Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book Review: The Art of Divine Contentment

The content of Thomas Watson's The Art of Divine Contentment is biblical and edifying.  On the subject of contentment, I still prefer the in-depth look found in The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs.  Thomas Watson gives a briefer overview: "In a word, a contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the Word, desires to be wholly at God's disposal, and cheerfully lives in whatever circumstances that God has placed him in," (~p.57).

Unfortunately, The Art of Divine Contentment (ISBN 1499323344) published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform has not been edited very well.  There are many grammatical errors throughout this short book: misspelling, improper punctuation, missing words, and incomplete sentences.  Also, there are no page numbers and the layout is not appealing.  It would have been useful if the publisher had used the Arabic numbers and Roman numerals within the text to help the reader follow Mr. Watson's arguments.

After the first two pages, it was difficult to continue reading this edition because of the blatant editing errors.  First, the Amazon.com book description does not indicate that this edition is updated with modern language and with modern Bible versions.  The Puritan Thomas Watson lived in the 17th century, so he would be quoting from the King James Bible.  However, the first two pages quote 5 different Bible translations, and two modern Bible verses directly quoted are misquoted because the word 'your' has been changed to 'our'.  A direct quote should use the exact words.  In addition, there's a missing word in the sentence on the first page: "The in the Greek...", and there are two incorrect Bible references on the second page: Ez. 12:1 should be Ez. 12:19 and 1 Cor. 4:4 should be 2 Cor. 4:4.

It should be noted that the editing problems are even noticeable in the publisher's book comments on the website: "This is one of Watson's most treasured works, and shares equal billing with Jeremiah Burrough's [sic] classic The Rare Jewel of Christian Continent [sic]. It was first published in a lithograph of a 19th century edition, but the publishers were compelled to retypest [sic] that work and publish it in an entirely new book so as to give an even broader readership [sic]"  Three spelling errors and one missing punctuation in only two sentences!

Given the obvious errors on just the first two pages, I have no confidence that I'm reading what Thomas Watson actually wrote on the subject of divine contentment.  I recommend reading The Art of Divine Contentment, but I strongly recommend avoiding this edition.


***
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God," (1 Cor. 10:31).

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Ignorance of Self-Reliance

On September 25, 2016, Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick of Arann Reformed Baptist Church preached a sermon titled "From Ignorance to Faith (1)" on John 8:25-27.  In part of his teaching, Pastor Fitzpatrick looked at the sanctifying work of God in a believer's life.  I've included my notes to encourage Christian's to look to Christ and His work on the cross as we battle our sinful flesh rather than relying on our own strength (which is powerless).  These notes are written in the third person rather than the first person as preached:

"There is no evidence that will convert a depraved sinner.  God must change them.  That's even true of believers now.  Every sin that a believer loves, it is ultimately only God who can remove the love of that sin, remove the habit of that sin; however, this does not give a believer an excuse to continue on and say that he will have to wait for God to change him.  Therefore, it's wrong for a believer to say after committing a sin: 'That's it; that's the last time I'll do that.  Lord, I'll never do that again.'  But that's exactly why God lets the believer do it again because it's worse to say that you'll never do a sin again, than doing the sin itself.  Saying that is pride.  It's speaking folly before God.  God allows a believer to sin so that he will know himself.  When a believer commits a sin, the reaction should not be to exalt his own character as the answer (by saying 'I'll never do that again').  No, no, what a believer does is say: 'Lord, now I know a little bit more of what I'm really like.  You've revealed a little bit more of my true nature.  My only plea is the blood of Christ; my only plea is the righteousness of Christ.'  Believers [who are self-reliant in combating sin] are like the Galatians who go back to their own obedience and works for God to be merciful to them.  But ignorance is without excuse and believers are not to be ignorant of God's working in their souls."


***
"Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?" (Gal. 3:3).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Permanency of a Christian Marriage

Pastor Jordan Hall hosts The Polemics Report podcast.  On September 7, 2016, he aired a podcast titled "Kent Hovind Gets Hitched" and aired another podcast on September 15, 2016, titled "Ecclesiastical Anarchists".  Both podcasts addressed the subject of the permanency of Christian marriage.  I've included my notes for these podcasts below (slightly edited for grammar and flow) because Pastor Hall's comments are greatly needed in today's Christian churches.  As a Christian, I do not believe in divorce except where the Bible explicitly allows it.  However, I never thought about the subject of remarriage from a biblical perspective as presented by Pastor Hall.  His comments have really shown the importance of marriage from a Gospel perspective and how Christians should not take their marriage vow lightly; which only makes sense given that the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church (Eph. 5:23) and husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it (Eph. 5:25).

My notes from Pastor Hall's September 7th podcast (~57:45):
 
"A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. The permanency view of marriage says that divorce is forbidden and there's no remarriage; a second form of this view is that divorce is allowed, but still no remarriage. The permissive view allows for divorce and remarriage.

Scripture has certain grounds for divorce. God gave one explicit grounds of divorce to Moses. Another one is in 1 Cor. 7; if the unbelieving spouse seeks to leave, you don't have to seek to get them back. One implied ground is abuse because of a biblical right of self-defense and safety for your family. Even if there's grounds for divorce, it doesn't necessitate remarriage being biblical. It's a life of singleness. However, the Gospel can change people.

An elder must be the husband of one wife. Is that one at a time, addressing polygamy? No, polygamy wasn't a thing [in the time of Paul's writing]; it's referring to divorce. We aren't pragmatists. If his first wife is still living, and he gets remarried, then he has two wives; that is the permanency or semi-permanency view of marriage. If both spouses are Christians, then in God's eyes they are still married, even if they are divorced. The Gospel can reconcile a sinner to a holy God, then it can also reconcile two sinners. Christians need to look at all issues through a biblical perspective."

Pastor Hall's comments were cut short in the previous podcast, so he finished his story and expounded his views on the next podcast.  Here are my notes from his September 15th podcast (~17:30):

"A Christian's view should be the permanency or semi-permanency view of marriage; not the permissive view of marriage where anyone can divorce and anyone can be remarried.

Let's say divorce is permitted or allowed under certain circumstances, it does not mean divorce has to happen. Biblical advice for divorce and remarriage should uphold and propagate the Gospel. In terms of marriage, if the Gospel can reconcile a sinner a God, the Gospel ought to be able to reconcile two sinners together.

In the semi-permanency view, there are individual circumstances in which remarriage can be biblical, but outside those circumstances remarriage is strictly forbidden. In the full permanency view, divorce is never permissible.

In Matthew 19, Mark 10, and Genesis 2, we see that God is bringing something together in marriage; it is something God is doing. Since God is doing it, we shouldn't be putting it asunder. So man leaves his father's house and he cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh. The first principle is that in marriage two become one flesh. How do you "unbecome" one flesh?

Matthew 5:32 implies that the woman remarries because that is the context found in the second half of that verse--anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. If the woman is divorced and a man marries her, he commits adultery. Why? Because they [the original spouses] are still one flesh. The only way to make verse 32 make sense, is recognizing that the adultery of the divorced woman implies the remarriage of the divorced woman when her first husband is still alive. If a divorced woman's first husband lives and a second man marries her, she commits adultery and he commits adultery.  The only exception is fornication in regards to the divorce and the remarriage .

A second exception is found 1 Cor. 7:15 when the unbelieving spouse separates, let it be so. Let the unbelieving spouse divorce, but it doesn't mean that you have to divorce. A Christian can not divorce an unbelieving spouse because they are an unbeliever. The unbeliever must file for divorce. If he/she wants to reconcile, the Christian must take them back.

There is a basic right of self-defense and a responsibility to protect one's children. In the case of spousal or child abuse there is an implicit right in the Bible for divorce.

Two believers have no right to divorce without adultery involved. When one or both parties are divorced, there's no right to remarry for two individuals who are professing Christians because under the Gospel they should be reconciling at some point and in some time with their first marriage partner. Why not? How terrible does that make the Gospel look?

