True Shepherds in a Time of Plague

In 1665 Bubonic Plague, the “Black Death” as it was called at the time, broke out in the city of London, and thousands died. Almost immediately, the royalty left the city, followed quickly by the rich, and then as one wag put it in his history of the time “Most of the clergy suddenly decided they could best minister to their flocks from far, far away.” The scenes of horror recounted in the various plague journals kept by those who stayed are piteous. Hospitals were crammed full of the dying and quickly overwhelmed whatever doctors and nurses had not either fled or died themselves.

But then in the midst of all that terrible sickness and sorrow, and death, who do you think it was who heard the cry of those suffering and returned in droves to minister to the sick and dying, to pastor congregations whose ministers had fled with the king to country estates, to go day by day into the hospitals and read the Word of God to those who were lost and dying without hope and without a Savior? It was the ejected ministers. When the king and his hirelings had all fled, it was the men they despised most who heard the call of Christ and returned. Thomas Vincent, ejected from the living of St. Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, in 1662 was but one of many ministers long remembered by the inhabitants of London for his fearless preaching amidst the dying multitudes in the Great Plague.

Now, why did those men do that? They didn’t have the power to lay hands on the people and heal them, in fact, many of those ministers themselves became sick and died. The answer is that they knew Jesus Christ, and they knew his Compassion because He had worked it in their hearts by His Holy Spirit.

Matthew 9:35-36 tells us “35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
36 But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd.”

Those ministers saw the multitudes in London, weary and scattered, sheep without shepherds, and as faithful servants of the master who saved them and called them, they took up the call and they went amongst them preaching the good news of the Kingdom, bringing light where there was only darkness and hope where there had only been despair. Although they could not cure their bodily ills, yet they could and MUST point them to Jesus, the great physician of the soul. Through faith in him, death could not hurt them. Its sting was gone, and the grave was forever robbed of its victory.

Posted in Charity, Encouragement, History, Pastoral Theology, The Puritans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Relationship – The Key to True Prayer

[Note: This is the introduction to a multi-part series on prayer based on the Lord’s Prayer]

“Teach Us to Pray”

In Chapter 6 of Matthew, Jesus teaches His disciples much about prayer, in Matthew 6:5-8 He says:

5 ” And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
6 “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
7 “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.

Do you regularly pray? I hope you do because Jesus assumes that his followers will pray regularly. You’ll notice that He started out talking about prayer by saying, “when you pray” not, “if you pray” and then He went on to discuss the key to true prayer, which isn’t to be found in the place that you pray, or the way that you pray, or the length of your prayers, but in the disposition of the heart of the one praying. Continue reading

Posted in Prayer, The Means of Grace | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Heart of the Difference Between Revoice Theology and Reformed Theology – the Sinfulness and Mortification of Sinful Desires

At the PCA General Assembly this week, we had several speakers (the most prominent being self-proclaimed Gay PCA pastor Greg Johnson) take issue with the Nashville Statement on the grounds that it condemns a homosexual self-identity. The speakers clearly indicated that they believe that to identify as homosexual and to admit that their lives are dominated by homosexual desires and affections is not sinful unless those desires are actually acted upon. In other words, they may constantly struggle as “Gay Christians” with sinful desires and temptations to have homosexual sex and homosexual relationships, because that is part of their nature as homosexuals, but that unless they actually act upon them, thus joining will with desire simply having those desires is not sinful. They also make it clear that they do not believe that people born with homosexual desires can ever be free of them in this life. Therefore, the life of these Gay Christians will be marked by a constant daily struggle – often described as “heroic” at the General Assembly – not to give into the desires and succumb to temptation.

The real problem is that while there may be PCA presbyters who agree with and sincerely believe in this view of the non-sinfulness of sinful desires and the inability to be free of them before glory, this is not the Reformed position expressed in the Westminster Standards regarding the sinfulness of desires or “orientation”. It is in fact much closer to the pre-Reformation, semi-Pelagian view of sinful desires, appetites and motivations summed up by what the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) calls “Concupiscence”.

Let me try to outline the difference. The Confession, and those who are opposed to Revoice and Side B Gay Christianity, view not only actual homosexual acts but desires to be properly sinful. We also regard part of the work of sanctification to consist of bringing these desires into subjection and mortifying them so they really diminish and die as the regenerate person is sanctified.

Here is how A.A. Hodge summed it up in his commentary on chapter 6 of the Westminster Confession:

“These sections speak of the corruption that remains in the regenerated, and of the guilt or just liability to punishment which attaches to all sin, and of the punishments God inflicts upon it.

