The Covenant of Redemption

David Van Drunen & Scott Clark on the covenant of redemption:

In Reformed theology, the pactum salutis has been defined as a pretemporal, intratrinitarian agreement between the Father and Son in which the Father promises to redeem an elect people. In turn the Son volunteers to earn the salvation of his people by becoming incarnate…by acting as surety of the covenant of grace for and as mediator of the covenant of grace to the elect. In his active and passive obedience, Christ fulfills the conditions of the pactum salutis…ratifying the Father’s promise, because of which the Father rewards the Son’s obedience with the salvation of the elect. And because of this the Holy Spirit applies the Son’s work to his people through the means of grace.

Covenant, Justification and Pastoral Ministry, p. 168

(HT: Martin Downes)

The goodness of God

My thanks to Ray Ortlund for these Sibbes quotes:

“There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.”

Richard Sibbes, Works, I:47.

“Another way to love God is to consider his wonderful goodness. He is good and doth good. It is a communicative goodness. Let us think of his goodness and the streaming of it out to the creature. The whole earth is full of the goodness of the Lord. What are all the creatures but God’s goodness? We can see nothing but the goodness of God. What is all the creation but Deus explicatus, God unfolded to the senses? He offers himself to our bodies and souls; all is God’s goodness. . . .

He hath fitted every part of us, soul and body, with goodness, all the senses with goodness. What do we see but goodness in colors? What do we hear but his good in those delights that come that way? We taste and feel his goodness. . . .

But then for our souls, what food hath he for that? The death of Christ, his own Son, to feed our souls. The soul is a spiritual substance, and he thought nothing good enough to feed it but his own Son. . . . The soul, being continually troubled with the guilt of some sin or other, feeds on this. . . .

Then, as God’s goodness is great and fit, so it is near us. It is not a goodness afar off but God follows us with his goodness in whatever condition we be. He applies himself to us, and he hath taken upon him near relations, that he might be near us in goodness. He is a father, and everywhere to maintain us. He is a husband, and everywhere to help. He is a friend, and everywhere to comfort and counsel. So his love is a near love. . . .

And then again this goodness of God is a free goodness, merely from himself, and an overflowing goodness and an everlasting goodness. It is never drawn dry; he loves us unto life everlasting. He loves us in this world and follows us with signs of his love in all the parts of us, in body and soul, till he hath brought body and soul to heaven to enjoy himself forever there.

These considerations may serve to stir us up to love God, and direct us how to love God.”

Richard Sibbes, Works, 4:195-196.

Reasons Believers in Christ Need Not Be Afraid

Adrian Warnock pointed me in the direction of this encouraging piece from John Piper:

1. We will not die apart from God’s gracious decree for his children.

James 4:14-15

“If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Matthew 10:29-30

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Deuteronomy 32:39

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (See Job 1:21;1 Samuel 2:6; 2 Kings 5:7)

2. Curses and divination do not hold sway against God’s people.

Numbers 23:23

“There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel.”

3. The plans of terrorists and hostile nations do not succeed apart from our gracious God.

Psalm 33:10

“The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.”

Isaiah 8:9-10

“Take counsel together [you peoples], but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (See 2 Samuel 7:14; Nehemiah 4:15)

4. Man cannot harm us beyond God’s gracious will for us.

Psalm 118:6

“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Psalm 56:11

“In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”

5. God promises to protect his own from all that is not finally good for them.

Psalm 91:14

“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.”

6. God promises to give us all we need to obey, enjoy, and honor him forever.

Matthew 6:31

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Philippians 4:19

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

7. God is never taken off guard.

Psalm 121:4

“Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

8. God will be with us, help us, and uphold us in trouble.

Isaiah 41:10

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:13

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.'”

9. Terrors will come, some of us will die, but not a hair of our heads will perish.

Luke 21:10-11, 18

“Then [Jesus] said to them, ‘. . . there will be terrors (!) and great signs from heaven. . . . and some of you they will put to death. . . . But not a hair of your head will perish.'”