If you are a Christian man in a difficult marriage with a believing wife and no one has committed adultery, but you still get divorced, then you need to get use to being celibate. If you want to have physical relations again, then you might want to work on your marriage. There's no biblical allowance for remarriage to another woman; this would be polygamy. Because of what the Bible says, Christians have to be willing to be in their marriage for the long-haul.  They have to remain faithful to their spouse even though they want separation.  This allows the Christian in Christ through the Gospel to demonstrate for the world the type of love and affection that the Bride of Christ and Christ Himself have for one another. Satisfaction is found in Christ, not in the opposite sex.

What the Bible says about marriage and remarriage is abundantly clear. There are a few pieces of nuance that we have to interpret carefully. Please do so under the guidance of your elders and your pastors, but it's really not that complicated. When the vows say until death do we part, that is a citation that comes from the Holy Scripture."


***
"It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I [Jesus] say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery," (Matt. 5:31-32).

"For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man," (Rom. 7:2-3).

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Mind of Christ

I recently read through William Greenhill's The Sound-Hearted Christian (with five additional sermons) which was reprinted in 2010 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications (ISBN 978-1-60178-099-7).  In this post I'll be looking at his second sermon titled "Christians Ought to Be of Christ's Mind."

Mr. Greenhill starts off with the doctrine that churches and Christians should be of the same mind that the Lord Jesus Christ is of and notes that it is the duty of any church or person to aim at having the mind of Christ; the same in kind, but not degree.

Next, he answers the question in general, What is the mind of Christ?
  1. "Christ's mind was a public mind, not a private, domestic selfish mind.  He did not seek Himself, but He sought the good of others."
  2. "The Lord had a pure mind."
  3. "The Lord Christ's mind was a willing mind, and ready to do good."
  4. "The Lord Christ's mind was a yielding, humble, and condescending mind."
  5. "The mind of the Lord was a single mind."
  6. "The Lord Christ's mind was a fixed and settled mind."
  7. "Christ's mind was a heavenly mind."
  8. "The Lord Christ's mind was a zealous mind, a fervent mind."
  9. "The Lord Christ had a peaceable and a quiet mind."
  10. "The mind of the Lord Jesus Christ was a submissive mind, submissive to His Father's will."
  11. "The Lord Christ had a compassionate mind.  He was full of bowels of compassion, and was very tender-hearted."
  12. "The Lord Christ had a loving mind, a mind full of love, a forgiving mind.  He had such love as He could cover and forgive sins."
Then, Mr. Greenhill reduces his answer to these four particulars:
  1. "To have the mind of Christ is to have the same thoughts in you that Christ had.  Christ had no ill thoughts in him, but rebuked ill thoughts."
  2. "To have the same mind that Christ had is to be carried forth with the same will and affections towards God and man as Christ was."
  3. "To have the same mind that Christ had is to live the same life that Christ did.  Where there is the same mind, there will be the same motions and the same operations."
  4. "To have the same mind that Christ had is to be carried out to the same end that He did, and His end was to do good to others and to glorify God."
The author exhorts his reader:  "We are to live soberly in regard of ourselves, righteously in regard of men, godly in regard of God," (p. 135).

Finally, he shows us the reasons why we should have the same mind that Christ had:
  1. "We should have the same mind because we are Christians, we have Christ's name."
  2. "True churches and true Christians are members of Christ."
  3. "We should be of the same mind as Christ, because the Lord Christ became like us; and therefore we should be like Him."
  4. "We should be of the same mind as Jesus Christ because if we are not of His mind, we shall be of an evil mind."
  5. "We should be of the same mind that  Christ is because this is a way to keep us from falling into errors, corrupting opinions, damnable heresies, and the like."
  6. "We should be of Christ's mind because it is the way to union, to meeken and sweeten spirits, to make harmony between all, and to much unity."
  7. "We should all be of Christ's mind so that we may do our Christian work wisely and understandingly.
  8. "We should be of the same mind that Christ is because, if we are true Christians, we have the same spirit that Christ had."

***
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," (Phil. 2:5).

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Sound-Hearted Christian

I recently read through The Sound-Hearted Christian by William Greenhill (1598-1671) and decided to post some of my notes.  This book (ISBN 978-1-60178-099-7) was reprinted in 2010 by Soli Deo Gloria Publications and contains The Sound-Hearted Christian plus five additional sermons.  In this work, Mr. Greenhill expounds Psalm 119:80 -- "Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed."
 
Here is a brief outline of his exposition:

Doctrine 1: A gracious heart is a watchful heart.
  • Chapter 1 - A Sound Heart is a Watchful Heart
Doctrine 2: The heart is especially to be looked after.
  • Chapter 2 - The Chief Care of a Gracious Man is About His Heart
  • Chapter 3 - The Application
Doctrine 3: The desire of saints and gracious ones is to have sound hearts.
  • Chapter 4 - A Gracious Soul Desires Soundness of Heart
  • Chapter 5 - The Privilege, Dignity, and Excellency of a Sound Heart
  • Chapter 6 - How to Get a Sound Heart
  • Chapter 7 - How to Keep a Sound Heart
Doctrine 4: An unsound heart will one time or another make a man ashamed.
  • Chapter 8 - Motives to Keep a Sound Heart
  • Chapter 9 - A Description of an Unsound Heart and Corrupted Person
  • Chapter 10 - Uses and Application

I found Chapter 7 "How to Keep a Sound Heart" to be the most helpful for the ongoing process of Christian sanctification as well as the most convicting.  Mr Greenhill writes: "If you would preserve your hearts sound, then take pains to keep down all lusts that are stirring; for unless you keep your lusts under control, you will never keep sound hearts...So if you would have a sound heart, meditate much upon the Word of God.  His words are wholesome words, and make the heart more sound every day...If you would be sound-hearted men and women, and not led away with errors or the evils of the times, then have God constantly in your eye.  God is present everywhere.  He is in you all, through you all, and over you all.  And did you see God, and set God before you, and acknowledge God's presence and eye upon you, you would not meddle with weeds; you would not meddle with errors; you would not give way to lusts," (pp. 64-66).

The author also shows his readers how the Sound-hearted Christian fears God: "A man should have God in his thoughts all the day long, and should be fearing God from morning to evening.  He should sanctify God in his heart, and make Him his dread and his fear.  Wherever he goes, a man should be afraid to displease God, in any place, in any company, and at any time," (p. 82).

Finally, Mr. Greenhill leaves the Christian reader with this sobering thought: "If the heart is not sound, you will be ashamed to all eternity," (p. 96).


***
"Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.  Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.  Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God," (James 4:2-4).

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Considering Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology

I received some push-back on my negative review of Griffiths's Covenant Theology because of my belief that Old Testament saints are not New Covenant members.  It is important to remember that there are nuanced opinions in many biblical topics, not only among Christians in general (which is why we have so many denominations), but also among Reformed Baptists.  Based on what I read in the Bible along with other Reformed Baptist teachings and Baptist Covenant Theology books, I believe that there is a promise of the Covenant of Grace in the Old Testament which was fulfilled in the New Covenant.  But I think that it's anachronistic to say that Old Testament saints are part of the New Covenant.

This weekend I listened to Reformed Pastor Jordan Hall's podcast dated 12/3/16 and titled "That Connect316 Commercial."  Early in his show, he answered a listener's question on the differences between Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian Covenant Theology.  I wouldn't present my view on Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology with the same terminology as Pastor Hall; however, we both agree that the New Covenant was not present in the Old Testament.  In his explanation, Pastor Hall calls the New Covenant the Covenant of Grace.

From Pastor Hall's show (~27:10):

"Listener's question: How do Reformed Baptists view the Covenants differently from Presbyterians?

Pastor Hall's answer:  Chapter 7 [Of God's Covenant] in the London Baptist Confession of Faith is different from the Westminster Confession of Faith.  The idea that Reformed Baptists are just Presbyterians who don't baptize infants is fundamentally flawed.  Reformed Baptists do not believe that Abraham was under the Covenant of Grace; that it [the Covenant of Grace] is entirely the same in substance, different in administration [this is the Presbyterian Covenant Theology view].  We [Reformed Baptists] can see types and shadows of the Covenant of Grace in the Abrahamic Covenant, the Mosaic Covenant, the Adamic Covenant, and the Noahic Covenant.  Everybody who has ever been justified has been justified by faith.  The Covenant of Grace did not come into time and space historically until Christ.

