Quiet Rest

“Let us not be cruel to ourselves when Christ is thus gracious. There is a certain meekness of spirit whereby we yield thanks to God for any ability at all, and rest quiet with the measure of grace received, seeing it is God’s good pleasure it should be so, who gives the will and the deed, yet not so as to rest from further endeavors.”
(Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed)

Saint Patrick
An Essay on His Life and Thought.

By Michael E. Rench, © 1990 (Used with permission.)

As if to inaugurate the arrival of spring, March 17th is greeted with
festive parades, something green to wear and toasts of green beer honoring
Saint Patrick’s driving the snakes out of Ireland. People of all
nationalities, not only the Irish, celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day.

Although the dates are somewhat obscure, historians agree that Patrick was
born in Roman Britain probably in 382 and died in Ireland most likely in
461 but possibly as late as 476. Patrick’s “Confession” contains
autobiographical accounts of his capture in Scotland by Irish raiders at
age sixteen, of his being sold into slavery, of his days as a sheep herder,
and of his conversion to Jesus Christ. It traces God’s providential care
through his escape from slavery in Ireland, his reunion with his family in
Britain, his ordination as a deacon in the Celtic Church, his call to take
the Gospel to Ireland, and the subsequent resistance and endangerments from
the Druid priests. With such a remarkable life, it is a shame that so
little is known of Saint Patrick and his message. (All quotes of Saint
Patrick are from his autobiographical work, The Confession of Saint
Patrick.)

PATRICK’S SENSE OF UNWORTHINESS

I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Matthew
9:13

Patrick is not a downtrodden spirit with a self-esteem problem, but he is a
humble man, aware of his low estimate among men and his sinfulness before
God. His Confession begins, “I am Patrick, a sinner, most unlearned, the
least of all the faithful, and utterly despised by many.” Patrick admits
that when he was captured, he “did know the true God.” Patrick saw his
spiritual condition before conversion as a state of death. “…I did not
believe in the living God, nor did I so from my childhood, but lived in
death and unbelief.” He continues, “I was taken into captivity to
Ireland…and deservedly so, because we turned away from God….there the
Lord opened the sense of my unbelief that I might at last remember my sins
and be converted with all my heart to the Lord my God.” There is joy in
Patrick despite being sold into slavery, because through it he was
converted with his whole heart to faith in Jesus Christ.

PATRICK’S DEPENDENCE UPON GOD

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation. 2 Corinthians
7:10

Patrick’s sense of sin did not lead to despair, but brought him to
dependence upon God. He realized that the answer to his unworthiness
before God was not found within himself. “I must not, however, hide God’s
gift which He bestowed upon me in the land of my captivity; because then I
earnestly sought Him, and there I found Him, and He saved me from all evil
because, so I believe, of His Spirit that dwells in me.” Patrick
understood that “…we all, without exception, shall have to give an
account even of our smallest sins before the judgment seat of the Lord
Christ…Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account
for it on the day of judgment.” Patrick saw that no one can render an
acceptable account before the judgment seat of the Lord. God alone
provides deliverance through His Son, Jesus Christ, in the day of judgment.
Patrick recalls Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble, and I
will deliver you and you shall glorify Me.” Patrick’s salvation begins and
ends with Jesus Christ, “…so that today I can confidently offer Him my
soul as a living sacrifice – to Christ my Lord, who saved me out of all my
troubles.”

PATRICK’S ZEAL TO EVANGELIZE IRELAND

Going therefore now, teach all nations… Matthew 28:19

After returning to Britain, Patrick attended seminary and was eventually
ordained a deacon in the Celtic Church. One night, Patrick had a dream.
“And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was
Victoricus, coming from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me
one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter…’We ask thee,
boy, come and walk among us once more.’ And I was quite broken in heart,
and could read no further…” Patrick saw the dream as his Macedonian call
to return to Ireland and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Patrick
believed God was directing his steps to the shores of Ireland once again,
but for a definite purpose with undeniable promises.

