Turn with Grief and Hatred

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that God requires of me, under the gospel, first of all, that , out of a true sense of my sin and misery and apprehension of his mercy in Christ, I should turn with grief and hatred away from sin and receive and rest upon Jesus Christ alone for salvation; that, so being united to him, I may receive pardon for my sins and be accepted as righteous in God’s sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to me and received by faith alone; and thus and thus only do I believe I may be received into the number and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God. 

I believe that, having been pardoned and accepted for Christ’s sake , it is further required of me that I walk in the Spirit whom he has purchased for me, and by whom love is shed abroad in my heart; fulfilling the obedience I owe to Christ my King; faithfully performing all the duties laid upon me by the holy law of God my heavenly Father; and ever reflecting in my life and conduct, the perfect example that has been set me by Christ Jesus my Leader, who has died for me and granted to me his Holy Spirit just that I may do the good works which God has afore prepared that I should walk in them. 

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My One Aim in Life and Death

A Brief and Untechnical Statement of the Reformed Faith
Benjamin B. Warfield

I believe that my one aim in life and death should be to glorify God and enjoy him forever; and that God teaches me how to glorify him in his holy Word, that is, the Bible, which he had given by the infallible inspiration of this Holy Spirit in order that I may certainly know what I am to believe concerning him and what duty he requires of me. 

I believe that God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and incomparable in all that he is; one God but three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, my Creator, my Redeemer, and my Sanctifier; in whose power and wisdom, righteousness, goodness and truth I may safely put my trust. 

I believe that the heavens and the earth, and all that is in them, are the work of God hands; and that all that he has made he directs and governs in all their actions; so that they fulfill the end for which they were created, and I who trust in him shall not be put to shame but may rest securely in the protection of his almighty love. 

I believe that God created man after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, and entered into a covenant of life with him upon the sole condition of the obedience that was his due; so that it was by willfully sinning against God that man fell into the sin and misery in which I have been born. 

I believe, that, being fallen in Adam, my first father, I am by nature a child of wrath, under the condemnation of God and corrupted in body and soul, prone to evil and liable to eternal death; from which dreadful state I cannot be delivered save through the unmerited grace of God my Savior. 

I believe that God has not left the world to perish in its sin, but out of the great love wherewith he has loved it, has from all eternity graciously chosen unto himself a multitude which no man can number, to deliver them out of their sin and misery, and of them to build up again in the world his kingdom of righteousness; in which kingdom I may be assured I have my part, if I hold fast to Christ the Lord. 

“Life” Over “Choice”

3.12.2007

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments for and against abortion.

It appears that the issue boils down to whether an unborn baby’s right to live or a woman’s right to choose is more important. In my opinion, the Bible seems pretty clear that “life” is more important than “choice.” The implications of this statement are pretty crazy though.

When people say that a woman’s right to choose is important, this means she should be able to choose how her future plays out. An unwanted/unplanned pregnancy has serious social and economic implications. The social stigma of being a young, unwed mother is not a light thing, nor is the idea of supporting and nurturing a human life. Having a child at an early age will likely prevent someone from getting a college degree or pursuing whatever career they dream of because they must provide for their child. Then there’s always the knowledge that the child of an unprepared mother or a child sent through the system of foster homes and adoption will have a very difficult life.

Christians may say that many women are choosing convenience or their love of themselves (which includes their comfort, futures, and lifestyles) over the life of another. To a large extent I believe that is true. But make no mistake, we ask these women to do a very, very difficult thing. In order to care for this life, we essentially ask people to give up their own. And we have no right to ask this of them if we are not willing to sacrifice our own futures and comfort for the lives of others.

Christians often have a very clear stance on the issue of abortion. But the implications of our argument (“life” over “choice”) extend far beyond this one issue. We’re simply inconsistent when we ignore how the value of life ought to shape our daily choices. Even though we may not have had to deal with the issue of abortion personally, we would be foolish to believe we don’t struggle with the dilemma of “life” versus “choice”.

By the way we use our money, time, and energy we proclaim to the world whether we value “life” or “choice.” We value the choice to have financial stability, social status, and comfortable and convenient lives. Due to our exaggerated sense of entitlement, we believe our right to such privileges outweighs the value of one, ten, hundreds of lives in the third world.

