Diligent Remembrance

We often, at Redeemer, speak of the need for us all to continually preach the gospel to ourselves. John Stott told of how John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, constantly kept the Good News before himself. Stott wrote:

He (Newton) was an only child and lost his mother when he was seven years old. He went to sea at the tender age of eleven and later became involved, in the words of one of his biographers, ‘in the unspeakable atrocities of the African slave trade.’ When he was twenty-three, on 10 March 1748, when his ship was in imminent peril of foundering in a terrific storm, he cried to God for mercy, and he found it. He was truly converted and he never forgot how God had had mercy upon him, a former blasphemer. He sought diligently to remember what he had previously been, and what God had done for him. In order to imprint it on his memory, he had written in bold letters and fastened across the wall over the mantelpiece of his study the words of Deuteronomy 15:15: ‘Thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman (a slave) in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee.’ (The Message of Galatians, pg. 110, emphasis mine)

May we too diligently seek to remember what God has done for us in Christ.

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Summer Reading 2018

Summer is here, and for many, that means a change of pace that might provide an opportunity for a little extra reading. If you think you might be able to slip in a book or two in the coming weeks, let me make some recommendations.

Church Life and Individual Discipleship/Growth

Side by Side: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love by Ed Welch

The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges

The Hole in Our Holiness by Kevin DeYoung

God’s Grace in Your Suffering by David Powlison

In His Image: 10 Ways God Calls Us to Reflect His Character by Jen Wilkin

Encouragement from Christians of the Past

Spurgeon on the Christian Life by Michael Reeves

Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies

The Christian and Politics

How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age by Jonathan Leeman

Letters to an American Christian by Bruce Ashford

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The “Two Journeys”

The Elders have been reading through Andrew Davis’ book, Revitalize. In the final chapter, Davis talks about the importance of being committed to what he calls the “two journeys.” When referring to the two journeys Davis is emphasizing a robust obedience to the great commission (Matt. 28:18-20). Davis says there is an external and internal journey and he simply defines them this way:

External Journey: the progress of the gospel (evangelism and missions)

Internal Journey: progress in the gospel (discipleship toward full maturity in Christ) (pg. 200, emphasis original)

Davis writes:

These two journeys are absolutely intertwined. No healthy church can pick and choose between them, though sadly, most good churches tend to be imbalanced toward one or the other. Dying churches do neither. Perfect churches (of which there are none!) do each with perfect balance. (pg. 200)

What’s needed for churches to progress on the two journeys? Davis says:

…dying to selfishness, to sin, to earthly pleasures, to thinking that the church should serve them. The church has to die especially to caring what people will think if it shares the true gospel of Jesus Christ. (pgs. 207-208)

I have found Davis’ two journeys language to be helpful and have referenced it in the past. His terminology closely parallels our use of “being disciples and making disciples.” This has been our aim since we started Redeemer.

Let’s pray that the Lord would graciously lead us to grow more and more in both of these areas. Let’s also ask ourselves, in what way do we tend to be imbalanced? However, don’t stop there, let’s intentionally seek to grow and strengthen our weaknesses. Let me make two suggestions for growth. First, pray. Yep, pray. No, I’m not offering a cliché, I mean it. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” Second, enlist others in the church to help you and hold you accountable. Seek out others who are strong where you are weak and ask for their help and counsel.

The Lord has called us to the two journeys of being disciples and making disciples. By His grace, may we all as a church progress in both.

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Gospel Amnesia

Martin Luther knew well that we Christians are prone to gospel amnesia when he wrote:

This (justification by faith) is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually. (quoted in John Stott’s The Message of Galatians, pg. 59)

This is why we must continually preach the gospel to ourselves and continually proclaim the excellencies of Christ to one another. Otherwise, we may end up”bewitched” and “quickly deserting” the truth. (Gal. 1:6, 3:1)

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The Evangelism of Worship

Years ago I was listening to a Christian Academic give a lecture. He was talking about Worldview and said the common statement; “What you believe determines the way you behave.” Yet, he then added something I have never forgotten. He said; “What you believe determines the way you behave, and not just what you say you believe.” His point was clear; what we do reveals what we believe…what we really believe, not what we say we believe. (Another way to talk about this is in terms of Orthodoxy (belief) and Orthopraxy (practice).)

We should evaluate all areas of our life in light of this truth. Do my actions in my home, workplace, church, and community line up with what I say I believe? Are my stated beliefs and actions aligned?

