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The Lure of Rome – A Discussion with Dr. W. Robert Godfrey and R. Scott Clark

The Lure of Rome (MP3) – Westminster Seminary California

This was a great discussion on why so many evangelicals are leaving their respective churches for Rome. It also explains the perils of not understanding what they are leaving their churches for. Highly recommended! They cover a ton of ground.

In addition, I once read or heard (can’t remember) a person saying they converted to Catholicism because they were “tired of worshiping God under a basketball goal.” Obviously not a good theological reason to convert for sure, but they have a point which I can appreciate. Obviously we must worship God in spirit and in truth for sure. But I do fail to understand what moves many evangelical churches to make their sanctuary and churches as dull as possible. Anyway, enjoy!

The Gospel-Centeredness of John Calvin – The Gospel as the Foundation Unto Progressing in Holiness

Excerpted from the Institutes of the Christian  Religion, Book III, Chapter XV, Section 5, Christ as the Sole Foundation, As Beginner and Perfecter.

The below section from Calvin’s Institutes is an excellent summary of the foundation of Gospel-centered sanctification (progressing and maturing in holiness). Any other application of teaching apart from this foundation is basing our progression in the faith, at some level, upon our own working and toiling to “be good” (which is an oxymoron in light of Scripture), as opposed to submitting ourselves to His sovereign working in us of what is already true of us by the declaration of our justification before God’s throne. Living in light of what is already true of us in Christ is itself the motivation unto holiness. As Albert Mohler pointed out in his talk from the Together for the Gospel conference in 2010, “The Reformation was all about the recovery of The Gospel; the means of reforming the church was The Gospel.” This excerpt from Calvin is a perfect summary of what this means.

Only by a constant orientation to the Gospel, in particular that Christ is our righteousness (having none of our own with which to offer God in exchange for the eternal life of our souls), are we going to progress in holiness. Any other teaching is using law as a means unto progression in holiness which results in burnout, deadness, legalism, and oddly enough, legalism itself actually winds up resulting in the worst forms of license. The law was given by God to expose how far we fall short, not an instrument to motivate us unto holiness. It is an instrument whose design is to bring us low, to bring us into humility before God, so that we see how great the love of Christ is in the Gospel, that He Himself fulfilled the law in our place, died our death in our place, and rose again to seal, give life, and confirm all He has accomplished in our place. He is righteousness. Calvin shows us just how great this Gospel is and how it is the only true motivator unto holiness.

“…Christ, when we acknowledge Him, is given us to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. He alone is well founded in Christ who has perfect righteousness in himself: since the apostle [Paul] does not say that He was sent to help us attain righteousness but Himself to be our righteousness [1 Cor. 1:30]. Indeed, he states that “He has chosen us in Him” from eternity “before the foundation of the world,” through no merit of our own “but according to the purpose of divine good pleasure” [Eph. 1:4-5, cf. Vg.]; that by His death we are redeemed from condemnation of death and freed from ruin [cf. Col. 1:14, 20]; that we have been adopted unto Him as sons and heirs by our Heavenly Father [cf. Rom. 8:17; Gal. 4:5-7]; that we have been reconciled through His blood [Rom. 5:9-10]; that, given into His protection, we are released from the danger of perishing and falling [John 10:28]; that thus ingrafted into Him [cf. Rom. 11:19] we are already, in a manner, partakers of eternal life, having entered in the Kingdom of God through hope. Yet more: we experience such participation in Him that, although we are still foolish in ourselves, He is our wisdom before God; while we are sinners, He is our righteousness; while we are unclean, He is our purity; while we are weak, while we are unarmed and exposed to Satan, yet ours is that power which has been given Him in heaven and on earth [Matt. 28:18], by which to crush Satan for us and shatter the gates of hell; while we still bear about with us the body of death, He is yet our life. In brief, because all His things are ours and we have all things in Him, in us there is nothing. Upon this foundation, I say, we must be built if we would grow into a holy temple to the Lord [cf. Eph. 2:21].”