I. Of the first, it is taught—

1. Original sin, or innate moral corruption, remains in the regenerate as long as they live.

2. That it is pardoned through the merits of Christ.

3. That it is gradually brought into subjection and mortified by the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification.

4. That nevertheless all that remains of it, and all the feelings and actions to which it prompts, are truly of the nature of sin.

All of these points will be more appropriately treated under the heads of Justification, Conf. Faith, ch. 11.; and of Sanctification, Conf. Faith, ch. 13.

II. Of the second, it is taught—

1. Original sin—that is, the nature corrupt tendencies and affections of the soul— is truly a violation of God’s law as actual transgression.

The Catechisms. (L. Cat., q. 24; S. Cat., q. 14) define sin to be “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”

This corresponds exactly with what the apostle teaches (1 John 3:4): “Sin is ανουια ”—any discrepancy of the creature or his acts with God’s law. This is evident—

(1) Because from its very essence the moral law demands absolute perfection of character and disposition as well as action. Whatever is right is essentially obligatory; whatever is wrong is essentially worthy of condemnation. God requires us to be holy as well as to act rightly. God proclaims himself as “he which searcheth the reins and hearts.” (Rev. 2:23.)

(2) The native corrupt tendencies which constitute original sin are called sin in Scripture. Sin and its lusts are said to “reign” in our mortal bodies; sin is said to have “dominion”; the unregenerate are called “the servants of sin.” (Rom. 6:12–17; 7:5–17; Gal. 5:17,24; Eph. 4:18,19.)

(3) God condemns men for their corrupt natural dispositions, for their hardness of heart, spiritual blindness of mind. (Mark 16:14; Eph. 2:3.)

(4) In all genuine conviction of sin, the great burden of pollution and guilt is felt to consist not in what we have done, but in what we are—our permanent moral condition rather than our actual transgressions. The great cry is to be forgiven and delivered from “the wicked heart of unbelief,” “deadness to divine things, alienation from God as a permanent habit of soul.” “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24; Ps. 51:5,6.)”

[Hodge, A. A., & Hodge, C., The Confession of Faith: with questions for theological students and Bible classes (pp. 115–117).]

The above understanding derived from the Confession and expressed by Hodge is just not in keeping with what Revoice and the “Side B” Gay Christian movement express regarding Homosexual desires and identity. Namely they believe that the desires that flow from our fallen or “broken” nature are not sinful unless acted upon and that we cannot expect to ever be free of them on this side of glory. So the “Gay Christian” was not only born that way but always will be that way, but his inclinations and self-identity are not sinful unless acted upon.

Therefore the view is far closer to this statement of RC theology than to the historic Reformed view:

“From the explanation given, it is plain that the opposition between appetite and reason is natural in man, and that, though it be an imperfection, it is not a corruption of human nature. Nor have the inordinate desires (actual concupiscence) or the proneness to them (habitual concupiscence) the nature of sin; for sin, being the free and deliberate transgression of the law of God, can be only in the rational will; though it be true that they are temptations to sin, becoming the stronger and the more frequent the oftener they have been indulged. As thus far considered they are only sinful objects and antecedent causes of sinful transgressions; they contract the malice of sin only when consent is given by the will; not as though their nature were changed, but because they are adopted and completed by the will and so share its malice. Hence the distinction of concupiscence antecedent and concupiscence consequent to the consent of the will; the latter is sinful, the former is not.” [Catholic Encyclopedia, “Concupiscence”]

Posted in Compromise, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, PCA, Revoice, Roman Catholicism | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Dear Netflix…

netflixnoDear Netflix,

We’ve been using your service virtually since it started, in fact just the other day I found one of the original DVD mailer sleeves from the 1990s that we were always losing track of. We enjoyed your service so much that we never balked at rate increases and stayed with your streaming service through the days of extremely limited selections and technical glitches. We even stayed with you as loyal customers as your company began to stream more and more movies and documentaries that ran counter to our religious, political, and moral beliefs. In more recent years, when you began to cut more and more sweetheart deals with liberal politicians and pundits to produce explicitly left-wing political content, we swallowed hard but considered that many of our friends and relatives also hold views dramatically different from our own and are active in promoting those views, and yet we don’t stop talking, associating, or doing business with them so why would we cancel you? We’ve always been strong supporters of free speech, even when we don’t agree with what’s being said, so mere political differences were never going to be sufficient reason for us to part ways.

But when, two days ago, your CEO announced that you would be donating money to the ACLU to fight Georgia’s newly passed ban on abortions after 6 weeks, it was a bridge too far for us. In essence, you announced that you would be taking the money we send to you for our subscription fees, and using it to promote the killing of babies in the womb. As Christians who believe that every child in the womb is a human being, created in the image of God, “fearfully and wonderfully made” and all equally deserving of life, we cannot support or be a party to efforts aimed directly at the murder of those children.

