Friday, August 31, 2007

Is repetition a help or a hindrance?

A friend once referred to "7/11 choruses" - seven words sung eleven times. Bob Kauflin lists a number of things that should be taken into consideration when, in worship, a chorus or hymn is sung over and over and over. He elaborates on each of the points below at his site:
  1. Have a reason for repeating.
  2. Be careful about repeating repetition.
  3. Choruses aren’t the only part of a song we can repeat.
  4. Be aware of the difference between repeating objective truth and subjective response.
  5. Don’t end every song by singing the last line three times.
  6. Repetition can include musical variety.
  7. Repetition is helped by explanation.
Repetition isn’t wrong in itself. Like most practices, it can be used or abused. I pray these few thoughts are a help towards using it to serve people more effectively for the Savior’s glory. [read it all]
Is Repetition a Help or a Hindrance?

"Seminary is not reality"

At Christianity Today, a new column, "From the Seminaries to the Pews," intended to guide the busy layman toward resources that will "help those of you who want to care about theology but lack the time to skim blogs."

The first subject: the "new perspective on Paul," with links to resources.

From the Seminaries to the Pews | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

"Bold proclamation..."

"Evangelical Catholicism" is not "Evangelicalism" in the usual sense, but, within the context of Catholicism, it would seem a very good thing nonetheless. Touchstone points to an article in Catholic Online, "Reform rollback or emerging ‘sane modernity’ – Evangelical Catholicism triumphant, Vatican watcher states." Excerpts:
Proposing a Catholic counterpart to evangelical Protestantism may seem the ultimate in apples-and-oranges comparison, especially since some evangelicals would view being lumped in with the pope as tantamount to fighting words. Yet in a secularized, pluralistic world in which Christianity is no longer the air people breathe, Protestants and Catholics face the same crucial question: Should the relationship between church and culture be a two-way street, as most liberals say, with the church adjusting teachings and structures in light of the signs of the times? Or is the problem not so much a crisis of structures but a crisis of nerve, as most evangelicals believe, with the antidote being bold proclamation of timeless truths? ....

The evangelical impulse isn’t exactly “conservative,” because there’s little cultural Catholicism these days left to conserve. Instead, it’s a way of pitching classical Catholic faith and practice in the context of pluralism, making it modern and traditional all at once.

David Bebbington, a leading specialist on Protestant evangelicalism, defines that movement in terms of four commitments: the Bible alone as the touchstone of faith, Christ’s death on the cross as atonement for sin, personal acceptance of Jesus as opposed to salvation through externals such as sacraments, and strong missionary energies premised on the idea that salvation comes only from Christ. Clearly, some of these commitments mark areas of disagreement with Catholics rather than convergence.

Yet if these points are restated in terms of their broad underlying concerns, the evangelical agenda Bebbington describes pivots on three major issues: authority, the centrality of key doctrines and Christian exclusivity. If so, there’s little doubt that Catholicism under John Paul II and Benedict XVI has become ever more boldly evangelical. ....

To be clear, evangelical Catholicism isn’t fundamentalism. Benedict, after all, recently jettisoned limbo – understood as the eternal resting place of unbaptized babies – as a theological hypothesis that had outlived its usefulness. Yet just as Protestant evangelicals stay closely tethered to the Bible, evangelical Catholics strongly affirm the magisterium, meaning the church’s teaching authority. ....

While evangelical Catholics believe in dialogue, they insist it can’t come at the expense of strong Catholic identity. The bottom line is unambiguous assertion that the visible, institutional Catholic church alone possesses the fullness of the church willed by Christ. That’s why Protestant bodies are called “ecclesial communities” rather than churches, and why the Orthodox churches can be “sisters” of local Catholic churches, but not of the universal Catholic church as such. ....

None of this means the Vatican is claiming that only Catholics can be saved. The congregation stated that other Christian bodies can be “instruments of salvation,” and there’s nothing in the document to roll back Vatican II’s teaching that non-Christians can also be saved “in ways known only to God.” Yet evangelical Catholics reject suggestions that all religions are equally valid; ultimately, they insist, salvation comes from Christ, and the church is the primary mediator of this salvation. This belief remains the basic motivation for missionary work. ....

In a 2004 Communio piece, Portier of the University of Dayton argued that a disproportionate share of undergraduate and graduate theology students and parish ministers are drawn from the evangelical camp.

Evangelicals may not drive other views out of the church anytime soon, but the impulse is clearly more than a top-down phenomenon radiating out from Rome. [more]
Reform rollback or emerging ‘sane modernity’ – Evangelical Catholicism triumphant, Vatican watcher states - Catholic Online

Thursday, August 30, 2007

General revelation

Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials"

MTV's Movie News provides a guide for those unfamiliar with the Pullman books, which they characterize as an "anti-Narnia":
Anyone trying to navigate their way through the film adaptations of "His Dark Materials" without having read the books is going to need their own golden compass. After all, within the installments of Philip Pullman's trilogy, even his own characters have a lot of questions that need answering, such as our heroine Lyra's ever-pressing, "What is Dust?" and she's the one with the alethiometer! (More on that in a bit.) So if the buzz on Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig's upcoming film series has left you wondering what's so dark about this material, here's a few things you'll need to know about this anti-Narnia. [more]
His Dark Materials': A Guide To The Anti-'Narnia' - Movie News Story | MTV Movie News

"Worship for the perfect...the inoffensive, and nice"

Several blogs have commented on an article by Sally Morgenthaler, once an advocate of "worship evangelism," who notes that not much evangelism has actually happened. Very few of those in the mega-churches came from among the "unchurched" and while the mega-churches have grown, the total number of the "churched" has actually declined. The Christian Mind comments on a part of the article:
One of the things Morgenthaler emphasizes is the need for Christians to be willing to give ear to the attitudes and perceptions of the unchurched (I really don't like that term because there are plenty of unsaved though "churched" individuals) about us. As an illustration of those perceptions she includes the following excerpt from an article written by a non-Christian journalist after attending what Morgenthaler calls "one of the largest, worship-driven churches in the country":
The [worship team] was young and pretty, dressed in the kind of quality-cotton-punk clothing one buys at the Gap. 'Lift up your hands, open the door,' crooned the lead singer, an inoffensive tenor. Male singers at [this] and other megachurches are almost always tenors, their voices clean and indistinguishable, R&B-inflected one moment, New Country the next, with a little bit of early '90s grunge at the beginning and the end.