US in Depression and What it Means for the Church in America

The ‘D’ word is being uttered in the mainstream now. Despite whatever the media says concerning the ‘jobless recovery’ we’re in (which is a complete oxymoron) or the ‘summer recovery’ we’ve begun that Obama touted as truth last month, all indicators are pointing to the fact that the US is officially entering an era of economic depression, something not seen in my or my dad’s generation.

The numbers tell the story. A couple of articles in particular are pointing to this fact. One on CNBC, the other by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph. In addition, even liberal, Keynesian economist Paul Krugman from the New York Times is calling this the beginning of the Third Depression, as I talked about in my last entry. He is dead wrong on how to fix it, but his diagnosis is correct.

On Conversations About the Future of the Church

I keep seeing an ad on the right column of Facebook talking about the need “for a new conversation about the future of the church” … and my question is when did the existing “conversation” end, and better yet, why does it have to keep going on and on as if there is no definition laid out for us in Scripture?

In our gatherings on Sunday we need 1) Biblical worship that incorporates Scripture and solid doctrine, 2) Gospel-centered, exegetical preaching of the Word and sacrament (Michael Horton), which 3) the Holy Spirit uses to supernaturally transform His people more and more into the likeness of Christ, who 4) then take the Gospel out to the world through word and deed in their daily lives.

The Importance of Marriage in Society and the Church

When Courtney and I were engaged on October 12, 2000, she was 19 and I was 21, 20 and 22 when married on June 8, 2001. As the news began spreading about our engagement, we had a lot of people cheering us on, very excited to share with us in the joy-filled experience. However, there were also many nay-sayers (in particular, leaders and pastors) who voiced their thoughts that we were “too young,” “not mature enough,” or “not financially stable enough”. In all statistical reality, the odds were stacked against us. My family was dysfunctional with a mother who had multiple personalities, and Courtney’s family was dysfunctional, resulting in her parents divorcing when she was 13.

So I can see where people were concerned. And while I appreciated the concern, knowing it came from a genuine love for us, and knowing the staggering statistics of divorce within the church and the appropriate fear that something similar might befall us being married at such a young age, something never seemed right about their perspective. When I think back upon the arguments that were posited as to why we should wait, I cannot help but think that much of their perception (though not all of it) came not from the Scriptures, but from the worldly culture around us, and what it deems to be correct concerning marriage preparation.

By the cultures’ standards, sure, we were too young. I mean, you need to be done with college, be done with your masters degree even, you need to be in a stable job, have some money saved up, you need to live single-life first before you’re “tied down” and enjoy some things, right? You need to do this, do that, A, B, C, blah, blah. However, all of the aforementioned points are things the world values more than glorifying God through the work of Christ, which, though I cannot know my own heart for it is deceitful above all things, yet I can honestly say Courtney and I desired and pursued (imperfectly) to found our marriage upon the bedrock which is Christ. We wanted Him to be at the center, though we were and are imperfect in this task.

I can honestly say looking back now that I would totally get married at a young age again. There has not been a thing I have regretted. I have missed out on nothing and have even got to experience everything with my best-friend. Most of the apprehensions people have about missing out on things after getting married is totally unfounded. Maybe they obtained this idea from looking at broken marriages? Our culture values education, money, success, materialism … on and on the list goes of things that are not God. As God’s people, we value His glory and reconciliation to it through the Gospel as more important than anything. Despite the warnings, Courtney and I prayed, consulted the Scriptures, and still felt led to marry, even though I had not finished school and was starting a low-paying job at a bank.

Some of the concerns raised by these leaders were correct concerns though, and they translated into our pre-marital counseling, which greatly affected our thinking concerning marriage. We read the statistics within the church and were shocked. They are sobering, to say the least. On top of that, Courtney and I read the book Reforming Marriage by Douglas Wilson which so beautifully showed from the Scriptures that marriage is not a contract (which is how it is portrayed in our culture) but is a covenant; a covenant, in fact, that is the clearest picture of the covenant relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. This greatly affected our picture of marriage.