As you receive this letter, your first instinct may be to simply shrug it off as just one cancellation that can’t possibly have any appreciable effect on your profits. But I will share with you that I am a pastor and that together my wife and I have thousands of friends on social media, and many if not most of them believe as we do about abortion. We plan to share this letter with our friends on social media and encourage them, if they feel the way we do, to also cancel their subscriptions, to let you know why they did so, and then to take the further step of encouraging their own friends to do likewise. If every Netflix subscriber who calls themselves pro-life – and recent polls indicate that 47% of Americans do – were to cancel their Netflix subscription then the results would be impossible to ignore. It is our hope and prayer that even if your company will not listen to the pro-life message, that you will listen to your bottom line and reverse your decision to support the killing of defenseless human beings in the womb. If you do, we’ll be happy to become customers once again, but until that day, we simply cannot do business with you.

Sincerely Yours,
Posted in Abortion, Apologetics, Compromise, Liberalism, Persecution | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Let The Christchurch Mosque Shooter Win

I was sickened to hear about how two Mosques in New Zealand were attacked on Friday by a gunman describing himself as an “Eco-Fascist” and who ultimately murdered around 50 people. I am praying for the people of New Zealand today and hope that God will ultimately bring good out of this grave evil. I’m also praying that the attacker’s stated purpose, which was to provoke a race war, first in the United States, and then worldwide will come to nothing.
 
I have read the murderer, Brenton Tarrant’s, rambling so-called “Manifesto” and I want you to know about several of the things in it so that people won’t end up reacting to this incident in the ways Tarrant hoped to provoke us to react. I am also hoping that people will see that his views were utterly incompatible with what the Bible teaches, not only is Tarrant a racist and an environment worshipper, he saw having families and children as a grave problem, and praised the People’s Republic of China, which persecutes both Muslims and Christians on the basis of their religion.
 
1) The Attacker Himself Is Neither Christian Nor Conservative:
 
Tarrant writes:
 
“Were/are you a conservative?
No, conservatism is corporatism in disguise, I want no part of it.
I mostly agree with Sir Oswald Mosley’s views and consider myself an Eco-fascist by nature.
The nation with the closest political and social values to my own is the People’s Republic of China.”
 
“Were/are you a christian?
That is complicated.
When I know, I will tell you.”
 
2) He Used Guns Specifically to Provoke an Anti-Gun Backlash in the United States which he hoped would lead to civil war:
 
Tarrant writes:
 
“Won’t your attack result in calls for the removal of gun rights from Whites in the United states?
Yes, that is the plan all along, you said you would fight to protect your rights and the constitution, well soon will come the time.”
 
“Why did you choose to use firearms?
I could have chosen any weapons or means.A TATP filled rental van. Household flour, a method of dispersion and an ignition source.A ballpeen hammer and a wooden shield.Gas, fire,vehicular attacks, plane attacks, any means were available. I had the will and I had the resources.
 
I chose firearms for the affect it would have on social discourse, the extra media coverage they would provide and the affect it could have on the politics of United states and thereby the political situation of the world.
 
The US is torn into many factions by its second amendment, along state, social, cultural and, most importantly, racial lines. With enough pressure the left wing within the United states will seek to abolish the second amendment, and the right wing within the US will see this as an attack on their very freedom and liberty. This attempted abolishment of rights by the left will result in a dramatic polarization of the people in the United States and eventually a fracturing of the US along cultural and racial lines.”
 
[It should also be noted that Tarrant’s attack on one mosque was abandoned because members of the mosque were armed and fired back. The death toll was 4 times as high in the mosque where no one was armed.]
 
3) Climate change and “overpopulation” were primary motivators for Tarrant’s attack as he linked the two and blamed both on non-whites. His belief that whites are superior was based in part on their lower birth rates. 
 
Tarrant writes:
 
“Why focus on immigration and birth rates when climate change is such a huge issue?

Because they are the same issue, the environment is being destroyed by over population, we Europeans are one of the groups that are not over populating the world. The invaders are the ones over populating the world. Kill the invaders, kill the overpopulation and by doing so save the environment.”

Was the attack “racist” in origin?
Fertility rates are innately tied to race, so yes. There was a racial component to the attack.
Was the attack “xenophobic” in orgin?
Fertility rates are cultural, there is no denying that, so there was a war of cultures being fought by the invaders, and my attack was a response to this. Though I hold no great fear or distrust of other peoples.”