Reformed Baptists do not agree with the concept that it [the Covenant of Grace] is exactly the same in substance, it's just different in administration.  No, we would say it's slightly different in substance; it's a different covenant.  They [Old Testament saints] were not under our covenant [Covenant of Grace].  It was a different covenant.  They were justified by the retroactive work of Christ upon the cross, but that doesn't mean they were under the Covenant of Grace; they were saved retroactively.  They were under the Covenant of Works.  We see God punishing them because they are under the Covenant of Works and they couldn't fulfill it.  We see God's judgment on the house of Israel because they were very clearly under the Covenant of Works and not of Grace.  The only way they were under the Covenant of Grace, even the Patriarchs of old who had faith, was in the typological foreshadows of Christ. 

The Covenant of Grace itself did not come into time and space historically until Christ.  So certain things are different in substance as well as in administration.  The concept of being in a covenant based on who your parents are, your lineage, that's under Abraham; that's unique to the Abrahamic Covenant because God was building a nation that would foreshadow the church.  That's gone now.  This is a spiritual covenant.  We enter this covenant by faith.  So you don't give the covenant sign of baptism unless someone is of the covenant by faith.  Abraham is not the head of this covenant [of grace]; that is Christ.  Therefore, Reformed Baptists do not hold to infant baptism because of Covenant Theology.  Reformed Baptist are not mostly Presbyterian."


***
"Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)," (Heb. 10:19-23).

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Freedom Found in Gospel Truth

On October 2, 2016, in his sermon titled "Four Evidences of a Disciple", Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick of Arann Reformed Baptist Church, looked at John 8:31-32.  He showed that a true disciple knows true freedom in Christ and exhibits these four evidences:
  1. Conviction regarding Christ
  2. Continuance in following Christ
  3. Comprehension of Christ
  4. Change/Conversion to Christ
Under the second point, Pastor Fitzpatrick exhorted the listener to continue in the Word of Christ to be made free.  His comments have truly helped me in my walk with the Lord.  I've struggled for years with besetting sin that I just couldn't (or wouldn't) mortify.  I realized that I have been trying to dress up the old man rather than putting on the new man (Col. 3:9-10).  But in Christ, I am a new creature: "old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new," (2 Cor. 5:17)!  I pray that you find his sermon as helpful as I have.  I've included my notes below (written in the third person rather than the second person as preached):

"The genuine heart of a believer realizes that he is in bondage; he is a slave to sin.  True freedom is found in the Word of Christ.  Romans 6:15-16 shows us that every time a believer sins, he is the servant of sin.  A true disciple is changeable, but God is immutable.  The more a believer continues in the Word of Christ, the more like Him he shall become.  The old man is still in every believer.  The way to overcome the old man, the only way, is by ministry to that new nature that God has given him.  A believer will never change the old man; that's religion.  Religion tries to reform the old man, the old nature.  The old nature is irreformable; that's why we've been given a new nature.  That's the argument of Romans 7.  There's this constant battle between the two wills in the believer.  Forget about reforming the old man.  Feed the new man.  Every time a believer falls into the habits of the old man, he needs to put him to death in the mind--ignore the old man, feed the new man, the new nature.  A true believer continues in God's Word, but the old man does not want to do that.  This is the key, the secret of the Gospel.  The religious person wants to reform himself, just make himself better.  This is impossible.

God has begun a good work in the true believer; therefore, he should work with God in that new work.  God does not try to reform the old nature; He knows it is impossible because the old nature has been corrupted by sin.  That's why God starts a new work, a new life in the believer.  Therefore, if the believer tries to mend the old, he is doing a job that God is not doing.  Focus on what God has begun and operate in that context.  We operate in the context of what God is doing.  When we do anything different, we are working against the plan and purpose of God.  The practical benefit of this is that it delivers us from depression.  Because the more the believer tries to reform the old nature, the more depressed he will become because he cannot do it.  What he can do is act in operation with the new life God has put within him and that will bring encouragement and blessing to his soul.  And when he has moments when the old man has ascendancy, then he confesses that sin and moves on to what God is doing.  This is central to have the freedom and liberty as a child of God.

Matthew Henry said:  'Justification makes us free from the guilt of sin by which we are bound over to the judgment of God and bound under amazing fears.  Sanctification makes us free from the bondage of corruption by which we were estranged from that service which is perfect freedom and constrained to that which is perfect slavery.'

Gospel truth frees the true disciple from the yoke of the law and the more grievous burdens of the traditions of the elders.  It makes us free from our spiritual enemies.  Free in the service of God.  Free to the privilege of sons.

To know the Gospel is to be made free.  A true disciple does not have to wait for that.  That is justification by faith.  Knowing the Gospel makes us free.  Knowing Christ makes us free.  His life in the believer.  Greater is He that is in the believer than he that is in the world.  It does not matter how great the sin because the believer has a greater Savior.  Therefore, his confidence is not in himself.  Romans 2 -- a believer has no confidence in the flesh; that's the old man.  The Gospel delivers the true disciple from fleshly confidence and from fleshly striving, thinking that he will just be better today.  He will never be better.  That's what the Gospel delivers him from, from himself, his old nature.  The Gospel makes the believer free from thinking that he has to perform for God, to impress God.  That's the Good News -- the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Sanctification is not achieved when a believer becomes sinless because he will never become sinless in this life.  Sanctification begins and progresses when he continues in the Word of Christ.  It's not a ceasing from sin; that's impossible.  Sanctification is loving Christ, loving His Word and continuing in His truth.

Satan's end is not to get the believer to sin.  That's only the means to the end.  Satan's real goal is to get the believer to give up.  He wants the believer to stop following Christ.  Sin is less important because Christ has dealt with the sin; it's forgiven.  Satan wants the believer to stop continuing in the Word of Christ because when he continues in the Word of Christ he is made free.  Sin is the greatest encouragement to continue in Christ.  The more sin raises its ugly head in the life of a true disciple, the more zealous he should be to cling to Christ.  But the devil is wickedly clever to use sin in the life of a believer to discourage him.  God uses sin in a believer's life to encourage his need for Christ."


***
"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free," (John 8:32).

Friday, November 25, 2016

Book Review: First Things That Last Forever


In her book First Things That Last Forever, Fran Rogers's main purpose is "to acquaint the reader with my ministry as an author," (Kindle location 49).  Near the end of her book, she also states that the "purpose of this book and all Father and Family Books are written to publish this legacy [eternal life] of His Kingdom," (Kindle location 439), and she closes out her book by saying that "[i]n this little book we have shared a basic knowledge of the legacy of God's kingdom for His people," (Kindle location 516).

Based on the author's multiple statements of purpose, it is unclear exactly what message she is trying to communicate to her readers.  The purpose statements she has made are unclear.  First, the term "legacy of God's kingdom" has no biblical meaning, but the author uses is several times without any explanation or definition.  She uses the term mostly when talking about her purpose in her book and ministry.  She does not use the term in her writing until Chapter 4, "Jesus ~First, Last, and Forever".  From the context, I assume that the term has something to do with the believer's blessing of eternal life (Kindle location 408), but it is never clearly defined.

In Chapter 1 the author looks at the Lord's Prayer so that we can "learn from Jesus' teachings what we should ask for," (Kindle location 93).  In Chapter 2 she talks about seeking first the Kingdom of God because of the correlation between praying and seeking (Kindle location 154).  In Chapter 3 Mrs. Rogers discusses the first and greatest commandment to love God because it is the law of God's Kingdom (Kindle location 319).  And in Chapter 4 she contends that the first and last things are revealed in and through Jesus (Kindle location 392).  The thread tying all of these ideas together has not been clearly identified by the author.  Mrs. Rogers does give a summary of the things the reader can hold on to (Kindle location 456-473), but I still do not know exactly what the "first things" are and how they relate to what she has written.  The author does not clearly and coherently present her ideas to her readers; therefore, the book is confusing and her ideas do not build logically as you read through the chapters.