10. Nothing befalls God’s own but in its appointed hour.

John 7:30

“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.” (See John 8:20; 10:18)

11. When God Almighty is your helper, none can harm you beyond what he decrees.

Hebrews 13:6

“So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'”

Romans 8:31

“If God is for us, who can be against us?”

12. God’s faithfulness is based on the firm value of his name, not the fickle measure of our obedience.

1 Samuel 12:20-22

“And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. . . . For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.'”

13. The Lord, our protector, is great and awesome.

Nehemiah 4:14

“Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.”

Trusting firm promises with you in fragile times,

Pastor John

Not a private matter

“The Christian life is not just our own private affair. If we have been born again into God’s family, not only has he become our Father but every other Christian believer in the world, whatever his nation or denomination, has become our brother or sister in Christ.

“But it is no good supposing that membership of the universal Church of Christ is enough; we must belong to some local branch of it. … Every Christian’s place is in a local church. … sharing in its worship, its fellowship, and its witness.” – John Stott, Basic Christianity

Seeing our sin and seeing the Saviour

My Thanks to Martin Downes for this:

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Some extracts from a letter that Robert Murray M’Cheyne wrote to a “soul seeking Jesus.

If you did not know your body was dangerously ill, you would never have sent for your physician; and so you will never go to Christ, the heavenly Physician, unless you feel that your soul is sick unto death. Oh, pray for deep discoveries or your real state by nature and practice!

Pray to see yourself exactly as God sees you; pray to know the worth of your soul. Have you seen yourself vile, as Job saw himself? (Job xi. 3, 5, xiii. 5, 6); undone, as Isaiah saw himself? (Isa vi. 1, 5). Have you experienced anything like Ps. li.?

Perhaps you will ask, Why do you wish me to have such a discovery of my lost condition? I answer, that you may never look into your poor guilty soul to recommend you to God; and that you may joyfully accept of the Lord Jesus Christ, who obeyed and died for sinners.

You will never stand righteous before God in yourself. You are welcome this day to stand righteous before God in Jesus.

Is God Punishing Me?

From John Bloom at Desiring God:

As a Christian, when you experience a painful providence like an illness or a rebellious child or a broken marriage or a financial hardship or persecution, do you ever wonder if God is punishing you for some sin you committed?

If you do, there is some very good news from the letter to the Hebrews.

The original readers of this letter had been experiencing persecution and affliction for some time. They were tired, discouraged, and confused—why was God allowing such hardships? And some were doubting.

So after some doctrinal clarifications and some firm exhortations and a few sober warnings (so they could examine if their faith was real) the author of the letter brought home a very important point.

He wanted his readers to remember that the difficulty and pain they were experiencing was not God’s punishment for their sins or weak faith. Chapters 7-10 beautifully explain that Jesus’ sacrifice for sin was once for all believers for all time (10:14). No sacrifice of any kind for sin was ever needed again (10:18).

He followed that up in chapter 11 with example after example of how the life of faith has always been difficult for saints.

And then he wrote the tender encouragement and exhortation of chapter 12 where he quoted Proverbs 3:11-12:

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.

“It is for discipline that you endure. God is treating you as sons,” he said. These saints were not to interpret their painful experiences as God’s angry punishment for their sins. That angry punishment was completely spent on Jesus—once for all—on the cross.

Rather, this was the message they were to understand from their hardships: God loves you! He has fatherly affection for you. He cares deeply for you. He is taking great pains so that you will share his holiness (12:10) because he wants you to be as happy as possible and enjoy the peaceful fruit of righteousness (12:11).

This is why as a father, whenever I discipline my children, I always try to make it clear to them that I am not paying them back for their sins. That’s why I don’t use the term “punishment.” I don’t want them to misunderstand and think I am giving them what they deserve. That’s God’s job. And if they trust in Jesus, all their punishment was taken care of on the cross.

Instead, I always use the terms “discipline” or “correction” and explain that I love them and my intention, even though the discipline is painful, is to correct and train them. I want them to know that their father loves them, cares for them deeply, and is taking great pains to point them toward the way of joy.