 


Please don’t help this wicked man to achieve his objectives by blaming groups who had nothing to do with this attack or seeking to do the very things he hoped we would.
 

You can read the whole manifesto here [***WARNING: BAD LANGUAGE AND EVIL, TWISTED THINKING***] :
 
Posted in Current Events, Islam, Race & Ethnicity | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Nashville Statement and Why Our Congregation Adopted It

Most of the great creedal and confessional formulations of the church have been composed in response to widespread error or heresy within the body of Christ and while there are many different errors and heresies that are currently dividing the church, some of the most destructive are the ones that concern human sexuality. In particular, many in the church today have embraced a form of declension that tolerates or even celebrates destructive sexual sins such as fornication, homosexuality, and transgenderism.

While this kind of error in the church is serious and extremely destructive, it is by no means new. In his first letter to the Corinthians Paul spent what would eventually become an entire chapter (1 Cor. 5) of his epistle admonishing the Corinthians for allowing a member of their church to sleep with his stepmother. Instead of rebuking the offender, and practicing church discipline, the Corinthian Christians were actually celebrating how gracious they were being towards this man in tolerating his offense. Paul warned that by adopting this practice they would simply encourage more sexual sin, and bring down the Lord’s judgement upon themselves. What was needed was not more patting themselves on the back for how tolerant they were, but discipline and excommunication. They were told that they should not have fellowship with anyone who called themselves a brother – not even eating with them – who practiced sexual immorality.

Today’s church needs the same kind of wake-up call that Paul gave to the Corinthian Christians in his letter, and it is for that reason that the session of our congregation, Providence PCA, was extremely grateful to the CBMW for publishing “The Nashville Statement” which deals biblically with the subject of human sexuality. The statement which consists of a series of 14 articles, each consisting of an affirmation and a denial, was signed by a variety of evangelical and reformed pastors, authors, and theologians including, but not limited to:

John Piper
James Dobson
J. I. Packer
Wayne Grudem
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
John MacArthur
R. C. Sproul
Rosaria Butterfield
Francis Chan
Marvin Olasky
Ligon Duncan
Kevin DeYoung
Alistair Begg
Matt Chandler

Our session has adopted the statement as our own statement on the subject of human sexuality and over the next 15 weeks I will be preaching on each of the articles and comparing it to the teaching of scripture. As I said in my first sermon on the subject, the Nashville Statement, in common with all merely human confessions, is far from perfect, but it is also an excellent start at dealing with the flood of heretical and erroneous beliefs that will inevitably end up drowning the church in the 21st century if left unchecked.

Here then is a link to listen to our first sermon on the PREAMBLE to the Nashville Statement:

Nashville Statement: Preamble

Posted in Church Discipline, Compromise, Homosexual Marriage, Homosexuality, Liberalism, Spiritual Declension | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does the Bible Say About the Reasons for Disasters like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma?

Whenever there is a tragedy like the terrible hurricane that struck Houston, the question “Why did this happen?”  is inevitably asked. When Christians ask that question they are not simply asking for a scientific explanation of the weather patterns in the Gulf of Mexico, or how Hurricanes flood cities or Tornados destroy schools, they are asking why the God they serve did this, (or perhaps “allowed it to happen” if they don’t believe in the sovereignty of God or haven’t really wrestled sufficiently with verses like Amos 3:6b). It was to answer that question that I wrote the following in 2004, after Florida had just passed through a series of devastating hurricanes including the 2nd and 3rd costliest Hurricanes in history at the time. When I did so I particularly wanted to address the common notion that disasters and tragedies are a direct consequence of the sins of the people they affect.

NKJ Luke 13:1 There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? 3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)

Floridians must be some of the most wicked people in America mustn’t they? To be visited with three massive hurricanes in a row! We here in North Carolina, on the other hand are very virtuous people, because we haven’t really been hit by any of them. Oh sure, we’ve had a little rain, some flooding, and so on, but nothing like the level of destruction that the sinners of Florida have brought down on their heads. But oh, lest we think we are too good. I understand that the city of Las Vegas has suffered hardly any storm related damage this year. Obviously they have attained to a level of sanctification that we here in North Carolina can only continue to strive for.

Now obviously I’m being sarcastic, but the point is that the kind of thinking that says bad things happen to bad people is more common than you might think. You will hardly be able to find a pastor who hasn’t been asked at least once, “Do you think this bad thing happened to me because of my sin?” I’ve even fallen prey to the same kind of thinking myself on more than one occasion. Continue reading

Posted in Current Events, Disasters, Eschatology, God's Sovereignty, History | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment