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The Shy One (via David Cook)

The third in a three-part series (part one; part two) on vital issues in systematic theology by David Cook, current moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

An excerpt:

The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to apply the work of God the Son to the individual; in this way, He acts without our co-operation. Jesus said He is as sovereign as the wind; he brings new birth to us, without our help (John 3:3, 6, 8; John 1:13).
He also acts sovereignly, independent of us, in His distribution of gifts to the body of Christ. He allocates them as He sees best. Our ambition is not for any particular gift but to faithfully serve the body with the gifts which He gives us (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11).
But the Holy Spirit also acts co-operatively. The Scriptures were penned by men, but the Holy Spirit superintended what they wrote so that the words of Scripture are God’s words, Spirit-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).
Therefore, there must be no wedge driven between the Spirit and the Word, for the Word, the Bible, is the Spirit’s Word and we honour Him as we take his Word seriously. As we study to understand His Word, he helps us, illuminating our minds (1 John 2:27).
The Holy Spirit also works co-operatively in our moral transformation, making us like Christ.
Read the whole post here.

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Salvation Is All God’s Doing (via David Cook)

The second in a three-part series on vital issues in systematic theology by David Cook, current moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

Do I contribute to my own salvation? Do I repent and believe and thus God regenerates me or is it the other way around? Is faith my contribution to the whole process – God does his bit and I add my necessary contribution?
This, of course, goes to the heart of the gospel we preach.
Recently I found myself singing a song in our choral group. It said “time after time, He has waited before and now He is waiting again; to see if you’re willing to open the door. O how He wants to come in.” Really, that I can hold at bay the sovereign Lord of all, the one who called creation into being, now held at bay by little old me.
Calvin said, “the first principle of theology is that God can see nothing in the corrupt nature of man … to induce him to show him favour!” God never relates to us on the basis of our desiring or earning.
Salvation begins with God’s decision not mine. It is gracious, effective and powerful. It is not earned or attracted by me. It is entirely generous and contrary to our deserving. I cannot earn it, be religious enough or good enough to deserve it.
This truth gives the lie to every human attempt to impress God or win his attention by our doing. All who will be in heaven will be there in total praise of God; they will not share the limelight with Him.
So, how does salvation begin and proceed?… (Read the rest here).


How Then, Should We Live? – New Article by David Cook

David Cook, current moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Australia has posted the first of three articles on areas of systematic theology that he believes need special attention in order that the people of God may live out the freedom Christ has earned for them.

The first is on the place of the law in the believer’s life.
Read it here.

In a series on the Ten Commandments the preacher may well lay the keeping of the commandments as the burden of the sermon, simply replacing the Sabbath in the Fourth Commandment, with the Lord’s Day now.
However, redemption is always previous to law. In Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments begin in verse 2 with the reminder that God has redeemed his people.
Redemption is not conditioned by obedience but obedience is to be the fruit of redemption.
The law is never the means of achieving relationship with God, it is how God’s old covenant people were to live if they were to know His blessing.
Wilful, habitual disobedience was indicative of a lack of respect for God’s covenant and the redemptive act which was as its centre.
Read the whole article.

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David Cook Reflects On His First Year As Moderator-General Of The Presbyterian Church Of Australia

David Cook provides a ‘state of the union’ style summary of his observations about the Presbyterian Church Of Australia to mark the completion of the first year of his three-year term of service.
The post at the Presbyterian Church Of Australia website is titled ‘The Health Of The Church’.

I have now completed the first year of my three year term and have visited each State Assembly, except Queensland.
It has been a privilege to see what is happening throughout Australia and to be able to draw some conclusions about the health of the church.
In Victoria I spoke at the Ministers’ Family Camp and then gave the Expositions at the Assembly, it was good to get beyond the courts of the church to hear what is happening in the congregations.
Observation 1: Each State Assembly has a united focus on the gospel. The single mind of the church in Australia is to glorify God by seeing the gospel reach into every corner of our nation. It is a privilege to be part of such an harmonious, evangelical and evangelistic denomination.

