Substituting the Social for the Spiritual

I’ve been perusing an old periodical, The Christian Worker’s Magazine (Nov 1919), published by the Moody Bible Institute. In an article titled “Christian Education: Its Relation to Modern World Life” the author Rev. Robert Russell marks out “five distinct lines of modern apostasy [that] stand out in world thought” where apostasy is substutited for the Christian faith. The fourth substitution Russell identifies is “Social Reform for Individual Regeneration.”

The substitution of the social by-products of Christianity for the main product of individual conversion, is a marked feature of modern church policy. It is now claimed that the main effort of the church should center on the thought of better homes, better industrial conditions, better roads, i.e., the bettering of the conditions of the natural man, rather than individual conversion and the building up of a true social order through the securing of regenerated units. The present cry is for a great “get together” movement, forgetful that the great “get together” movement of Noah’s day ended in Babel and the confusion of tongues; while the movement which is to save the world began with the age of promise, when Abraham, the lonely pilgrim, “built an altar unto the Lord.” Instead of “get together,” the modern cry should be “Get to God,” for through union with Him there can alone be the unity of the race.

Sadly the substitution of social reform for individual regeneration has not abated in the near century since Russell penned these words. Since that time apostate Protestantism continues this program, and nearly all evangelicalism adopts “social reform/activism” to some degree.

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The Act of the Death of Christ

William Ames (1576-1633), Puritan theologian, powerfully says that Christ’s death

was an act of Christ and not a mere matter of enduring because he met and endured it purposely. John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep,” and 10:18, “No man takes it from me, but I lay it down myself.” For the same reason it was also voluntary and not compelled. The act arose out of power and not merely out of weakness–out of obedience to his Father and love for us, not out of his own guilt or deserving. It was designed to satisfy through victory and not to ruin through surrender.

Marrow of Theology, p. 141, emphases added.

Temptation to Sin

I’m continuing to read through Puritan William Ames’s The Marrow of Theology, a little each day after my Bible reading. I appreciated his teaching concerning the character of the devil’s temptation of Adam and its continued character–

  1. The devil’s tempting is a fallacious or sophistical argument whereby, under the appearance of what is true and good, he tries to seduce into falsity and lead into evil.
  2. In this temptation, the good which he held out and pretended to promise was set forth as if it were the greatest of good things; the way to attain that good was pretended to be simple and easy; and that greatest of evils which hung over man’s head was hidden from him.
  3. The devil does the same in all the temptations by which he ensnares mankind.

My Son, Know Thou the Lord

My son, know thou the Lord,
Thy father’s God obey;
Seek His protecting care by night,
His guardian hand by day.

Call, while He may be found;
Seek Him while He is near;
Serve Him with all thy heart and mind,
And worship Him with fear.

If Thou wilt seek his face,
His ear will hear Thy cry;
Then shalt Thou find His mercy sure,
His grace forever nigh.

But if thou leave thy God,
Nor choose the path to heaven,
Then shalt thou perish in thy sins,
And never be forgiven.

Robert Brackenbury (1752–1818)

Tunes: Boylston (“Not all the blood of beasts”), St. Michael (I hear the words of love”), Diademata (“Soldiers of Christ arise”)

Knowing Little of God

In his work The Mortification of Sin Puritan John Owen outlines nine directions to help believers in their struggles with sin. The eighth involves meditating on those things that will always result in our humility and awareness of sin. This involves meditating not only on the excellencies and majesty of God, but especially on how little we really know of God.

We know so little of God because it is God we are seeking to know. God Himself has revealed Himself as one who cannot be known. He calls Himself invisible, incomprehensible, and the like. We cannot fully know Him as He is. Our progress often consists more in knowing what He is not, than what He is. He is immortal and infinite and we are only mortal, finite, and limited.

That is truly something to think about! 

From Woe and Suffering to Joy and Gladness: An Overview of Romans 6-8

I preached this message Sunday, May 15, 2016 at Orwell Bible Church. You can download a copy here.

How does one go from hearing the just declaration of God’s universal wrath (1:18) to exulting in God’s gracious love (8:38-39)? Paul established that every man without distinction is condemned in sin and under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18-3:20), and that justification is by faith alone in Christ alone (3:21-5:21).

1. The Christian’s Responsibility with Regard to Sin, 6

→Each section teaches a fact with corresponding command

1) Christians are dead to sin and alive to Christ, and so must live that way, 6:1-14.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches believers’ every sin is covered by grace, this promotes the idea that they will sin with gusto so there’s more grace!”
• FACT: Believers are united with Christ so that sin’s power is broken and they will live for righteousness, 6:1-10.
• COMMAND: Therefore, Christians must live out this truth! Don’t be controlled by sin, serve God and righteousness, 6:11-14.