It is crucial that we remember that everything God feels toward us as Christians is gracious. When God disciplines us it is a precious form of his favor. It’s what a loving father does. He is not giving us what we deserve because he “canceled the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands…nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). Instead, he is training us in righteousness. Because he loves us so very much.

*            *            *

Recommended resource: “The Painful Discipline of Our Heavenly Father

Revivalism!

“It is an offense to our rational, truth revealing God; it is an offense to the true work of His Son; it is an offense to the true work of the Holy Spirit to use the names of God, or of Christ, or of the Holy Spirit in any mindless emotional orgy marked by irrational, sensual, and fleshly behavior produced by altered states of consciousness, peer pressure, heightened expectation or suggestibility. That is socio-psycho manipulation and mesmerizm and it is a prostitution of the glorious revelation of God taught clearly and powerfully to an eager, attentive, and controlled mind. What feeds sensual desires, pragmatically or ecstatically, cannot honor God. You have to preach the truth to the mind.”
-John MacArthur
From the 1998 Grace to You message from 2 Timothy 3:1-4:4 “God’s Word in Today’s Church: Five Reasons I Teach the Bible”

(HT: Reformed Voices)

God is Not Your Butler

Butlerbig

Thomas Watson, a Puritan pastor from 350 years ago, asked in his book, Body of Divinity, “Why does God delay an answer to prayer?” In other words, why would God ever keep us asking and seeking and knocking when he could respond sooner? He gives four answers:

1. Because he loves to hear the voice of prayer. “You let the musician play a great while before you throw him down money, because you love to hear this music.”

2. That he may humble us. We may too easily assume we merit some ready answer, or that he is at our beck and call like a butler, not as sovereign Lord and loving Father.

3. Because he sees we are not yet fit or ready for the mercy we seek. It may be he has things to put in place—in us or in our church or in the world. There are a million pieces to the puzzle. Some things go first to make a place for the others.

4. Finally, that the mercy we pray for may be the more prized, and may be sweeter when it comes.

My thanks to Justin Buzzard for this.

“Pure grace and overflowing love”

Martin Luther

Martin Luther

“If you have a true faith that Christ is your Saviour, then at once you have a gracious God, for faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon his fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face.”

(Martin Luther quoted by Roland Bainton in Here I Stand, pp. 49-50).

(HT: John Fonville)

J. I. Packer on Young Christian Leaders

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Mark Driscoll and JI PackerIn the lengthy time that Dr. J. I. Packer afforded me to speak with him while we were recently together in Orlando, I asked him which theological issues he would commend young Christian leaders to study in order to be prepared for the next fifty years. His list was quite insightful:

1. Regeneration — He said that the doctrine of regeneration has not been fully appreciated by many who do not understand that to be born again with a new heart and new nature means that we have at our deepest level a new identity and new passionate desires for God’s Word and ways. He commended to all young Christian leaders a thorough study on the doctrine of regeneration.

2. God-Centered Theology — He said that theology today is rife with man-centered thinking so that the glory of God in all things is not the essence of what is taught to be faithfully Christian. The result, he explained, is that even Christians often live their lives for the supreme purpose of their perceived happiness, feelings, and satisfaction. Yet, biblical Christianity differs from the other religions of the world in that the desires and purposes of God override ours; we are not the number one priority, but rather God is.

3. Godliness Begins at Home — This point was both surprising and refreshing. I was expecting only weighty and complicated theological admonition from such a theological giant. However, his wise counsel on this point is well needed. Packer said that most Christians do not take seriously the biblical teaching that true Christian living begins first at home with one’s spouse, children, and grandchildren. Therefore, he implored young Christian leaders to begin their quest for maturity and holiness at home in relationship with their family.

4. Trinity — Packer stated that the fullness of the doctrine of the Trinity is not completely appreciated as it should be. The result, he said, is that some Christians have only a deep understanding of Jesus or the Holy Spirit so that they are guilty of what he called “Jesus-olatry” or “Holy Spirit-olatry” rather than a full love and worshipful appreciation of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

Regeneration and Conversion

Tom Schreiner


Does regeneration necessarily precede conversion?