Mrs. Rogers assumes that most of her readers are believers (Kindle location 118), but then she acknowledges that some readers may not be and quotes Scripture from Romans 9:16, John 1:12-13 and 1 John 3:1-3.  However, she does not give a clear Gospel presentation.  In addition, she gives false assurance to the reader when she says: "If you have come this far in reading this little book, then you must be one of the heirs [of Christ]," (Kindle location 428); but then she turns around and says: "At this point if you are not sure that you are His child, then believe that God, our Father has brought you this far to see your hope, for now and eternity, in Christ, His Son," (Kindle location 428).  Again, this is not a clear Gospel presentation.  She goes on to say that "I will not give you a step-by-step formula so that you may acquire a birth certificate into God's kingdom," (Kindle location 446).  "Acquiring a birth certificate" is not a phrase found in the Word of God and may cause confusion in some readers, Christian or not.

Finally, the author makes many contentions about what a particular Bible verse means, but she does not cite any footnotes.  In addition, Mrs. Rogers does not include a bibliography to her book.  At times, she does support her ideas with other Bible verses, but not always.  It appears that she has considered other outside sources and states that "[s]ome commentaries use the following interpretation to explain this petition," (Kindle location 126), but again there's no footnote to see what commentaries she is referencing.

After reading Mrs. Rogers's book, I am still not sure what point she is trying to make.  Her attempt is commendable, but she does not convey her ideas very well to her audience; therefore, I do not recommend reading First Things That Last Forever.

***
"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures," (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Book Review: Covenant Theology

In his book Covenant Theology: A Reformed Baptist Perspective, Phillip D. R. Griffiths' goal is "to explain the Reformed Baptist position in a manner that is easily accessible."  He wants the reader "to see that this is the only covenant theology that is faithful to the teaching of Scripture" and "that it will assist the believer in coming to a greater appreciation of the riches that are his in Christ," (Preface, p. ix).  He also notes that his intention is not "to hurt or insult paedobaptists, but to, in grace, encourage them to, at the very least, rethink their position, and, maybe, even adopt the Reformed Baptist position," (p. 7).  His purpose is "to examine what is often considered to be a difficult topic, and provide something that will encourage Christians to think about their faith," (p. 7).

In his book the author defines the term 'covenant', looks at the Covenant of Works under Adam, the New Covenant under Christ, and then focuses on the differing views of these covenants between Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians.   While the subject matter of this book is needed in today's Christian world, Covenant Theology is unnecessarily cumbersome in many places because the author does not stay within the stated scope of his book.

For example, Mr. Griffiths questions Reformed Baptist Pastor Walter Chantry's position on the Kingdom of God (pp. 35-36), on the Mosaic Covenant (pp.90-92), and on the old and new covenant (pp. 133-134).  His statements against Pastor Chantry are limited and do not help paedobaptist embrace the Reformed Baptist view since the author is highly critical of another pastor within the Reformed Baptist camp.  Surprisingly, the author favorably quotes many Presbyterians (or those sympathetic to paedobaptism) throughout his book, including: Carl Trueman, Michael Horton, A.A. Hodge, O. Palmer Robertson, J.V. Fesko, R.C. Sproul, and Louis Berkhof.  If Mr. Griffiths' motive is to convince paedobaptists to change their position on baptism and covenant theology, then appealing to the authority of paedobaptists is counter-productive.

In addition, in his chapter on the Mosaic Covenant, Mr. Griffiths refers to the book Merit and Moses and admits it "[e]ssentially amounts to nothing more than a regurgitation of the standard Presbyterian contention," (p. 99).  However, he continues to refute the book.  The author realizes that he should limit his comments when he says:  "There is much to say about this book [Merit and Moses], however, space only allows for a glimpse into the way the writers employ what I would refer to as specious arguments...bizarre statements...designed to confuse rather than clarify," (pp. 99, 101).  His comments are muddled in this area because they lack the logical development needed for a clear and complete book review.

Many times the author does not stay focused on the purpose of his book and admits this when he states: "This is questionable, and whilst it would be nice to spend time exploring this [AW Pink's view on obedience to God], the important thing to bear in mind..." (p. 97), and "I will not spend time trying to refute this [Pratt's view on the mixed church], suffice it to say..." (p. 126).  If these points can not be fully developed and disproved, then they are not necessary and lead the author astray from his goal of explaining "the Reformed Baptist position in a manner that is easily accessible."  Because of Mr. Griffiths' inclusion of these, as well as other, unnecessary arguments, the book loses the coherence needed for a concise primer on Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology.

Finally, I do not agree with Mr. Griffiths's contention that "[t]he Reformed Baptist paradigm put forward here, as already said, believes entrance into the new covenant to be a reality before Christ's completed work.  The new covenant, in regard to its blessings, was before the old covenant," (p. 125).  There is no denial that faith in Jesus Christ is how all believers are saved throughout history.  However, the New Covenant did not exist before the incarnation of Christ; therefore, Old Testament saints are not benefactors of all the New Covenant blessings and are not members of the New Covenant, which is supported by many Reformed Baptist scholars.

In his sermon "Redemptive History and the Covenants", Pastor Samuel Renihan does an excellent job of defining the Reformed Baptist view of the biblical covenants and states that: "The New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace in its fullness and fulfillment."  He clearly summarizes the distinction as thus: "In the Old Testament, Christ had not come and the New Covenant had not yet been established; there was no New Covenant.  However, the New Covenant was as good as done because it is part of God's eternal decree.  God revealed the New Covenant in His progressive promises throughout the Old Testament; therefore, the Covenant of Grace is the progressive revelation of the New Covenant."

Unfortunately, Mr. Griffiths goes beyond this biblical understanding of the New Covenant. In his argument against the paedobaptist position (one covenant with two administrations), he pushes his argument too far by forcing the New Covenant back into the Old Testament.  From a more biblical and traditional perspective, in his book The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology, Pascal Denault states (emphasis mine): "As a result, all those who were saved since the creation of the world were saved by virtue of the New Covenant which was in effect as a promise even before it was an accomplished covenant," (p. 71).  While Mr. Griffiths does acknowledge that "[a]ll those saints who lived prior to Christ would have believed in the promise as Abraham had done...This was the promise of the new covenant in Christ," (p. 82), he does not consistently and clearly continue the idea of the promise of a Covenant of Grace seen in the Old Testament, but insists that the New Covenant is there.  He agrees with Mr. Denault's statement that the Covenant of Grace was progressively revealed in the Old Covenant, but Mr. Griffiths goes on to say: "I would go further than this, maintaining that Old Testament believers, by believing in the promise were actually in the new covenant," (p. 139).  This is the main problem with Covenant Theology because this is where Mr. Griffiths departs from the commonly held understanding of Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology.

Having read several books on this subject, I do not consider myself a novice.  But in the end, I found myself frequently confused with unnecessary and unclear arguments in Mr. Griffiths' Covenant Theology.  Therefore, I do not recommend reading this book.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review: Marry Wisely Marry Well

Ernie Baker wrote his book Marry Wisely Marry Well: A Blueprint for Personal Preparation "to bring home to those who are not married--in high school, college or beyond--a hope that you don't have to experience a failed marriage--hope that the Lord, through Scripture, will give you wisdom to choose a spouse.  It is also written with the conviction that you can start preparing now for marriage--before you are in a relationship.  Prepare yourself now by doing things that will lead to stability in your future home," (Kindle location 112).