“…I wish to wait for His promise…as He promises in the Gospel: ‘They
shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and
Isaac and Jacob’ – as we believe the faithful will come from all the world.
For that reason, therefore, we ought to fish well and diligently, as the
Lord exhorts in advance and teaches, saying: ‘Come ye after Me, and I will
make you to be fishers of men’…Hence it was most necessary to spread our
nets so that a great multitude and throng might be caught for God.”

Evangelizing Ireland was no small thing in 432. The Irish “religion was an
animistic polytheism, which worshipped sun and moon and diverse natural
objects, and peopled a thousand spots in Ireland with fairies, demons, and
elves. A priestly clan of Druids practiced divination,…and sacrificed to
the gods from altars in the open air…the first born child in every
family.” (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 4, pg. 83 Will Durant.)

Not only were the native prospects unpromising, but Patrick encountered
resistance to his decision to go to Ireland from family, friend and church
leaders. Patrick would not be dissuaded. “In the light, therefore, of our
faith in the Trinity I must make this choice, regardless of the danger, I
must make known the gift of God and everlasting consolation, without fear
and frankly I must spread everywhere the name of God.” Patrick became the
Apostle to Ireland. God wonderfully blessed Patrick’s efforts and the
gospel of Jesus Christ began to free Irishmen everywhere from their bondage
to the pantheism of the Druids. Will Durant, no friend of Christianity,
says this of Patrick’s impact on Ireland: “He ordained priests, built
churches, established monasteries…and left strong spiritual garrisons to
guard his conquests at every turn. He made it seem a supreme adventure to
enter the ecclesiastical state; he gathered about him men and women of
courage and devotion, who endured every deprivation to spread the good
news…He did not convert all of Ireland…but when he died it could be
said of him, as of no other, that one man had converted a nation.” (ibid,
pg. 84)

PATRICK’S MOTIVATION

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1

What was Patrick’s motivation? “…I never had any reason except the
gospel and its promises why I should ever return to the people from whom
once before I barely escaped.” Who motivated Patrick to go? “With the
grace of the Lord, I did everything lovingly and gladly for [Ireland’s]
salvation.”

It was not the “Luck o’ the Irish” that enabled Patrick to change the
course of history for Ireland. It was the sovereign power of the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ that emboldened Patrick to “…cast down
imaginations and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of
God, and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 10:5) Patrick did, in a very real sense, drive the snakes
out of Ireland. For in bringing the life-giving message of Jesus Christ to
the Irish people, Patrick drove that old Serpent Satan, and his servants,
the Druid priests into the sea. Patrick, once a slave, brought freedom to
his former slave masters by leading them into bond service to Christ.
Patrick’s message is still relevant to us today because it is the message
of the Word of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we would truly celebrate
Saint Patrick’s Day, we should not garnish his tomb and ignore his message.
We would find ourselves, as Patrick did, turning in faith to the Lord
Jesus Christ to be delivered from our own captivity to sin.

 

My Pastor and Myself: What Are My Duties?

It is the duty of my pastor to “preach the Word”—to “watch for souls as they that must give account”—to “feed the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made him an overseer”—to “warn, reprove, and rebuke, with all long-suffering and doctrine”—to comfort the afflicted, support the weak, and be “all things to all men that he may win some” to Christ. But it is not my object to specify all the duties which devolve upon him in his relation as a Minister of the Gospel, and as the Shepherd of a flock. These duties are delineated on the sacred pages in scattered fragments, and may be collected at leisure by every diligent student of the Bible. They are laid down for the most part in general terms, and relate to the care which he is to take of his own heart, “lest after having preached the Gospel to others he himself should be a castaway.”—to the improvement of his own mind, so that his “lips should keep knowledge,” and impart it to others—to his own temper and spirit, that he may prove “an example to the flock—and to the Church in particular and society at large, that he may “edify the body of Christ,” and bring in to the fold those who are wandering from the great Shepherd of Israel. From this hasty and very imperfect sketch it will be seen that his calling has a responsibility which no mere mortal man can adequately perform. Like every redeemed sinner, he must throw himself upon the grace of God, and there must be his reliance.