They sound like they're singing in beer commercials, and perhaps this is not coincidental. The worship style is a kind of musical correlate to (their pastor's) free market theology: designed for total accessibility, with the illusion of choice between strikingly similar brands. (He prefers the term flavors, and often uses Baskin-Robbins as a metaphor when explaining his views.) The drummers all stick to soft cymbals and beats anyone can handle; the guitarists deploy effects like artillery but condense them, so the highs and lows never stretch too wide. Lyrics tend to be rhythmic and pronunciation perfect, the better to sing along with when the words are projected onto movie screens. Breathy or wailing, vocalists drench their lines with emotion, but only within strict confines. There are no sad songs in a megachurch, and there are no angry songs. There are songs about desperation, but none about despair; songs convey longing only if it has already been fulfilled.
Morgenthaler calls the kind of worship the journalist described "Worship for the perfect. The already arrived. The good-looking, inoffensive, and nice" and adds "No wonder the unchurched aren't interested."
The Christian Mind: Megachurches, Misery, and Music, Sally Morgenthaler: Worship as Evangelism

The Secret of the Ancient Evil

Those of us who become readers often don't begin with great literature. My own familiarity with the classics owes much more to Classics Illustrated than to the actual books.

Comics coexisted with books in my reading almost all the way through grade school. Either could transport me into another place to the extent that I became oblivious to the world around me.

The Hardy Boys were my introduction to mysteries, Tom Swift to science fiction, and so on. Soon, they were succeeded by Conan Doyle, Allingham, Buchan, Bradbury, and I moved on—but I retain an affection for the books that got me started.

So, apparently, does John Mark Reynolds:
Most future readers of great literature find themselves reading the Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew at one point in their infant stage of literary development. I always preferred Drew to Hardy, since Drew’s mysteries were more complex and the Hardy Boys tended to rely more on machinery and muscle than brain power.

Both books did lead my brother and me to a life long quest to revive the use of the word “chum.” We have not yet succeeded, but have made some progress.
Reynolds isn't just engaging in nostalgia. He observes that the good guys and bad guys were usually pretty obvious in those books by virtue of physical characteristics, slovenliness and bad deportment. This leads to an interesting discussion of evil and the fact that appearances are a far less certain guide to discerning it than they are in Franklin W. Dixon's stories.

The Hardy Boys Latest: The Mystery of Attractive Evil Chums! | Scriptorium Daily

"Not...by our faith, but by His faithfulness"

Albert Mohler, responding to the stories about Mother Theresa's "dark night of the soul":
Our confidence is in Christ, not in ourselves. We are weak; He is strong. We fluctuate; He is constant. We cannot trust our feelings nor our emotional state. We trust in Christ. Those who come to Christ by faith are not kept unto him by our faith, but by his faithfulness. [the rest]
R. Albert Mohler Jr.: OnFaith on washingtonpost.com

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Nobody could sing it - or play it - better than Jerry Lee:


YouTube - Jerry Lee Lewis - Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Free MP3 messages on worship

Mars Hill

The current issue of Touchstone includes an article by Russell D. Moore, "Retaking Mars Hill," subtitled "Paul Didn't Build Bridges to Popular Culture." It is an interesting discussion of contemporary Evangelical attempts to engage with pop-culture. The excerpts below don't include important aspects of his argument - especially the point that there isn't very much that relates this effort to what actually happened on Mars Hill between Paul and the philosophers [Acts 17].

Moore identifies two models:
In my world, the world of American Evangelicalism, at least two groups have clear ways to do this. One group wants to imitate pop culture but Christianize it. Another group wants to find ways in which that culture itself presents the gospel. Both want to use pop culture to reach the wider culture....

And they are right to try: If Christians are going to speak to people, Christians as well as others, who have been deeply formed by popular culture (as we must) without losing our souls, we're going to have to decipher how to relate Mars Hill to Rolling Stone.

The first model of Evangelical pop-culture engagement is that of those I call "off-brand Evangelicals." They seek to take trends in popular culture and reproduce them in Christian dialect for use within the Evangelical subculture, with the hope of making it more attractive not only to those outside but to those within. ....

GQ magazine sent one of its reporters to a Christian music festival in Pennsylvania, to check out what goes on in the "Religious Right" subculture. "Christian rock is a genre that exists to edify and make money off of Evangelical Christians," the author concluded ....

He pointed out that Christian pop music recruits "off brand" performers to ape and mimic current popular artists ....

It's hard not to wince at the magazine's assessment. Christian bookstores often include "comparison charts," pointing listeners to Christian versions of the secular bands and artists they enjoy. "If you like Eminem, you'll love Twisted Fisher." ....

The second model is that I choose to call "South Park Evangelicals." ....

This model is popular among a generation that humbly dares to call itself "the emerging church," although it includes aging baby boomers who have been writing movie and music reviews for Christianity Today and Campus Life since the Partridge Family last had a hit record. ....

In this model, one seeks to know pop culture, not in order to imitate it, but first to enjoy it as an aspect of common grace, and second to share a common cultural dialect with unbelievers. You don't fight a "culture war" with Hollywood, you seek to redeem Hollywood instead, by finding aspects of contemporary music and film that are consonant with biblical truth. ....
There is much more, and the article is well worth seeking out.

Elsewhere in this issue, an article that is available online, "Writers Cramped" by Donald T. Williams, about Flannery O'Connor and lessons Evangelical writers could learn from her. Among them are insights important for every Christian writer, songwriter and artist:
.... O’Connor found a true worldview, encapsulated in dogma, which constituted a lens that brings human nature and human significance into piercing clarity. “Dogma,” she said, “is an instrument for penetrating reality. ...It is one of the functions of the Church to transmit the prophetic vision that is good for all time, and when the novelist has this as a part of his own vision, he has a powerful extension of sight.”

O’Connor understood that good writers do not simply parrot these insights; they must take this doctrinal understanding and apply it to the concrete realities of human life. “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see, but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.”

When we do not understand this distinction, Christian fiction becomes mere religious propaganda.
“The sorry religious novel comes about when the writer supposes that because of his belief, he is somehow dispensed from the obligation to penetrate concrete reality.” Doctrine is a light to see human experience by, not a formula to be dressed up in a fictional disguise.

Though O’Connor did not put it this way, the biblical worldview gives us several truths relevant to the writer of fiction or poetry. It teaches us that everything in creation is significant, pregnant with meaning, because it all came from and relates back to the eternal Logos. It teaches us to see life as a drama of redemption in which human choices matter, and to see all of life, not just religious conversion, in those terms.