Observation 2: The theological emphases of the Sixteenth Century Reformation are the emphases of the Bible and they are the emphases of the Presbyterian Church of Australia. However, I see a widespread determination to present a contemporary face to our culture and not transmit a distant, censorious and unwelcoming tone, which sometimes flavours the reformed tradition.
This balance between Biblical faithfulness and cultural relevance, often difficult to maintain, is largely being maintained.
Observation 3: Our Presbyterian structure serves us well. Congregations are cared for as part of a wider denominational family and at the same time are given the freedom to reach their own communities in their own way.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the new church plants springing up in Victoria, such completely different approaches being adopted at parishes like Bendigo, Daylesford and Doreen and yet all thriving within the denomination.
Observation 4: I have found not only unity but mutual affection for one another at State level. It has been very encouraging to attend Assemblies. There is no way that these are a drudgery, one would have to be a stone not to be moved to hear of the work of God being carried out by the church throughout Australia.

However there are three areas I think we need to work on:
First, at more than one Assembly, a good deal of time was spent dealing with the problem of institutional leadership devoid of Christian commitment. Why leaders who are not Christians are appointed to hospitals or aged care facilities or schools or campsites, who do not share our ethos, I will never know.
This is a source of anguish and frustration to us and cannot be a pleasurable experience for those thus appointed.
Our institutions must be led by well qualified people and such qualifications must include the vital recognition of Christ’s lordship in all of life, otherwise why are we involved in such institutions?

Second, the health of the APWM and PIM is wonderfully apparent.
Are we giving equal vigour and support to evangelistic outreach at the local level? New churches are being planted, but are the vast number of settled congregations reaching out in missions to children, youth and adults, where the gospel is presented and people invited to respond.
Where is the APWM equivalent to encourage creative and persistent and persuasive local outreach?

Third, our spiritual health is highly dependent on the ability of our theological colleges to attract quality people and to train them well.
This involves a financial commitment which will see our growing number of candidates well taught and cared for by faculties who are united in the truth and have close contact with the local church, the arena where candidates will work.
Our colleges must model and duplicate the local church so the faculty members, preach and disciple students as well as lecture them, set exams and mark essays. Our colleges are more than academic institutions, they are places where pastoral ministry is practised and modelled.
Pray for our colleges and their leaders and promote their interests at State Assemblies, so that they do not lack resources to fulfil the demanding ministry required of them.
I was recently at a conference in Geelong and two fine young men told me they were about to go to College to train for ordination. Where, I asked? PTC Victoria was their response. PTC along with QTC and Christ College must have enough quality staff to cope with the influx.

Brethren, sometimes in the middle of the battlefield of parish work, we can lose sight of the big picture. Be encouraged and rejoice because I believe the big picture of our church is healthy.
From the remote PIM outback patrols, to major regional centres like Launceston, Mt Gambier, Fremantle, Tamworth, Warrnambool; to growing outer city areas and inner suburbs of major cities the name of Jesus Christ is being proclaimed in church buildings, school halls and community centres.
Chaplains are visiting hospitals, hostels, gaols, schools, SRE teachers are delivering the message, Sunday School classes are being taught, Bible studies are being led, chapel services being conducted.
How grateful we can be that our testimony duplicates that of the apostles, “they reported all that God had done through them ….” Acts 14:27, 15:4, 21:19

David Cook

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Solidarity (via David Cook)

Posted on August 5, 2014 at David’s page at the PCA website:

According to real estate agents, it is all about location, location, location.
It is precisely the same according to the Christian gospel when it applies to the believer’s experience of God.
Once we were located in Adam, now by God’s grace, we are located in Christ (see Romans 5:12 – 21). So Paul says, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have decamped, and our new address is in Christ. This was one of the first lessons Saul (Paul) learnt on the Damascus Road, that to persecute Christians is to persecute Jesus, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting (Acts 9:5)”.
Being now located “in Christ” means that there is solidarity between Jesus and his people, and that when Christians are persecuted, Jesus takes that personally.
Jesus speaks of the same solidarity when he sends out the twelve on mission in Matthew 10:40, “he who receives you, receives me and he who receives me, receives the one who sent me”. There is solidarity between the believer and Jesus Christ, just as there is solidarity between God the Father, “the one who sent me” and God the Son, “the one whom He sent”.
In Psalm 14:4 – 7, David says that those who devour God’s people ought to be overcome with dread, for the Lord is in the company of the righteous, he is their refuge and he will watch over the fortunes of his people!
Therefore let ISIS and other such groups be warned, the outrageous threats and attacks on Christians in Iraq, the similar attacks in Nigeria, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Gaza will not go unpunished, Yahweh is in the midst of His people. He alone is Lord and he will punish the persecutor, either now, or in judgement in eternity.
Let us go to prayer for both our persecuted family and for those who persecute them. Pray that God will be merciful to the persecutor, that they will have their eyes opened to their willful rebellion and bow the knee, as did Saul, to the resurrected Lord. If they don’t, they are in for a terrible, eternal shock.
Pray for those who take the gospel of light and peace to such antagonists that they will be sensitively bold and faithful in the task.
“All wickedness flows from a disregard of God”, wrote Calvin, and in another commentary, “the hatred of sin proceeds from the fear of God”. What a wicked world we live in, it is a world under God’s judgement and we must not be sidetracked by trifling concerns, but seriously pray and reach into the heart of the rebellious with the momentous news of the gospel.
Remember the gospel is God’s power to save. Saul was the chief persecutor of the ancient church, “the worst of sinners” was his self description, but God’s power vanquished him, and we can be confident that the gospel of God will continue to melt the rebellion of even the worst hardened opponent.
David Cook

