3.18.2009

Abounding Grace Radio


Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts March 23-27, 2009
Monday March 23, 2009
Romans 8 No Condemnation!
Tuesday March 24, 2009
Romans 8 No Condemnation!
Wednesday March 25, 2009
Romans 8 No Condemnation!
Thursday March 26, 2009
Romans 8 No Condemnation!
Friday March 27, 2009
Pastors Wes Bredenhof and Chris Gordon

3.12.2009

The "Great Sex" Controversy

If you want to get an audience, talk relationships. A healthy marriage is, as often suggested, the pathway to success, a life of bliss, and the mark of happiness. Oprah, Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura have built their empires around addressing the subject. Who doesn't need help to improve their marriage? After all, it is thought, relationships are the most relevant subject anyone could address.

I suppose it shouldn't be any surprise that the American church has latched on to the real potential for church growth here. Countless pastors get up on their stages, dim the lights, and begin with a scenario like this: "Good morning! Today, we are going to talk about relationships--happiness in relationships. Are you having a bad marriage? Do you need help to recover the romance? Wives are you tired? Have you lost your bearings? Husbands, are you wondering where the fire went? All ears are atuned, "yes, yes, yes, and yes," the listener responds. The pastor replies, "Well, I have good news for you. For the next two months we are going to begin a series on relationships. God has something in store for all of you. You just need to tap into his resource box." Then comes the bombshell. "Today", says the minister, "we are starting right at the issue that no one has been bold enough to address in the church, and that is sex."
As the weeks go by, the church begins to fill-up. The message is spreading, there is actually a minister willing to address the subject of sex in church. Down at the coffee shop the women are talking, "I have finally found a pastor who is discussing something relevant and practical, he speaks to me, and, ever since I started attending, I think my relationship with my husband is getting better." The other women begin to talk, "I am missing this at my church, my pastor is just not reaching my family, maybe I will come this week." And so it goes, the church must be doing something right because since it started back in 2002, there has been an increase to over two-thousand people.

The above scenario is happening in countless churches across the US on a given Sunday. Popular pastors such as Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell and others have frequented series on sex, pornography and other subjects of this nature. At Daystar Church in Good Hope, Alabama, Pastor Jerry Lawson is having a monthlong focus on sex in his sermons (see here ), and it's explicit. In fact, the church has raised a billboard throughout the county that advertises the Sunday worship services with this new series: Great Sex God's Way. Citizens, naturally, are confused. You can't even buy beer in Cullman County, and this pastor has license to promote his sex-talk in the public arena and on billboards? Even a local truck driver spoke out, "Paul said preach the Gospel. Talking about sex ain't gonna get nobody to heaven."

The point of the truck driver is something that needs to be addressed. What makes pastors experts on these subjects? When I studied to be a minister of the gospel, there were no classes on how to have better sex in my marriage relationship. I was trained for a specific purpose. And that purpose compels me not to deal with symptoms, but with the heart of all problems, namely, our sin, and how a just God can be properly propitiated. When the power of Christ and him crucified is preached, there is a power made available to the hearer by the Spirit to put to death sin in his life. Does this mean pastors should never address these subjects? We address them in so far as the Word calls us to address them. In other words, our applications must arise from the text itself. This is not what is happening in the above scenarios. The applications are completely divorced from the Bible and have become manipulated by the pastor for his own causes.
Pastors have to be very careful not to spoon-feed their congregations application. The imperatives in the Bible are never given as a set of rules. The pastor has the obligation to preach the law and the gospel is such a way that the believer, now renewed in the mind, might set himself to apply these things to his own circumstance and setting. If this is not done, numerous dangers arise. First, the people become too dependent on the pastor. This, I suspect, is a major part of the problem. We are in a cult of personality and today most people enter church more tied to the man than the message. Second, if we are only giving people a series of to-do lists, we leave them powerless to fulfill them and under the law. These are very serious dangers.

Further, I can't help but see here a certain transformationist ideal that suggests that Christians are the only ones who have the true answers on these subjects. Forgive me if I would rather listen to Dr. Laura than Pastor Lawson on these issues. At least with Dr. Laura I know that her intentions are sincere and that she is trained to address the subject matter. When I see pastors redefining the entire focus of ministry to social causes instead of the advancement of the gospel, I cannot find anything really life changing or sincere in the approach. It is exactly what Martyn Lloyd Jones called a rape of the emotions. It panders to peoples weakness and leaves them without the life changing power of the Spirit. This is not ministry, this is not our mandate.