And it teaches us the value not only of God’s creation but also of our own creativity, for we were made in the image of the Creator. As J.R.R. Tolkien put it in his seminal essay “On Faerie Stories,” “We make still by the law in which we’re made.” [emphasis added] [read the whole article]
Touchstone: Writers Cramped

Simple churches

Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples, by Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger is reviewed at Discerning Reader. The reviewer believes the book has valuable insights, but "over-reaches":
.... Simple churches correlate with ‘growing’ and ‘vibrant’ communities that are ‘making a big impact’ and ‘expanding the kingdom’ (p 14). Complex churches, conversely, are found to be ‘anemic’, ‘floundering’ and “as a whole….not alive.” (p 14).

So what is this highly acclaimed ’simple church’? According to the authors: “A simple church is designed around a straightforward and strategic process that moves people through the stages of spiritual growth.” (p 60). ‘Process’ and ‘movement’ are key ideas for the authors. Rather than seeing programmes as ends in themselves, church leaders are encouraged to see the big picture of how disciples are moving through various stages of discipleship towards maturity.

For this to work, leaders will have to constantly monitor the effectiveness of four areas:
  • Clarity - ‘the ability of the process to be communicated and understood by people’
  • Movement - ‘the sequential steps in the process that cause people to move to greater areas of commitment’
  • Alignment - ‘the arrangement of all ministries and staff around the same simple process’, and
  • Focus - ‘the commitment to abandon everything that falls outside the simple ministry process’ ....
.... If your church suffers from an over-programmed, over-complicated setup, Simple Church might well be worth reading. Just be sure, however, not to believe the hype of the book itself. Church is never truly simple, and Simple Church over-reaches by claiming that it is “returning to God’s process for making disciples.” (book subtitle). Put simply? Gain insights from this book; don’t build your ecclesiology on it. [the complete review]

Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer : A Discerning Reader Review

Congregationalism

Baptists are congregational in polity. That means that the local congregations govern themselves. There is no hierarchy, no outside authority, that can tell the local congregation what it must do.

Last June Andreas Köstenberger posted on his site an article titled "Church Government: Congregationalism," written as an encyclopedia entry on the subject. As a good encyclopedia entry should, it defines the term, describes the various forms it takes, and discusses the Biblical basis for, and arguments against. Read it here.

Like other Baptists, Seventh Day Baptists are congregational. The Statement of Belief includes this:
We believe in the priesthood of all believers and practice the autonomy of local congregations, as we seek to work in association with others for more effective witness.
Biblical Foundations » 2007 » June

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Caught in the molasses of time"

Anthony Sacramone, at First Things, writes that:

An extended dialogue between biologist Richard Dawkins and Christian apologist Alister McGrath—originally shot for Dawkins’ BBC documentary The Root of All Evil but never used—has surfaced on YouTube. (note: actually Google Video)

In the hour-and-ten-minute clip, the professional atheist Dawkins comes across as almost fair-minded, and Alistair McGrath demonstrates a crisp and vital intellect.

But McGrath does stumble. ....

Sacramone says McGrath didn't adequately answer the "why does a good God allow bad things?" question. Here is the video interview.

He offers one of the possible answers:
.... “I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven,” Jesus tells his disciples (Luke 10:18). The end of Evil and its attendant evils is a foregone conclusion, a closed case. Natural disasters and the machinations of wicked men have been finally arrested—at the cross. But Jesus’ declaration of victory is an eschatological statement—made even before the cross had been planted in Calvary’s soil. We finite creatures are caught in the molasses of time and must endure the death throes of all that is contrary to God’s final purposes as if in slow motion. ....

Which is to say that there’s the “already” of salvation history—He is risen—and the “not yet.” And the “not yet” entails suffering in this passing age—suffering that is often unjust and seemingly pointless, but in the hands of a sovereign and Good God a tool to conform his children to the image of his Only Begotten, the true purpose of their predestination. (So as not to be misunderstood, because suffering falls within the permissive will of God, and can even be used by him for ultimately good ends, is no excuse for complacency; the alleviation of pain, done in the name of Jesus, is, like preaching and teaching, a heralding of the kingdom and a diffusion of hope.)

Now, a sovereign God does not displace secondary causes in Christians’ thinking about how the world works. Shifting tectonic plates do give rise to earthquakes and tsunamis. But Christians also believe God continues to intervene in the affairs of his creatures and does so to remind them that the world and its horrors are not beyond his purview, and that the saved child and the answered prayer is a foretaste of the age to come, in which every tear shall be wiped away and the body will no longer be an occasion of sin or pain.

But a foretaste only. Which is why sometimes only one child is saved. And why only Lazarus is raised from the dead. They are signs of the “already,” while the rest endure the “not yet.” ....[read it all]
FIRST THINGS: On the Square » Blog Archive » Why Do the Heathen Rage?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Believer's Baptism

Some readers here have been following the discussion of believers' vs infant baptism and church membership. Two additional sources of information:

1. Between Two Worlds: Believer's Baptism

2. At the same site: In Defense of Paedobaptism

Between Two Worlds: Believer's Baptism, In Defense of Paedobaptism

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Self-censorship

Ordinarily liberals consider attacks on religion evidence of courageous opposition to the impending theocracy. Islam is often treated differently.

The most recent victim of this solicitude is Berkeley Breathed, creator of Opus. Today's strip isn't being carried by many of the papers that subscribe to it, including The Washington Post, the strip's home base.

Christianity is often attacked as a faith that subordinates women - antagonistic to genuine gender equality. It will be interesting to see who comes to the defense of Breathed's rather gently humorous strip making a similar point about a different religion.

Update: Captain's Quarters points out that last week's strip, which went uncensored, was about Jerry Falwell and who gets into Heaven.

Opus Comics, by Bloom County's Berkeley Breathed - Salon

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Comfort isn't the goal

Considering whether secular songs should be used in worship so that "seekers" might feel more comfortable, Bob Kauflin writes:
...[T]he idea that we should make "seekers" feel more comfortable in church begs for further clarification. We should make sure that unbelievers can understand what’s going on in our meetings, and that we’re not doing anything to make them feel unwelcome. But it’s not our responsibility to make sure they’re "comfortable." The church is different from the world. We’ve gathered to build each other up by rehearsing and celebrating the Gospel, calling to mind God’s covenant promises, confess our sins, exercise spiritual gifts, and much more. "To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." ( 1 Cor. 12:7) I wouldn’t expect someone who doesn’t know the Savior to be totally comfortable in that setting. Our primary goal is to make sure that unbelievers have the opportunity to encounter in some way the grace and truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ, expressed through his church.
Q&A Fridays - Should We Change Musical Settings?