The author uses the analogy that building a good marriage is like building a house.  Mr. Baker notes that the foundation of the house is built on wisdom with Christ being foundation of all wisdom, then he likens the first floor of the house to the wisdom of the individual waiting for marriage, and finally, he points out that "the roof that crowns your marriage will be the glory of God," (Kindle location 2535).  He uses a lot of Bible verses to support his contentions, but there are also many counseling questions and checklists (Kindle location 834, 1147, 1226, 2607, 2611, & 2626) and secular research results (Kindle location 99, 103, 186, 190, 906, 1369, 1743, and 1745) in his book that are not found in the Bible.  Rather than exegeting what the Word of God says about marriage, Mr. Baker uses his counseling experiences along with current research statistics to show what he thinks is the best way to approach marriage and then looks to the Bible for support.  This can be seen from his use of the phrase 'I believe' twenty-eight times, the phrase 'I do not believe' four times, and the phrase 'I think' four times (six times in all, but only four in the context of the author's knowledge of marriage).  In contrast, he uses the phrase 'Scripture says' three times [the phrases 'the Bible says' or 'the Word of God says' are not in his book].

Because Mr. Baker is not drawing out what the Word of God actually says about marriage, he is able to make marriage into a works-based blessing from God.  He encourages the reader to "think that God will bless you with a spouse if you are willing to serve him faithfully during your single years," and follows up this advice by quoting Matthew 6:33, 'But seek first his kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you," (Kindle location 1238).  This Scripture is taken from the middle of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where the context is not marriage.  Similarly, he makes wisdom into a works-based blessing as well when he says: "Let me give you three reasons why the Lord reserves this wisdom for those who are willing to work hard to get it," (Kindle location 458).  But James 1:5-8 tells believers to obtain wisdom by asking God in faith.

The author continues to read his own ideas into the Bible as he looks at Genesis 1:26 and contends that "marriage provides a unique opportunity to glorify God when the husband and wife are in a redeemed relationship reflecting his image," (Kindle location 944).  But the Bible tells us that redemption is found only in Jesus Christ (not through a spouse, nor the act of getting married) and that an individual believer is conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29), not the couple.  Scripture plainly tells us that the marriage relationship is a picture of Christ and His Church, (Eph. 5:23), which the author agrees with (Kindle location 997 & 1359); but unlike Mr. Baker, Scripture does not liken the marriage relationship to the image of God.  Mr. Baker also states that "we can legitimately say that marriage is the crowning action of creation," (Kindle location 958), and that "creation was not complete until Adam and Eve were united to live in relationship with one another to fulfill God's purposes for them as a team," (Kindle location 964); but there are no Bible verses that support these statements.

In addition, Mr. Baker includes the theme of Christianity-as-a-community when he states that "Christianity is about the group, and the world needs to see something radically different in the way we deal with one another," (Kindle location 1498).  Christianity is about Christ and Christ alone, and each believer is saved individually by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, when dealing with the issue of whether or not someone will hear audibly from God when seeking a spouse, Mr. Baker concludes that "Scripture warns us to be careful of placing experiences and voices above the written Word of God," (Kindle location 2097) and that God's Word is honored "by showing that the Lord guides us primarily through his Word," (Kindle location 2130, emphasis mine).  Unfortunately, the author does not come out and clearly state that no one hears the voice of God (the Father, the Son, and/or the Holy Spirit) outside of the Bible because the canon of Scripture is closed.

While the author has some good questions to ponder for those considering marriage, his advice is more pragmatic than biblical.  After finishing this book, I asked myself if I thought it was profitable for my two young adult sons to read Marry Wisely Marry Well.  Ultimately, I concluded that it would not be profitable for them; therefore, I can't recommend it to other Christians either.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***
"God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself, is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creature which He hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them," (The Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, Paragraph 2).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Book Review: Good and Angry

In Good and Angry, David Powlison's goal is "to teach you how to more fruitfully and honestly deal with your anger.  Your struggle with anger (and mine) will last a lifetime, but it can go somewhere good.  We can learn to deal with anger differently," (Kindle location 186).

While the author makes a commendable attempt at addressing how Christians should handle anger, he looks at the subject from a human perspective and then adds the Bible on top.  This approach makes his reasoning appear logical, and even biblical at times, but it also distorts the image of God as the author describes Him from man's perspective.  The author believes that his counseling is different from the standard advice given in Christian self-help books (Kindle location 3418).  Mr. Powlison provides many biblical references in his book, but he does not exegete the text.   In Chapter 13, he lays out the eight questions that will help you take your anger apart and put it back together (Kindle location 2330), and in Chapter 16, he helps you determine which ladder your are climbing when you are angry at yourself (Kindle location 3175); but there is no biblical text that contains the eight questions or describes the self-anger ladder.  The author reads his ideas into Scripture, rather than drawing sound doctrine from the Word of God.

In addition, Mr. Powlison believes that because man is made in the image of God and man experiences anger, then God must experience that same emotion.  The author describes mercy and anger as being closely related and defines mercy as "a response to feeling displeasure," (Kindle location 1185).  He states that good anger is the "constructive displeasure of mercy...Good anger operates as as one aspect of mercy...Your anger and mine can be remade into God's image," (Kindle location 1174); and therefore, he likens God's perfect mercy to the human emotion of good anger when he writes:  "He [God] shows the constructive displeasure of mercy...His mercy is not niceness...To what extent does our mercy mirror this?  What we do is infinitely small in scale, but like in kind," (Kindle location 1540, emphasis mine).  This statement implies that God experiences emotions in the same way that people do and contradicts the doctrine of Divine Impassibility which is clearly laid out in the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, paragraph 1: The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of Himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but Himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions."

From the Confessing Baptist Podcast episode #78 on February 3, 2015, Mr. Sam Renihan, editor of God Without Passions, A Reader, states: "The doctrine of Divine Impassibility states that there are no emotional changes in God; God does not experience emotional changes either from within or effected by His relationship to creation...It's not wrong to speak in the language of Scripture, but it is wrong to equate human language with the divine Creator."

Finally, the author also presents God as being mutable: "Goodness, if only we did not suffer and did not sin! We would have no need to receive God's mercies--his paradoxical, lively expressions of his displeasure with how things are," (Kindle location 1187), and "The presence of anger depends on the presence of evil," (Kindle location 3594).  Since evil entered the world at the Fall in Genesis 3, these statements imply that God has characteristics [mercy and anger] that did not exist until after the Fall of man.  Biblically, God does not have mercy or anger because sin came into the world; His perfect mercy and anger are immutable parts of His character which have always existed.

There's no doubt that all humans, including Christians, experience anger, but Christians should be angry and sin not (Eph. 4:26) and should strive to put away (Eph. 4:31) and put off (Col. 3:8) anger.  Nevertheless, how man experiences anger should never be ascribed to God.  For all Christians, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal. 5:22).  The author tries to include anger as an additional positive attribute in a Christian's life by renaming it as "the constructive displeasure of mercy," (Kindle location 1178), but his assertions line up more with human reasoning and counseling philosophy rather than the Bible.  I found other areas of concern in Mr. Powlison's book as well, but his presentation of a mutable, impassioned god, as I describe above, is enough for me not to recommend reading Good and Angry.

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

***
"Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul," (Proverbs 22:24-25).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Book Review: Escaping With Jacob

Escaping With Jacob: 30 Devotionals to Help You Find Your Identity, Forgive Your Past, and Walk in Your Purpose was written by David Ramos for those who are "tired of running or hiding", "tired of not knowing God the way He wants to be known", or "feel as if your past is keeping you from the life God has for you," (Introduction).  The author presumes a Christian reader and does not give a Gospel presentation.  As a formatting note, I am reading this book from a .pdf file.  There are no page numbers within the text itself; therefore, I'm citing direct quotes with the chapter title from the Table of Contents and the corresponding devotional day, if applicable.

This 30-day devotional looks at the life of Jacob from the book of Genesis.  The author states that the "[t]he story of Jacob is a story of becoming - how one man transformed from an escape artist into an overcomer.  The same offer [to guide your life] still stands," (Introduction).  This statement is the overarching problem with this book; the Bible is not about you or me or how we can transform our lives.  The Bible is about Jesus Christ.  However, Mr. Ramos wrongly focuses the reader on himself and Jacob: "Next time you find yourself like Jacob...," (He Prepares A Way, Day 15).

