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 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).