Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sinclair Ferguson's "A Preacher's Decalogue"

I've been teaching in my church's Saturday theology and Sunday School classes for about a month now and I still can't shake off the feeling of inadequacy. Perhaps this is actually a good thing, as it keeps me begging for fresh supplies of God's grace and enablement every time I wear the teacher's moccasins. I am greatly encouraged (and surprised!) that my pastor is very supportive and has told me that the congregation actually enjoys my Sunday School classes—surprised because I can't see why. I feel that my oral communication sorely needs improvement (I have a stutter), and to hear that the people of my church profit from my blunderings is a great consolation.

Dr. R. Scott Clark told me the following, after I asked for advice following a Sunday School class wherein I particularly felt that I did a poor job: "Teaching requires practice & trust in the Lord's mercy. Real teaching is a dying to self." Needless to say, this was just what the doctor ordered. I realized that teaching is a giving of oneself to the student, done in the spirit of service, with his edification in heart and mind. From then on, I resolved to approach teaching mindful of the fact that I am serving my Lord and tending to His sheep, and performance anxiety introspection is best countered by assuming the humble posture of a servant.

The following article by Sinclair Ferguson, from Themelios (Vol. 36, Issue 2, Aug 2011), although about the preacher and preaching, I believe has wisdom to impart even to the mere teacher:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Dr. Carl Trueman's Reaction...

...when asked about what he thought of Brian McLaren's solemnization of his son's same-sex marriage:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Brian McLaren Blesses Son's Swordfighting

Even an unbelieving father, who has the light of nature soundly lit in his life, would take pride in a son that exhibits masculinity and would consider himself a world-shattering failure if this did not become so. Imagine someone claiming to be a believer in Christ, and a supposed "minister" at that, officiating in his son's same-sex "marriage"!

Imagine no more! Emergent, soul-damning heretic, Brian McLaren, did just that.

A couple of pertinent links on homosexuality: The Pagan Roots of Homosexuality and Effeminacy in Leadership: More the Effect Than the Cause of God's Judgment

Monday, September 24, 2012

You'll Love THIS Room

So "The Elephant Room" made you puke so hard you had to eat a second lunch? Fret not. "No Compromise: Ever" will not only fill your heart and mind with sound, theological meat, it's bound to go well with whatever you're having for that second lunch.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Swingin' Zwingli?

If any Christian man would be honest with himself, he might readily agree with me when I say that the sin of sexual lust just might be the "final frontier" in the lifelong process of mortification of sin. It has reduced many great men to loaves of bread (Prov. 6:26), the likes of which figure in the roster of those labelled as heroes of the faith. Can we mention the more prominent names, like Samson, David, and Solomon, and forget their trysts with unchastity? Arguably the greatest theologian since the Apostle Paul, Augustine himself is known to have been weighed down heavily by this struggle.

On the Reformation front, we read this of Huldrych Zwingli:

Zwingli apparently struggled early in life with sexual temptation. By his own admission he broke his vow of chastity on several occasions and often spoke of the shame that overshadowed his life. In fact, his appointment to the church in Zurich in 1519 was challenged based on rumors that he had seduced the daughter of an influential citizen. As it turned out, this "lady" had seduced many in Zurich, Zwingli among them. The charge of immorality was finally dropped when it was discovered that Zwingli's only rival for the post openly lived with several mistresses and had six illegitimate children! Zwingli himself lived with a widow, Anna Reinhart, and finally married her in 1524 shortly before the birth of their child. (Zwingli and Anabaptists)


Like many in his day, Zwingli's morals didn't always stand up to scrutiny. In January, 1519, a church called him to Zurich. When the call came, a young woman in Einsiedeln charged him with getting her pregnant. Zwingli admitted his guilt. In his admission, Zwingli said he made an early vow not to touch a woman but found it difficult to keep. He said, "Alas, I fell and became like the dog, who according to the Apostle Peter, turned back to his own vomit." He tried some self-justification by pointing out that the girl was not the daughter of a prominent citizen but the daughter of a barber. In those days barbers had poor reputations. He also said she possessed a poor reputation and had seduced him!