It was made apparent to me during these times, from the conglomeration of sources inputing their thoughts, how serious marriage was. It was not something to play around with or to treat lightly. It is something that requires work, diligence, and careful attention to maintaining our focus upon Christ. It is not just something you can throw around like other trite things in life that come and go. It had weight to it, weight that could fundamentally alter relationships for a life-time, for either good or bad, that would change the course of the rest of your own life and others’ as well. We went over the Scriptures concerning marriage and were struck with Jesus’ statements as it pertained to divorce in particular. “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery” (Luke 14:16). Whoa.

Evangelicals talk a whole lot about just letting the Scriptures speak on certain things, yet when we come to verses like this (and other really hard verses) we want to gut what it is saying so we can continue to live our lives uninterrupted, living our lives in the way we want without being cut by the harshness of the words. Being molded into conformity with Christ is painful to our fleshly nature, because it has been, you know, crucified with Christ. Yet there is still some reeling of that sinful nature against the holiness of God, because when someone is crucified, they don’t die right away. Paul was very specific in using that analogy.

Regardless, in coming upon the verse above in Luke as well as others, Courtney and I realized something together: divorce is not even an option. We were in this thing for the long haul, literally, ’til death do us part. In our culture, we tend to think very much in terms of “choices” and “rights”. The thinking goes, “Well, we can choose to back out of this at any moment down the road. Therefore, we need a prenuptial agreement to plan for that event so in the case that we are so emotionally upset at each other, we don’t ruin one another financially.” There’s another term for this: risk management. This thinking leaves open the possibility and maybe even probability (depending on the relationship) for a future divorce and it absolutely distrusts God that He can and even will provide the means to make the marriage last, the means provided through the cross of His own Son, Jesus, clearly spoken to us in His Word.

However, God seems pretty one-way about this whole marriage thing, does not give you a whole lot of options and “rights,” that is if you get into it, do not even seek to get out of it. In fact, if you get married, you are going to give up your “rights” in the service of your spouse, just as Christ gave Himself up for us. It’s not an option. And if you get out of it while your spouse is still alive, you had better not marry someone else, for the rest of your life, or there will be consequences, even relational consequences with God, i.e. the witness of His Spirit in your life.

To get out of a marriage is to slap God in the face concerning Himself and His plan of redemption even. Marriage is a picture of His salvific work to save His people in His Son. To skew that picture or to alter it is to make a bold proclamation (to Him in particular) that His plan is null and void, that it possesses no power. That is a lie. This is harsh to the sinful human soul to hear, and most people, even in the church, shudder at such an idea, because many are divorced and would not think of their divorce as a slap in the face of God. Yet Jesus said that if you divorce and remarry, you commit adultery. Is not all sin itself a back slap in God’s face? Is adultery any different? This just seems like clear language to me. We reap what we sow, though we ourselves may be saved through faith in Christ.

We like to have our “options open” our “right” to leave whenever we dern feel like it isn’t working out. Yet that it is not Biblical and totally unsubmissive to God and the opposite response we should have in the church in light of Christ crucified on our behalf. All of this really gave Courtney and I great perspective on marriage. It is a concrete deal once it is done. I saw the importance to take great care and concern in not only preparing for our wedding day, but most importantly preparing for after we were married and cultivating our marriage in a way that honors Christ. Have I failed many times? Yes, I’m a sinner. To say I have not failed would be a lie. Yet I praise God for His unending mercy and grace, because it is in that very grace of the Gospel I have been able to continue the cultivation to this day, albeit imperfectly, stumbling at times. God’s grace alone is the only reason our marriage has been so great, I take no credit. If anything has gone right, I owe it to God working in and through both of us.

Many people seem to view marriage as a legal, long-term dating relationship, where you live together, get to share finances, benefit from each other in different ways, etc. But if it just doesn’t work out, oh well. Move on to yet another relationship. This is so skewed and twisted from the Scriptural mandate of what marriage is though. Marriage is vital, both to individuals, but also to society. Divorce should not be an option. But if you do divorce, you should under no conditions get remarried as long as the other person is alive. Only by the spouses death are you freed to remarry. (To consult the Scriptures related to this, look at Piper’s position paper on Divorce and Remarriage below). These are hard truths, but they highlight the absolute importance God places upon marriage in relation to the Gospel. It is not something to be messed around with and treated lightly. This is especially true within the church, where the divorce rate is just as high and in many cases worse than the cultures’ rate. This to me is telling of where “believers'” faith lies, though by no means is that conclusive, just indicative.

