Pray for your Pastor, that He Might Pray

There are two extreme tendencies in the ministry. The one is to shut itself out from intercourse with the people. The monk, the hermit were illustrations of this; they shut themselves out from men to be more with God. They failed, of course. Our being with God is of use only as we expend its priceless benefits on men. This age, neither with preacher not with people, is much intent on God. Our hankering is not that way. We shut ourselves to our study, we become students, bookworms, Bible worms, sermon makers, noted for literature, thought, and sermons; but the people and God, where are they? Out of heart and out of mind. Preachers who are great thinkers, great students must be the greatest of backsliders, heartless professions, rationalistic, less than the least of preachers in God’s estimate.

The other tendency is to thoroughly popularize the ministry. He is no longer God’s man, but a man of affairs, of the people. He prays not, because his mission is to the people. If he can move the people, create an interest, a sensation in favor of religion, an interest in Church work–he is satisfied. His personal relation to God is no factor in his work. Prayer has little or no place in his plans. The disaster and ruin of such a ministry cannot be computed by earthly arithmetic. What the preacher is in prayer to God, for himself, for his people, so is his power for real good to men, so is his true fruitfulness, his true fidelity to God, to man, for time, for eternity.

It is impossible for the preacher to keep his spirit in harmony with the divine nature of his high calling without much prayer. That the preacher by dint of duty and laborious fidelity to the work and routine of the ministry can keep himself in trim and fitness is a serious mistake. Even sermon-making, incessant and taxing as an art, as a duty, as a work, or as a pleasure, will engross and harden, will estrange the heart, by neglect of prayer, from God. The scientist loses God in nature. The preacher may lose God in his sermon.

Prayer freshens the heart of the preacher, keeps it in tune with God and in sympathy with the people, lifts his ministry out of the chilly air of a profession, fructifies routine and moves every wheel with the facility and power of a divine unction.

E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer

Complaining

Dear Self,

Let’s get something straight. You complain, and you know it. You complain in the car, in your home, at church, and about a number of different things. The problem with your complaining is that you do not see it as a problem. You view it as harmless venting. You believe you are just stating facts, that a certain circumstance is frustrating. Your justification of complaining is truly unfortunate, because it certainly bothers God. The reason you complain is the reason it is wrong.

You complain because you misunderstand (or just miss altogether) the grace you have received and the purposes of God in your life. You misunderstand the grace you have received by not recognizing it and receiving it with gratitude. Life, breath, and all of God’s provisions for your life are acts of his kindness and are truly wonderful, and yet they all seem to disappear when the small inconveniences of life appear. In most of your complaining you miss the good purposes of God for your life—purposes he has made clear. “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God” (Rom. 8:28 nasb). This truth should remain a constant meditation, particularly in a world filled with frustration, frailty, and failure. Though we are not always aware of the particular ways in which God causes all things to work out for our good, we have this promise, and it should be enough to challenge and conquer our complaining spirit.

And no, you do not get a pass because you can handle the big problems in life with this promise but not the small ones. Perhaps when sickness, death, and affliction come into your life, you run to God and his promises and find comfort that gives peace and patience. Maybe it is just the small stuff that you sweat. So what is the big deal?

Everything! In fact, your complaining about the small stuff is more dangerous than complaining about the big, because life is made up of the small stuff. Tragedies punctuate periods of your life, but it is the smaller inconveniences that make up the bulk of your existence, and this is what most people will see you handle. Those situations are the most obvious testing ground of your faith. If God’s grace is big enough for you to handle the big problems, why isn’t it enough for you to walk meekly though the smaller issues? Perhaps the lesson is that you haven’t driven the gospel deep enough into your heart and mind. Otherwise it would bear fruit where you need it. Are you complaining today? Consider the grace of God in all of life, and in the gospel particularly. Be assured of his purpose in all things inconvenient and tragic, and you will find the cure for complaining.

Joe Thorn

“Grace to you and peace…”

You know what saving grace is: God’s saving and powerful favor. It is completely undeserved, it is wholly unearned by us, it is freely bestowed, and it is expensively purchased. This favor which Paul pronounces on all those who are trusting in Jesus Christ, this favor is completely undeserved. There is nothing in us which calls God to bestow it. It’s completely unearned by us. There is nothing that we could do to earn this kind of lavish favor. It was freely given to us, freely bestowed on us. God in His mercy simply extended it to us in Jesus Christ. But it was expensively purchased at the cost of the blood of the Son of His love! And Paul is saying, ‘I pronounce God’s favor lavished on you in Jesus Christ. You haven’t deserved it, you couldn’t earn it, but He’s freely given it at the cost of His own Son. Grace to you.’