Friday, August 24, 2007

God’s Warriors

"Yet I will rejoice in the Lord"

The Time article about "Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith" has been receiving much attention, with religious skeptics and atheists suggesting that it is evidence against the truth claims of Christianity. They seem unfamiliar with the faith, called by the name of the man who, about to die, quoted the first phrase of the 22nd Psalm "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" which goes on "Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest." [ESV]

The experience of many of the faithful - recounted in the Psalms, not to mention Job and Habakkuk, and that of Our Lord Himself - should leave no believer with the illusion that feelings will always [or ever] confirm God's presence with us.

When we don't feel His presence, it is important to imitate the Psalmist:
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
Yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
Psalm 77:11 [ESV]
Our confidence in Him is not based on our feelings, but on what He has done.

The Internet Monk has written about the "Mystery of God's Absence" here.

Stand to Reason says this:
Mother Teresa's letters about her relationship with God have been published, and they have revealed a woman who served God faithfully yet had no sense of God's presence in her life. Time magazine says this revelation is a contradiction with her continued profession of faith.
Not all atheists and doubters will agree. Both Kolodiejchuk and Martin assume that Teresa's inability to perceive Christ in her life did not mean he wasn't there. In fact, they see his absence as part of the divine gift that enabled her to do great work. But to the U.S.'s increasingly assertive cadre of atheists, that argument will seem absurd.
But this is no contradiction and not absurd at all because Christianity is not based on feelings but on convictions and trust in what we've been persuaded is true. Feelings can accompany faith and sometimes they don't. Most Christians go through dry times; some Christians rarely experience such feelings. None of that changes the conviction that Jesus is the Savior and the trust we put in Him to reconcile us to God.

There are many things in life we do out of conviction, commitment, faithfulness even when our feelings aren't in it. Marriage and parenthood are prime examples of this. Feelings come and go; conviction and commitment endure and are the essence of our relationship with Jesus.
From the Time article:
Kolodiejchuk thinks the book may act as an antidote to a cultural problem. "The tendency in our spiritual life but also in our more general attitude toward love is that our feelings are all that is going on," he says. "And so to us the totality of love is what we feel. But to really love someone requires commitment, fidelity and vulnerability. Mother Teresa wasn't 'feeling' Christ's love, and she could have shut down. But she was up at 4:30 every morning for Jesus, and still writing to him, 'Your happiness is all I want.' That's a powerful example even if you are not talking in exclusively religious terms."

America's Martin wants to talk precisely in religious terms. "Everything she's experiencing," he says, "is what average believers experience in their spiritual lives writ large. I have known scores of people who have felt abandoned by God and had doubts about God's existence. And this book expresses that in such a stunning way but shows her full of complete trust at the same time."
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,

The produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

The flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 [ESV]

"Strange new respectability..."

Mark Tooley, at The Weekly Standard, notes another appearance of the "Evangelical Left." He observes a phenomenon familiar to those of us who dwell in liberal university towns, or have had significant contact with evangelical students.
Left of center causes are especially appealing among evangelical academics, who are sensitive about Religious Right stereotypes. Shaun Casey, a liberal evangelical who teaches at Wesley Seminary in Washington, D.C., and advises Democratic candidates, recently blogged:
"Many evangelicals are tired of being painted as ignorant huckleberries who follow the dictums of preachers with bad hair. They are tired of being painted with the labels "dominionists" and "theocrats." They are tired of the war, they are troubled by poverty, and they are tired of being taken for granted politically."
For some evangelicals, separating from the Religious Right is politically motivated. But it is also about overcoming cultural baggage that identifies evangelicals with sawdust floors, big hair, and polyester suits. Ironically, now that evangelicals are America's largest religious group, the evangelical left is arguing, at least in part, that respectability means evangelicals must echo the New York Times.
Liberal Evangelicals, Israel, and Bad Hair

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Evangelicalism

Between Two Worlds calls attention to the Henry Center Video Archive, where a series of four videos on the subject: "Know Your Roots: American Evangelicalism - Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow" can be found. This is a series of two lectures by Kenneth Kantzer and Carl F.H. Henry delivered at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1991, followed by discussion. Kantzer and Henry speak with special authority on the subject - having been there, at the creation of the modern Evangelical movement in American Protestantism.

Dr. Henry's speech [the second video] is especially good - laying out clearly the real differences between orthodoxy and theological liberalism.

D.A. Carson later interviews the speakers.

Henry Center Media

Jonathan Edwards


Desiring God makes available a series of videos from a 2003 conference on Jonathan Edwards. Included are addresses by John Piper, J.I. Packer, Iain Murray, Sam Storms, and Don Whitney.

At the same location, there are videos from a 2006 conference on Christ in a Postmodern World.

14 New Conference Videos :: Desiring God

"Resting in the hollow of God's hand"

About a month ago Tony Snow wrote an essay for Christianity Today reflecting on his experience with cancer, and how the experience affected his faith. I quoted from it at some length. John Schroeder has noticed another part of what Snow wrote:
Earlier in the CT piece, Snow says:
Through such trials, God bids us to choose: Do we believe, or do we not? Will we be bold enough to love, daring enough to serve, humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations? Can we surrender our concern in things that don't matter so that we might devote our remaining days to things that do?
In the wake of my father's death that choice has been so evident to me, as the people surrounding dad have taken such different paths. Snow hits on very key points with this, "humble enough to submit, and strong enough to acknowledge our limitations..." Tragedy, whether the death of a beloved parent or diagnosis and treatment for life-threatening cancer, calls us to remember that God is in charge. We can fight to try and control our circumstances or we can choose to rest in the hollow.

If there is anything I have learned through the last couple of months, and I am certain there is much more to learn in the coming months, it is that if I am not content in the hollow of God's hand before the tragedy, I will not be content when it strikes. ....