Many Christians seem to value putting into their kids lives the foundations for success in the worlds’ eyes, all the while neglecting the health of their souls and preparing them for a godly marriage, godly leadership, godly submission, and spiritual success within an idolatrous, blasphemous culture. I’m not negating the importance of a good education, discipline, and an excellent work ethic. If anyone knows me, they know I love these things. These should be pursued and must if we are to maintain a vibrant economy and nation. But what is the church specifically valuing as success? Money or God? Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money.” I cannot tell you how many parents I see squandering the vast resources they possess that are wrapped up in the service of education and (spiritually) fatal monetary success. The morality in their kids lives is just there for reinforcement so they don’t make dumb mistakes and ruin their materialistic, “American Dream” success, the final end of all their goals, not Christ.

We are setting our kids up for spiritual failure if we value their education and worldly success more than their spiritual success and glorifying Christ with their lives. We need to be putting into our children that Christ is more valuable than all the riches of the world, first and foremost, and actually live that out in our marriages, by His strength and power. We need to be showing them both in words and deeds that Christ is the supreme one, who we’ve rebelled against, who has paved a way for reconciliation to the most valuable one in all the universe, God Himself. Yes education is important, but not at the expense of your child’s soul. Christian’s nod at this in theory and then in practice it falls to the ground, because still, the end goal is worldly success. This makes me sad.

There’s nothing wrong with being a lawyer, a doctor, or a business person. But those are the three professions our culture puts up on a pedestal and defines as successful. And kids pursue them in college with ruthlessness, even if they hate it, because that is taught to them as what will make them happy and successful, just having a bunch of stuff and peaceful home life. Should we not be putting into our children to be successful husbands and wives to the glory of Christ and the spreading of the Gospel? Is this not what makes “successful” communities, even in the midst of economic distress, uncertainty, and persecution? A group of people in love with Christ, centering their families upon Him, desiring to proclaim Him as a family unit, something ordained by God in Genesis?

With the recent rulings on marriage and bioethics in Britain and California, yes, the culture around us is crumbling and the seeds of wickedness are sprouting into weeds and thorns. But before we go out and blame them for what they are doing, maybe we should point the finger inwardly and look at how we are treating and viewing marriage. Could it be the way we treat marriage so poorly in the church is making a statement to the world that “God [and His redemption] is not great,” since we don’t act on what He has said to us in the Scriptures?

May God have mercy on us and turn our hearts in repentance from how we have treated such a vastly important institution. May He move on me and my marriage as well and by His power alone keep me from falling into the same sins I have mentioned above. My heart wanders back and forth, to and fro, and I know it is only by God’s grace that I don’t turn away in disobedience. I am utterly reliant upon Him to be saved as well as to grow in Him. May we return to the Scriptures and see the vital importance of marriage in society and especially within the church, for the Gospel and God’s glory are at stake.

John Piper’s take on Divorce/Remarriage: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibr … ion_Paper/

Voddie Baucham: A Church’s Guide to the Family: http://www.gbc-capecoral.org/files/serm … 70804a.mp3

Christianity and Liberalism Written by J. Gresham Machen – A Review

Written in 1923, Machen addresses a system encroaching upon the church that would bring about the sure eclipse of the very Gospel itself within the 20th century. It is important to note from the outset that this liberalism is not at all the same as modern political liberalism, but is rather theological liberalism. In his day, J. Gresham Machen, at great cost to himself, fought against the theological and doctrinal accommodation of the scientific culture within the church, who were denying miracles and the supernatural based upon empirical scientific evidence. Despite many of his “brethren” in the day, he held out that we must adhere to the divine, supernatural nature of all that Christianity entails or else forfeit the Gospel itself: the divine inerrancy of the Scriptures, the nature and qualities of both God and man, that salvation is a supernatural work of God, that real people with real sins were atoned for by the blood of Christ, the human and divine natures of Christ, amongst many things that set Historic Christianity apart from all other religions devised by man out in the world.

