Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Understanding Depravity Encourages Evangelism

And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, "Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city" (Acts 18:9-10).

At T4G 2008, John MacArthur presented a searching exposition of the doctrine of total or pervasive depravity. In the panel discussion that followed, Mark Dever commented on how contemplating the doctrine of depravity actually encourages evangelism:
I was encouraged. Not just in the personally affecting way… but I’m encouraged in my evangelism. Because when I know I’m preaching to corpses, I don’t have to figure out how to make them believe. I just need to work on loving God and preaching the Gospel faithfully.

You know it is the most amazing thing when people contrast belief in election and say that hurts evangelism. In Acts 18 when Paul was discouraged, what does the Lord give to him? An understanding that “I have many people in this city.” Does He mean there was a lot of population? No! He means He has chosen many people in that city, so Paul, go ahead. There will be response. You don’t have to see any signs of it. Go ahead and preach the Gospel.
If faith comes by hearing, it cannot be manufactured by coercion. So understanding depravity, among other things, frees us to proclaim. The doctrine of depravity does not inhibit evangelism, it liberates us to evangelize.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calvinist Crossing

We're back with highlights from better blogs. Look for more original TPC thoughts tomorrow.
  • Voddie Baucham on Calvinism in the SBC
    We try to stay out of the SBC in-fighting, as it always strikes us as more Southern than Baptist, but when brother Voddie speaks, we listen!

    HT: Provocations & Pantings

  • Don't Coast!
    Piper may have convinced us to cancel our Blockbuster membership. "All around me I feel like young people and older people are being eaten alive by the entertainment mindset… As long as you can walk, talk, eat, sing, do something for the King!"

  • If You're Thinking of Cutting the Missions Budget
    First of all... SHAME ON YOU! (Was that sensitive enough?) Secondly, read these helpful thoughts from our friend keeping and teaching the faith in Uganda. Our favorite thought, "God’s heart is for all nations so I doubt that he would sign-off on cutting your budget for the nations."
  • Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Whose Disciple Are You?

    Little children, guard yourselves from idols (1 John 5:21).

    We received a good reminder this morning from an old friend, our former Greek professor during the chapel at TMS. He is a brilliant Greek and New Testament scholar, but often eccentric, to say the least. One of the benefits of eccentricity, however, is the ability to notice the obvious often overlooked by others, such as the implications of that small command which concludes 1 John.

    He observed that the command to "guard" is a call for an urgent action to protect ourselves from "idols," which in the NT, refers figuratively to anything or anyone that takes the place of one's devotion to Christ. For example, Colossians 3:5 and Ephesians 5:4 both refer to greed as such "immaterial idolatry."

    From there, Dr. Farnell reflected on a tendency so common and so dangerous in students of God's Word, and Reformed theology in particular. The temptation to exalt the men who have so faithfully exposited the Word of Christ above Christ Himself,
    John wrote this epistle to deal with men who loved the wisdom of the world, the teaching of men over the teaching of Christ and His Word. Hence, they had idols in their life! Discipleship means devotion! Whose disciple are you?! God's eternal purpose is to make disciples just like Jesus. And He is using you, preacher boy, as a chosen instrument, to assist in making people like Jesus! Not like your favorite figure in church history. Your mission as an under-shepherd is to be a chosen instrument to help in making people like Christ alone!
    Told you he was eccentric. But, you must agree, point taken. Especially for those of us who value the heritage passed on by the hands of martyrs, that its importance pales to the Lordship of Christ. A good echo of some of the first words Spurgeon gave at the Tabernacle,
    I am never ashamed to avow myself a Calvinist. I do not hesitate to take the name of Baptist. But if I am asked what is my creed, I reply - "It is Jesus Christ!"
    We will not thank Dr. Farnell, nor Spurgeon, for this reminder, but the Lord to whom they have pointed. May His glory so shine in our hearts as to extinguish the allure of any competitors.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Expect a Hostile Environment

    Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you (1 John 3:13).

    As we mentioned last week, this election season has meant tension and anxiety for Christians in America. While we wait for a better country (cf. Heb 11:13-16), our present one is changing and the possibility of losing such privileges (note I did not say "rights") as free speech has become more actual than ever.