2) Christians are freed from sin and enslaved to Christ, and so must serve righteousness, 6:15-23.

• The possible charge: “Since the gospel teaches that believers aren’t under the Law (v. 14) this promotes the idea that they can sin all they want.”
• FACT: Being in Christ doesn’t give believers the freedom to sin, it frees them from sin and enslaves them to righteousness! 6:15-18
• COMMAND: Believers must zealously serve the Lord, their new master, 6:19-23

→The Christian’s responsibility with regard to sin is to stop sinning and serve the Lord.

2. The Christian’s Relationship to the Law, 7

→This section is about the Mosaic Law. Paul said that Christians are “not under law but under grace” (6:14). How is this? What does that mean? Does this mean the Law is sinful?

1) One must die to the Law to be joined to Christ to bear fruit for God, 7:1-6.

• This is illustrated by marriage: A woman who’s married can’t marry another man unless her husband dies, 7:1-3.
• One must die to the law to be joined to Christ, 7:4-6.
• Unbelievers’ life in the Law bears the fruit of death; believers’ life in the Spirit bears fruit for God.

2) Though the Law declares God’s holiness, justice, and goodness, it is the unwitting tool of sin, 7:7-12.

• The Law declares what is right and therefore identifies and condemns transgression.
• Sinners must be delivered from the Law, not because it is evil, but because it can’t justify or sanctify them.
• The only thing the Law can do for sinners is point out their sin and condemn

3) The Law is not to blame for sin, sinners are to blame for sin, 7:13-25.

• The struggle and failure to do good isn’t the fault of the Law but the sin nature. The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.
• Sinners who depend on the Law for deliverance will always be frustrated and fail.
• Whoever relies on himself is without hope; whoever relies on Christ has victory.→

→ Despite the Law’s perfections it is powerless to justify and sanctify sinners. It always successfully discovers and prosecutes sin. The more one sins, the more the Law “works.” The problem isn’t the Law, it’s the sin nature.

→ Jesus, however, died on the cross for your sin, fully satisfying the Law’s judgment against it. The Law’s righteous demands have been fully satisfied by Jesus, not you. Because you died with Christ and rose with him and your sin has been forgiven, you are “dead” to the Law—it has no power or jurisdiction over you, you are free from the Law (Acts 13:39; Rom 7:3; 8:2; cf. also “under the Law,” Rom 2:12; 3:19; 6:14; Gal 3:10; 3:23; 4:21; 5:18).

→ The Christian’s relationship to the Law is therefore “dead” because his sin is forgiven and Christ’s righteousness is imputed. He is not justified or sanctified by the Law but by Christ.

3. The Christian’s Rest in Jesus Christ, 8

→ Every transgression the Law identified and condemned is “paid in full” by Jesus Christ, so that “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”

1) Through the Spirit believers enjoy justification, 8:1-11

• Believers in Christ through the Spirit are freed from the Law’s condemnation of sin, being justified on the basis of Christ’s sacrifice, 8:1-4
• Unbelievers cannot please God because the sin nature controls them and they are enemies of God, 8:5-8.
• Through the Spirit Christians are alive in Christ because of His righteousness, 8:9-11

2) Believers must participate in the Spirit’s sanctifying work, as He confirms they are God’s children, 8:12-17

3) The Spirit guarantees believers’ glorification in fulfillment of God’s gracious purpose, 8:18-30

• No matter what trouble believers experience now, through the Spirit their hope/yearning expectation is not for this world/life/now, but for eternity, 8:28-27
• Believers’ confidence in eternal glory despite present troubles lies with God’s sovereign, gracious purpose to save them, 8:28-30

4) Believers have absolute confidence in God through Jesus Christ, 8:31-39

• No charge can be made to “stick” against believers, 8:31-34
• Nothing can separate believers from the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ, 8:35-39

I Hear the Words of Love

Riverbank, Mountains Landscape, Storm Clouds, BridgeWhile studying for this coming Sunday’s message (Romans 5:1-2) I came across the following hymn in our hymnal that wonderfully communicates the Scripture’s truth (tune)–

I hear the words of love,
I gaze upon the blood,
I see the mighty sacrifice,
And I have peace with God.

‘Tis everlasting peace,
Sure as Jehovah’s name;
‘Tis stable as His steadfast throne,
Forevermore the same.

The clouds may come and go,
And storms may sweep my sky—
This blood-sealed friendship changes not:
The cross is ever nigh.

My love is ofttimes low,
My joy still ebbs and flows;
But peace with Him remains the same—
No change Jehovah knows.

I change, He changes not,
The Christ can never die;
His love, not mine, the resting-place,
His truth, not mine, the tie.

–Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)