Now, my friend, every Christian…because we know ourselves, every Christian delights in that grace. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!” Every Christian delights in that reality, but it’s a twin reality here. It’s not simply ‘grace to you’ here. Notice, it’s ‘grace to you and peace.’

That old Hebrew word shalom (which means so much more than peace often conveys in our language), means all the blessings that flow from God’s grace. Paul is going to spend the rest of Ephesians 1 cataloging for us blessings that we have received, that we have inherited, because of God’s grace shown to us in Jesus Christ. In other words, he’s going to be cataloging for us the content of this blessing of the peace of God.

The peace of God in the Scriptures refers not simply to a cessation of warfare and hostility in this world, as we often have in mind as we think of the words Peace on earth, good will towards men out of the old King James Version. It has to do first and foremost, of course, with peace with God. We’re no longer under His just condemnation, but we are under His fatherly acceptance in Jesus Christ. We have peace with Him. Our consciences have been salved because our sin has been dealt with, and the penalty of sin has been dealt with. So we have peace with God.

But peace in the Scriptures means even more than this. It means that we experience the fullness of wholeness and satisfaction no matter the circumstances of life in this world. For the Christian, these things are exceedingly precious.

And notice that Paul makes a point to say that these are “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Contrary to popular opinion, there is but one way to experience this peace. There is but One in whom we experience this peace. There is one way to God, and that is through Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord. As Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me.” There is one way to experience the grace and peace of God, and that is in Jesus Christ.

Well, I want to ask you this, friend: Do you prize God’s grace and peace above everything else? Have you sought the fullness of life and satisfaction through the Lord Jesus Christ, in the Lord Jesus Christ?

-Ligon Duncan

James Madison

‘We have staked the whole of all our political Institutions upon the capacity of mankind
for Self-government, upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to The Ten Commandments of God.’

Idol Counsel

Scripture permits us to broaden the definition of idolatry so that includes anything on which we set our affections and indulge as an excessive and sinful attachment.  Therefore,  the idols that we can see are certainly not the whole problem.  Idolatry includes anything we worship:  the lust for pleasure, respect, love, power, control, or freedom from pain.  Futhermore, the problem is not outside of us….the problem is in us….the heart’s instinctive plotting in this idol construction is amazing.  We know we are called to imitate God.  This means we are to live for His glory, not our own.  We are to make Him famous, not ourselves….the purpose of all idolatry is to manipulate the idol for our own benefit…..but (we) need the power of God, the message of Christ crucified and risen.  Other therapies can offer sobriety, but only this good news is powerful enough to liberate the soul.” Ed Welch, Addictions: A Banquet in the Grave

Some Random, Incomplete, mostly borrowed notes on the Baptism Debate

Baptism

“Baptism is, therefore, personally instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sign (that is, a visible representation of God’s word of promise, and an outward token of inward spiritual realities). It is also a seal (that is, a mark or visible confirmation of God’s promises in the Covenant of Grace, all of which are received by faith). Baptism is a picture of our union with Christ, and thus a perpetual reminder of the forgiveness of sins, regeneration, adoption, and eternal life, by grace, through Christ.

In baptism, the covenant promise of God is made visible to believers and their children. All Christians agree that baptism is to be applied to believers. This is obvious. Additionally, most Christians, today and in history, have also believed that Scripture teaches that the children of believing parents should be baptized, because of the unity of the covenant of grace, and because the children of believers have been part of the household of God since Old Testament times.

This is seen in Genesis 17:7 “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.” God tells Abraham in 17:10-12 that the covenant sign is to be applied to Abraham, his descendants and even the Gentiles of his household. This threefold covenant formula (you, your children, and Gentiles brought within the covenant family) is repeated and expanded by Peter in Acts 2:39 “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”

Hence, because the children of believers are part of the covenant community, the visible church, in the New Covenant as well as the Old Covenant, they are to receive baptism, and have a special access to the outward privileges of the church.

Water baptism does not regenerate children (any more than it regenerates an adult!); rather, by baptism, children of believers are solemnly acknowledged as members of the visible Church, distinguished from the world, and brought into blessed company with believers.

An obligation comes with baptism: All who are baptized in the name of Christ, do renounce Satan, and by their baptism are bound to fight against the devil, the world, and the flesh.