The Bible shows us God's Covenant of Redemption through His Son Jesus Christ, but rather than seeing Jesus through the Old Testament promises, Mr. Ramos falsely claims that "[i]f you really take the time to look at Jacob's story you'll see a common theme appear over and over again.  God always gave Jacob more than he was expecting," (More Than We Expect, Day 25).  Again, the author misses the Old Testament foreshadowing of Christ when he states that "[i]t's in these trials that Jacob's story offers us a quiet hope.  God knows what He is doing with your story.  As simple as it may sound, it is also one of the most powerful truths in the Bible," (Our Quiet Hope, Day 30).  No one living today has his life story in the Bible because ultimately, the Bible is about Jesus: "But these [Scripture] are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name," (John 20:31).  The Bible also shows Christians how live a holy, godly life in order to be conformed to the image of Christ: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works," (2 Tim. 3:15).

The book of Genesis is a narrative story.  Christians do not look to Jacob to be more like him because Jacob is a sinful man in need of God's saving faith just like you and me.  Christians read about Jacob because he is part of the Abrahamic lineage that would bear the promised Seed [Jesus Christ] from Genesis 3:15.  The author misses the fact that God has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1-2) because in his 30-day devotional, he only uses the word 'Jesus' in 3 days: Justice Verses Love (Day 16 prayer); God Loves Works in Progress (Day 22), and Inevitable Pain, Unstoppable Promise (Day 24); and he uses the word 'Christ' in 3 days: At Our Weakest (Day 2), God Loves Works in Progress (Day 22), and Uncovering Our Identity (Day 29).  Christians overcome the trials of life by daily taking up their cross and following Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of the Christian faith, (Heb. 12:2).  Looking to Jacob for the answers as we struggle with life and our own sin-nature is a fruitless endeavor, and ultimately, a waste of time.

Mr. Ramos gives a Bible reference for his audience to read each day.  However, it would have been more helpful for the author to actually write out the verses he is discussing.  Instead, he gives a brief summary of the verses filled with his own private interpretation and speculation on the emotional state of the individuals as well as their motivation.  For example, in At Our Weakest (Day 2), Mr. Ramos recounts the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob.  In retelling this event, the author muses that Esau forgot to plan ahead and was frustrated and that Esau had done this many times before.  However, the Bible simply states that "Esau came from the field, and he was faint," (Gen. 25:30).  The author elaborates on the Biblical text by using his own imagination and human reasoning where the Bible is silent.  If the author had taken the time to write out the Scripture, his speculation would be evident.  Mr. Ramos admits that he is speculating on Day 6: "We can guess from this passage what Jacob must have been feeling: anger, depression, frustration, and hopelessness."  But the Bible tells us that the Word of God is Truth, (John 17:17).  There is a serious warning for all men who want to alter the Bible:  "For I [Jesus] testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy from this book.  If any man shall add unto these things, God shall ad unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life," (Rev. 22:18-19).

The most disturbing aspect of this 30-day Devotional is the author's subtle implication of the doctrine of Open Theism ("The belief that God does not exercise meticulous control of the universe but leaves it open for humans to make significant choices--free will--that impact their relationships with God and others. A corollary of this is that God has not predetermined the future. Open Theists further believe that this would imply that God does not know the future exhaustively. Proponents affirm that God is omniscient, but deny that this means that God knows everything that will happen," Theopedia.com).  This belief is evident in the following statements:
  • "The way God fulfills his promises to us is often unglamorous.  He does not rain down fire or boom advice from heaven.  Instead, he guides us softly and quietly.  Like a chess player carefully placing each piece, anticipating what is to come," (The Frustrating Path to Fulfilled Promises, Day 8).
  • This monumental frustration was all for Jacob's good.  Remember Jacob's story when it seems like God is far away.  He is not far.  Instead, He is moving the pieces exactly to where they need to be," (The Frustrating Path to Fulfilled Promises, Day 8).
  • "But then we also see Jacob fending for himself, seemingly by himself.  These periods of Jacob's life in which God seems absent are a reminder that we are capable of changing our situations," (Solving Our Own Problems, Day 10).
  • "Yes, God is the one in control and allowing or blocking certain difficulties to come into our lives.  But he is also watching and giving us room to succeed or fail," (Solving Our Own Problems, Day 10).
  • "God equipped Jacob with an incredible creative mind.  When Jacob found himself in a difficult situation he used his creatively [sic] to solve the problem and achieve his freedom," (Solving Our Own Problems, Day 10).
  • "At this moment God intervenes," (When God is With Us, Day 11).
  • "There is this idea that because God allows evil in this world it must be one of the tools He uses...But we find that not to be the case...You see, God does not work with evil.  He works in spite of evil," (Through And In Spite Of, Day 20).
  • "We don't just serve a God who is sovereign; a sort of heavenly chess player who is shaping the world towards His purposes," (The Character Of Our Creator, Day 23).

Ironically, in his chapter Half-Time (Day 17), the author actually admits the sovereignty of God in Jacob's life: "Everything in Jacob's life happens or doesn't happen by God's hand."  However, as shown above, he overwhelmingly implies than God is not always sovereign.

Due to Mr. Ramos's additions to the biblical text based on his own speculation, his promotion of the false doctrine of open theism, and his exhortation to look to self rather than Jesus, I cannot recommend Escaping with Jacob to any Christian.  The author's triteness in his epilogue, Continuing the Journey, is the culminating evidence that this devotional lacks substance for the serious Bible student: "The one lesson from Jacob's story that I will never forget is this: God loves messes."

Full Disclosure:  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Temporary Disciples

On May 29, 2016, Pastor Mark Fitzpatrick of Arann Reformed Baptist Church preached a sermon titled "Temporary Disciples" based on John 6:60-66.  I'm posting my notes of his sermon in light of the current political and social atmosphere of the United States.

Jesus Christ knows the difference between the outward profession of faith and the inward reality of faith.  Therefore, we should pray not to just appear to be children of God, but we should pray to be true believers indeed and that nothing that Christ says would be a stumbling block to us trusting in Him.  We should not use the Word of God as an excuse.   When we genuinely believe in Christ, we are submitting ourselves to His moral authority.  He is King of our soul and King of our life.  Yes, we sin, but God knows our heart.  The paradox is that sometimes true believers can look like unbelievers, and false believers can look like true believers. The Bible tests our faith and our love of Christ; it shows whether or not we truly believe.  The Word of God should judge us; we should not judge the Bible.  Christians believe and trust the Word that they know to be true.  Do we believe in the Jesus of Scripture as presented by Christ Himself?  The Christian life is a revelation of two things: (1) Revealing to us our own inability and (2) Revealing to us God's sovereign ability.  Faith is a remarkable gift of God.

Temporary Disciples:
  1. Claim the Words of Jesus are too difficult
  2. Are offended by the Words of Jesus
  3. Are challenged by the Words of Jesus
  4. Do not understand the spiritual meaning of the Words of Jesus
  5. Are not believers
  6. Are not drawn by the Father
  7. Will eventually walk away from Christ

The Words of God are eternal life.

***
"Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father.  From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him," (John 6:60-66).

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Saints' Walk by Faith - Chapters 25 to 28

I'm reading Faith by Jeremiah Burroughs and decided to blog the hidden treasures within this book. It is one book that contains two of Burroughs' treatises: (1) Precious Faith and (2) The Saints' Walk by Faith on Earth and by Sight in Heaven.  Both treatises were first published in 1654. In 2011, they were edited by Dr. Don Kistler and reprinted into one book by Northampton Press.  In his second treatise on The Saints' Walk by Faith, Mr. Burroughs expounds 2 Cor. 5:7.  You can see my summary for Chapters 1 to 4 here, Chapters 5 to 10 here, Chapters 11 to 13 here, Chapters 14 to 16 here, Chapters 17 to 19 here, Chapters 20 to 21 here, and Chapters 22 to 24 here.