When tragedy strikes in your life, and it will strike, if you are not already resting in the hollow of God's hand, you are gong to find it very hard to get there. But if you are there, all you really have to do is keep resting.
Blogotional: From Sorrow, Grace

In Pursuit of Truth

Via Between Two Worlds, a new online magazine, In Pursuit of Truth, at the site of the C.S. Lewis Foundation. One of the articles is "Reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with C.S. Lewis" by Leland Ryken. [Justin Taylor summarizes the article's main points at Between Two Worlds.]

The C.S. Lewis Foundation sponsors seminars and conferences, including one called Oxbridge, in Oxford and Cambridge, which, unfortunately for me, always falls during our General Conference.

In Pursuit of Truth | A Journal of Christian Scholarship

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Believer's baptism

Dr. Sam Storm highly recommends Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ.
If you haven't yet read Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, edited by Thomas R. Schreiner and Shawn D. Wright (B & H Academic), you are missing out on what is, in my opinion, the finest and most persuasive case for credo-baptism yet written. ....
The primary purpose of Dr. Storm's post is to argue that those who believe in infant baptism should not be excluded from communion in churches that practice believer's baptism.

Enjoying God Ministries

"What it meant is what it means"

Ben Witherington explains hermeneutics for people like me.

Ben Witherington: Hermeneutics-- A Guide for Perplexed Bible Readers

Liberal education

A column by George Leef summarizes a history of higher education in America's colleges and universities. Once, the goal was what was known as a "liberal education" [not to be confused with contemporary American liberalism]. Some excerpts:
A new paper just issued by the Pope Center, “From Christian Gentleman to Bewildered Seeker: The Transformation of American Higher Education” by Russell K. Nieli takes a sweeping view of college education in America, from the colonial days up to the present. Nieli shows that the point of going to college used to be the acquisition of a coherent body of knowledge about the world so that the individual might understand its interconnectedness. Today many schools offer the student nothing but a smorgasbord of courses that give little more than a bit of vocational training. Missing entirely is any effort at to achieve what used to be thought a “well-rounded” education.

Nieli’s purpose is to explain how this unhappy metamorphosis came about and he accomplishes that purpose beautifully.

Higher education in America began as a religious endeavor. Various Protestant sects established schools whose primary objective was the training of clergymen. Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth, Nieli reminds the reader, were created by Congregationalists; Princeton by Presbyterians; Penn, Columbia, and William and Mary by Episcopalians; Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Duke by Methodists, and so on. ....

Throughout the 19th and well into the 20th centuries, most colleges and universities in the United States had a curriculum solidly based in the liberal arts. Nieli points out that the thinkers of the Anglo-Scottish Enlightenment were widely read, including such notables as John Locke, Adam Smith, Joseph Butler and Thomas Reid. These authors “integrated moral, spiritual, and social concerns in varying ways that tried to do justice to the dual imperatives of high morals and sound practical judgment.” In those days, the mission of colleges and universities was to train people for good citizenship, more than for particular occupations.

After the Civil War, however, some of the leading American universities started to copy the model of the research university that had developed in Germany. The crucial difference was that professors devoted much of their time to specialized research. While the liberal arts curriculum was not abandoned, the new research areas were where “the action” was. They proliferated and the numbers of courses available in each discipline grew. Literature and the humanities declined in importance, says Nieli, as “natural science, economics, and vocationally-oriented graduate and business programs” increased. The result: “a clear loss of educational cohesiveness and shared educational mission,” says Nieli. ....

Nieli refers to the “destructive generation” – professors and compliant administrators in the 1960s and 70s who wanted to banish the remnants of the traditional curriculum in favor of a kaleidoscope of courses on multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism and other “isms.” Then, in a famous confrontation at Stanford in the 1980s, activists chanted “hey, hey, ho, ho, Western culture’s got to go” in their quest to get rid of a part of the curriculum that required students to study key aspects of western civilization. They won. In the spring of 1988, Stanford dropped a three-semester core that focused on classics of western philosophy and literature, replacing it with courses on “oppressed groups” and their views. Often, the students were not so much taught about different cultures as taught that western culture is uniquely bad. [read it all]
The John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy : American Higher Education: From Butterfly to Caterpillar to What?

September 2007 Sabbath Recorder Online

The September, 2007, Sabbath Recorder is available online here as a pdf. This issue provides extensive coverage of the recently held General Conference sessions at George Fox University, including program, business, and lots of pictures.

This issue also announces that next year Conference will be held August 3-9 at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The President of General Conference for 2007-2008 is Pastor Andrew Samuels of the Miami Seventh Day Baptist Church in Florida, who has chosen as his theme “A Limitless God for a Hungry People.” The Recorder includes his first President's column introducing the theme:
It is hungry people who are fed. It is hungry people who grow. It is a hungry people who seek and mature, and develop and multiply.

When fruit is not being borne and multiplication is not taking place, growth doesn’t happen. The natural result is death.

So, if we are not hungry enough to seek God so we can be fed by Him—not only to stay alive, but to thrive—maybe we are slowly on our way to the “place of the dead.”

I believe our limitless God has asked me to invite Seventh Day Baptists to become a hungry people. Hence our new Conference theme, “A Limitless God for a Hungry People.”

My desire is that next year's Conference becomes a collision between a limitless God and a hungry people. May that collision take place in all our churches throughout the year and beyond.
Also in the Recorder, are memory verses related to the theme for each month of the coming year [beginning in October].

"You've got to serve somebody"

Via RightWingBob:

 
And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Joshua 24:15

RightWingBob.com » Kennedy Center Honors

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Read!


Bob Kauflin again - on the value of reading, and reading, and reading.

Worship Matters: What - Me Read?

Baptism and worship

Bob Kauflin's church has incorporated baptism into the regular worship service, much as most churches make communion part of worship:
Water baptism doesn't save anyone, but it is the biblical sign that a person's sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, and that we've been united with Christ in his death and resurrection (1Cor. 6:9-11; Rom. 6:3-4). It also seals that fact that we've begun a new life in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). In view of its significance, we'll be making changes in our practice of baptism that strengthen these biblical convictions. One of the most evident is starting to include water baptisms regularly in our Sunday meetings, potentially even twice a month.
Worship Matters: Baptism and Worship

Wishful thinking

"Pale Ebenezer though it wrong to fight, but
Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right."
Hilaire Belloc

"To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."
George Washington

There is, of course, an ancient, sincere, and distinguished tradition of Christian pacifism, which argues that violence may never be directed against another person, regardless of the threat that person may pose to other innocent human beings. That has not been the position ever held by most Christians, at least since they had any responsibility for public peace and order. In any event, the "Peace Racket," of which Bruce Bawer writes, isn't Christian in motivation, and its success would weaken the West while justifying every action of our enemies:
We need to make two points about this movement at the outset. First, it’s opposed to every value that the West stands for—liberty, free markets, individualism—and it despises America, the supreme symbol and defender of those values. Second, we’re talking not about a bunch of naive Quakers but about a movement of savvy, ambitious professionals that is already comfortably ensconced at the United Nations, in the European Union, and in many nongovernmental organizations. ....