Albert Mohler applied this principle to corporate worship when he wrote:

Roger Scruton, a well-known British philosopher, has suggested that worship is the most important indicator of what a person or group of people really believes about God. He writes: “God is defined in the act of worship far more precisely than he is defined by any theology.” In other words, if you want to know what a people really believe about God, don’t spend time reading their theologians. Watch them worship. Listen to what they sing and to how they pray. Then you will know what they believe about this God whom they worship. (He is Not Silent, pg. 31. Emphasis mine)

Yes, indeed, our worship certainly reveals the object of our worship…it reveals what, in our eyes, is of supreme worth. Let me give two specific reasons why we as a church want to continually be aware of our corporate worship.

First, we are all continually tempted and easily led astray into idolatry. Idolatry is worshiping anything other than God. We will be tempted to worship our preferences, tastes, emotions, intellects, and cultural relevance (to name but a few) in corporate worship. Notice the word “our” in the previous sentence. When we are led astray by these things often the idol we end up worshiping is us. We must be aware and prayerful.

Second, our worship is proclaiming either an idol or the triune God of the Bible. What this means is that our worship is evangelistic. It’s either proclaiming the Gospel or the false gospels of the world (consumerism, comfort, materialism, amusement/entertainment…). Remember, in our worship we are telling everyone who our God is. Therefore, we should always pay prayerful attention to our worship in light of God’s Word.

I am thankful to be a part of a church who cares about these things. Let’s pray that by God’s grace we will persevere and continue in this and that we will always be reforming according to God’s Word. Our prayer is that our church would be a faithful witness long after you and I are gone.

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Newton on the Christian Life

John Newton (1725-1807), who is known for penning the hymn “Amazing Grace,” also has a well-known summary statement of Christian sanctification. It comes from a devotional sermon he offered at a friend’s house. According to Tony Reinke, the statement survives via the notes of one in attendance who jotted Newton’s outline down. We don’t even know the notetaker’s name.

Newton’s exposition was on Paul’s words, “By the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor. 15:10). Here is the outline:

I am not what I ought to be —
ah, how imperfect and deficient!

I am not what I wish to be —
I abhor what is evil, and I would cleave to what is good!

I am not what I hope to be —
soon, soon shall I put off mortality, and with mortality all sin and imperfection.

Yet, though I am not what I ought to be,
nor what I wish to be,
nor what I hope to be,
I can truly say, I am not what I once was;
a slave to sin and Satan;
and I can heartily join with the apostle, and acknowledge,
“By the grace of God I am what I am.” (HT Trevin Wax)

All Christians can surely agree!

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Spurgeon on Slavery

Charles Spurgeon, the prominent Baptist pastor, was ministering in England during the time of the American Civil War. Tragically, during this time many professed Christians in the South were slaveholders. As for Spurgeon, he made his view on slavery very clear. Here’s an example, Spurgeon said:

I do from my inmost soul detest slavery . . . and although I commune at the Lord’s table with men of all creeds, yet with a slave-holder I have no fellowship of any sort or kind. Whenever one has called upon me, I have considered it my duty to express my detestation of his wickedness, and I would as soon think of receiving a murderer into my church . . . as a man stealer. (The Reason Why America Burned Spurgeon’s Sermons and Sought to Kill Him, The Spurgeon Center)

As you could imagine, because of his stance, Spurgeon wasn’t winning any popularity contests in the American South. Actually, quite the opposite, Spurgeon was hated by many. On April 10, 1860, one Southern paper published the following referring to Spurgeon:

“If the Pharisaical author should ever show himself in these parts, we trust that a stout cord may speedily find its way around his eloquent throat” (Ibid)

Well, if you can’t get your hands on the man, you do the next best thing. You burn his books! Spurgeon’s sermons were widely published and sold in his lifetime. Yet, all over the South there were “Spurgeon bonfires” where his books and sermons were torched.

Spurgeon Scholar, Christian George, noted the following:

In 1860, an article entitled “Mr. Spurgeon and the American Slaveholders” offered the following words: “Southern Baptists will not, hereafter, when they visit London, desire to commune with this prodigy of the 19th century. We venture the prophecy that his books in [the] future will not crowd the shelves of our Southern book merchants. They will not; they should not.” In 1889, Spurgeon uttered a prophecy of his own: “For my part, I am quite willing to be eaten of dogs for the next 50 years; but the more distant future shall vindicate me.”