To be “pro-life,” we don’t have to change the way we live at all. Maybe we’ll get a new bumper sticker for our car (though some do live out their convictions by adopting or supporting the cause). But to value “life” over “choice,” everything we do comes into question. What we do with the resources God has given us (money, education, talent) becomes a very serious thing because as we waste, others die.

Are we willing to give up our expensive toys, our financial stability, or perhaps even the hours we would otherwise spend on ourselves for the sake of life? Will we be outraged for the unborn and dismiss the millions who have been born and are suffering?

So often “outreach” and “social justice” are simply minor side issues we dabble in now and again to relieve our guilty consciences. Among university students, it has become trendy to be socially and politically aware. Yet our knowledge is rarely used for anything other than yelling at people who don’t know as many depressing statistics as we do. We speak so loud and accomplish so little.

The heart of the issue is this. We love very little. We simply don’t love enough to make a difference.  Now we can’t force ourselves to love, but we can acknowledge our tragic lack and ask God to give us new hearts. We can refuse to be self-satisfied, thinking ourselves noble, compassionate people for the one hour a week we “sacrifice.”

I don’t intend to guilt or discourage people. Good works fueled by anything other than love are not only hypocritical but ineffective. And being depressed at our humanness is entirely unnecessary because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. He chose us because we are weak so that we would rely upon Him and identify with the downtrodden all over the world. We rejoice in our weakness because everything depends on the One who cares deeply about social justice and is strong enough to bring forth the kingdom.

But in order to be used, we have to acknowledge the true state of this world, our hearts, and the church. My hope is that you and I will wake up to what’s outside of our bubble. The world is dying and we cling to “choice.” May we finally admit that we are selfish to the core, so we can call upon our amazing God to change the world and change us so that we might be used for the flourishing of human life.

The need, as always, is great and our lack, as always, is great. Our God, as always, is greater.

The Value of a Clear Conscience

2 Samuel 3:26-29 (ESV)

[26] When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. [27] And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. [28] Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. [29] May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!”

During a mission trip, I met a young man who had traveled to Southeast Asia to do humanitarian work.  While he was doing some good, he cut corners, made some immoral decisions, and had a poor working relationship with the local government.  Perhaps, he felt like the ends justified the means.  

At times, we all feel like we have to take matters into our own hands.  But when things are up to us and God is not part of the equation, we can find ourselves in morally questionable positions.

In our passage this morning, David is still waiting to take his rightful place as king of Israel.  While David is concerned about his integrity before God, those around him are busy trying to control the unfolding of events.

Abner is the military commander of Ish-bosheth, David’s rival.  He had been taking advantage of the conflict between David and Ish-bosheth and was accumulating power.  When challenged by Ish-bosheth, Abner switches allegiances and supports David.  Motivated by a desire for power and position, Abner gives little thought to the honor of God even when he does the right thing and supports God’s chosen king.

Joab, David’s military commander, is motivated by a more noble cause.  His desire is to avenge the death of his brother Asahel.  Joab feels the need to personally ensure “justice” is done, and he is willing to commit murder in order to do so.  Neither Abner nor Joab is concerned about holiness.  Sin is justified as long as it serves a “greater purpose.”

As the rightful king, David has the most at stake in how the events unfold.  He must have had many opportunities to involve himself in intrigue and strategies but instead contented himself with waiting on the Lord.  This trust in God freed David to focus entirely on honoring and obeying Him.  David knew that when he became king, he wanted to do so with a clear conscience.

