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Dr. Andrew Sach: “The Imperishable Inheritance” (1 Peter 1:1-12)

April 28, 2015

From St. Helen’s Bishopsgate in London, here is an excellent message by Dr. Andrew Sach on 1 Peter 1:1-12.

From Trifecta: “Why Dynasties are Terrible for America”

April 27, 2015

From the Trifecta team of Bill Whittle, Stephen Green and Scott Ott, here are their thoughts on “Why Dynasties are Terrible for America”.  I admit I have my doubts as to whether Abraham Lincoln could be elected in this day and age, given the dynastic tendencies of our current political parties.

Something Different: Sandra McCracken sings “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”

April 26, 2015

Isaac Wardell of Bifrost Arts sent out an email a couple of weeks ago about a new album titled Psalms from Sandra McCracken.  Below you will find one song I like from this album, titled “We Will Feast in the House of Zion”.  The words are most encouraging, a reminder that our Lord is “our ever present help in time of need.”

We will feast in the house of Zion
We will sing with our hearts restored
He has done great things, we will say together
We will feast and weep no more

We will not be burned by the fire
He is the LORD our God
We are not consumed, by the flood
Upheld, protected, gathered up (Chorus)

In the dark of night, before the dawn
My soul, be not afraid
For the promised morning, oh how long?
Oh God of Jacob, be my strength (Chorus)

Every vow we’ve broken and betrayed
You are the Faithful one
And from the garden to the grave
Bind us together, bring shalom. (Chorus)

 

Dr. D.A. Carson on “The God Who Reigns” (2 Samuel 7:1-27)

April 25, 2015

Here is another in Dr. Don Carson’s excellent series, “The God Who is There”, and this video is “The God Who Reigns”.  It is based on 2 Samuel 7:1-27.

Ryle on what evangelical religion is, part five

April 24, 2015

Here is the final thought from Bishop Ryle on what evangelical religion is:

( e ) The fifth and last leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the importance which it attaches to the outward and visible work of the Holy Ghost in the life of man.

Its theory is that the true grace of God is a thing that will always make itself manifest in the conduct, behaviour, tastes, ways, choices, and habits of him who has it. It is not a dormant thing, that can be within a man and not show itself without. The heavenly seed is “not corruptible, but incorruptible.” It is a seed which is distinctly said to “remain” in every one that is born of God. (1 Peter i. 23; 1 John iii. 9.) Where the Spirit is, He will always make His presence known.

We hold that it is wrong to tell men that they are “children of God, and members of Christ, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven,” unless they really overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil. We maintain that to tell a man he is “born of God,” or regenerated, while he is living in carelessness or sin, is a dangerous delusion, and calculated to do infinite mischief to his soul. We affirm confidently that “fruit” is the only certain evidence of a man’s spiritual condition; that if we would know whose he is and whom he serves, we must look first at his life. Where there is the grace of the Spirit there will be always more or less fruit of the Spirit. Grace that cannot be seen is no grace at all, and nothing better than Antinomianism. Note, in short, we believe that where there is nothing seen , there is nothing possessed.

Where there is no fruit, there is likely no grace.

Ryle on what evangelical religion is, part four

April 23, 2015

Here is the fourth part of what evangelical religion is, from Ryle:

( d ) The fourth leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the high place which it assigns to the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of man . Its theory is that the root and foundation of all vital Christianity in any one, is a work of grace in the heart, and that until there is real experimental business within a man, his religion is a mere husk, and shell, and name, and form, and can neither comfort nor save. We maintain that the things which need most to be pressed on men’s attention are those mighty works of the Holy Spirit, inward repentance, inward faith, inward hope, inward hatred of sin, and inward love to God’s law. And we say that to tell men to take comfort in their baptism or Church-membership, when these all-important graces are unknown, is not merely a mistake, but positive cruelty.

