson: ‘If the atheist is right, then I am not a Christian because I have mistaken beliefs, but am rather a Christian because that is what these chemicals would always do in this arrangement and at this temperature. The problem is that this atheistic assumption does the very same thing to the atheist’s case for atheism.’
Hitchens: ‘Tremendous and beautiful things have been achieved by science and reason, from the Hubble telescope to the sequencing of the DNA of obscure viruses. All of these attainments have tended to remind us, however, that we are an animal species inhabiting a rather remote and tiny suburb of an unimaginably large universe.’

Watching these two out-curmudgeon each other would undoubtably be very entertaining.
Hopefully the debates provide some sort of exchange of ideas rather than polemical statements that ignore the other side and then have the followers of both speakers going home claiming victory.

H/T: Justin Taylor

Here’s a ritzy trailer. You know it’s ritzy because it uses black and white, 24 type cut aways and has dramatic music playing in the background.

1 Comment

Songs That Make You Cry

Cassie commented on Facebook that she was listening to Mark Schultz singing ‘Walking Her Home’ and having a cry. Many agreed.
Reading Schultz’s website shows him to be a stand up sort of guy, married to a pretty amazing lady. iTunes have a couple of his albums at bargain prices too.
So, thanks to the wonders of youtube I went off and had a listen. Not bad at all. Certainly tear worthy, or a least a bit misty eyed. See for yourself. Here’s Mr Schultz performing his song at a youth ministry conference.
Walking her home is the best thing I do with my life, my highest calling.

The song reminds of Bob Carlile’s ‘Butterfly Kisses’. This one’s guaranteed to make strong daddys weep openly. Let’s not play this one when I have to dance with Kat at the wedding. It’s playing while I’m typing this and it just caught me again. Youtube has a video of Carlisle singing his song. It’s posted by his record company and can’t be embedded here, so follow this link.

So, what other songs provoke tears?