The answer to the question is “yes,” but before explaining why this is so, the terms “regeneration” and “conversion” should be explained briefly.

Regeneration means that one has been born again or born from above (John 3:3, 5, 7, 8). The new birth is the work of God, so that all those who are born again are “born of the Spirit” (John 3:8 ESV here and henceforth). Or, as 1 Pet 1:3 says, it is God who “caused us to be born again to a living hope” (1 Pet 1:3). The means God uses to grant such new life is the gospel, for believers “have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet 1:23; cf. Jas 1:18). Regeneration or being born again is a supernatural birth. Just as we cannot do anything to be born physically—it just happens to us!—so too we cannot do anything to cause our spiritual rebirth.

Conversion occurs when sinners turn to God in repentance and faith for salvation. Paul describes the conversion of the Thessalonians in 1 Thess 1:9, “For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” Sinners are converted when they repent of their sins and turn in faith to Jesus Christ, trusting in him for the forgiveness of their sins on the Day of Judgment.

Paul argues that unbelievers “are dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1; cf. 2:5). They are under the dominion of the world, the flesh, and the devil (Eph 2:2-3). Every one is born into the world as a son or daughter of Adam (Rom 5:12-19). Therefore, all people enter into this world as slaves of sin (Rom 6:6, 17, 20). Their wills are in bondage to evil, and hence they have no inclination or desire to do what is right or to turn to Jesus Christ. God, however, because of his amazing grace has “made us alive together with Christ” (Eph 2:5). This is Paul’s way of saying that God has regenerated his people (cf. Tit 3:5). He has breathed life into us where there was none previously, and the result of this new life is faith, for faith too is “the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

Several texts from 1 John demonstrate that regeneration precedes faith. The texts are as follows: “If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 2:29). “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7). “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whomever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1).

We can make two observations from these texts. First, in every instance the verb “born” (gennaô) is in the perfect tense, denoting an action that precedes the human actions of practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, loving, or believing.

Second, no evangelical would say that before we are born again we must practice righteousness, for such a view would teach works-righteousness. Nor would we say that first we avoid sinning, and then are born of God, for such a view would suggest that human works cause us to be born of God. Nor would we say that first we show great love for God, and then he causes us to be born again. No, it is clear that practicing righteousness, avoiding sin, and loving are all the consequences or results of the new birth. But if this is the case, then we must interpret 1 John 5:1 in the same way, for the structure of the verse is the same as we find in the texts about practicing righteousness (1 John 2:29), avoiding sin (1 John 3:9), and loving God (1 John 4:7). It follows, then, that 1 John 5:1 teaches that first God grants us new life and then we believe Jesus is the Christ.

We see the same truth in Acts 16:14. First God opens Lydia’s heart and the consequence is that she pays heed to and believes in the message proclaimed by Paul. Similarly, no one can come to Jesus in faith unless God has worked in his heart to draw him to faith in Christ (John 6:44). But all those whom the Father has drawn or given to the Son will most certainly put their faith in Jesus (John 6:37).

God regenerates us and then we believe, and hence regeneration precedes our conversion. Therefore, we give all the glory to God for our conversion, for our turning to him is entirely a work of his grace.

(HT: 9Marks)

Why God Doesn’t Fully Explain Pain

I Love this from John Piper:

One of the reasons God rarely gives micro reasons for his painful providences, but regularly gives magnificent macro reasons, is that there are too many micro reasons for us to manage, namely, millions and millions and millions and millions and millions.

God says things like:

  • These bad things happened to you because I intend to work it together for your good (Romans 8).
  • These happened to that you would rely more on God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1).
  • This happened so that the gold and silver of your faith would be refined (1 Peter 1).
  • This thorn is so that the power of Christ would be magnified in your weakness (2 Corinthians 12).

But we can always object that there are other easier ways for God to accomplish those things. We want to know more specifics: Why now? Why this much? Why this often? Why this way? Why these people?

The problem is, we would have to be God to grasp all that God is doing in our problems. In fact, pushing too hard for more detailed explanations from God is a kind of demand that we be God.

