Friday, 29 December 2017

Richard Sibbes- Christ the servant

Is the Lord Christ a servant? This should teach is not to stand upon any terms. If Christ had stood upon terms, if he had refused to take upon him the shape of a servant, alas! Where had we and our salvation been? And yet wretched creatures, we think ourselves too good to do God and our brethren any service. Christ stood not upon his greatness, but, being equal with God, he became a servant. Oh! We should dismount from the tower of our conceited excellency. The heart of man is a proud creature, a proud piece of flesh. Men stand upon their distance. What! Shall I stop to him? I am thus and thus. We should descend from the heaven of our conceits, and take upon us the form of servants, and abase ourselves to do good to others, even to any, and account it an honour to do any good to others in the place we are in.  Christ did not think himself too good to leave heaven to conceal and veil his majesty under the veil of our flesh, to work our redemption, to bring us out of the cursed estate we were in. 

Richard Sibbes- A Description of Christ works page 8/9

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Infant God -Spurgeon

He that is God this day was once an infant: So that if my cares are little and even trivial and comparatively infantile I may go to him, for he was once a child. Though the great ones of the earth may sneer at the child of poverty, and say. "You are to mean, and your trouble is too slight for pity;" I recollect with humble joy, that the King of Heaven did hang upon a woman's breast. and was wrapped in swaddling bands, and therefore I tell him all my griefs..
How wonderful that he should have been an infant, and yet should be God over all, blessed for ever! I am not afraid of God now; this blessed link between me and God, the holy child Jesus, has taken all fear away. Charles Spurgeon -God incarnate the end of fear.

Merry Christmas

Stephen <><

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Good Night Dr Sproul

Lots of people have written over the last few days how R C Sproul's ministry has impacted them, including Joni Erickson Tada, Mark Dever, John Piper and lots more. These were his friends and colleagues people who knew him personally. I'm not even sure I've ever been within 400 miles of the man himself but he has impacted me nonetheless.

The people's theologian.

I first came across R C Sproul through a friend who loved listening to him. He played some of the Foundations Series for me, I was hooked! I remember not too long after some other friends were visiting and looking at my growing book collection, I remember one of them commenting,' wow you really like R C Sproul' and the other looking and saying, 'oh yes you really do, what they didn't know is that 12 months before I had never heard of the guy and yet all those books had been read and loved. I'd read quite a bit of Martin Lloyd Jones at this point but R C Sproul is for me what MLJ is for the generation before, the populariser of Reformed Theology. You can see this by reading Dave Hunt's anti-Calvinist material he credits the giftedness of Sproul as a communicator for the Reformed Resurgence in the States (much to Hunt's disappointment).
Since I started reading theology proper I've always had a taste for it and have always enjoyed it and understood it. Yet in R C's writings I found I enjoyed it more and understood it better, he had a real gift in communicating complex theology, philosophy and history in such simple terms. I believe more than anyone else he prepared me for the weightier stuff. I loved his theological writings but he also wrote on Christian living and I found these books very challenging and appreciate them very much.

The Winsome wit

The tag line to my blog is 'seeking a warm hearted reformed theology' it's slightly misleading as I found it early on in this winsome American teacher. I recall being horrified at Evangelicals and Catholics Together, the document endorsed by J I Packer, Chuck Colson et al, so was in a serious mood as I listened to R C, MacArthur and D.James Kennedy unpack their alarm and why we couldn't agree with Rome on the Ankerberg program (I had the tapes- back in the day) yet R C whilst being very serious injected humour into the conversation as he playfully ribbed one of his former student during the Q and A time and John MacArthur at another time.
You can hear this if you listen to Foundations or From Dust to Glory, even when you listen you can hear that he is speaking with a smile on his face. You can also see his quick wit in any panel discussion, his love for his God and for God's people is always evident.

The Holiness of God

In R C's writings and speaking ministry I found that he had an awe for the God revealed in scripture, that this God isn't to be trifled with, as He is Holy . While God is Holy we are not- in seeing this, in being taken to see it better, clearer the Gospel becomes more amazing. That's what I found in R C's ministry more than anything that God revealed in the Bible is bigger and better than I had known, that sin, my sin was also worse than I realised. How amazing then is the Gospel which saved a wretch like me. How truly amazing is this God who saves.