In Chapter 25 Mr. Burroughs gives encouragement to a saint when God lets the devil out upon him.
  1. "At such a time when you were not apprehensive or sensible of Satan, then you did not have those horrid temptations that now you have, yet he had more power over you then than now.  And therefore you have no cause to be discouraged in this," (p. 249).
  2. "God has very good ends why He exercises His dearest servants even with such a heavy affliction as this is, the strong temptations of Satan," (p. 249).
  3. "Further, know that Christ Himself was tempted," (p. 249).
  4. "Yet further, we find that Christ prays for His people that they may not be overcome with temptations.  You must walk by faith in the time of temptations, that is, not only act your faith upon Christ's temptations, to take out the sting and venom of it, but act your faith upon Christ's prayer," (p. 251).
  5. "Besides, know for the help of your faith in time of temptation that Christ has broken the serpent's head already," (p. 252).
  6. "Then likewise know that there are many excellent and sweet promises that we have in Scripture that temptations shall not prevail.  And the way to help against that is to turn to those Scriptures and to work your faith upon them," (p. 253).
  7. "If you think to overcome temptations by reasoning, the devil will be too hard for you," (p. 254).
  8. "[L]et me tell you by way of encouragement for the acting of your faith in the time of temptation that it is not such a heavy condition for the Lord to let the devil out upon one in the strongest and most terrible temptation as for the devil to have power to draw any to sin...To be given up therefore to the power of any one sin is a heavier judgment than to be given up to the strongest temptation of the devil," (p. 254).
  9. "Further, for the help of your faith, even in the time of the stirrings of corruption, take that Scripture in Romans 5:6, where the Lord is said to be merciful even to the ungodly in a way of justification," (p. 255).

In Chapter 26 he shows that saints must walk by faith in times of affliction.
  1. "The first and principal help of faith in affliction, whereby a saint is able to walk, is by looking upon God," (p. 257).
  2. "There is a wisdom of God in afflictions...The Lord considers what affliction is, and He measures out afflictions suitable unto the conditions of the servants who are in affliction," (p. 258).
  3. "Then also the soul looks upon God's faithfulness in afflictions," (p. 259).
  4. "The soul looks upon God's tenderness in the time of affliction," (p. 259).
  5. "Again, the soul looks upon God's protection in afflictions and so exercises faith," (p. 259).
  6. "Further, faith takes hold of the strength of God in afflictions and so comes to have strength to bear afflictions beyond all natural strength," (p. 259).
  7. "[F]aith looks upon God as making it the greatest thing that He delights and glories in, namely to help His servants in time of affliction," (p. 260).

In Chapter 27 Mr. Burroughs outlines more ways that faith helps the soul in times of afflictions.
  1. "Faith takes away the guilt of sin, and so makes the affliction easy to be borne.  It takes away the guiltiness, and so it comes to purify the heart; guiltiness makes affections very heavy and sad...We can easily rejoice in tribulations if we are justified by faith and so have peace with God.  It is the guilt of sin that is the sting in afflictions," (p. 261).
  2. "Afflictions that were evil before come to be turned into good," (p. 262).
  3. "Again, faith enables the soul to look upon the issue of afflictions as present, and to conclude deliverance out of afflictions; though they are not actual, yet faith makes them as if they were actual and real," (p. 262).
  4. "Faith helps in afflictions by resting upon the Word," (p. 262).
  5. "Besides, in afflictions faith exercises thus.  It makes up all in God," (p. 263).

In Chapter 28 he exhorts Christians to exercise their faith in the evil day.  "We are kept by the power of God, but through faith.  It's not enough for you to say that there is an infinite and glorious God who has all power and excellence in Him, for there is none of this power that will be let out to you but through faith; it must be through an act of faith," (p. 265).

This concludes my look at two of Jeremiah Burroughs' treatises found in his book Faith.  This book has been helpful in not only increasing my faith, but also encouraging others to do the same.


***
"And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren," (Luke 22:31-32).

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Saints' Walk by Faith - Chapters 22 to 24

I'm reading Faith by Jeremiah Burroughs and decided to blog the hidden treasures within this book. It is one book that contains two of Burroughs' treatises: (1) Precious Faith and (2) The Saints' Walk by Faith on Earth and by Sight in Heaven.  Both treatises were first published in 1654. In 2011, they were edited by Dr. Don Kistler and reprinted into one book by Northampton Press.  In his second treatise on The Saints' Walk by Faith, Mr. Burroughs expounds 2 Cor. 5:7.  You can see my summary for Chapters 1 to 4 here, Chapters 5 to 10 here, Chapters 11 to 13 here, Chapters 14 to 16 here, Chapters 17 to 19 here, and Chapters 20 to 21 here.

In Chapter 22 Mr. Burroughs gives direction for the exercise of faith in the want of sense:
  1. "Be afraid of unbelief as much as you are afraid of presumption...the truth is that unbelief is a more secret sin, and that which we may fall into before we are aware, sooner than the other," (p. 225).
  2. "At any time when you have a word that seems to make a case for you, take heed that you do not hearken to anything against that word, but require proof for it out of the Word," (p. 227).
  3. "If you have any one sign that may encourage you, you may take comfort from that though you do not find another," (p. 229).
  4. "Labor to treasure up some principles, or some certain conclusions and truths that you will stick to, and resolve upon whatever temptations come against them," (p. 230).

In Chapter 23 he continues to give direction for the exercise of faith in the want of sense:
  1. "When reasoning and temptations grow strong, the way is not to answer them with reasoning and to seek to satisfy those temptations, but rather to fall to prayer and to spread them before the Lord," (p. 236).
  2. "In the time of desertion, the direction that we should take is this: Labor to keep in your eye the object of faith so as to behold and look upon that which may help your faith.  Set before you the covenant of grace, the freeness and the fullness of God's grace in Christ as it is revealed in the covenant, the plentiful mercy that is there; keep that in your eye," (p. 238).
  3. "In the want of sense and sight, let it be your great care, if you think you have not the faith and repentance before, yet now afresh to act on it," (p. 239).

In Chapter 24 Mr. Burroughs outlines helps to walk by faith when God appears as an enemy to the soul.  He contends that a Christian's main care should be to activate faith in all duty: to walk by faith not only when God is withdrawn, but also when God shall appear to be an enemy because:
  1. "This is not such a condition but other dear saints of God have been put into heretofore," (p. 244).
  2. "[You] know that it may be that these are but the dark apprehensions of unbelief, and not indeed that God really is as an enemy to you," (p. 245).
  3. "[N]othing can be gained by flying from Him," (p. 246).
  4. "[I]f your soul is at enmity with sin, certainly God is not your enemy, whatever He appears to you to be," (p. 246).
  5. "[You] suppose that was a reality that God was an enemy.  Yet know there is enough in Christ to reconcile enemies," (p. 246).
  6. "It my be it is because your heart is loose and careless and negligent in your way that therefore God seems to come against you as an enemy," (p. 246).
  7. "[You] let God's appearance be never so terrible, it's fitting for you to trust in Him," (p. 247).


***
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.  For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life," (Rom. 5:8-10).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Saints' Walk by Faith - Chapters 20 and 21

I'm reading Faith by Jeremiah Burroughs and decided to blog the hidden treasures within this book. It is one book that contains two of Burroughs' treatises: (1) Precious Faith and (2) The Saints' Walk by Faith on Earth and by Sight in Heaven.  Both treatises were first published in 1654. In 2011, they were edited by Dr. Don Kistler and reprinted into one book by Northampton Press.  In his second treatise on The Saints' Walk by Faith, Mr. Burroughs expounds 2 Cor. 5:7.  You can see my summary for Chapters 1 to 4 here, Chapters 5 to 10 here, Chapters 11 to 13 here, Chapters 14 to 16 here, and Chapters 17 to 19 here.