Think of this, you are a blacksmith making horseshoes. You are hammering on a white hot shoe and it ricochets off and hits you in the leg and burns you. In your haste to tend to your leg you let the shoe alone unfinished. You wonder why God let this happen. You were singing a hymn and doing his will.

Your helper, not knowing the horseshoe was unfinished gathered it up and put it with the others.

Later there was an invasion of your country by a hostile army with a powerful cavalry. They came through your town and demanded that you supply them with food and with shoes for their horses. You comply.

Their commander has his horse shoed by his own smith using the stolen horseshoes, and the unfinished shoe with the thin weak spot is put on the commander’s horse.

In the decisive battle against the loyal troops defending your homeland the enemy commander is leading the final charge. The weak shoe snaps and catches on a root and causes his horse to fall. He crashes to the ground and his own soldiers, galloping at full speed, trample him to death.

This causes such a confusion that the defenders are able to rout the enemy and the country is saved.

Now you might say, well, it would sure help me trust God if he informed me of these events so that I would know why the horseshoe ricocheted and burned my leg. Well maybe it would help you. Maybe not.

God cannot make plain all he is doing, because there are millions and millions and millions and millions of effects of every event in your life, the good and the bad. God guides them all. They all have micro purposes and macro purposes. He cannot tell you all of them because your brain can’t hold all of them.

Trust does not demand more than God has told us. And he has given us immeasurably precious promises that he is in control of all things and only does good to his children. And he has given us a very thick book where we can read story after story after story about how he rules for the good of his people.

Let’s trust him and not ask for what our brains cannot contain.

Tim Keller’s Prodigal God

Tim Keller’s new book The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith comes out in October. Based on Tim’s classic exposition of the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, this book is intended to help believers and unbelievers understand the Gospel of grace in a fresh and compelling way.

Tim, however, has been asked by a fair number of people about the title of the book. Some have concluded that using the word “prodigal” in reference to God is saying something about God that the Bible itself does not say. So instead of trying to answer these questions myself, I sent a note to Tim asking him if he would be kind enough to explain his use of the word “prodigal” in reference to God. This is what he wrote back to me:

The word ‘prodigal’ does not appear in the Greek text. It is an English word that has become attached to the parable of the two lost sons in Luke 15. But it is a good, suggestive word that helps us understand the parable’s teaching.

The word ‘prodigal’ is an English word that means recklessly extravagant, spending to the point of poverty, of ‘being in want’ (Luke 15:14.) The dictionaries tell us that the word can be understood in a more negative or a more positive sense. The more positive meaning is to be lavishly and sacrificially abundant in giving. The more negative sense, is to be wasteful and irresponsible in one’s spending. The negative sense obviously applies to the actions of the younger brother in the Luke 15 parable of the two sons. But is there any sense in which God can be called ‘Prodigal’?

First, the elder brother is offended by the father’s extravagant and (to him) irresponsible welcome of his younger brother. The father, of course, represents God, and legalists are always offended by the gospel of free grace. They see it as wasteful and unfair. After all, they worked for their acceptance. These are the people to whom Jesus was telling the parable in the first place—the Pharisees who objected to Jesus’ lavish grace to tax collectors and sinners. They certainly thought Jesus was being far too free and irresponsible with the love and favor he was promising them from God. Jesus depicts them in the parable as the elder brother upset with his father’s prodigality.

Second, the positive meaning of the term ‘prodigal’ is definitely true of God. He spent himself to the uttermost on the Cross. He did so ‘recklessly’ in the sense that he did not reckon the cost to himself. Jesus was someone who spent himself into helpless poverty (2 Cor 8:9) and was ‘in want’ in the most extreme way.

So, in summary, the title ‘Prodigal God’ calls attention not only to the mistaken way that legalists regard God’s gospel of grace, but also to how Jesus, though he was rich, spent everything without thought for himself, that we might be saved.

Thanks for the explanation Tim!

(HT: Tullian Tchividjian)

What Has God Done For You Lately?