 And now I have a word to say as to myself. I have been one of those who have demanded that my Pastor should exhibit a perfect character. And my standard of perfection has been drawn more from my own state of feeling than from the Word of God. If he did not preach to suit me I felt a disposition to complain. If he reproved, I thought him personal. If in his public performances he exhorted to a duty, I inwardly said that I would act my own pleasure about it. If he did not visit me as often as I thought he might, I looked upon him as neglecting his charge.—And when he did visit me I was not in a suitable frame of mind to be profited by the interview. I talked about him and against him to others, and thus sowed the seeds of dissatisfaction among the members of the Church. But was I right in this course? Can I justify it? Is it consistent with my covenant vows? And how can I answer for it when he and I shall meet at the judgment bar? These and similar reflections begin to give me serious concern. If a pastor has duties to perform, there are correspondent duties that belong to his people, and I am free to acknowledge that mine have not been done, and I too must, if I am to be forgiven, take sanctuary in the grace and mercy of God.

—CONFITEOR.
[The author here takes the Latin word for “I confess” as his pseudonymn]

[excerpted from THE CHARLESTON OBSERVER, 12.15 (14 April 1838) 58, col. 6.]

Must Christians Vote?

As the political election approaches in America, many Christians boldly proclaim that Jesus is King. Such a statement is often coupled with a declaration that they will not be voting, especially given the apparent choices in the presidential election. For perhaps different reasons, Thabiti Anyabwile writes at The Gospel Coalition: “I’m ‘voting’ by not voting.” But is abstaining the obedience to which the Jesus of Scripture has called us? Does it honor him as the King he shows himself to be?

The Lord himself ordained that civil leaders govern (Romans 13:1-7). In Bible history, he specifically commanded people to choose their leaders and gave guidance in the process (Exodus 18:21, Numbers 1:16, Deuteronomy 16:18). Of course, he also calls us to submit to the leaders he has providentially placed over us (1 Peter 2:13-14), and to pray for them (1 Timothy 2:1-2). He is no deistic-mediator who remains aloof after demanding submission. Rather, he actively works in politics through the ordinary means of people rolling up their sleeves to work each day in this realm of life.

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661), in his famous treatise on civil government, Lex, Rex, opens by observing in his first section that God has established civil powers by his word and by his laws of nature. He deals especially with the question of monarchical forms of government, since he lived in a monarchy, but he does say this of a republic in his third section: “that a republic appoint rulers is not an indifferent, but a moral action, because to set no ruler over themselves I conceive were a breach of the fifth commandment, which commandeth government to be one or other.” Rutherford’s fourth section goes on to argue extensively from Scripture that people, under God, are called to install their civil leaders.

The fifth commandment teaches: “Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God commanded you, that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 5:16). This commandment summarizes our duty with respect to all authority in life. The Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q. 64-65) expands on this command. It shows that we are required to perform the duties belonging to us in the various structures of authority in which God has placed us, whether we are over others, are equal to them, or are under others. This commandment affirms that God desires leaders and that they must exist in every sphere. Leaders in the civil sphere are not optional.

Jesus rules over and through civil magistrates. As King, he calls people to submit by being involved in appointing their rulers. He calls people to submit to their government, as they are conscientiously able. When their government lawfully calls for citizens to vote, it is Jesus (who has established that government) who calls them to this duty. Rutherford’s principle that we are morally obligated to set rulers over us applies not only generally in a republic, but also to you, the citizen of that republic. If you are not responsible before God to choose leaders in each political race, who is? For citizens of a republic not to vote is a moral choice and is, using the words of Rutherford, “a breach of the fifth commandment.” We deny that Jesus wants civil authority over us if we set no ruler over us. Ultimately, it is a practical denial of the Lordship of Jesus. Each citizen in a republic owes it to Jesus to elect representatives. Christians must avoid sins of omission in political elections just as rigorously as they avoid sins of commission.

