A Jeremiad

Couldn’t have said it better.

Green Baggins

The America I knew and loved growing up is almost completely gone. The name, at least, remains. Some call it progress. I call it destruction. The people in charge are those who yell and scream, not those who debate with reason and analysis. The political world consists of those who have become so practiced in screaming that I wonder they have any vocal cords left. All political orthodoxy is assumed, not proven, not debated. It is shouted. The power of the shout, and the accompanying shatter of glass, is the only power that means anything today.

This same hatred has poured forth into the Christian world, the theological world, even the “academic” world. Freedom of opinion is not allowed any more. Only certain voices can be heard, because they shout the loudest.

For what then can we weep? Must we not weep for the wrath of God that is coming…

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Baptism (Cliff-note Version)

Update 6/1/18: I’ve changed in my views on the sacraments since writing this post. I believe in paedobaptism, but will leave this post up as a way mark in the journey I took from credo to paedobaptism.

Two weeks ago, I posted my essay from a recent seminary research course here. Some dear friends commented that it was a bit heady, and difficult to digest (sorry!), so I wanted to do a quick “cliff-note” version here.

Well, what is baptism? It’s Jesus, at work in His church.

baptism is gospel It’s the Word of God, doing it’s work through a physical medium, or “means.” This is why you may hear some Christians call baptism and the Lord’s Supper “means of grace.” These are the two sacraments, or ordinances, by which Jesus works His saving grace in the church.

Now, these are not the only means of grace. Whenever and however God’s holy Word is communicated, it is a means of grace.

Be it by sound waves coming from vocal chords, striking your ear drums.

Be it by reading.

Be it by braille.

The Word of God is powerful because it is His Word by which He has promised to do His works of grace.

Baptism is the place where God’s Word is present and applied by means of water. The water itself does nothing, but only when it is combined with the Word of God (gospel promise), and faith, that then saving grace is imparted. In this sense, God can and does use baptism as a means of birthing, strengthening, and/or preserving saving faith.

About my seminary paper: my argument was that Baptists have an historical track record of fighting with anyone who comes from a paedobaptist denomination (and for good reason, I’m a Baptist too!) But my argument is that we Baptists have overreacted to Roman Catholicism as an institution, and have therefore also overreacted to Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed denominations (confessions) because of their infant baptism practices.

My argument was, therefore, that we ought to re-examine the Scriptures in light of the faithful, gospel-centered confessions of the Lutherans and Reformed churches, for if they have maintained both the gospel of the apostles AND infant baptism over 500 years, then we ought to recognize Jesus has not removed their lampstand in spite of an irregular administration of baptismal rites (to infants). Does that make sense? Babies should not be baptized, but once they are, we ought to recognize that God works through our mistakes, so long as we are not denying the gospel and twisting His Word to the point of heresy.

And so… I would argue that Baptists

1) Need to re-examine the delivery of saving grace in and through baptism (even though we administer baptism properly after a profession of faith – there is a mystery here working outside of time).

2) Need to recognize baptism as valid, though irregular when it has been done to an infant. Problems do arise when churches baptize infants, but even these issues are “fixable” when once the true, apostolic gospel is preached in those churches. (In other words, Baptists need to stop re-baptizing people, for in reality these second baptisms are not a baptism at all, but rather a traditional, ceremonial mimicking of baptism).

3) and finally, Baptists need to do some soul searching concerning our reactionary stances in a number of areas. This is difficult work, because we want to preserve our apostolic, first-century doctrines and practices that the other Reformation churches are missing out on, but on the other hand, we unnecessarily separate from fellow believers too readily.

This all calls for prayer, humility, and a deep trust in the Word of God to inform our hearts and minds… even if that calls for occasionally repenting of a bad practice or two.

In love for the church,

Adam Kane

Romans 8 if we could Really Lose our Salvation

Will God allow His children, born from His own Spirit, adopted into His family in Christ, and indwelt by His Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Eph. 1:14)… to apostatize and lose their justified, beloved place in His sight?

Understand what is at stake: Many who love Christ, His Word, His promises, and His gospel nonetheless teach that the regeneration unto eternal life is revocable upon crossing certain boundary markers. Put another way, they teach us that Christ has no sure hold on His people – any one of us could apostatize, lose our justified standing before the Father, who disowns us, the Holy Spirit leaves us, and we are once again headed for hell.

This is detrimental to the Christian understanding of salvation.

What would Romans 8 (Paul’s magnum opus on Christian security in Christ) look like if God actually let His children lose their faith and die under His wrath? It would be ugly – check it out:

Continue reading

Receive God’s Sabbath or You will Never Find Rest

A family friend of ours is dying of cancer, and she is a lifelong Roman Catholic. Will she “Rest in Peace” if she dies trusting in the Roman Catholic teachings?