Perhaps impressed with his honesty, the Zurichers called him anyway. (The Zwinglian Revolt)

What all this tells us is that we, strugglers with lust, are in good company, the realization of which must not lull us into complacency but motivate us further into more vigilant watching and praying (Matt. 26:41) for "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it" (1 Cor. 10:13). The knowledge that our heroes' hearts were broken as much as ours on account of lust may just be one of these escape hatches.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Important Essay from Geerhardus Vos' Boy

The Bible Doctrine of the Separated Life by Johannes G. Vos

The question of the separated life is a very important one, not only because it is a practical question which must be faced by every thoughtful Christian, but also because of the doctrinal ramifications that it has. Insistence upon the obligation to live what is called "the separated life" is very prevalent in some circles of earnest Christians today. The details of the separation demanded vary greatly; practices which are tolerated by some groups are denounced by others as inconsistent with Christian duty and fellowship, and vice versa. In general, "the separated life," as the term is commonly used, may be understood to be a life which is separated not only from what can be proved by Scripture to be sinful, but also from various other practices which may be indifferent in themselves; and this separation is regarded as binding on the conscience of the Christian, and is sometimes made a term or condition of ecclesiastical or even of Christian fellowship.

This problem is far more important than is at first apparent. It is far more important than the mere question whether Christians ought to participate in or to abstain from certain particular kinds of conduct. Other problems of the greatest importance are involved. If we give a wrong answer to the question, "What is the Bible doctrine of the separated life?" we are certain to fall into serious errors in other doctrines. Using the term "separated life" in the Biblical, not the popular, sense, we may say that the separated life is an ethical implication of the covenant of grace and is related to the doctrine of sanctification as the latter deals with the nature and place of good works in the Christian life. The other doctrines which are involved in the question of the separated life are: (1) Christian liberty in the use of things indifferent; (2) liberty of conscience from the commandments of men; (3) the sufficiency of Scripture as the standard of faith and conduct; (4) the nature and limits of the authority of the Christian church. The purpose of the present paper is to set forth the teaching of Scripture concerning the separated life, and then to show how erroneous teaching about the separated life affects the four doctrines enumerated above.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Beard of Brotherly Unity

I dedicate this post to my beloved pastor, Nollie Malabuyo, and fellow elder, Albert Medina, with whom the bond of brotherly unity is both a pleasure and a privilege.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psalm 133)

A body in the process of disintegration is a grotesque sight. The order with which God has stamped nature impels us to recoil at disease, especially those of the kind that leaves the physical body disfigured. So it is in matters spiritual.

The church militant, that part of the body of Christ still embroiled in the warfare and struggles of this age, is at its comeliest when those that comprise it are integrated. The disease of disunity leaves it scarred and ugly. What is the foundation of this unity? Calvin writes in his commentary on the passage cited above:

All true union among brethren [is] to take its rise from God, and to have this for its legitimate object, that all may be brought to worship God in purity, and call upon his name with one consent. Would the similitude have been borrowed from holy ointment if it had not been to denote, that religion must always hold the first place? Any concord, it is thus insinuated, which may prevail amongst men, is insipid, if not pervaded by a sweet savor of God’s worship. We maintain, therefore, that men are to be united amongst themselves in mutual affection, with this as the great end, that they may be placed together under the government of God...We must hold, that when mention is made of the Priest, it is to intimate, that concord takes its rise in the true and pure worship of God, while by the beard and skirts of the garments, we are led to understand that the peace which springs from Christ as the head, is diffused through the whole length and breadth of the Church.

Unity is first and foremost founded on true religion, i.e., the pure and undefiled religion passed down from Christ, to the apostles, to the early church, and reclaimed by the Reformation. There may be unity in the basest essential doctrines shared by other professors, but the Christian religion permeates all of life, and all of life can only come under the righteous rule of Christ if true religion is the foundation. We do not aim for a "passing grade" in the school of Christ, we aim for excellence, to the glory of His name.

It must also be observed that unity promotes the fruitfulness of the church. As the sweet moisture of dew hastens the growth of vegetation, so does unity among the elders and constituency of the church provide the fertile soil upon which maturity in Christ is attained. Once more, Calvin observes:

David suggests, that the life of man would be sapless, unprofitable, and wretched, unless sustained by brotherly harmony. It is evident, that mount Hermon must have been rich and fruitful, being famed amongst places for pasture. Mountains depend principally for fertility upon the dews of heaven, and this was shown in the case of mount Zion. David adds in the close, that God commands his blessing where peace is cultivated; by which is meant, that he testifies how much tie is pleased with concord amongst men, by showering down blessings upon them. The same sentiment is expressed by Paul in other words, (2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9,) 'Live in peace, and the God of peace shall be with you.' Let us then, as much as lies in us, study to walk in brotherly love, that we may secure the divine blessing.

For the glory of the Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the health and growth of His body, the Church, let the elders of the local body be united in doctrinal purity and love, and as they are such, the members shall in turn be united with them, and so shall Christ be "all and in all" (Colossians 3:11).