Finally, look at what happens to our witness. Isn't it sad to hear of the unbelieving citizens of Cullman County crying out because the church is not doing what it should be doing? What effect might pastor Lawson have in his community if he were preaching Christ with conviction and power? This is a serious call to all pastors. Stop the silliness! This is a mockery, and God will not be mocked. Fufill your callings. Enough is enough, the trumpet is sounding. Preach Christ!
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3.11.2009

Abounding Grace Radio

Here are next weeks programs:
Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts March 16-20
Monday March 16, 2009
Matthew 20 Beginning With the Last to the First
Tuesday March 17, 2009
Matthew 20 Beginning With the Last to the First
Wednesday March 18, 2009
Matthew 20 Beginning With the Last to the First
Thursday March 19, 2009
Matthew 20 Beginning With the Last to the First

Friday March 13, 2009
Pastors Wes Bredenhof & CJ Gordon

3.09.2009

Ten Ways to Help Your Children Leave the Church

This is from Wes Bredenhof. You can find the full write-up on his blog. But here are Wes' ten ways.

Ten Ways to Help Your Children Leave the Church
1. Gripe and complain about the church endlessly. Make sure that your children hear your complaining. Never, ever say anything positive about the church and certainly never pray for the church and for the pastors, elders, and deacons.

2. Become a oncer. Communicate to your children that you don't need the ministry of the Word and sacraments and they don't really need it either. You've heard it all before anyway. Make it clear that God's call to worship doesn't apply to your family.

3. Frequent other (especially non-Reformed) churches. Tell them that the differences are not all that great and we all basically believe the same things anyway -- except these other churches have far more joy. Also, be sure to get your children involved in the activities of other churches wherever you can. It will be good for them to broaden their horizons.

4. Make church attendance optional. If they don't feel like going to church, don't make it sound like going to church is like going to school or to the dentist. If they don't want to, you shouldn't make them. It has to be a matter of the heart. Tell them that they have to want to go.

5. Similarly, make catechism attendance optional. If they don't feel like going, certainly don't make them. Here too, it has to be from the heart. Whatever you do, don't support the efforts of your pastor to catechize your children. Don't check to make sure they're memorizing the catechism, don't check to see if they're doing their homework, and don't bother making sure they're prepared for class.

6. Do not sing from the Book of Praise in your home. You do not want to communicate to your children that you actually appreciate the Psalms and Hymns of the church. You do not want them to embrace these songs and actually think that there may be some value to them.

7. Deliberately move far enough away from the church so that meaningful involvement in the life of the church becomes impossible. Do not take any opportunity to move closer.

8. Do not teach your children about the importance of giving your first fruits to the Lord. Never speak to your children about financial contributions to the church. Be sure to set them an example by never or rarely giving yourself. If you do give something, make sure that it's something from what's left over and do it grudgingly. Say things like, "Well, we have a little extra this month, maybe we can give something to the church to get the elders off our back."

9. Do not send them to the Christian school the other children from the congregation attend. Instead, send them to a school where they will learn about the "catholicity" of the faith. Or, send them to a public school so they can be Davids and Daniels for the Lord. If you homeschool them, make sure they develop closer bonds with other homeschoolers than with the people in your own church.

10. Say nothing about their friends or about potential marriage partners. When it comes to friends, encourage them to look for friends to whom they can be a light and a witness -- they should have as many unbelievers for friends as possible. When it comes to marriage partners, tell them, "The only thing that matters is that he/she loves the Lord."

In short, do everything you can to communicate that the church is merely a human organization or a club where you can come and go as you please. Make it clear that the church is not your spiritual mother (Gal. 4:26), not the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), not the bride for which Christ died and which he loves (Eph. 5:25), and definitely not the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).

3.06.2009

Perkins on Justification and the ACTIVE Obedience of Christ

That justification stands in two things: first, in the remission of sins by the merit of Christ his death; second, in the imputation of Christ his righteousness, which is another action of God whereby he accounts and esteems that righteousness which is in Christ, as the righteousness of that sinner which believed in him. By Christ his righteousness we are to understand two things: first, his suffering, especially in his death and passion; second, his obedience in fulfilling the law, both which go together for Christ in suffering obeyed, and obeying suffered. And the very shedding of his blood to which our salvation is ascribed, must not only be considered as it is passive, that is, a suffering; but also as it is active, that is, an obedience, in which he showed his exceeding love both to his father and us, and thus fulfilled the law for us. This point if some had well thought on, they would have not placed all justification in remission of sins as they do (Perkins, A Reformed Catholik).

3.05.2009

Abounding Grace Radio


Here are next weeks programs.