The Peace Racket’s boundaries aren’t easy to define. It embraces scores of “peace institutes” and “peace centers” in the U.S. and Europe, plus several hundred university peace studies programs. ... Many primary and secondary schools also teach peace studies in some form. ....

Their founding father is a 77-year-old Norwegian professor, Johan Galtung, who established the International Peace Research Institute in 1959 and the Journal of Peace Research five years later. Invariably portrayed in the media as a charismatic and (these days) grandfatherly champion of decency, Galtung is in fact a lifelong enemy of freedom. In 1973, he thundered that “our time’s grotesque reality” was—no, not the Gulag or the Cultural Revolution, but rather the West’s “structural fascism.” He’s called America a “killer country,” accused it of “neo-fascist state terrorism,” and gleefully prophesied that it will soon follow Britain “into the graveyard of empires.” [read the entire article]
Every student of international relations, and especially "peace studies," should be compelled to watch Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years, 1929 - 1939

The Peace Racket by Bruce Bawer, City Journal Summer 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

Baptism and church membership

"He who promised is faithful"

Michael Spencer writes about the confusion of many evangelicals when they are asked to answer the question "what happens to a person when they die with unconfessed sin?" Many [most?] seem to think that "works, merit, synergism, cooperation with God, credit for good intentions, God waving the standards, points for sincerity and so on," are necessary for salvation. [read it all] He suggests some of the reasons for the error and then reminds us:

.... You could never say enough. You could never be sorry enough. You could never confess sincerely enough or completely enough. At the end of your confession, God would say “All your righteousness is filthy rags in comparison to my law's demands.” Not the labor of my hands - or my best attempt at confession - can fulfill the law’s demands. Christ’s perfect confession for us is “It is finished.” From there, “there is no condemnation,” deathbed or otherwise.

What wondrous love is this, O my soul?

internetmonk.com » Blog Archive » Riffs: 08:20:07: The White Horse Inn on Dying With Unconfessed Sin

Westerns

On the other hand, Ross Douthat is encouraged by advance reviews for some of the films coming this fall.
...I certainly wouldn't object to a larger revival of the Hollywood Western. It isn't my favorite genre by any means, but given that we've probably hit a creative wall - for a while, at least - where mob movies are concerned, Hollywood needs to find some mythic American stories that don't involve kryptonite or the Batmobile, and the Western is an obvious place to go looking for material.
And Gene Edward Veith just watched an older western, Pale Rider:
...in which Clint Eastwood plays a gun-slinging preacher, who - in the primal Western plot - defends the peaceful settlers against the corrupt big landowner whose minions are trying to run them out. This man of the cloth is more law than gospel, but he comes off as a fascinating, complex, formidable character.
Ross Douthat (August 20, 2007) - The Way West (Movies), Cranach: Movie preachers

His dark materials

Ross Douthat comments on a number of films that will be released this fall. He isn't encouraged. Among them is the film of a book that was intentionally written to counter what Philip Pullman - "one of England’s most outspoken atheists" - considered the bad influence of the Narnia tales. Apparently the film is somewhat less than explicit about its villains:

...The Golden Compass, adapted from Philip Pullman's Narnia-for-atheists trilogy, is apparently just a story about a clash between a generic good and a generic evil, and any resemblance between the bad guys and any major Western religion is entirely coincidental:
"Conspicuously absent, for instance, is any reference to Catholicism; instead, the malevolent organization that snatches children to surgically remove their souls is referred to in the movie only as the Magisterium. 'It has been watered down a little,' admits Kidman, who stars as the icily evil Mrs. Coulter. Not that she's complaining. Quite the contrary. 'I was raised Catholic,' she says. 'The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn't be able to do the film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic.'"
I'm not sure which I prefer - this kind of gutless BS, or straightforward anti-Catholicism. ....
Ross Douthat (August 20, 2007) - The Courage of Their Convictions (Movies)

God’s Name

The Wittenberg Door comments about confusion regarding the use of God's name.

The Wittenberg Door: Rome, the PCUSA, and God’s Name

Math atheists have rights, too


Silence

Composer Andrew Waggoner believes too much has been lost by the omnipresence of sound:
Reflection, discernment, a sustainable sense of tranquility, of knowing where and how to find oneself - these are only the most obvious casualties of marauding noise's march to the sea. Much more insidious has been the loss of music itself. [more]
NewMusicBox

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Online books by John Piper

The Desiring God site has made several books by John Piper available to read online or download here [as PDF]. They include:
A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards

A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer

Amazing Grace in the Life of William Wilberforce

Counted Righteous in Christ: Should We Abandon the Imputation of Christ's Righteousness?

God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself
And about a dozen others with some also translated into other languages.

Online Books by Title :: Desiring God

Camper Bug Report

In my youth [long ago] I was forced to attend church camps and retreats. I don't go camping anymore. I object to picnics. In a special report, The New Yorker makes clear the wisdom of my preferences by calling attention to some of the horrors which await. For example:
THE GIANT SANDWICH SPIDER, hatched deep within the tiny air pockets in soft white bread...

Sneakers or hiking boots left under your bunk will quickly attract the RED-EYED HYENA SPIDER...

Lured by the sound of human snoring, the nocturnal DIVING FURRY FUZZ MOTH buzzes in through cabin windows and heads straight for the nearest oral cavity...
And that's not all. Go to the article [with illustrations].

Camper Bug Report: Online Only: The New Yorker

Friday, August 17, 2007

Is baptism a requirement for church membership?

SBC Witness addresses the question.

Should Baptists Require Baptism for Church Membership? | SBC Witness

Lee Strobel's case for reality

The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel.

Woodmen Valley Chapel: Listen Online

God's provision

The Internet Monk takes on "The Prosperity Gospel" and does a useful job of defining it and distinguishing it from the Gospel of Christ.

What it is, and is not:
The Prosperity Gospel…
1) is NOT God’s promise to meet the needs of his people as an expression of his Fatherly kindness within his sovereign will.