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Church: The Place Where People Have It All Together?

I stumbled across this post over at "The Christian Curmudgeon" and it struck me as a pretty poignant observation, especially since I wrote in the same vein just recently.

TCC observes:

"While the church requires honesty, it may show it does not know quite what to do when there is transparent honesty.

Honesty is particularly dangerous when Christians admit to two struggles – struggles with doubt and struggles with sin."

It is a sad irony that awkwardness should characterize the church in its two chief mandates: orthodoxy and orthopraxy. But I believe the concession lies in one key realization that must occur both on the part of the church leadership and the church members, i.e., the realization that both parties still struggle with sin and that though biblical ideals are in place, the substantial fulfillment of them is reserved for the future age.

In other words, the church leadership should extend more grace to the members, and the members should extend more grace to the former when they fail to extend more grace to them.

The overarching unity in all of this is that we have been saved by grace, through faith, in Christ. As John Owen alludes to in his work on temptation, it is the patience of Christ (Rev. 3:10) that keeps us all together:

A soul acquainted with the gospel knows that there is no property of Christ rendered more glorious therein than that of his patience. (Overcoming Sin & Temptation, eds. Kelly Kapic & Justin Taylor [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2006], 204)

The Lord of Non-Contradiction

The beautiful aspects of creation reflect (analogize) the perfections of God. Behind our finite appreciation of the wonders of God's creation is the consistency which undergird the latter. Imagine your horror when you wake up one morning to find that the wheels on your car had morphed into the shape of a square! A square wheel. LOL.

The absence of such an absurdity in reality is by virtue of the fact that the Creator of reality is all throughout consistent in His being, and He has imparted this attribute of consistency to His handiwork.

The following paper by James N. Anderson and Greg Welty explore the relationship of God with logic and is a very profitable read:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Baboon Stress: The Perichoresis of Natural and Special Revelation

This is a pretty interesting National Geographic documentary on stress.

The initial findings consisted of the observation that one's placement in the social strata determined one's stress levels. So the bosses had lower stress levels than the subordinates, and hence, had less of the risk of stress-related disease. The scientific data gathering came from many fronts, but the video highlighted the research on baboons.

Near the end of the video, after data on genetic study revealed that stress shortened one's telomeres, it was revealed that positive, caring—loving—social interaction actually promoted the regrowth of these telomeres (it should be noted that the shortening of telomeres corresponds to aging). So, here, a premise emerges: love combats stress and its deadly consequences. The case of a baboon troop, whose aggressive alpha males were decimated by disease, that began to be characterized by gentle and caring social interaction by virtue of the survival of predominantly females and docile young males, and which utopian conditions prevailed across succeeding generations, somehow lends further credence to the argument.

The video ends with the resounding conclusion that the way to combat stress is not to claw one's way up the social ladder, but to be contented in one's life sphere, thereby feeling and experiencing the control which bosses posses, and to cultivate a loving social dynamic with others. Sounds very familiar!

"But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." (1 Timothy 6:6-10)


"For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another." (Galatians 5:14-15)

Natural revelation and special revelation holding hands? Sure!

The Filial Ground of Salvation

Whenever I come across pictures of soldiers on the way to a tour of duty, holding their children in their arms, weeping for the impending separation (possibly for a lifetime), my heart is broken. As a father myself, I vicariously feel their pain. A parent longs to always be with his child, to commune with him, to raise him up—to personally love him. If such noble virtues exist in finite, created man, it is but fitting to ground them eminently on the infinite Creator.

It is said that God is merciful, but the kind of mercy that He lavishly bestows on His children is properly borne out of love, a love that has its moorings in God's eternal being. Plainly said, God is merciful to the elect because He loved them as His children before the foundation of the world, coddled in His eternal affections. This adequately negates any notion of worthiness on the part of the objects of love. In fact, God is able to show mercy to His evil, debauched, and sinful foreloved children because they are precisely that—His children.

Geerhardus Vos, in his sermon on Ephesians 2:4,5 entitled, The Spiritual Resurrection of Believers, comments:

Imagine for a moment that you seek the good of someone with whom you do not have a relationship, that you do everything in your power to advance his welfare; you sacrifice yourself for him. But look! Instead of thankfully acknowledging that, he remains indifferent, begins to hate you, and ends up by cursing you. What do you think? Would the miserable condition of such a person be likely to evoke your mercy?

But now, imagine for a moment that all the circumstances just mentioned are the same, except that this time the scoundrel is not a stranger but your own son. Could you stop loving him because he hates you? Could you cease praying for him because he curses you? Could you restrain the urgings of your fatherly mercy because he has seared his conscience? I think not! You will say: He is still my son, whom I have carried in my arms. The more such a rogue causes you shame and heartbreak, all the more will you watch, moved by deep pity for him, how he willfully throws himself into ruin.