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The Quiet Time (via David Cook)

David Cook writes about the Christian devotional custom of Quiet Times.
And yes, I did read through to the end with his comments about social media.

From David’s page at the PCA website:

On my way to pick up my newspaper recently, I passed by the local taxi rank and one of the drivers had spread his prayer mat on the footpath and was praying, facing Mecca.
Here I was on my way to read the paper, here he was at prayer!
It used to be called the Quiet Time, personal devotions, time alone in the presence of God for prayer and Bible reading.
It is not much emphasized these days, maybe because we see all of life as worship or too often, we judge the health of our relationship with God on the basis of the regularity of our Quiet Time. But we must not stop doing something that is good, simply because it has the potential of attracting our trust.

Here are three reasons why I believe daily devotions are a healthy discipline:
1. The distinctive Christian understanding of God is that He is our Father. His fatherhood is perfect and according to the Confession of Faith, revolves around his providing, protecting and pitying of us. I am to live in that relationship 24/7, but it is surely a healthy habit and honouring to the relationship, to spend time with God with a devoted, single mind. I don’t find it easy to think of two things at once, to speak to God and to understand what he says in his word, requires a single minded intention.
2. Christians duplicate the offices of our Lord Jesus.
Jesus is prophet, he is the revealer of God;
Jesus is priest, he intercedes for us at God’s right hand;
Jesus is King, he rules over all things.
The believer has a prophetic ministry, proclaiming God’s truth; a priestly ministry, interceding before God; a kingly ministry, ruling over all things, because the ruler has promised to work in all things for our good, to make us like Christ.

For each of these ministries to flourish in our lives they need to be nourished by truth –
I need to know the truth to be proclaimed:
I need to be reminded how crucially God regards the prayers of his people;
I need the reminder that every event which seems out of control, is actually a gift from God’s hand, driving me into the secure arms of the Shepherd King.
To be an effective prophet, priest and king, I need time in the nourishing word and the strengthening relationship of my heavenly Father.
Because of the way we grow in our knowledge of God. Human relationships grow as time is invested, and depths of thoughts and fears and insights are shared.
To be an effective prophet, priest and king, I need time in the nourishing word and the strengthening relationship of my heavenly Father.
3. J I Packer on page 20 of Knowing God, writes of turning our knowledge about God into knowledge of God, “the rule for doing this is demanding but simple. It is that we turn each truth that we learn about God, into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”

Here are three hints:
1. Try and take the same time and place each day. For early birds this may be early, for night owls, later on, whenever your brain is at its best.
2. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to content – read with aids, without aids, according to a Bible overview plan or more thoroughly through one book. The 1:4 rule is a good one, read for one minute think about it for 4 minutes. Take notes.
3. Focus your mind for prayer – pray through a Psalm or a hymn, pray down a list or through a family or missionary photo album.
Remember your goal is to know God better and for you to be more like Him, to clothe yourself with the righteousness of Christ (Colossians 3:12 – 14, Galatians 3:27).
Time cannot be created, there are only 24 hours in the day.
Time needs to be made, the greatest time killer used to be TV but, without a doubt, these days it is social media.
Shut down the social media and spend focused, uninterrupted time with your heavenly Father.

David Cook

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David Cook On Preaching John’s Gospel

David Cook speaks about preaching from John’s Gospel.
Topics covered include preaching that both evangelises and informs, textual expository preaching, how and when to focus on evangelistic aspects of the text, and more.
David concludes speaking about the heart-warming encouragement congregations of Christians receive when they sit under preaching that has an evangelistic focus.
From the St. Helen’s blog.