    Into this atmosphere of fear and apprehension, one of our pastors, Don Green gave a pointed admonition this past Lord's Day. Introducing a series on 1 John, Don identified the false presumption of comfort in American Christians and reminded us what we are to expect from the world:
    God gave birth to Christianity in a hostile environment. Was that the death of Christianity? The truth of the matter is that was the environment in which the faith flourished. Beloved, the sympathy we have experienced in the United States is not typical. The peace we have enjoyed as American Christians is an anomaly. We are told by the Bible to expect a hostile environment. The true dilemma before us is why have we not suffered more up til now?
    Indeed, it was promised by our Lord,
    Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me (Matt 5:11)
    And by Paul, His Apostle,
    Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)
    That those who follow after Christ will suffer for His name because the world hates Him. The years that come may bring a brand-new Gestapo to wreak havoc and turmoil in our churches and in our families. Yet, as the true nature of our relationship with the world begins to unfold, maybe then we will begin to experience the true nature of our Savior's victory,
    These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
    *For more reflection on the persecution of Christians, see We Cannot Stop Speaking and Suffering for Your Sake.

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    Pray Much for Ministers

    ...pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak (Eph 6:19-20).

    Here at TPC, we spend most of our waking hours working with pastors. When most people hear that job description, they usually respond with something like, "Sweet, what a cool job!" And though we reply with a polite smile, inside we are usually remarking, "Yeah, try following me around for a day."

    Unfortunately, pastoral ministry has come upon hard times as of late and we confront that reality on a daily basis. Many, if not most pastors are more manager than minister, more therapist than shepherd, and more activities director than preacher. If we had a nickel for every time a pastor gloated to us about the size of his facilities, the variety of his programs, and the worth of his influence, we could, well... quit. So, needless to say, our approval rating for pastors today is at an all-time low. Which is probably what made Edwards' exhortation to a young disciple so striking.

    In 1741 a young woman came to Christ after a revival had come to her town, possibly through the itinerant preaching of Jonathan Edwards himself. She had written to Pastor Edwards shortly thereafter seeking counsel on living the Christian life because her church was without a pastor. What Edwards wrote became a classic (yes, that is a redundant statement) of spiritual counsel for young disciples, reprinted several times over. Near the end of his exhortations, Edwards encouraged her,
    Pray much for the ministers and the church of God, especially, that He would carry on His glorious work which He has now begun, till the world shall be full of His glory.

    - Edwards, "Letter Addressed to a Young Lady," Memoirs, liv.
    Edwards corrects our attitude by assuming two important truths: (1) The Lord works through pastors and (2) pastors, therefore, need prayer. This is important counsel for those of us who may too quickly express frustration before we pray for God to grant faithfulness. If Paul the Apostle asked his disciples, "pray on my behalf," how much more do the pastors over us and alongside us need our fervent intercession!

    As disciples learn to pray, may they learn to thank God for the pastors He has given and may they learn to ask God to give them boldness, faithfulness, and fruitfulness in their ministry. Pray much for ministers.

    Tuesday, November 4, 2008

    We're Back... And Waiting for a Better Country

    All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them (Heb 11:13, 16).

    Well, what can we say... it's been awhile. Partly due to the demands at work, including substantial international travel. Partly due to other ministry opportunities that have arisen and required time. And partly due to a semi-intentional "media fast" to spend more time growing in orthodoxy and orthopraxy, rather than in the Technopoly. So, although all five of our readers have probably moved on to greener blogstures, we figured today would be a good day to relaunch our meager effort in considering the therefore of God's sovereign grace.

    All of America (and most of the world) will be watching today's election with anxious anticipation long into the night. As is apparent to all but the most obtuse, if the candidate from the Democrat party becomes the next President, Christians may face a loss of the freedoms that we have hitherto taken for granted. So, for American Christians, this campaign season has brought no shortage of frustrations and fears. Yet, as it climaxes in today's election, we who serve the sovereign Christ also have an opportunity for faith... for a better country (No, not this one).

    As we are exhorted to persevere with faith in the only Savior by Hebrews (see 10:35-39), we are given examples of such faith in chapter 11. These saints of old persevered in faith through great suffering without (and here's the point) any visible confirmations of their faith, that is, "without receiving the promises" (11:13).

    From this significant text, Mr. Edwards has charged those who will hear,
    Be persuaded to travel in the way that leads to heaven: viz. in holiness, self-denial, mortification, obedience to all the commands of God, following Christ’s example [and] in a way of a heavenly life, or imitation of the saints and angels in heaven. Let it be your daily work, from morning till night, and hold out in it to the end. Let nothing stop or discourage you, or turn you aside from this road. And let all other concerns be subordinated to this. Consider the reasons that have been mentioned why you should thus spend your life: that this world is not your abiding place, that the future world is to be your everlasting abode, and that the enjoyments and concerns of this world are given entirely in order to another.

    - Jonathan Edwards, The Christian Pilgrim, emphasis added.
    So, on the eve of what may be great political, economic, and social change in America, persevere in faith. Do not grow weary in praying for our country. Do not cease doing good for God's glory for our country. And, chiefly, do not desist from proclaiming the glories of Christ in the Gospel to our country. We have been called to live in this country by desiring a better one.