We hold that, as an inward work of the Holy Ghost is a necessary thing to a man’s salvation, so also it is a thing that must be inwardly felt. We admit that feelings are often deceptive, and that a man may feel much, or weep much, or rejoice much, and yet remain dead in trespasses and sins. But we maintain firmly that there can be no real conversion to God, no new creation in Christ, no new birth of the Spirit, where there is nothing felt and experienced within. We hold that the witness of the Spirit, however much it may be abused, is a real, true thing. We deem it a solemn duty to be no less jealous about the work of the Holy Ghost, in its place and degree, than we are about the work of Christ. And we insist that where there is nothing felt within the heart of a man, there is nothing really possessed.

The true religion of the Gospel is both doctrinal and experiential: if one is lacking one of these, he or she should seriously examine their hearts.

Ryle on what evangelical religion is, part three

April 22, 2015

Here is another thought from Ryle on what evangelical religion is:

( c ) The third leading feature of Evangelical Religion is the paramount importance it attaches to the work and office of our Lord Jesus Christ , and to the nature of the salvation which He has wrought out for man.

Its theory is that the eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, has by His life, death, and resurrection, as our Representative and Substitute, obtained a complete salvation for sinners, and a redemption from the guilt, power, and consequences of sin, and that all who believe on Him are, even while they live, completely forgiven and justified from all things,—are reckoned completely righteous before God,—are interested in Christ and all His benefits.

We hold that nothing whatever is needed between the soul of man the sinner and Christ the Saviour, but simple, childlike faith, and that all means, helps, ministers, and ordinances are useful just so far as they help this faith, but no further;—but that rested in and relied on as ends and not as means, they become downright poison to the soul.

We hold that an experimental knowledge of Christ crucified and interceding, is the very essence of Christianity, and that in teaching men the Christian religion we can never dwell too much on Christ Himself, and can never speak too strongly of the fulness, freeness, presentness, and simplicity of the salvation there is in Him for every one that believes.

Not least, we hold most firmly that the true doctrine about Christ is precisely that which the natural heart most dislikes. The religion which man craves after is one of sight and sense, and not of faith. An external religion, of which the essence is “doing something,”—and not an inward and spiritual one, of which the essence is “believing,” this is the religion that man naturally loves. Hence we maintain that people ought to be continually warned not to make a Christ of the Church, or of the ministry, or of the forms of worship, or of baptism, or of the Lord’s Supper. We say that life eternal is to know Christ, believe in Christ, abide in Christ, have daily heart communion with Christ, by simple personal faith,—and that everything in religion is useful so far as it helps forward that life of faith, but no further.

Ryle might say that we must worship Christ, not the ordinances or the institutions themselves.

Ryle on what evangelical religion is, part two

April 21, 2015

Here is the next thought from Bishop Ryle on what evangelical religion is:

( b ) The second leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the depth and prominence it assigns to the doctrine of human sinfulness and corruption . Its theory is that in consequence of Adam’s fall, all men are as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and are of their own natures inclined to evil. They are not only in a miserable, pitiable, and bankrupt condition, but in a state of guilt, imminent danger, and condemnation before God. They are not only at enmity with their Maker, and have no title to heaven, but they have no will to serve their Maker, no love to their Maker, and no meetness for heaven.

We hold that a mighty spiritual disease like this requires a mighty spiritual medicine for its cure. We dread giving the slightest countenance to any religious system of dealing with man’s soul, which even seems to encourage the notion that his deadly wound can be easily healed. We dread fostering man’s favourite notion that a little church-going and sacrament-receiving,—a little patching, and mending, and whitewashing, and gilding, and polishing, and varnishing, and painting the outside,—is all that his case requires. Hence we protest with all our heart against formalism, sacramentalism, and every species of mere external or vicarious Christianity. We maintain that all such religion is founded on an inadequate view of man’s spiritual need. It requires far more than this to save, or satisfy, or sanctify, a soul. It requires nothing less than the blood of God the Son applied to the conscience, and the grace of God the Holy Ghost entirely renewing the heart. Man is radically diseased, and man needs a radical cure. I believe that ignorance of the extent of the fall, and of the whole doctrine of original sin, is one grand reason why many can neither understand, appreciate, nor receive Evangelical Religion. Next to the Bible, as its foundation, it is based on a clear view of original sin.

And the doctrine of original sin is certainly one that has been neglected in our day.

J.C. Ryle on what Evangelical Religion is

April 20, 2015

J.C. Ryle, in his tract Evangelical Religion, had some very good thoughts on what evangelical religion truly is – and he had a five-fold answer to that question.  Here is the first of his five points:

To the question “what Evangelical Religion is? ” the simplest answer I can give is to point out what appear to be its leading features. These I consider to be five in number.

( a ) The first leading feature in Evangelical Religion is the absolute supremacy it assigns to Holy Scripture , as the only rule of faith and practice, the only test of truth, the only judge of controversy.

Its theory is that man is required to believe nothing, as necessary to salvation, which is not read in God’s Word written, or can be proved thereby. It totally denies that there is any other guide for man’s soul, coequal or co-ordinate with the Bible. It refuses to listen to such arguments as “the Church says so,”—“the Fathers say so,”—“primitive antiquity says so,”—“Catholic tradition says so,”—“the Councils say so,”—“the ancient liturgies say so,”—“the Prayer-book says so,”—“the universal conscience of mankind says so,”—“the verifying light within says so,”—unless it can be shown that what is said is in harmony with Scripture.

The supreme authority of the Bible, in one word, is one of the cornerstones of our system. Show us anything plainly written in that Book, and, however trying to flesh and blood, we will receive it, believe it, and submit to it. Show us anything, as religion, which is contrary to that Book, and, however specious, plausible, beautiful, and apparently desirable, we will not have it at any price. It may come before us endorsed by Fathers, schoolmen, and catholic writers; it may be commended by reason, philosophy, science, the inner light, the verifying faculty, the universal conscience of mankind. It signifies nothing. Give us rather a few plain texts. If the thing is not in the Bible, deducible from the Bible, or in manifest harmony with the Bible, we will have none of it. Like the forbidden fruit, we dare not touch it, lest we die. Our faith can find no resting-place except in the Bible, or in Bible arguments. Here is rock: all else is sand.

I’ll post another one of his five points tomorrow.

The Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier: “Christ’s Unique Identity and Mission”

April 19, 2015

From the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Bernier of Providence REC in Texas, here is an excellent sermon for the First Sunday after Easter, titled “Christ’s Unique Identity and Mission.”

Christ’s Unique Identity and Mission

1st  Sunday after Easter 

April 12, 2015
In our Easter Sermon we heard how God has given to humanity his ultimate witness to the Truth of the Gospel by raising Jesus from the dead, confirming the cumulative evidence establishing the truth of the central claim of Christianity: that Jesus is indeed, Him whom he claimed to be; The Son of God. Therefore, the gospel, the good news of salvation through faith in Him, is the word of God indeed; the only way for humanity to overcome the curse under which this fallen world exists outside of the perfect obedience of Christ.
This truth has important and radical implications. The first of which is that Christ and his mission are unique. This places the faithful preaching of the gospel in direct opposition to the Spirit of our Age. Our age requires everyone to consider all faiths and religious traditions as compatible and essentially the same.
Many promote the interfaith partnership of institutions in order to address the various social problems we face across boundaries of faith and creed, as if the truth was not an absolute standard, but the result of a negotiable consensus in our attempt to change the world for the better.
In this paradigm anything “new” is welcome as long as all can agree upon it, except one thing: Exclusive claims concerning the universal truth of a faith, in other words, everything goes, except the central claim of Christianity: That God has revealed Jesus as his only Son and has commanded universal faith in him alone as the only means of salvation.
The inclusive spirit of our age sounds really good and is very convincing and seductive. Who can oppose working together for the benefit of humanity? But there is only one problem. The price of such a compromise is the Gospel.
The problem is that this worldly strategy requires Christians to enter in a process of “dialogue” which requires them to renounce or down play the implications of the exclusive claims of the Gospel. But no faithful Christian can do this, and remain a faithful Christian. No faithful Christian can partner with others who require him to compromise the Truth, the Way and the Life; the exclusive message of Christ.
Jesus made this very clear:
He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. Luke 11:23
and
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
Outside of Christ there is no salvation. There is only one way to the Father. It is not my way it is His way, the one way he has appointed for all. This exclusivity of the person and message of Christ was a primary reason why the Roman empire turned to persecute Christians. Faithful Christians would not compromise with the idolatry sanctioned by the Roman state as a requirement for citizenship.
The problem with the contemporary inclusiveness of all religious traditions and faiths is that it runs directly opposite to the essential principle of the gospel concerning the uniqueness of Christ’s identity and mission which makes any form of compromise between the Gospel and any other alternative, be it inside or outside the Church, impossible.
God and the world can only be reconciled through fidelity to Christ, not through dialogue, compromise and change. The Old Adam and the new Adam are mutually exclusive. In Christ or of the world are two mutually exclusive alternatives. One cannot pick and choose what we like from the teachings of both. You cannot be with Jesus and with the world at the same time. You cannot receive and reject the word of God at the same time, you cannot serve two masters whose interests are diametrically opposed to each other.
Yet, we continually hear the claim that this is not so. Our interests are compatible, regardless of our belief; we are all looking for the same thing, peace on earth, so compromise is a small price to pay.
This is the voice of the serpent once more deceiving the world, changing the word of God and placing an alternative which appears desirable, but negates what God has said. Adam and Eve failed to keep the word of God without compromise. God had warned them that to disobey his word would cause their death. The serpent said, not so. You shall not die. But guess who was saying the truth? Unfortunately our fathers trusted and followed the word of the serpent, instead of the word of God, and humanity suffered the consequences.
Through the Gospel, today, God is still saying: this is my beloved Son, hear him and ye shall live; but the serpent says, not so, no need to be that exclusive; all ways lead to God, “inclusiveness”, “compromise”, “change” and a “progressive” attitude is the way to salvation for mankind. Both things cannot be true. The serpent is lying. The witness of Christ is true. There is only one way to the Father.
Therefore in order to overcome the consequences of the sin of Adam, it is necessary for us to die and rise from the dead, which is the meaning of our baptism.
The sacrifice of Christ makes true repentance possible; without him suffering on the cross for our redemption, we would have no choice but to remain slaves to sin and cursed children destined for destruction.
But now that Jesus has died, the door has been opened for us to live in the power of the resurrection, overcoming Satan, denying our corrupt nature, which in Christ was crucified and died upon the cross, and growing in our new nature which was raised from the dead to live in communion with God and perfect obedience to his commandments.
Christ has made us free from bondage to our corruption by taking our nature upon himself and dying on the cross and raising that same nature now redeemed, from the dead. This is the meaning of our baptism. Through faith in his word, we are joined to Christ in his death and resurrection; been redeemed from our corruption and raised to live as new creatures in Christ experiencing the power of the resurrection in our daily lives.