Where now is the distinction? Why can't you show mercy to a stranger who behaves like this but can towards your own child, although he may be ten times more vile than the stranger? The answer is simple: in the first case, no love drove you to pity; in the second, a great love had to be expressed in rich mercy.

Our case is no different. In themselves sinners are not objects of mercy but vessels of wrath. Sin is enmity and enmity as such does not fall within the scope of pity. But from eternity God had loved those sinners, those enemies, those spiritually dead, with a fatherly love. This love was the foundation of everything and was before everything. It is useless to ask after its origin. It came from the inscrutable being of God and embraced the objects of its free choice even before they had existence. It determined to make them in such a way as to reflect that love. And look what happened! Those children fell, sank into sin and death. Instead of sons they became devils. Love was answered with hate. Nevertheless—and here lies the precious core of our text—all this was not able to extinguish that love, because it is impossible to tear the son from the heart of the father. On the contrary, it now first came to light clearly that it was love and not just kindness. Where the latter would have stopped it went further and emerged triumphant. It did not love the righteous and virtuous, but the godless. In this "God demonstrates his love toward us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us." This is the deepest reason why Paul knows to ascribe to no other cause than a great, divine love the fact that those who lay in the midst of sin and death and were enemies of God were nevertheless endowed with the greatest benefits that could befall them, namely that God, according to his rich mercy, made them alive together with Christ, the Lord.

These truths brought home by Vos hit me like a freight train. Though they are truths often considered as "common knowledge," the peculiar twist of grounding God's mercy on His parental love flooded me with Gospel comfort.

The Heavenly Father loved me before a single atom of my being became reality, and it is precisely by virtue of this love that He created me, sustains me, pitied me in my wretched state of sinfulness, and brought me to Christ, whose union ensures the continuity of the fatherly love that had no beginning and will have no end.

"I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty" (2 Corinthians 6:18).

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Law and Gospel—the Superiority of the Latter in Dealing with Sin and Temptation

In the Christian's lifelong battle against indwelling sin, his heart is the prize defended and assaulted. Proverbs 4:23 and John Owen agree when the former states, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life" and the latter, "Our hearts, as our Savior speaks, are our treasury. There we lay up whatsoever we have, good or bad; and thence do we draw it for our use." [1]

When the heart is filled up with good, the Law and the Gospel are its contents. But Owen makes the very important point that of the two, the Gospel is the superior antidote to temptation and its fruit, sin. He writes:

For the provision to be laid up it is that which is provided in the gospel for us. Gospel provisions will do this work; that is, keep the heart full of a sense of the love of God in Christ. This is the greatest preservative against the power of temptation in the world...Store the heart with a sense of the love of God in Christ, and his love in the shedding of it; get a relish of the privileges we have thereby—our adoption, justification, acceptance with God; fill the heart with thoughts of the beauty of his death—and you will, in an ordinary course of walking with God, have great peace and security as to the disturbance of temptations...A sense of his love and favor in Jesus Christ. Let this abide in you, and it shall garrison you against all assaults whatsoever...Contending to obtain and keep a sense of the love of God in Christ, in the nature of it, obviates all the workings and insinuations of temptation. [2]

He does not discount the utility of the Law, however:

A man may, nay, he ought to lay in provisions of the law also—fear of death, hell, punishment, with the terror of the Lord in them. But these are far more easily conquered than the other; nay, they will never stand alone against a vigorous assault. They are conquered in convinced persons every day; hearts stored with them will struggle for a while, but quickly give over. [3]

So it is the nature of the case that in dealing with sin and temptation, the Christian needs both the Law and the Gospel, with the Gospel as wielding greater efficacy. Churches who neglect one or the other, or both, benefit their members in no way.

Pastorally, however, a key application must not be missed. Pastors who emphasize the Law inordinately debilitate the sheep. Could it be that accountability of the members towards their elders is impaired by virtue of a fundamentalist, legalist bent in the latter? The erring member is predisposed to keeping quiet and left to dealing with his sin on his own because he foresees that acknowledging the error to his pastor would most likely result in humiliating condescension.

The gracious and Gospel-driven pastor would have the opposite outcome—members who are open to him and adequately mortifying sin in their lives.

1. Overcoming Sin & Temptation, eds. Kelly Kapic & Justin Taylor [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2006], 204.
2. Idid., 205.
3. Ibid., 204.

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