What Unites Us in Worship at Bethlehem?

  John Piper: As a supplement to the two messages I am preaching on worship (September 28 and October 4–5), here is a list of “marks” that define us in worship at Bethlehem. I wrote these ten years ago and have only changed them slightly. The reason they are the same, even though we have changed in many ways, is that they deal with deeper issues than style and form. I pray that we will always define ourselves with deeper issues than style and form. “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23). 1. God-Centeredness. We put a high priority on the vertical focus of our Sunday morning service. The ultimate aim is to experience God in such a way that he is glorified in our affections. 2. Expecting the powerful presence of God. We do

read more What Unites Us in Worship at Bethlehem?

Why Do We Draw the Line?

By Carl Trueman: In recent years, talk of uniting around the center has been very popular in conservative evangelical quarters. One obvious reason for this is that many regard such a center as reflecting the fact that there is a solid core of key doctrines on which evangelicals agree, even though there are areas of disagreement. Thus, many consider Trinitarianism, penal substitution, and justification by grace alone through faith alone to be central points of agreement. At the same time, these same people would regard the subjects and mode of baptism or the details of church polity to be areas of disagreement. Yet, by seeing the former as more important, they regard diversity on the latter as not of truly fundamental significance. A second reason for emphasizing talk about the center is, perhaps, more problematic. Frequently, those who talk of the center as all-important contrast themselves favorably with those they see as emphasizing boundaries. Boundaries are much more problematic in our

read more Why Do We Draw the Line?

Where and How Do We Draw the Line?

By Kevin DeYoung: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” Sounds nice, but which are which? Everyone wants to be unified in what really matters, to agree to disagree on what isn’t as important, and to exercise love in all things. But no one seems to agree on what really matters a lot, a little, or not at all. As hard as it can be determining the content of our faith, it can be even harder figuring out where to put up our fences. This business of deciding where and how to draw doctrinal lines is incredibly complex. I can’t begin to do all the necessary biblical, theological, historical, and practical exploration in this article. But perhaps I can sketch an outline of some important considerations. In that vein, here are seven steps we ought to pursue in establishing doctrinal boundaries. The explanations of the points will get shorter as we move through the list. 1. Establish

read more Where and How Do We Draw the Line?

The Grand Centre of Unity

J. C. Ryle, Old Paths (London, 1898), 259: The cross is the grand centre of union among true Christians. Our outward differences are many, without doubt. One man is an Episcopalian, another is a Presbyterian,—one is an Independent, another a Baptist,—one is a Calvinist, another an Arminian,—one is a Lutheran, another a Plymouth Brother,—one is a friend to Establishments, another a friend to the voluntary system,—one is a friend to liturgies, another a friend to extempore prayer. But, after all, what shall we hear about most of these differences, in heaven? Nothing, most probably: nothing at all. Does a man really and sincerely glory in the cross of Christ? That is the grand question. If he does, he is my brother: we are travelling on the same road; we are journeying towards a home where Christ is all, and everything outward in religion will be forgotten. But if he does not glory in the cross of Christ, I cannot feel comfort about

read more The Grand Centre of Unity

Doctrine: Uniting and Dividing

Justin Taylor has a very helpful post dealing with levels of doctrine moving from the absolutes to those things that are open questions. Check it out HERE. From the ESV Study Bible: The ability to discern the relative importance of theological beliefs is vital for effective Christian life and ministry. Both the purity and unity of the church are at stake in this matter. The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories: 1.absolutes define the core beliefs of the Christian faith; 2.convictions, while not core beliefs, may have significant impact on the health and effectiveness of the church; 3.opinions are less-clear issues that generally are not worth dividing over; and 4.questions are currently unsettled issues. Where an issue falls within these categories should be determined by weighing the cumulative force of at least seven considerations: 1.biblical clarity; 2.relevance to the character of God; 3.relevance to the essence of the gospel; 4.biblical frequency and significance (how often in Scripture

read more Doctrine: Uniting and Dividing

Must Unity Precede Revival?

From John Piper: J. Gresham Machen was not persuaded as so many seem to be today that revival and reformation will come to the church only after all the churches in a city experience more “unity.” That has always seemed backward to me. If the churches had deep unity in the truth and in the Spirit, that would be revival and reformation—amazing reformation! Unity of the kind we need is one of the miracles of God’s reviving and reforming work. And even when great revivals have come, along with new unity there was new division. In the mean time faithfulness to the gospel and love for people, no matter how controversial, is the path to reformation. Here’s Machen: Souls will hardly be saved unless the evangelists can say with Paul: “If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed!” Every true revival is born in controversy, and

read more Must Unity Precede Revival?