Abounding Grace Daily Broadcasts March 9-13, 2009
Monday March 9, 2009
Romans 16 Savage Wolves
Tuesday March 10, 2009
Romans 16 Savage Wolves
Wednesday March 11, 2009
Romans 16 Savage Wolves
Thursday March 12, 2009
Romans 16 Savage Wolves
Friday March 13, 2009
Pastors Wes Bredenhof & CJ Gordon

3.02.2009

The CRC & the BELHAR CONFESSION: What Hath Grand Rapids to do with Belhar?

I notice that the CRC is gearing up for its next Synodical meeting, and one of the items on the agenda is a consideration to adopt the Belhar Confession as a fourth confessional standard of the denomination. See Here. In fact, one local CRC has already, independently, adopted the confession with equal binding authority as the Three Forms of Unity. This particular CRC states that they have become "the first assembly of Reformed believers in North America to formally adopt the Belhar Confession as one of its doctrinal standards. These standards define the core of what it means to be Reformed. Belhar is the first such standard to be approved by Reformed believers in 400 years."
The Belhar Confession is a confession that claims to address issues of social injustice and racial segregation The following are a few statements from the confession:


We Believe ...that true faith in Jesus Christ is the only condition for membership of this Church; Therefore, we reject any doctrine which absolutises either natural diversity or the sinful separation of people in such a way that this absolutisation hinders or breaks the visible and active unity of the church, or even leads to the establishment of a separate church formation;

that any teaching which attempts to legitimate such forced separation by appeal to the gospel, and is not prepared to venture on the road of obedience and reconciliation, but rather, out of prejudice, fear, selfishness and unbelief, denies in advance the reconciling power of the gospel, must be considered ideology and false doctrine.

What doctrines does the confession have in mind? I know of no doctrines that would promote the absolutisim of separation of people based on color or constitutional make-up. Anyone with the least bit of knowledge knows such views are not Christian. What bothers me here is what is not said. It's too vague. I could read this and walk away thinking that any doctrine that hinders unity is to be rejected.

My concern is this: What hath Grand Rapids to do with Belhar? I have no idea as to why the CRC would need to adopt this confession, nor should. Something else is behind this. Could it have something to do with the RCA's adoption of the Belhar in 2007? Is it a statement to others who have established "separate church formations" in defense of the doctrinal tradition once held by the CRC?
The preaching of Christ breaks down all sinful constitutional barriers of race, color, and diversity. When Paul writes,"there is now neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female", he has in mind the benefits that flow from preaching a message that, as Ephes 2 states, breaks down the middle wall of separation. When the gospel is preached in its liberating power, the social concerns outlined in the Belhar confession are remedied. It is inconceivable that a church faithfully tending to its mandate to be missional in the preaching of Christ would hold to these sinful separations. But let's say such a thing is conceivable, and there are churches dividing by race and gender. If such were the case, the Belhar Confession is extremely inadequate to address the issue because it only focuses on symptoms.
Historically, churches that have neglected the preaching of the cross have often turned to social agendas. The amount of time, energy, and money given only to the symptoms of what is the real problem is, well, astounding. This is nothing new. Christian Liberalism has showed us that when doctrinal convictions are laid to the side, an obsession for unity develops at the expense of the truth. The offense of the cross is lost. Looking at the trajectory of the CRC's movement away from its doctrinal heritage, such has been the case. We have seen the rise of false inventions in worship contrary to Q&As 96-98, the blatant disregard of God's commandments regarding women in ecclesiastical office, the adoption of paedocommunion, third-wave Pentecostalism, tolerance of practicing homosexuals (see here), an attempt at union with Rome in the removal of the "harsh" language of Q&A 80, and much more. Aren't these departures from what was once confessed divisive to the unity of the whole? Shouldn't the CRC be reaffirming what their own confessions already say? The results of doing so might be shocking. We have seen this downgrade before in history. Why did Machen write "Christianity and Liberalism"? While unity is always something that must be preserved, it is never something that is to be sought at the expense of the truth.
Now this is not to suggest that confessional churches should be unconcerned with unity issues. Of course they should. But there should be an understanding that when the church fulfills the clear mandate given from Christ to emphasize a Word and Sacrament ministry, all of these other concerns are met. We are then not just looking at symptoms but the remedy. It is in the offense of preaching the cross that unity is created and barriers are shattered.

So what is the CRC's real motivation in seeking to adopt this confession? In other words, why does the CRC really like this confession? It is not possible that the Belhar Confession is vague enough to be a cloak to call for unity at costs, even at the expense of its own confessional heritage?

Being a good steward of what we have already received in the faith once for all delivered to the saints, will, indeed, remedy the concerns of the Belhar Confession. To seek for unity at the expense of this deposit already entrusted, well, sadly, is one of the most divisive things that could be done in the church of Jesus Christ.