Hill Cumorah

Near to where I live, each July thousands of people stream into Palmyra, New York to see the Hill Cumorah pageant put on by the Mormon church. The festival goers are being drawn into the promise of eternal godhood – the possession of a planet and the peace of the celestial kingdom. Will these fine people find their rest in the doctrines of the prophet Joseph Smith and his scriptures?

Recently my wife and I had a married couple of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to our house for a discussion about the Bible.

JW tract

They smilingly shared with us of how Jehovah God is creating a paradise earth for all who will obey him and keep fellowship with their religion only. Will these sincere people eternally harvest corn, fruit, and soybeans on the new earth?

I’ve known scads of professing evangelicals who are relying on their own sincerity and obedience to God in hoping they can pull it off – hoping they might be good enough Christians (stay away from bad movies, respect your elders, and don’t drink alcohol) to please God and be found faithful on the last day… Continue reading

A Brief Reflection on the Goodness of the Law and the Betterness of the Christ

The law(s) of the Lord is(are) pure, perfect, and holy, and we are not. Therefore the law is at enmity with us when we are dead in sins and trespasses, but in Christ by grace through faith, we are counted as being lawkeepers… AND… we have the law written in our new, circumcised hearts where the Holy Spirit produces new obedience! (Ezekiel nails it in 36:25-27).

So for the Christian, the law is kept by faith (and faith alone) in Christ, and the ethic of our life is now found in Christlikeness – by the outline of His nature and what love looks like as expressed throughout the New Testament imperatives. We don’t have to keep the commandments of God – but in Christ, we get to. We have the privilege of obeying Him to make Him known. Anyone who practices unrepentant sin does not know Him (1 John 3), for to know Jesus and to face Him in faith is to turn our backs on sin, selfishness, and Satan.

Jesus is our new Master, and the law is only seen correctly through His perfect life given to us by grace alone, through faith alone… to the glory of the beautiful God alone (Gal. 3:24-25).

Thank the Lord.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Binding the Christian with Law does not Produce Freedom

From part 4 of my friend Ed Trefzger’s series “Completed by the Spirit“, this is for the Reformed Baptist and Presbyterian brethren out there. Speaking about the use of the Law in the life of the Christian, Trefzger notes

Despite Paul’s warnings that the law arouses sin, many will point to the law as a prime mover in sanctification,  essen­tial to con­vict­ing us about our remain­ing sin and mea­sur­ing our growth in holi­ness. In doing so, they will attempt to draw a dis­tinc­tion between being “under the law” and fol­low­ing the law…

Yet for the Christian,

It is the Spirit that sanc­ti­fies, not the law in a fleshly exer­cise of behav­ior mod­i­fi­ca­tion. Des­per­a­tion and more sin­ful­ness are the results of a focus on law for sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion instead of avail­ing one’s self of the Holy Spirit and behold­ing with awe the per­son and work of Jesus Christ.

And commenting on Joel Beeke’s focus on law-based sanctification, Trefzger (before the Lance Armstrong scandal ruined him), puts it starkly:

Beeke [argues] that bind­ing users under the law actu­ally pro­duces free­dom. Per­haps an anal­ogy would be that keep­ing train­ing wheels on bicy­cles actu­ally pro­duces Lance Armstrong.

Ed Trefzger

Ed Trefzger is an elder at the Evangelical Church of Fairport, NY

Can you tell he has a passionate stance on this issue? I do too. Sanctification is summarized by Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 when he declares triumphantly

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Christian, you are free to be sanctified in freedom from legalism, for you are not under law, but under grace. Look to, gaze upon, and feast on the glorious Christ for all that is needed in this life…

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

David Sings the Preservation of the Saints

J-O-Y

I will be writing on the doctrines of grace as much as possible in coming days and months. This post will deal with the Perseverance of the Saints, as it is known in Reformed theology. This post is simply one facet of this glorious doctrine, I am not trying here to speak comprehensively of all the Bible says about it.

Salvation is of Yahweh (Jonah 2:9)

If salvation is something you can attain or earn, then it is definitely something you can lose and fall away from.

But if it is not your salvation in the first place, then it is an entirely different situation. Consider the Christian doctrine of the Preservation of the saints, seen through the eyes of an Old Testament sinner.

Sung to the Key of Grace

King David raped Uriah’s wife and then had him murdered to cover it up when she was pregnant. After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David was broken for his terrible sins, and sought repentance. Among other wonderful lines in Psalm 51, he prayed like this:

10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. (NKJV)

Whose salvation did David have? The salvation of the God of Israel. Elsewhere, David praises God like this:

Psalm 65

Iniquities prevail against me;
As for our transgressions,
You will provide atonement for them.