We should reiterate, children are baptized because they are in the covenant, not in the covenant by virtue of their baptism. Water baptism does not regenerate children, but the fruit of this means of grace (like the other ordinary means of grace) reaches to the whole course of our life.

Covenant children, by virtue of being children of believing parents, are members of the Church, which is signified in baptism, but this is not sufficient to make them continue members of the Church. We look for them to exercise faith and repentance, and to make public confession and profession of their faith in Christ.” Ligon Duncan

Baptist Arguments against Infant Baptism

In summary they are two: It does not occur in Scripture, and infants are not capable of exercising faith, the pre-requisite for baptism.

John MacArthur Expands

1 ) Infant baptism is not commanded in the NT (or found anywhere in Scripture)

Response:  It is found in Gen 17:7, the covenant sign belongs to the covenant children.

2)  Infant baptism is not Christian Baptism (JM)

Christian baptism is this: somebody believes as an adult, they repent of their sin, they confess Jesus as Lord, they acknowledge Him as Savior, they are saved, then they are baptized. That is New Testament Christian baptism. (JM)

Response: Baptism is God telling us he is faithful to his Word and promise.  Our response of faith is not necessary to the essence of the sacrament, but God’s faithfulness is.  Baptism is the rite of initiation into the covenant community, it means the same thing to the infant as it does to the adult believer.  It is a sign and seal, a picture and guarantee of the covenant of Grace and all the blessing that belong to us and are received by faith.

3)  Infant baptism is not a replacement sign for the Abrahamic sign of circumcision.

Circumcision introduced infants into an earthly and temporary community, the nation of Israel.  That nation has passed away so the sign has passed away.  But, both circumcision and Baptist point to the same spiritual reality, the circumcision of the heart, the circumcision made without hands – spiritual regeneration, washing, cleansing and participation in the spiritual community (covenant community).

4)  Infant baptism is not consistent with the nature of the church.

Believers only church, a pure church, a professing church.

“paedo-baptism destroys the redeemed church idea. It just completely assaults the idea that this is a redeemed community of people who have come to personal faith in Jesus Christ.” (JM)

Even Baptists do not have a pure church,  an exclusively professing church – they have tares among the wheat too.  The church, in this life, was never intended to be spotless or without wrinkles – but one day, in the future, it will be.  Their ecclesiology is too high.

5) Infant baptism is not consistent with the Gospel.

Some advocate an “unconscious faith”, a surrogate faith, a dormant faith – but that is not real personal faith that the gospel demands.

Yes, but our faith is not required for the essence of the covenant sign, God’s faithfulness is.  Just as the gospel promise goes out to all based on the faithfulness and promise of God, and it is a real, sincere call, so too baptism is based on the faithfulness of God and is a real, sincere call to faith in the promises of God.  It is consistent with the gospel, and is a picture and exhortation of it.

The points of difference

We differ on hermeneutics.

If you start with the NT you will become a Baptist.

If you start with the OT you will baptize infants.

We differ on what baptism is.

A sign and seal of the covenant of grace.

A sign and personal testimony of my faith.  SBC 2000,  “Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus.”

“Baptism is not a sign of the child’s faith; it is a sign of what the child will receive by faith.  It is a sign of God’s promise, which is received by faith.” (RC vol 3, p. 116)

In baptism God says something to us, not we to him.

We differ on the church.

Baptists believe in a purer church than had in the OT, believers only.

We believe that the church belongs to believers and their seed, just like in the OT.

What is the basis, the ground of baptism?

Is it faith, dormant faith, presumptive regeneration, surrogate faith? No.

It is the covenant of Grace, the promise belongs to believers and their children.  This is an objective, not a subjective ground for baptism.  We baptize because they are in covenant with God.

Baptism and Faith

Is faith a prerequisite or a post requisite?  Faith is required in order to receive the blessing signified and sealed in baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or even the Word preached.  Does baptism assume faith?  Does baptism follow faith?  Does baptism strengthen faith?  It strengthens faith.

“Although baptism, like the external calling, still produces many a blessing even for unbelievers, its true fruit and full power can only be enjoyed by believers.  Objectively baptism, like the Word, remains the same.  Those who faith receive the Word and hence also those who in faith receive baptism really obtain the promise that God has attached to it…. For maturing believers…the sacraments do not gradually decrease in importance but continually gain in value.  To the eye of faith they even more beautifully and gloriously display the riches of God’s grace.  For every believer and for the whole church, they are proof of grace received, a sign of God’s faithfulness, a basis for pleading one’s case in prayer, a supporting pillar for one’s faith, and an exhortation to new obedience.”  Bavinck, vol 4, p. 532.