I thank the LORD for this gifted man of God.

Stephen <><

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Found By Love- Rahil Patel

I heard part of Rahil's story on UCB radio earlier this week so I downloaded the kindle book and began to read. If I'd seen Nicky Gumbel had endorsed it on the cover I wouldn't have bothered. Rahil writes well and I found myself following him on his journey from being in a moderate Hindu family to becoming a Swami and his quest for inner peace. All this was very gripping as he left his family at a young age to devote himself to following a guru in his journey not only for peace but for heaven itself.
There were slight warning signs for me though, every so often he would mention an experience he would have as a swami when he saw a cross or entered into a church. His positive experience of Rome was far removed from the experience of Martin Luther in his testimony.

The book turned into a disappointment when Rahil started going along to church, he went to Holy Trinity Brompton, I groaned inwardly but hoped for a powerful story of conviction of sin following by an understanding of the cross which would have a powerful affect upon this man and bring his troubled soul to rest- as the title suggests- to being found by the love of God.
Instead Rahil says he experienced acceptance, that a voice he often heard said, 'you;r home'. Rahil says nothing of how he encountered the life changing power of the Gospel, he just starts to identify as a Christian. As is typical of Charismatics he then isn't changed enough, there are unresolved issues that require more than salvation. He relates not only how he was 'filled with the Spirit' but how he experienced inner healing both in HTB and the controversial Bethel Church in California. I suppose this book is summed up in the "good advice" he receives, he was offered the opportunity of studying apologetics with RZIM but is offered the advice to ''keep receiving his love, and develop a relationship until it becomes a lifestyle, and then maybe a deep study of the Bible would be better". The worst advice he could be given, rather than the opportunity to grow in his new faith- or to learn that he hasn't yet crossed the threshold and experienced the new birth,  turning down the opportunity to study but the same person gives him the "opportunity" to go to Bethel. Setting him off on a journey chasing after experience after experience without the tools to discern if they are valid or not.

I don't know if Rahil is converted or not, there isn't enough to go on from this testimony. I pray that if he isn't he will be and that instead of chasing after experience after experience he will be impacted and transformed by the Spirit through the Word of God.

May God extend His Grace to you.

Stephen <><

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Martin Luther's Open Gates of Heaven- Reformation 500

Today is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. Very quickly from a simple act of placing a document on a door, written in Latin wanting  a scholar debate, Luther accidently started a movement that was both a revival and a reformation not just in his native Germany but right across the North of Europe.
Luther writes this of his own conversion:
'I greatly longed to understand Paul's Epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression "the justice of God" because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore, I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.
Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that "the just shall live by his faith." Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sincere mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into Paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning. Whereas before "the justice of God" had filled me with hate, now it became inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven.'
Taken from Here I Stand- Roland Bainton (emphasis mine).

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Why read the Puritans?

Joel Beeke and Randall J. Pederson in their introduction to Meet the Puritans argue that we should read the Puritans because :
They shape life by Scripture, They loved, lived and breathed Scripture, relishing the power of the Spirit that accompanied the Word. They called believers to be Word centred.

'If you read the Puritans regularly, their focus on Scripture becomes contagious. Though their commentaries on Scripture are not the last word in exegesis, the Puritans show how to yield whole hearted allegiance to the Bible's message. Like them you will become a believer of the living Book' p.xx Meet the Puritans.

Another reason is they focused on Christ, they 'loved Christ and wrote much about His beauty.' p. xxii I've certainly experienced that reading John Flavel.

It's certainly worth the experience of reading them and praying that God would give us a similar experience of His Word and of exalting Jesus.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

What Did the Reformers do for us?

The following is based on Joel Beeke's talk at Reformation Scotland.

There is a mysterious power in the word of God, like an acorn, containing all the information to build a mighty oak tree, when God unleashes the power of His word, He transforms people.

How did the reformation change the world. What areas are still felt today.

10 ways the reformation bore fruit.

1)      The Word of God- The Bible as God’s word for every aspect of life.

The Bible changed Europe in 5 ways, authority- all other authority, ecclesiastical, political and papal must submit to the Word of God, contrary to  the Church of Rome, the reformers held that the church was under the authority of the Word.