The more distant future did vindicate Spurgeon. His sermons do crowd the shelves of Southern bookstores. As Carl F. H. Henry rightly noted, Spurgeon has become “one of evangelical Christianity’s immortals.” Throughout Alabama, Virginia, and the United States of America, the books of “the notorious English abolitionist” still burn—casting light and life in a dark and dying world. (Why the American South Would Have Killed Charles Spurgeon)

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Christian Liberty

During the sermon this past Sunday, we spent some time thinking about the importance of Christian liberty. In his book, How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Politics in a Divided Age, Jonathan Leeman wrote: “Christian liberty is crucial to church unity.” This is very true! In the church, it is Christ that unites us and the commission to the church is to “teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded” (Matt. 28:20). Therefore, Christian liberty issues are the things that Scripture does not speak to. Christian liberty issues are often related to wisdom in applying Scripture to one’s context.

For example, Scripture makes clear that parents are to raise their children in the “discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This most certainly would include educating our children. However, Scripture doesn’t explicitly spell out how one should educate their children as far as public school, private school, or homeschool. I believe this is a Christian liberty issue. In short, Scripture is clear that parents are responsible for instructing their children but does not spell out down to the detail exactly how parents should do it. That’s where Christian liberty comes into play. The “how” will look different from home to home.

Why is this important for church unity? Well, because we love to divide ourselves into social groups based on all kinds of preferences. Yet, the church is different. The church is made up of a diverse group of people who have found salvation in Christ. The church is a group of redeemed sinners united in Christ alone. Not Jesus plus cultural similarities or preferences! No, the church is not to be like the world uniting around those things. What makes the church distinct is its unity in diversity as it gathers around Christ.

If we are going to have this kind of otherworldly unity in the church we are going to have to work hard to graciously protect and promote Christian liberty.

Leeman’s book referenced above focuses on politics, another great example where Christian liberty must be upheld. I’ll close with a fuller quote from him. He wrote:

Christian liberty is crucial to church unity. When we speak beyond where Scripture authorizes us to go, we risk dividing the church where the Bible does not, and one day we will have to give an account to King Jesus for that. You’ve heard the saying, “In essentials unity, in nonessentials liberty, in all things charity.” That’s a good rule of thumb. (pg. 93)

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Heaven: Christ is Central

In his book, God is the Gospel, John Piper asked:

The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there? (pg. 15, emphasis mine)

Let’s have the Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, answer that for us. Spurgeon said:

Oh, think of heaven without Christ! It is the same thing as thinking of hell. Heaven without Christ! It is day without sun; existing without life, feasting without food, seeing without light. It involves a contradiction in terms. Heaven without Christ! Absurd. It is the sea without water, the earth without its fields, the heavens without their stars. There cannot be heaven without Christ. He is the sum total of bliss; the fountain from which heaven flows, the element of which heaven is composed. Christ is heaven and heaven is Christ. You shall change the words and make no difference in the sense. To be where Jesus is is the highest imaginable bliss, and bliss away from Jesus is inconceivable to the child of God. (quoted in Spurgeon on the Christian Life, pgs. 176-177)

If you don’t treasure Christ now, you may not be bound for the heaven of the Bible.

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Counterfeit Gospels

On Sunday we talked about the danger of counterfeit gospels and the need to be aware of them. Trevin Wax, an author (and blogger/editor/publisher),  has written on counterfeit gospels in both book and article form. Here are some of the counterfeits he has noted:

Therapeutic Gospel: Sin robs us of our sense of fullness. Christ’s death proves our worth as humans and gives us power to reach our potential. The church helps us find happiness.

Moralist Gospel: Our big problem is sins (plural) and not sin (nature). The purpose for Christ’s death is to give us a second chance and make us better people. Redemption comes through the exercise of willpower with God’s help.

Social-Club Gospel: Salvation is all about finding fellowship and friendship at church. The gospel is reduced to Christian relationships that help us enjoy life.

Activist Gospel: The kingdom is advanced through our efforts to build a just society. The gospel’s power is demonstrated through cultural transformation, and the church is united around political causes and social projects.

Mystic Gospel: Salvation comes through an emotional experience with God. The church is there to help me feel close to God by helping me along in my pursuit of mystical union.

Churchless Gospel: The focus of salvation is primarily on the individual, in a way that makes the community of faith peripheral to God’s purposes. The church is viewed as an option to personal spirituality, or even an obstacle to Christlikeness.

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