Believers can ‘improve’ their baptism.

Q. 167. How is baptism to be improved by us?

A. The needful but much neglected duty of improving our baptism, is to be performed by us all our life long, especially in the time of temptation, and when we are present at the administration of it to others; by serious and thankful consideration of the nature of it, and of the ends for which Christ instituted it, the privileges and benefits conferred and sealed thereby, and our solemn vow made therein; by being humbled for our sinful defilement, our falling short of, and walking contrary to, the grace of baptism, and our engagements; by growing up to assurance of pardon of sin, and of all other blessings sealed to us in that sacrament; by drawing strength from the death and resurrection of Christ, into whom we are baptized, for the mortifying of sin, and quickening of grace; and by endeavoring to live by faith, to have our conversation in holiness and righteousness, as those that have therein given up their names to Christ; and to walk in brotherly love, as being baptized by the same Spirit into one body.

Early Church On Baptism

Tertullian, believing that baptism washed away all previous sins taught “deferment of baptism is more profitable…. All who understand what a burden baptism is will have more fear of obtaining it than of its postponement.”  It was best to postpone baptism for as long as possible, since one otherwise ran the danger of again falling into sin and of losing the grace received in baptism. (Bavinck, vol 4, 522)

Augustine, though that baptism was only for believers, and knowing infants incapable of faith, he appealed to the faith of the parents as responding in place of the children.  “They believe by reason of the faith of the parents.”  This is the faith of another (fides aliena), and its tendency was towards baptismal regeneration.

Arguments for Infant baptism

1)      There is continuity between the OC and the NC.

2)     Baptism is the covenant sign in the NC, replacing Circumcision as the covenant sign of the OC.

3)     God did command infants to receive the covenant sign of circumcision.

4)     Covenant signs are of the righteousness that we have by faith, not the faith that we have by righteousness.

5)     There are household baptisms in the NT.

6)     Infants of believers are included in the NC (1 Cor 7:14)

7)     By AD 200, infant baptism was the universal practice of the church.

Baptist Arguments against Infant baptism

1)      There is no explicit command to baptism infants in the NT.

2)     Baptism is a sign of faith, infants don’t have faith.

3)     There seems to be a NT progress from repentance and faith and then be baptized.

4)     There are 12 records of baptisms in the NT, all of adults; none explicitly of children.

5)     Circumcision marked ethnic separation; that is not longer true in the NC.

6)     Some believe in baptismal regeneration which gives false hope.

7)     Not until the middle of the 2nd century do we have a record of infant baptism.

Reformation Conference MP3

Dr. James Renihan walked us through 150 years of English history from King Henry the VIII to the Westminster Assembly.  God does use strange instruments to accomplish His purpose.  You can listen to the lectures from Sermon Audio.  The links can be found in the Calendar tab by clicking on the NORF conference.  Enjoy.

Whatever Happened to Heaven?

There will be the unending enjoyment of eternal life lived in the perfect union of a spiritual body and a purified soul.  Heaven is often thought of as a place of indescribable joy, and rightly so.  In the words of David’s testimony, “Thou wilt make known to me the path of
life; In Thy presence is fulness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever” (Ps. 16: 11).  In the parable of the talents, faithful stewards are told, “Enter into the joy of
your master” (Matt. 25:21).  Jude speaks of believers being presented before God’s presence “with great joy” (Jude 24).  John assures believers that in heaven “there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).  That being so, we can hardly accuse Thomas Brooks of hyperbole when he writes, “If all the earth were paper, and all the plants of the earth were pens, and all the sea were ink, and if every man, woman and child had the pen of a ready writer, yet were they not able to
express the thousandth part of those joys that saints shall have in heaven….”

Heaven is not man-centered, but God-centered.  Whatever the diversity of our experiences in heaven, they will all be suffused with a sense of being intimately at home with our Father and Savior.  As Bruce Milne puts it, “We may be confident that the crowning wonder of our experience in the heavenly realm will be the endless exploration of that unutterable beauty, majesty, love, holiness, power, joy and grace which is God himself.” Put more succinctly, we will never come to an end of exploring the wonders of our glorious God.

John Blanchard, Reformation and Revivial,  Volume 6,  Number 2, Spring 1997.