1 The Bible available in the language of the people, the work of translation at the time of the reformation was revolutionary. We just see it as normal because we are children of the reformation.

2 infallibility and inerrancy- every part of every word is the living word of God. Jesus argued the point over a tense for example at one point. (I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob- showing life after death by a present tense).

3 The reformers brought in  the idea of self authentication, scripture is the best interpreter of scripture. Not allegory or tradition but the Word itself.

4 liberation, the Reformers liberated the Bible by translation, the word be taught by expository preaching. Zwingli started preaching in the New Testament book of Matthew chapter 1 and just carried on, it was revolutionary but we are beneficiaries of the reformation. Straightforward understanding of the Bible, without imposing on it.

5 Power- the scriptures given to transform our mind, only one book can transform and conform us to the mind of God, the Bible.

The reformers encouraged everyone to not only read it but to study the Bible. In family worship the father is called to expound the scriptures.  We might see this as normal but this is because we are children of the reformation.

2)      The reformers recovered the Gospel of grace- they uncovered it from a false one. It’s by Grace Alone. In the Roman  Catholic understanding according to Thomas Aquinas sanctification came before grace and before justification do your best and God would do the rest. The reformers said, you cannot do one single thing.

God’s way of salvation is a glorious substitute for the false gospel of Rome. Luther experienced this when he was whipping himself, sleeping on cold concrete- until he found grace, found that he  had an open heaven, for him the gates of heaven were open.

Luther saw justification as the first thing and sanctification is the fruit of it and it is all of grace.

Grace calls us, justifies us, sanctifies us, and will glorify us.

Do you live by grace, is grace everything to you. Grace is more than what we think, because we do not start as neutral grace is undeserved kindness to those who deserve to be hell bound. It’s all of grace.

3)      Experiential Piety- The Reformers preached a piety that can be experienced. The Fatherly sovereignty of God to His people in the Lord Jesus Christ.

4)      Old paths- persevered the faith of the Reformers was the faith of  primitive Christianity. They recovered the truths from the early days of the church. These old paths of the father’s is worth us pursuing. The reformation principle of sola scriptura doesn’t mean you throw away church history but we examine church history/tradition by scripture.

5)      Christ as king- all done in subjection not to man but to God and His word. The reformers found themselves at odds with the Pope, the Pope had asserted authority, the kings asserted authority in their locality. The reformers said they were both wrong, not the Papacy and not the secular rulers. The Church was delivered from the State and the Pope.

We need to walk the tightrope avoiding anarchy as God calls us to honour authority, so we need to cultivate a heart of submission.

Yet we must be willing to oppose them when they oppose God. Christ is the head of the church.

6)      Christian freedom- the gospel of Christ freed us from tyranny, the reformed faith abolished the idea of the divine right of kings. No-one but God had power over the conscience but God alone. Kingship was changed to constitutional rather than absolute. To free the church from the state and towards freedom and democracy and gave us the rule of law.

7)      Vocations for the common good- the reformers recast the state as a commonwealth promoting the dignity of labour, encouraging trade and the growth of wealth for everyone. Everyone should thrive together, everyone has a stake in the life of the nation. This binds together the State as a commonwealth, everyone must do their work to the glory of God. It does away with the line between the secular and the sacred. All 7 days are from the LORD.

Everyone working for the good and salvation of his neighbour, this encouraged social cohesion, and care.

8)      Marry and child rearing- marriage as a reflection of the Christ/church relationship. Parents raising their children who are loaned to them from God. Seeking God’s face, the whole concept of the Christian home was developed by the reformers and the Puritans.  All of life must be lived for the glory of God. William Gough, 'You could have the most homely, cranky wife but you are to treat her like a godly queen.' Marriage is designed to encourage us in holiness and service.

9)      Arts and sciences, the reformers rekindled the spirit of enquiry by exploring knowledge, opening academies, fostered the idea of universal education. Encouraging art, science, architecture  astronomy, exploration.

10)   The true worship of God- they understood that worship was at the centre, they came to the Word to see how we should worship. To bow down before the supreme majesty through Christ in the Spirit, and we are to have as our goal worshipping God in every aspect in our lives. To give to Him the honour that is due to His holy name.

Soli Deo Gloria.