I love this from Thad Noyes:

If preaching is merely telling people what to do, then the first nine verses of 1 Peter are hard to preach. However, if preaching involves telling people what God has done, then these same verse provide a goldmine for preaching.

For several weeks our church has been slowly walking through these opening verses of 1 Peter, simply reflecting on the wealth of grace that God has displayed in our lives. Just preaching through this material has made me much more aware in my day to day life of the mercy that surrounds me. If you are feeling at all discouraged, read 1 Peter 1:1-9 and just consider what God has done for you.

1. You are elect according to the foreknowledge of God.

2. You have been sanctified by his Spirit.

3. You have been brought to obedience to Jesus Christ.

4. You have been sprinkled with his blood.

5. You have been born again.

6. You have a living hope through Christ’s resurrection.

7. You are destined for an inheritance.

8. That inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

9. God is keeping that inheritance for you.

10. Not only is God guarding your inheritance, he is also guarding you through faith.

11. You rejoice, though you’re grieved by trials.

12. The genuineness of your faith is being confirmed through trials.

13. You love the unseen God.

14. You believe in the unseen God.

15. You rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and full of glory.

16. The salvation of your soul.

May the Lord in his grace keep us focused on his grace.

Meditations on Corporate Worship

Some good thoughts on worship from Justin Childers:

Worship is the joyful response of people to the glorious God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. Worship is to be an active part of a Christian’s life, both personally and corporately. All of life is to be lived for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31); and, the local church is to gather regularly, uniting a congregation of worshipers into a unified body to respond to God, engage with God, exhort one another, and be an example to unbelievers.

Here are a few guiding principles for corporate worship.

Corporate worship should be:

God-focused – Worship is to be focused on the Triune God of the Bible. Believers should boldly and humbly approach the throne of God with confidence through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We were created by God for God. We exist to glorify God by enjoying God.

Christ-exalting – Worship is to be specifically focused on exalting the person and work of Jesus Christ. All good things come to us by virtue of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. Thus, we are to celebrate our Savior each time we gather to worship.

Spirit-empowered – Worship is to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. In worship, we are to yield ourselves to the power of the Spirit and allow Him to say and do whatever He pleases

Bible-saturated – Worship is to be informed by God’s Word. The Bible contains God’s instructions for how we are to worship Him. Thus, we are to saturate our worship gatherings with His Word. The songs, prayers, readings, preaching, and ordinances should be permeated with Scriptural truth. When we gather to sing praise to God, the content of the songs is more important than the particular style in which they are sung.

Joyfully-reverent – Worship is to be both joyful and reverent. The Bible says that God is pleased when we find our greatest joy in Him and when we have a proper reverence in His presence. God is holy and should be praised in the way He has ordained in His Word.

Participatory/Congregational – Worship is to be congregational in nature. When the church gathers, we must guard against a spectator mindset. Each believer should fully participate in every aspect of the worship service. We do not gather to all individually meet with God. We gather to corporately worship our great God with one heart and one voice.

Practically, at Christ Baptist Church, these guiding principles are cultivated in these ways:

· We intentionally choose each song according to whether it is biblically accurate, theologically rich, God-centered, and helpful for building up the church.

· We don’t mind breaking the “flow” of a service by including Scripture readings and prayers. We are far more interested in hearing from God’s Word than we are in creating an artificial feeling.

· We prefer our music to be simple in order not to distract from the content of the songs. Our volume is intentionally low in order to allow the voices of the people to drive the worship of God.

· We are intentionally and overwhelmingly in favor of participatory singing (all the congregation singing together).

· We read a lot of Bible in our services.

A low view of God

“The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us… The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go a long way toward curing them.”

(A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

(HT: Theocentric Preaching)

Loving Jesus like his Father does

I love this quote. I love what is ultimate, and then work back to the practical and pastoral implications. John 17:24 speaks of the ultimate of beholding the glory of Christ. That’s what Jesus prays for on our behalf. But seeing is not enough. There is a higher experience. Verse 26 speaks of our appreciating, savouring, enjoying, delighting in what we see and understand of his glory. If our affections are not stirred we have not seen Christ in his glory. The ultimate, then, is that we should appreciate and love him as the Father sees him and loves him. When you think of it, anything less is unworthy of him. This is where everything is heading. If our study, service, and sanctification are not not leading this way we’ll miss the mark! So Jesus prays (then dies), and reveals himself in the Word by the Spirit.