The thinking of the forerunners of theological liberalism went like this, “In order to reach the scientifically enlightened culture we live in, it is not important to hold to a literal virgin birth, a literal resurrection, atonement through the cross, or any miracles really at all, mainly because these events cannot be empirically proven through scientific analysis and methods; we believe these things personally, but it is not important to hold to these things in light of science.” Because the church was increasingly falling prey to this and in danger of apostatizing from the Gospel itself as a result, Machen wrote this book in response and fought vigorously for the truth of the Scriptures, Orthodoxy, and Historic Christianity. While it is definitely possible the intentions of the original liberals were good in trying to reach a culture with Christ that had scientific empirical evidence as a presupposition when coming to the spiritual/supernatural statements of Christianity, the followers in its wake have basically denied Christianity of any supernatural and divine quality (which is how lives are effectually changed, i.e. God creates in people something that was not there through the cross of Christ). Theological liberalism essentially renders Christianity just another choice of moralistic religions, that we are all “basically good,” and can morally reform ourselves outside of God, amongst a host of other religions saying the same thing in principle.

I believe it is deeply and vastly important for modern believers in the Gospel to read this book, because there is a movement underway in our culture that is doing the same things as liberals of the early 20th century. The liberalism of the 20th century addressed the Modern era, and now the Emerging church (or new liberalism) addresses the postmodern era. With modernism there was scientific certainty; with postmodernism, there is total uncertainty and skepticism, and this has translated into the realm of spirituality (i.e. “we can’t really know anything for sure concerning who God is, what He’s like,” etc). While times have changed (philosophical/cultural thinking) and even science itself (there is increasing ambiguity concerning the very nature of particles and waves in the scientific community, i.e. what scientists thought they knew for sure in the 20th century concerning matter, anti-matter, and laws of physics, they are not so sure about now, based greatly upon quantum mechanics – so miracles and the supernatural are no longer deemed as impossible scientific propositions), the premise is the same in both ages: adopt the culture with its thinking, belief structure, and presuppositions in order to win the culture for Christ. Make Christianity attractive by bringing in the thinking of the world around us.

Sounds good right? I mean, at least on a surface level, the intention may be good, which is win people for Christ! But is it effective in the long run? As John Piper properly notes in an introduction to a sermon he preached, “If you adjust your doctrine to fit the world in order to attract the world, sooner or later the world realizes that they already have what the church offers. That was the story of much of mainline Protestantism in Europe and America in the 20th century. Adjust your doctrine – or just minimize doctrine – to attract the world, and in the very process of attracting them, lose the radical truth [the Gospel itself] that alone can set them free.”

In order to accommodate a postmodern culture in which we live, the Emerging Church has brought down doctrinal walls in order to win the culture. However, as history shows, this does not work. This movement will ultimately wind up blocking people from seeing, believing in, and enjoying the true Christ of the Scriptures (as opposed to the Jesus made in their own image and likeness), for which they will be held accountable before His White Throne judgment (may God have mercy on us all on that day). Emergents have themselves adopted postmodern thought within a “new” system of Christianity, that you cannot really know anything for sure, so there is no need to be dogmatic on doctrine. And in addition to this, they have in many cases totally redefined the Christian message altogether, where it is no longer distinguishable from that of other religions with their pseudo-pietistic, works-based approach to God. As with the liberalism in the 20th century that Machen addressed in this book, the Emerging Church will surely bring about the very eclipse of Christ and the Gospel (the good news of redemption!) itself in the 21st century. The Emerging Church is just version 2.0 of the theological liberalism of the 20th century. May we learn from history and glorify Jesus by adhering to His infallible Word, even if people hate us!

“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” – 1 Corinthians 1:23-34

If you want to read this book right now, go here (PDF):

Audio biography of J. Gresham Machen by John Piper (MP3):

John Piper’s sermon on Romans 9:1-5:

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith – Review by Dale Van Dyke:

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