In Chapter 20, Mr. Burroughs outlines the motives to draw the heart to believe in the want of sense:
  1. "[T]he first motive is that there is as great humility and obedience to God in believing as in any other way, and so this will take away the two great hindrances to believing"..."humility and obedience," (p. 206).
  2. "It's the safest way in the want of sense to exercise faith...Yet many of us seek to have our faith be the fruit of our joy rather than to have our joy be the fruit of our faith," (pp. 208-09).
  3. "This is the soonest way to get the sense of God's love," (p. 213).
  4. "Labor to stir up faith and to walk by faith in the want of sense, because, even when sense fails, then is the proper time for faith to act," (p. 215).
  5. "Believing in the want of sense is the most glorious work itself...Faith, if it is strong, acknowledges God," (p. 216).
  6. "As faith is most glorious in itself, so it is that which honors God more than any other grace," (p. 217).
  7. "And it is grace that argues much love for God," (p. 220).
  8. "Consider that faith, wherever it is, is first wrought by an almighty power in the soul," (p. 220).

In Chapter 21, he gives more motives to stir up weak believers to exercise their faith when they want sense:
  1. "Surely the sight and sense that we shall come to have after our believing, when there was not sight, will be so much the sweeter and more comfortable," (p. 222).
  2. "They will be stronger against temptations afterwards if in the want of sense and the sight of God's love they can exercise faith," (p. 222).
  3. "By this means, if we can exercise faith in the want of sense, we shall turn the greatest afflictions into the greatest blessings," (p. 223).
  4. "Last, consider what a tedious thing it must be to the Spirit of God for a saint, upon God's withdrawing Himself and the want of sight presently, to have resentful thoughts of God," (p. 223-24).

***
"Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.  For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," (Heb. 4:11-12).

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Peace of Christ

The Duty of Self-Denial and Ten Other Sermons by Thomas Watson includes a sermon titled "The Peace of Christ" on John 16:33.  In his sermon Mr. Watson expounds the doctrine that the "Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Peacemaker, gives His sweet peace to all His people, " (p. 52).

In this context, the term peace is meant as the immediate fruit of a believer's justification.  This peace is purchased by Christ, conveyed by the Holy Spirit, and maintained by Jesus' daily intercession.

The first use of this peace is that it is the believer's consolation in life and death.  Having peace through the blood of Jesus Christ emboldens the believer to make use of God's promises.  In addition, peace is begun in this life, but it is perfected in heaven.  The wicked, however, have no peace.  They may have the appearance of peace in this life, but it will be bitterness in the end:

"And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven," (Deut. 29:19-20).

The second use of this peace is to search and examine for it.  A believer who has the peace of Christ is one with Christ and is submissive to His rule.  A recipient of Christ's blessed peace also has a meek, quiet, and peaceable disposition.

The third use of the peace of Christ is to be calm during life's afflictions.  Christ gives the believer a glorious peace that will hold out in a storm or tempest; therefore, a believer should not be overly troubled with afflictions and trials that are incidental to this life.  "Peace of soul makes harmony in a Christian," (p. 60).

A peaceful Christian will preserve his peace by taking heed of relapses.  "They are dangerous.  Do not tamper any more with sin.  Dare not to feed sin in a corner.  Sin is the peace-breaker," (p. 61).  A peaceful Christian will also keep a clean account with God every day; "Often reckoning keeps God and conscience friends," (p. 61).  Finally, a peaceful Christian will walk closely with God daily.  "Live as under the continual inspection of God's omniscient eye.  Live holily.  Peace and purity go together.  They way to preserve our peace is to preserve our integrity...Search the Scriptures.  The two testaments are the two lips by which God has spoken.  Love the Word.  Love prayer.  Love the Sabbath," (pp. 61-62).

***
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world," (John 16:33).

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Saints' Walk by Faith - Chapters 17 through 19

I'm reading Faith by Jeremiah Burroughs and decided to blog the hidden treasures within this book. It is one book that contains two of Burroughs' treatises: (1) Precious Faith and (2) The Saints' Walk by Faith on Earth and by Sight in Heaven.  Both treatises were first published in 1654. In 2011, they were edited by Dr. Don Kistler and reprinted into one book by Northampton Press.  In his second treatise on The Saints' Walk by Faith, Mr. Burroughs expounds 2 Cor. 5:7.  You can see my summary for Chapters 1 to 4 here, Chapters 5 to 10 here, Chapters 11 to 13 here, and Chapters 14 to 16 here.

In Chapter 17, Mr. Burroughs exhorts Christians to strengthen their faith.  He states: "If you do not walk by faith you will lose your way quickly; you will lose sight of the end of your faith and that will discourage you, and then you will lose your very way itself, and you will be mightily ensnared and be ready to be drawn out of your way and stumble therein, if you do not exercise faith.  But by faith you will keep in sight the end of your way, and keep your way, and be delivered from stumbling blocks, from snares in your way," (p. 179).

In Chapter 18, he gives eight principles for helping the soul to walk by faith:
  1. "Whatever my case is, yet I have to deal with God, with the infinite and glorious God, who has the compass of all things before Him, who does not only look upon things that are now present, but with one view He sees all the whole frame and latitude of things...The great reason why men do  not believe, and when sense and reason is at a stop and their hearts sink, is because they look no higher than themselves; they do not look at God who has the compass of all things in His view," (pp. 184-85).
  2. "We are more to rely upon a word than upon a work of God.  That is a principle that would be a mighty help to faith...God's Word is more to be rested upon than the works of God, for God puts His Word as an object of our faith, but God never makes any single work of His to be an object of our faith," (pp. 185-86).
  3. "[T]he soul that has union with God, and has their portion in the Almighty, has the quintessence and virtue and efficacy of all creatures in God Himself," (p. 187).
  4. "All creatures that we look upon, those that may afford us any help, all their power depends upon God.  They have neither power to do good or hurt any further than God gives out His power and concurs with them...He has the absolute command of all," (pp. 187-88).
  5. "God delights in working (and especially for His servants) beyond all means of all creatures and contrary to all means, above all means, without means, and contrary unto means," (p. 188).
  6. "God, in His dealings toward His people, seldom does any great matters for them but He puts the sentence of death first upon it before it's done.  He does not usually come to help till just before they are ready to die, until all seems gone; then their extremity is His opportunity...Hope is never elevated higher than when our state in the eyes of all men is at its lowest," (pp. 189-90).
  7. "Whatever promise we have in all the Book of God, to any particular of the people of God, that promise may every godly man apply unto himself, being in the same condition that he was in," (p. 190).
  8. "There is no condition that any of the people of God can be in, no condition so dark and so wanting comfort, as is a sufficient plea for unbelief.  Though your condition is never so dark and dismal in your own eyes, yet, remember, it can never be so dark, so dismal, so void of comfort, of helps, as should give you any ground for your unbelief," (p. 191).  "[T]he Holy Spirit speaks of two things that godly people in their greatest weakness may find: First, the fear of God is upon their hearts...Second, they obey the voice of His servants [the authority of His Word], (p. 192).
In Chapter 19, Mr. Burroughs encourages the soul in walking by faith by giving these encouragements:
  1. "God offers Himself unto those to whom the gospel comes, so as He is willing to deal with them in the way of a covenant of grace and not a covenant of works...I verily believe that this is the main ground that holds many under a spirit of bondage and causes them to walk in a disconsolate and distressed condition, and not walk to by faith, because they look upon God as having to deal with Him in the way of a covenant of works," (pp. 193-94).
  2. "All the good that God does for His creatures, especially in order to eternal life, is for His own name's sake," (p. 195).
  3. "There are no qualifications in the creature that are required by God as a condition of our believing," (p. 195).
  4. "The great glory and design that God has in the world is to glorify Himself in the way of His free grace and faithfulness towards the children of men," (p. 197).
  5. "As it is God's great design to magnify His grace above all His works, so it's as delightful to Christ to enjoy the end of His death as it can be to any of you to have your souls saved," (p. 197).
  6. "God withdraws Himself from His people and brings them into such a condition wherein they are without all kind of sense of His love, and there is nothing but darkness.  The Lord has many good ends why He does this," (p. 198).
  7. "Consider, when you are afraid that God should cast you off because you have no sense of His love, what would God get by if He did cast you off?" (p. 202).

***
"He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities," (Isa. 53:11).