This is why the denomination of which I am a member (The Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) confesses: “The Christian, when such action involves no disloyalty to Christ, ought to be involved in the selection of and to vote for civil rulers who fear God, love truth and justice, hate evil, and are publicly committed to scriptural principles of civil government” RP Testimony 23:15 (emphasis mine).

We are bound out of loyalty to Christ to participate. And we should expect him to be working as we seek godly candidates, campaign, vote, and serve in office or with those in office. He delights to work through ordinary means. If you cannot vote in good conscience for any of the candidates on the ballot for each office, you can always write-in a name. But, if you must, then it may also be time for self-examination. Have I done all I should have to honor Jesus in preparing for this vote? Have I sought out, supported, and encouraged those qualified to run? As I look at my budget, do I demonstrate that I believe Jesus is King in the process based on my giving to campaigns of prospective leaders? Or, does my budget show that I have valued entertainment, outings to sporting events, luxury foods, and technology more than sacrificing to invest in raising up God-fearing leaders over the land?

Certainly, individuals are called to varying levels of political participation, but if we have committed sins of omission, then the voting booth ought to become a prayer closet in which tears of confession are shed before King Jesus. Then, we must turn around, repent, and seek to see him honored more fully as King in the next election, because ordinary citizens, as well as kings and rulers of the earth, are called to “kiss the Son.” If you have not been faithful this year, what will you do next year, and the year after that, that will be visibly and tangibly different before the eyes of God and fellow man? As we strive to honor Christ in politics, let us pray, invest, work, live, campaign, write, and speak as those who expect to see Jesus at work through the ordinary means he has appointed!

James Faris, The Aquila Report, 10/24/2012

Baptism

“(Baptism) is a marvelous blessing.  It is not only a symbol, but also a seal, a picture and a definite assurance of that fact that God’s gracious promise of salvation will certainly be realized in the life of the baptized individual who trusts in him.”  William Hendriksen

Submission? Today?

The idea or subordination to authority in general, as well as in the family, is out of favour in a world which prizes permissiveness and freedom.  Christians are often affected by these attitudes.  Subordination smacks of exploitation and oppression that are deeply resented.  But authority in not synonymous with tyranny, and the submission to which the apostle refers does not imply inferiority.  Wives and husbands (as well as Children and parents, servants and masters) have different God-appointed roles, but all have equal dignity because they have been made in the divine image and in Christ have put on the new person who is created to be like God (4:24)  Having described the single new humanity which God is creating in his Son, with its focus on the oneness in Christ of all, especially Jews and Gentile (cf. Col 3:11; Gal. 3:28), the apostle ‘does not now [in this household table] destroy his own thesis by erecting new barriers of sex, age and rank in Gods new society in which they have been abolished.’. (Stott)  That the verb ‘submit, be subordinate’ can be used of Christ’s submission to the authority of the Father( Cor 15 :28) shows that is can denote a functional subordination with out implying inferiority, or less honour and glory.”  Peter O’Brien

“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16)

“You cannot love God if you are under the continual, secret suspicion that He is really your enemy! You cannot love God if you secretly think He condemns and hates you. This kind of slavish fear will compel you to some hypocritical obedience—such as what Pharaoh did when he let the Israelites go against His will. However, you will never truly love God if you are compelled only by fear. Your love for God must be won and drawn out by your understanding of God’s love and good ness towards you—just as John testifies in 1 John 4:18-19: ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear consists of torment; The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us. You simply cannot love God (pursue holiness/progress in sanctification—J.F.) unless you know and understand how much He loves you.”

Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, p. 31