2) is NOT God’s old covenant physical blessings to Israel and its kings.

3) is NOT the Bible’s teaching of blessing by the will of God expressed through the consequences of wise choices or the consequences of obedience.
The Bible teaches us that if “we seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and its righteousness, all these things will be added....” This is not, however, an appeal to materialism or the desire for wealth. It is dependence on God - and on the freedom of God - to provide in whatever situation we find ourselves. God’s provision is not a promise to enrich, but to provide as needed for our lives as we live out his Kingdom’s purposes.

The Prosperity Gospel…
A) is the presumption that God wants us to be rich.

B) is the assumption that the blessings of the Gospel are material and financial blessings now.

C) is a denial and replacement of the true meaning of “give us this day our daily bread.”

D) is the replacement of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in the New Testament with a method that causes God to bestow material and financial blessings on anyone who uses the method. ....
Read it all.

internetmonk.com » Blog Archive » What Is The Prosperity Gospel?

"The worst form of government..."

Ross Douthat posts, this morning, about "The Myth of the Rational Voter" and includes this report from ONN:

In The Know: Candidates Compete For Vital Idgit Vote
"Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Sir Winston Churchill, November 11, 1947
Ross Douthat (August 17, 2007) - The Myth of the Rational Voter (Politics)

What do emerging churches believe?

GetReligion comments on [and links to] a series of articles in the Austin American-Statesman about the "emergent church movement."

What do emerging churches believe? » GetReligion

"Hearts and minds"

"Vacationing with Jesus," an article about Vacation Bible School [VBS] in the Wall Street Journal this morning.

OpinionJournal - Taste

Evangelical economics

Jordan Ballor at the Acton Institute answers the question "Is there a uniquely evangelical Christian view of economics?"
Yes and no.

The answer is no if what you mean is there a single, coherent, overarching and exhaustively detailed economic system that is unequivocally endorsed by the evangelical tradition’s view of Scripture.

From the fact that there is no single evangelical economic worldview, it does not follow that every economic option is equally valid. There are economic systems or worldviews that are unequivocally excluded by evangelical views on these matters.

One such set of excluded views would be economic materialism, exemplified for instance in Marxism. And as I’ve said before another economic worldview incompatible with biblical Christianity is anarcho-capitalism.

So, is there (or ought there be) an (unofficial,unstated) evangelical creed on economics? Again, it depends on how you view creeds.

If you see them as doctrinal statements that define the parameters of orthodoxy, setting up the boundaries beyond which is heterodoxy, but within which there is freedom for diverse expression and thought, then sure, there is and should be an evangelical economic creed. It should exclude economic positions that are incompatible with the basic tenets of Christian faith and practice.
Confessing Evangelical Economics - Acton Institute PowerBlog

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House

The first Seventh Day Baptist church in North America was in Newport, Rhode Island. The congregation began meeting in 1671. Its second house of worship, erected in 1730, has been preserved by the Newport Historical Society. The design is both simple and elegant.
The new building, erected in 1730, was laid out in the "meeting house plan," typical of many colonial churches in the 17th century. The members of these churches were intent on purifying the excesses of the Church of England and the Catholic Church, and their reforming zeal was also directed at church architecture. The meeting house plan avoided any suggestion of the crucifix, the heart of the floorplan of the Catholic churches and cathedrals of Europe.

Instead, the Seventh Day Baptists built a simple, almost square building that looked like a modest house from the outside. The door was on the long side of the building and the pulpit was on the opposite wall facing the door. The room was filled with box pews. Two aisles down either side completed the symmetry of the floorplan.

Munday's building was simple in plan, but elaborate in the detail and virtuostic in the execution of the woodworking. Complex moldings, raised bolection paneling, and beautifully hand carved balusters on the staircase leading to the wineglass pulpit all attest not only to Munday's skill but to the craftsmanship of his workmen. [more]
NHS/The Seventh Day Baptist Meeting House

Assurance of Salvation

Perseverance, Assurance, and Righteousness
Rodney L. Henry

In the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, the question is “Will the believer who has been regenerated, justified, adopted by God, and united with Christ continue to permanently be saved, no matter what he does?” In other words, will a person who becomes a Christian always remain a Christian? Or is salvation of the believer somehow conditional? In other words, can a believer lose his salvation?

What a person believes regarding the doctrine of perseverance of the saints has practical consequences for Christian living.
  • If there is no guarantee that salvation is permanent, believers may experience anxiety and insecurity that will detract from the task of Christian living, hope, and joy.
  • If our salvation is absolutely secure, then there may be a tendency toward moral and spiritual indifference.
Therefore, a study of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is worth our time. We will examine both points of view and finally examine my point of view on this matter.

All sides on this matter agree on many points.
  • They agree that God is faithful to keep all his promises.
  • They agree that salvation is by faith and not by works.
  • They agree that the Holy Spirit is at work in all believers.
Like so many beliefs, there are good and Godly people who hold to different positions on this doctrine.

Perseverance of the Saints

The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints holds that once a person has been saved they will persevere as Christians until their death. In other words they believe that once a person is saved their salvation is absolutely secure. There are several Biblical texts that support the doctrine of once saved always saved or the perseverance of the saints.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. I Peter 1:3-5
This text says that our inheritance or salvation…
  • can never perish, spoil, or fade.
  • is kept for us in heaven.
  • is shielded by God’s power until the last time.
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30
This text says that our eternal life or salvation…
  • can never perish.
  • no one can snatch the saved from the hands of Jesus.
  • no one can snatch the saved from the hands of the Father.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
This text teaches that there is nothing in heaven or earth that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6
This text teaches that God does not merely give us salvation and then abandon us to our own efforts. When we are saved God begins a good work in us that he will carry on until our death or the second coming of Jesus.
And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day. 2 Timothy 1:11, 12
This text teaches that Jesus is able to guard our salvation until He comes again.


Conditional Salvation

There are those Christians who do not believe in the perseverance of the saints. They believe that it is possible to lose their salvation because of sin and apostasy (a falling away from faith).