“I have paraphrased John 17:26 in order to pray it like this: ‘Father, grant me power from the Holy Spirit to love the Son of God like you love him.’

I pray this in the morning when I get up; I pray it during the day when my mind slips into neutral; and I pray it when I fall asleep at night. My heart has been captured by this prayer.

When I pray it, I am confessing to God that if he does not grant me a work of the Holy Spirit in my life, I will never acquire passion for the Son of God. I am confessing to him that my godliness, my discipline, my knowledge of the Word, though all good, are insufficient to produce passion for the Son of God.

I can change my mind, but only the Holy Spirit can change my heart. Divine love can only be divinely imparted.”

—Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 201

(HT: Of First Importance)

DA Carson: The One Thing We Need Most Urgently…

The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

When it comes to knowing God, we are a culture of the spiritually stunted. So much of our religion is packaged to address our felt needs-and these are almost uniformly anchored in our pursuit of our own happiness and fulfillment. God simply becomes the Great Being who, potentially at least, meets our needs and fulfills our aspirations. We think rather little of what he is like, what he expects of us, what he seeks in us. We are not captured by his holiness and his love; his thoughts and words capture too little of our imagination, too little of our discourse, too few of our priorities.

In the biblical view of things, a deeper knowledge of God brings with it massive improvement in the other areas mentioned: purity, integrity, evangelistic effectiveness, better study of Scripture, improved private and corporate worship, and much more. But if we seek these things without passionately desiring a deeper knowledge of God, we are selfishly running after God’s blessings without running after him. We are even worse than the man who wants his wife’s services-someone to come home to, someone to cook and clean, someone to sleep with-without ever making the effort really to know and love his wife and discover what she wants and needs; we are worse than such a man, I say, because God is more than any wife, more than the best of wives: he is perfect in his love, he has made us for himself, and we are answerable to him.
Carson, D. A.
A call to spiritual reformation : Priorities from Paul and his prayers
p. 15

(HT: Jacob Hantla)

Ferguson on the Prayer of Faith

“This, then, is the prayer of faith: to ask God to accomplish what He has promised in His Word. That promise is the only ground for our confidence in asking. Such confidence is not “worked up” from within our emotional life; rather, it is given and supported by what God has said in Scripture.

“Truly ‘righteous’ men and women of faith know the value of their heavenly Father’s promises. They go to Him, as children do to a loving human father. They know that if they can say to an earthly father, ‘But, father, you promised…,’ they can both persist in asking and be confident that he will keep his word. How much more our heavenly Father, who has given His Son for our salvation! We have no other grounds of confidence that He hears our prayers. We need none.

“Such appeal to God’s promises constitutes what John Calvin, following Turtullian, calls ‘legitimate prayer.’

“Some Christians find this disappointing. It seems to remove the mystique from the prayer of faith. Are we not tying down our faith to ask only for what God already has promised? But such disappointment reveals a spiritual malaise: would we rather devise our own spirituality (preferably spectacular) than God’s (frequently modest)?

“The struggles we sometimes experience in prayer, then, are often part of the process by which God gradually brings us to ask for only what He has promised to give. The struggle is not our wrestling to bring Him to give us what we desire, but our wrestling with His Word until we are illuminated and subdued by it, saying, ‘Not my will, but Your will be done.’ Then, as Calvin again says, we learn ‘not to ask for more than God allows.’

“This is why true prayer can never be divorced from real holiness. The prayer of faith can be made only by the ‘righteous’ man whose life is being more and more aligned with the covenant grace and purposes of God. In the realm of prayer, too (since it is a microcosm of the whole of the Christian life), faith (prayer to the covenant Lord) without works (obedience to the covenant Lord) is dead.”
From Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust), pp. 146-147.

(HT: Pure Church)