Blessed is the man You choose,
And cause to approach You,
That he may dwell in Your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of Your house,
Of Your holy temple.

Here we see a prophecy of the cross-work of Jesus (v. 3), a vocalization given to divine election (v. 4a), and the resultant preservation of the saints in fellowship with God (v. 4b).

And in another place, David rejoices in the nature of God’s forgiveness when he sings

Psalm 32

1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity

Notice the “Blessed”s like in Psalm 65 above? Connect the dots of grace here. Blessed people are chosen, atoned for, transgressions forgiven, sin covered, and their iniquity is not counted (imputed) to them! God removes all of the enmity between Him and us in order to bring us to Himself.

Do you really think He would then leave the perseverance up to us after all He has done to make us His children?

He Keeps us SO THAT We Remain in Him

God’s work in saving people from the penalty of their sins is God’s work. The worker in salvation gets the glory, and the preserver in salvation gets the glory. It’s all of Him!

Often the question from Christians is “can I lose my salvation,” or, “can those who are truly born again fall away and end up in hell?” I’ve asked the question, and so have you if you are a believer.

My Lutheran brothers and sisters maintain that a truly regenerated believer in Christ can lose his salvation if he stops believing in Christ.

Similarly (but not the same doctrine as the Lutherans), many Arminians of all denominations teach that a Christian can lose their salvation, but with the added pressure of having to make the decision to be born again in the first place.

Not So, Friends

For the sake of brevity, I just want to say this: the eternal covenant of God to save His elect, the atoning work of Christ to purchase those the Father had given Him, and the sealing of the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption are bonds of love and power that only one Being is strong enough to break, and you ain’t Him.

I’ll leave off today with the reassuring words of Jesus concerning us, His people.

John 6

37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

I praise You, Jesus my Lord.

Christ and sheep

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Guest Blogger: Jesus Christ

I’d like to step aside today and allow the Son of God to dictate the wording of this blog post. His Name is Jesus, He is the Christ – He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life without sin, died as a substitute for the sin guilt of His redeemed people, and rose from the dead to live forever as God and Man in one Person.

I trust His credentials for writing on my blog.

When He dictated this short letter word for word, it was written to a church in a different place and time, but it is absolutely relevant for me, and so probably for many of us who will see this. Think of it as written to you, as it is.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands [that would be Jesus], says this:

‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first loveTherefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.’

Rev. 2:1-7 NASB

We here in the Western, conservative, gospel-believing, Christ-exalting, Christian churches are the Ephesians. We hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans (legalists who pervert the gospel and steal sheep from the flock of Christ), but what of our first love?

Has materialism stolen your heart like it does mine all too often? Let’s repent in joy, together.

Grace from Christ Jesus to you all,

-Justin

Spiritual Helps: Valley of Vision Prayer

I provide these prayers most Sundays for those of us who are weak in prayer, and who need help in devotion. Today’s prayer is an example of the beating heart of Christian faith. It is a recognition of our neediness for God’s kind mercies, and a confidence that He will grant to us what we need.

Peaceful Valley

Pray this with me.

Eternal Father, it is amazing love, that Thou hast sent Thy Son to suffer in my stead, that Thou hast added the Spirit to teach, comfort, guide, that Thou hast allowed the ministry of angels to wall me round; all heaven subserves the welfare of a poor worm.

Permit Thy unseen servants to be ever active on my behalf, and to rejoice when grace expands in me. Suffer them never to rest until my conflict is over, and I stand victorious on salvation’s shore.

Grant that my proneness to evil, deadness to good, resistance to Thy Spirit’s motions, may never provoke Thee to abandon me.

May my hard heart awake Thy pity, not Thy wrath, And if the enemy gets an advantage through my corruption, let it be seen that heaven is mightier than hell, that those for me are greater than those against me.

Arise to my help in richness of covenant blessings, keep me feeding in the pastures of Thy strengthening Word, searching Scripture to find Thee there.

If my waywardness is visited with a scourge, enable me to receive correction meekly, to bless the reproving hand, to discern the motive of rebuke, to respond promptly, and do the first work.

Let all Thy fatherly dealings make me a partaker of Thy holiness. Grant that in every fall I may sink lower on my knees, and that when I rise it may be to loftier heights of devotion.

May my every cross be sanctified, every loss be gain, every denial a spiritual advantage, every dark day a light of the Holy Spirit, every night of trial a song.

Thanks for praying with me,

-Justin

Valley of Vision