A Thought Experiment: Assurance & Preaching

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Assurance is a tricky thing in the Christian life. There are numerous ways we can gain assurance. With regards to assurance, there are two things I try to prevent: a false believer from thinking he is a real one and a real believer from thinking he is a false one. This is not easy, as false believers are not easily convinced of their true state and true believers often have great doubts. However, preaching in such a way that Christ’s work and his commands are presented is the best way to guard against either error. Below I present two different types of preaching and what I think are the effects these types of preaching will have. It is simplistic and there are other things that could and should be added, but I think the main point will be clear. These thoughts were prompted as I preached through Ephesians 4:25-5:2 several years ago.   Continue reading

"I Now Take Thee" Weddings in Calvin’s Geneva

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Here is another post on Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 

Eloping or getting married without a public wedding ceremony has become a trend of late. As the value of our wedding vows have diminished through divorce and fornication so too have wedding themselves become passe. Weddings are still big business, but many couples are choosing to avoid ceremonies all together.  In Geneva there was no eloping.

In Geneva “Marriages without weddings were invalid.”  You could not be married without a public ceremony presided over by the pastor and witnessed by the congregation. “Marriages that had been secretly contracted or improperly celebrated elsewhere had to be announced and celebrated anew in a church wedding in Geneva.” The couple, the church, and the magistrate all had to consent to the marriage before the wedding was performed. Here was the process: Continue reading

Stop Playing the Victim

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This is a repost. 

There are few characteristics as central to American culture today as that of being a victim. We automatically assume in most situations we have been victimized. There are real victims, of course. There are people who have hurt, maimed, harmed, reputations destroyed, families broken, children abused, etc. But what I am talking about is that American mindset of being perpetually offended. The students blame the teacher. The teacher blames the students. The parents blame the children. The children blame the parents. The conservatives blame the liberals. The liberals blame the conservatives. We lost the game because of the referees. We lost the election because it was rigged. Our grades our low because our school district doesn’t have enough money. We could pick any race, any economic category, any social status, any topic and we will find the same pattern. We are united in our belief that someone else is to blame.

For Christians, this is a devastating mindset because it causes us to excuse our sin. We look out at all the things that someone else has done to us, real or imagined, and then we say, “It is not our fault.” I was raised by bad parents so the command to honor my parents does not apply to me. My neighbor played loud rock music last night, so the command to love my neighbor does not apply to me. My seminary professor gave me a low grade therefore the command to give honor where honor is due is excised from the Scriptures. My wife was sharp with me last night therefore the command to be kind is cut out of the Bible. My husband does not love me well enough so I do not need to respect him. And on and on it goes. Even if the sin against us is real, it does not excuse our own sin. We can never place the blame for our sins upon someone else. But this is exactly what a victim mentality does. We ought to know better.

Stop shifting the weight of your sins onto the shoulders of your parents, children, teachers, government, spouse, pastor, congregation or whoever else you think is at fault. Stop blaming others for your sins. Stop evading responsibility. Realize that the blood is on your hands because you plunged the knife in. Then flee to Jesus, the sinless victim, who carried the weight of your sins. Only at the Cross can your sins be rolled away. Trying to place them on others will only end in bitterness and pain.

Gender is a Cage

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This is a repost of an article I wrote in 2015.

George Gilder wrote the following paragraphs in 1986.

To the sexual liberal, gender is a cage. Behind cruel bars of custom and tradition, men and women for centuries have looked longingly across forbidden spaces at one another and yearned to be free of sexual roles. The men dream of nurturing and consoling; the women want to be tough and child free. Today it is widely believed that the dream of escape can come at last.

This belief leads to a program of mixing the sexes in every possible way, at every stage of life. In nurseries and schools, in athletics and home economics, in sex education and social life, the sexes are thrown together in the continuing effort to create a unisex society. But the results are rarely as expected, and the policies are mostly founded on confusion.

Some of the confusions arise in the schools, where the androgynous agenda has made the greatest apparent headway and its effects can best be studied. It turns out what seems elemental to many expert educationists is actually bizarre from the long perspective of history and anthropology.

Until recent years, for example, most American parochial schools have kept strict sexual segregation. The boys and girls joined chiefly on ceremonial occasions-assemblies and graduations. Even the playground was divided into male and female territories. The restrictions were lifted only during carefully supervised dances, when young couples made their way chastely around the floor of the gym under the watchful eyes of nuns. Any unseemly body contact brought a swift reprimand: “Leave six inches for the Holy Ghost.”

There is no room for the Holy Ghost any longer at most of our schools. The bodies and minds rub together from kindergarten to graduate study. The result is perfectly predictable. Sexual activity occurs at an increasingly younger age. In communities where the family cannot  impose discipline, illegitimate children are common. Classrooms become an intensely sexual arena, where girls and boys perform for the attention of the other sex and where unintellectual males quickly come to view schoolbooks as a menace to manhood.

He closes the chapter with these words: Continue reading

The Glory & Goodness of Clerical Marriage

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Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 1Timothy 4:1-3

A quote from Scott Manetsch on one of the most enduring legacies of the Protestant Reformation:

Few theological convictions of the sixteenth-century Protestant reformers had greater impact on the structure of early modern European society than that regarding the goodness of clerical marriage. The pastor’s household as an institution was birthed in the 1520s and 1530s, as evangelical church leaders in Germany and Switzerland began to defy canon law and Catholic tradition by renouncing vows of celibacy and taking wives. In their sermons and published writings, but also in their own marriages, reformers like Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Luther, and (somewhat later) John Calvin challenged the medieval church’s teaching that the celibate, contemplative life was superior to the active life of marriage and family. The magisterial reformers argued that the medieval church’s requirement of clerical celibacy was a human invention that tyrannized the consciences of priests and distorted the Bible’s teaching on the value and proper function of marriage. As Calvin saw it, marriage was a “good and holy ordinance” which God had created and offered to men and women from all walks of life for the purpose of procreating children, restraining fornication, and promoting love between husband and wife. Guillaume Farel concurred, crying out in his Summary and Brief Declaration (c. 1529): “O holy estate of marriage, you who are sullied and dishonored [by the priests]. O brutal world, devoid of all sense and understanding, do you not have eyes? Are you so blind that you grope about at noontime as if you were in utter darkness? Do you think that in our day this holy estate should be prohibited, that it is sin to fulfill the commandment of God?” The construction of clerical marriage brought with it a new identity and new responsibilities for the Protestant minister: his spiritual calling as a “shepherd of souls”  now extended beyond the parish church to his family and household, where he served as husband, father, son-in-law, and paterfamilias. It was expected that the pastor’s household, including his wife and children, should serve as an example to the surrounding community, a model of Christian piety and domestic tranquility for neighbors to emulate. Susan Karant-Nunn has rightly observed, “The home of the pastor and his wife became a symbol of active spirituality second only to the church itself.” Although the magisterial reformers did not mandate marriage for young ministerial candidates, they did anticipate that the majority of evangelical ministers would marry, raise children, and participate in the life of the local community.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation marriage is under attack again though from a different enemy. Fornication, adultery, abortion, sodomy, rampant divorce, purposely fruitless marriages, love of money, love of freedom, love of pleasure, pornography, feminism, and sexual molestation, have all taken a toll on the church’s witness about the goodness of marriage.  We like to blame the world, but in the end the church’s refusal to deal with sexual sin in the pews and the pulpit has been one the greatest factors in the disintegration of marriage in America and Europe. Who is to blame for the carnage? The church. Who leads the church? Her ministers. How can we once again recover the glory of marriage? Ministers should be men and marry, raise children, and participate in the life of the local community. Also ministers should teach, shepherd, counsel, and model sexual faithfulness and the goodness of marriage, as well as correct, rebuke, and if necessary excommunicate those who are sexually immoral. Just like in the 1500s if we want another reformation of marriage it will occur through the faithful teaching and lives of ministers.

Cold Feet in Calvin’s Geneva

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I am continuing to work through Kingdon and Witte’s book on marriage in Geneva. 
 

In a previous post I looked at what happens when people get too excited about marriage and up sleeping together before their wedding. As with all periods of history, this problem was common in Geneva. However, there was another issue that Geneva faced that is not a problem in 21st Century America; desertion before marriage. Today an engagement is not binding therefore this is not an issue. If a couple is engaged, it is assumed they will get married. But if they do not wish to get married all they have to do is break off the engagement.  Nothing more is needed.  Continue reading

Book Review: The Pursuit of Holiness

The Pursuit of HolinessThe Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fantastic book on Christian holiness. Avoids both being too general to be any good and being so specific that it becomes legalism. Bridges book is quite the contrast to much current teaching on sanctification. He is clear and plain and therefore hits the target, unlike many today whose teaching is like a soft nerf bullet. He does not qualify things to death constantly saying things like, “Well I don’t mean that.” He says simply we must be holy. We must lead righteous lives. He does not talk about brokenness, weakness, defeat, etc. He talks about disobedience. The sappy sentimentality of evangelical Christianity is missing. The constant focus on grace to the exclusion of faithful, consistent obedience is also missing. He talks about obeying God with our whole self, body, mind, emotions, and will. He talks about how we make excuses for our sins and give up too easily. The book was convicting in a way I did not expect. Bridges recently died. We need more men like him.

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