The Limits of Coercion

Why Johnny Can’t Preach
T. David Gordon

[Another] alternative to real Christian proclamation is what would have been called the “Social Gospel” in the early twentieth century, but what is more likely to be called the “Culture Wars” today.  In each case, the Christian pulpit is devoted to commenting on what’s wrong with our particular culture, and what ought to be done to improve it, either by individuals or (worse) by the coercive powers of government.  Since again, the sociocultural and sociopsychological function of religion for many people is analogous to the function it had for the Pharisee (who thought himself righteous and despised others), there will always be a warm welcome for such preaching.  Many people love to live in their imagined and self-made world of good guys and bad guys, to be reminded that there are good people and bad people and that they are among the good…

What’s wrong with our culture and every culture, and all human culture since Genesis 3, is that all of us (not some of us) in Adam have revolted against the reign of God, and that each of us (not some of us) prefers his own will to the will of God.  Worse, we are utterly incapable, in and of ourselves, of changing.  The government cannot change us or rescue us from our revolt; education cannot enlighten our darkened minds; not even the church can deliver us from our darkened understanding that considers our own way better than God’s way; and surely coercive human governments cannot cure souls.  Only the God-man, the last Adam, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice and present intercession at the right hand of God, can rescue any of us from our revolt.  So the one inadmissible thing to a culture warrior (that cultural change is out of our hands) is the basic subtext of everything the Bible teaches…

The culture warrior refuses to acknowledge that true and significant cultural change can happen only when the individual members of the culture have forsaken their own self-centeredness, and have revolted against their revolt against God.  Worse, the culture warrior assumes that coerced change in behavior is desirable – that if we can pass a law that outlaws sin, this will somehow make people and culture better (when, in fact, we just become more devious and learn how to evade detection, adding deception to our other sins).  Culture warriors are not content with the two legitimate ways in which humans may exert influence on the behavior of others: through reasoned discourse and the power of example.  The power of example is too costly and too slow, and besides, we don’t wish to be around unbelievers much anyway.  And reasoned discourse is beyond the capacity of most of us today; most could never explain convincingly to another why one behavioral choice is wiser than another.  So we resort to coercion: using the coercive power of the government to enforce external compliance to the ways of God…

If theocracy didn’t work in Israel, where God divinely instituted it, why do people insist on believing it will work in places where God manifestly has not instituted it?

The Offense of the Cross

Galatians 5:7-12 (ESV)

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? [8] This persuasion is not from him who calls you. [9] A little leaven leavens the whole lump. [10] I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. [11] But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. [12] I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

At first glance, it may be difficult to understand why someone would reject a free gift of grace for a demanding law of works. Would you rather win the lottery or work sixty hours a week for forty years? Most of us would probably choose the lottery. 

Yet somehow the Galatians, who “were running well” (v.7), are now greatly tempted to abandon Paul’s teaching and embrace circumcision. This error is attractive enough that it could “leaven the whole lump,” or corrupt the entire Galatian Church. It does not come from God (v. 8) and deserves punishment (v. 10), yet the Apostle Paul is persecuted for opposing it.  In fact, this issue behind circumcision is at the very center of what makes the cross offensive (v. 11).

So why is the cross so offensive?  

The message of the cross is that the Son of God had to die in order to save helpless sinners from themselves. The cross is offensive because it destroys our pride and self-reliance. We’re forced to acknowledge both our wickedness and our complete inability to do anything about it. We’re forced to admit that we are utterly at the mercy of God.

So when the message of circumcision comes to the Galatian Church, this way of earning acceptance before God appeals to their pride. Though painful, circumcision provides the Galatians with a means by which they can boast before God and one another. If one became so bold, he might even demand his rights before God, saying, “I’m circumcised, therefore You HAVE to bless me!” 

If salvation is by grace alone, then we cannot boast and we certainly cannot demand anything from God.  We can only be thankful and worship. 

A Challenge to Grow in Love

[1] I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, [2] with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, [3] eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1–3

In verse 1, Paul exhorts us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of Christ.  Verse 2 explains what he means.  To walk in a worthy manner is to walk in humility, gentleness, patience, and bearing with others in love.

We can only do these things in relation to other people.  More specifically, we can only do these things in relation to other imperfect people.  Christian maturity is in many ways relational maturity – maturity in forgiveness, maturity in patience, maturity in selfless love

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Imperfect people regularly challenge us to grow in love and, if we are honest, we know we are often challenging those around us to grow in love as well.  One of the most remarkable things we will ever see or experience this side of glory is a sinner extending the grace of God to another sinner.  The Church is a place where there are many opportunities to give and to receive this grace.