It is then our duty to walk in the power of the resurrection; in newness of life, carrying the cross after him, that is mortifying the old Adam, already crucified and being transformed into the image of the New, becoming more and more like Christ.
It is our duty to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness; and to put on Christ, to serve God in pureness of living and truth. This requires the renewal of our minds; so that the truth which God has revealed in Christ, his word, has the primary place in ruling our inner man so that we approve that which is pleasing to God and grow in its practice for his honor and glory. This is why teaching and learning and keeping the truth, are so essential to Christianity.
We need to know and love what God has revealed is pleasing to him, before we can practice it. And the better we understand and love it, the more capable we shall be of practicing it. The other way around is also true; obedience which is based upon anything but love and knowledge of truth will be short lived, because it lacks profound roots.
It is therefore necessary for us to develop profound roots in our faith; better understanding and love of its essential principles and the removal from our hearts, minds and lives of anything contrary to the gospel of Christ, in the process of sanctification, which is nothing but learning to live in the power of the resurrection.
In our Gospel lesson we heard how the Lord said to the disciples at the end of the first day of the resurrection:
Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. John 20:21
The Mission of the Church is an extension of the Lord’s incarnation.
The church is not free to think and do what it pleases. Just as Jesus was sent to do, and  always did only, the will of the Father, so the mission of the church is bound to keep and do that same will of the Father, who never changes.
The will of the father is in conflict with the changing values of this fallen world. This is why Jesus faced such a strong opposition; it is also the reason why the faithful church suffers both overt and covert persecution.
Yes, the world is willing to pay lip service to Jesus and the church, as long as she does not interfere with its agenda, as long as the church is willing to compromise the message of Christ and stop calling men to true repentance and faith in Christ alone.
But, the Gospel of Truth admits of no compromise of any kind with the world, be inside or outside the church. This is why the picture drawn by Christ for us on the evening of the first day to define our identity and our mission is so essential for us to understand.
After setting his mission as the paradigm for the mission of the Church, the Lord blew on them and said:
John 20:22 … Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.
In this action the Lord constituted the church as his body, authorizing it to proclaim the forgiveness of sins by faith in him. Just like in the beginning God created man in his image by breathing the breath of life into his nostrils so that he became a living being; Just in the same manner the risen Christ, gave the breath of life to the church in the beginning so that it would be re-created according to his image; and thereby commissioned it with the preaching of the word of God, the same word which is breathed from God, and by which the Spirit of Truth is communicated to us, and by which whosoever believes receives the forgiveness of Sins.
In this blowing and in this commissioning to forgive sins, the Lord was entrusting the church as his body with the ministry of reconciliation he came to institute, through the New Covenant in his Blood. He was authorizing the church under the leadership of the apostles to preach the gospel conveying the divine assurance that the forgiveness of sins would be really given to all who receive the true witness of the gospel, which is the same witness of the Spirit of Truth.
The Breath of God is the Breath of Life, is the Word of Life, is the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of Christ, the Word of God, the Bread from Heaven, the Water of Life; All these expressions refer to one and the same spiritual reality. The witness of God to the truth of the gospel is the essential message of both sacraments, forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ alone.
In the first letter of the apostle John, the apostle refers to the record of God confirming the identity of Jesus as the Son of God, which comes to us by means of the testimony of the Spirit through the water and the blood.
The “water” and the “blood” refer to the sacramental liquid elements, which God used to mark Jesus as the Christ at the beginning and the conclusion of his earthly ministry, giving witness to the world thereby that indeed Jesus is He whom he claimed to be, the Son of God as it was revealed at his baptism, by water, and at his death, by the shedding of his blood upon the cross and his resurrection.
It is therefore no coincidence that the elements of water and blood have a central part in the sacramental administration of the New Testament. Jesus came by water and by blood, and the church continues his mission by water and by blood, through Baptism and Holy Communion, continuing throughout the ages, until he comes, the mission of his incarnation which is to offer salvation to all who believe in him and receive the witness of God, which is confirmed to us by means of the faithful preaching of the word and the faithful administration of the two sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.
Because of the truth of these things, we have real assurance by the breath of God, of the forgiveness of sins and that all the benefits of Christ’s passion are really ours, and that we who believe in him find ourselves among those sinners who overcome the world by faith in him, acknowledging the uniqueness of his identity and mission, who have been called to walk in newness of life by the power of the Resurrection, for his honor and Glory. Amen.

by the Rev. Dr. Benjamin E. Bernier

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