Their strongest argument for this position is that Jesus and the New Testament writers consistently warn believers of the dangers of being led astray. Their point is, why would Jesus and the New Testament writers issue a warning about being led astray, if they could not be led astray and lose their salvation?
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Hebrews 2:1
This is a text that warns the believer to not “drift away” from the gospel we have heard and believed.
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Colossians 1:21-23
This text teaches that salvation is conditional…
  • if you continue in the faith.
  • if you remain established and firm.
  • if you are not moved from the hope in the gospel.
Those who believe in conditional salvation also base their belief on texts which apparently teach that people do lose their salvation.
It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Hebrews 6:4-6
This key text is saying that it is possible for believers to fall away from their faith. It also teaches that those who have completely fallen away from Christ have made it impossible to be brought back to repentance.

Righteousness for Salvation

It is easy to see why there are Godly people who believe differently on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. There seem to be scriptures that prove both sides of the doctrine. All of the scriptures are inspired by God. How can we reconcile what the Bible says on both sides of this doctrine?

I believe that the solution lies in understanding the importance and role of righteousness in the salvation of the believer. Understanding righteousness is central to our understanding of salvation because from Genesis to Revelation, only the righteous will be saved.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. Phillipians 3:7-9
Paul actually lost all things for the sake of Christ Jesus his Lord. Paul gave up his freedom, his status, his achievements, and his money. In fact, Paul lost everything and considered it all "rubbish," compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus. The things of this world that seemed so valuable to him before Christ, were like trash compared to gaining a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Next, Paul moves on to the centrality of righteousness as the basis of a saving relationship with Jesus. There can be no salvation without righteousness. Righteousness is right conduct in the context of a right relationship with God. We must be righteous by receiving the perfect righteousness of God as a gift by faith. God imputes righteousness to the believer by faith.

In our text, Paul tells us two things about the essential and fundamental matter of righteousness. First, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law. It is impossible to be saved by keeping the law. The reason is that the righteousness that comes from keeping the law is imperfect righteousness that comes from human effort. Paul in Romans 3:10, 12, tells us that, there is no one righteous, not even one... There is no one who does good, not even one.

The good news is that God wants us to abandon our own righteousness so that we can accept God’s righteousness. So the first thing we know about saving righteousness is that it is not produced by human effort.

Second, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, - but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. - Only God’s righteousness can save - because only perfect righteousness can save.

Remember, righteousness is right conduct in the context of a right relationship with God. So, where will we find perfect conduct in the context of a perfect relationship with God? Perfect righteousness can only come from God.

Only Jesus lived a perfect life, in a perfect relationship with God, the Father. Only Jesus had 100% pure righteousness created by his perfect conduct and perfect relationship. Somehow we must obtain the righteousness of Jesus Christ so that we can stand in the intimate presence of the holy God. This righteousness is something we must have in order to have eternal life.

The righteousness of Jesus Christ is like a robe, a robe of righteousness. Isaiah 61:10 says, "For he has clothed me with garments of salvation, and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness." Jesus' perfect life on earth was a process of weaving and sewing together a robe of righteousness.
  • Every act of compassion was a stitch in the robe.
  • Every act of humility was a stitch in the robe.
  • Every act of obedience to his Father, was a stitch in the robe.
Finally, with his death on the cross the robe of righteousness was complete. He declared on the cross, "it is finished." And now that he has been resurrected, the robe of righteousness is available to us who will accept the robe by faith.

Jesus knit together the pure robe of righteousness with his perfect conduct in the context of a perfect relationship. And now the Heavenly Father is reaching down out of heaven and offering this robe to you. Do you want it?

You will want the robe of righteousness only to the extent that you understand the worthlessness of your own righteousness. Personal sin calls us to the righteousness of Jesus. If you believe that you are a sinner in need of salvation, then take the robe of Jesus.

Simply put on the robe of righteousness by faith. Trust that the person and death of Jesus will cover your sin so that you can be saved from sin and judgment.

You can't earn the robe and you can’t deserve it. It is offered to us for free. However, it was not cheap. It cost Jesus his life. But it is still free to us. We simply put on the robe by faith. It is ours as a gift.

As we put on the robe of righteousness, the filthy rags of our own righteousness will be covered. All our sins will be covered. Our present and future standing before God will always be based on the righteousness of Jesus and not our own righteousness.

With the robe of righteousness we can stand in the intimate presence of God's holiness with boldness. Our standing before God is based on the righteousness of Jesus which we wear by faith.

However, God has a plan for our lives under the robe. God’s robe of righteousness is what we wear over our imperfect lives. Under the robe is imperfect believers who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Under the robe God is purifying us to be more like Jesus. This is sanctification. Our standing before God is not based on this process of sanctification but on the robe of righteousness. The robe of righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus and not our own righteousness which is as “filthy rags.”

Let’s go back to our discussion of the perseverance of the saints. I believe that we can put together scripture on both sides of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints based on our understanding of righteousness.


Resolution through Understanding Righteousness

The best way that I can understand the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is to see that God’s plan is that all believers will persevere in their salvation until the end. God provides everything so that once the believer is saved, he will remain saved.

However, there are texts that warn against losing salvation and state the possibility of losing salvation. I believe that the only way to lose salvation is to consciously and knowingly reject the righteousness of Jesus. Sin alone will not cause a person to lose his salvation. But sin in the context of rejecting the righteousness of Jesus will cause a person to lose his salvation.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26-27
Here the text teaches us that there are several conditions that cause a saved person to lose his salvation. The former believer must…
  • deliberately keep on sinning.
  • trample the Son of God under foot.
  • treat as an unholy thing the blood of Jesus.
  • insult the Holy Spirit.
From this text it is clear that losing salvation and coming under the judgment and punishment of God is no easy matter for a believer.

We can see that it is not just sin that causes a person to lose salvation. All believers are sinners but they are forgiven sinners covered with the perfect righteousness of Jesus. Losing salvation is a conscious rejection of Jesus, his righteousness, his blood, and the Holy Spirit. This is not done by accident. This is not done unconsciously.


Assurance of Salvation

All believers can rejoice that their salvation is assured. Nothing can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus. No one can snatch the believer from the hands of God. Assurance of salvation comes from a deep personal conviction from the Holy Spirit and from the authoritative Word of God.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:16-17
Assurance of salvation comes from a deep personal conviction created by the Holy Spirit in the heart and spirit of a believer.
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. I John 5:13 - 13
Assurance of salvation rests on the authoritative testimony of the Word of God and what it says about the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Rod Henry is the pastor of the Next Step Christian Church, a Seventh Day Baptist Church in the Denver, Colorado, area.

©2007 NEXT STEP CHRISTIAN CHURCH

Next Step Christian Church: Eternal Security