The Importance of Christian Thinking

7 quick points on Christian thinking…………

(1) Do you ever engage your brain to think, study your bible, or stop and have BIG thoughts about God, Jesus, the gospel, your salvation? You should…..: “The Christian mind is the prerequisite of Christian thinking. And Christian thinking is prerequisite to Christian ACTION.”- Harry Blamires

(2)Why?–> “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

(3)God’s opinion on learning in the school of Christ—> “Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

(4)How? –> “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”-James 1:5 (NLT)

(5) Get This —-> “ We need to understand that Jesus is a thinker, this is not a dirty word but an essential act” Dallas Willard

(6) But! —-> “We need to ask ourselves “What do i intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I’ve got it? For the fact that we have to face is this: that if we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited. The very greatness of the subject matter will intoxicate us, and we shall come to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians because of our interest in it and grasp of it; and we shall look down on those whose theological ideas seem to us crude and inadequate, and dismiss them as very poor specimens. For, as Paul told the conceited Corinthians ‘knowledge puffs up…the man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to. [Our] supreme desire should be to know God’s truth in order that [our] hearts might respond to it and [our] lives conformed to it. [To know God better is to enjoy God more- thats why so many Christians dont enjoy God…they haven’t yet begun to KNOW Him” J.I. Packer

(7) Recommended Reading:

1)The Christian Mind- Harry Blamires

2) The Gospel and the Mind- Bradley G Green

3)The Passionate Intellect: Christian Faith and the Discipleship of the Mind- Alister McGrath

4) Think! The Life of the Mind and the Love of God- John Piper

Belgic Confession 24: On Sanctification

In this series we had previously looked at Articles 21,22 and 23 of the Belgic Confession. These 3 articles surveyed the Atonement, the Rigtheousness of Faith and the Justification of Sinners respectively. It may well be worth having another look at those articles to reaffirm in your head what they state. All 3 have come under attack by members of the emergent community such as Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke. The great thing about these articles is that the authors fully submitted themselves to the authority and teaching of the Bible. Cultural pressure and the desire to be accepted can lead us into many errors so it is extremely important that we continue to look to the Bible to see what it says about particular doctrines. Today we look at sanctification. Louis Berkhof states that,

“Throughout his life, from the moment of his regeneration and conversion to the moment of his final elevation to heavenly glory, the Christian, by virtue of his union with Christ’s death and resurrection and through the power of God’s word and Spirit dwelling within him, will necessarily experience progressive sanctification, this process to be understood negatively in terms of putting to death the deeds of the flesh which still remain in him and positively in terms of growth in all saving graces” (Berkhof, Sytematic Theology, 533)

 

So God’s sanctifying work is seen in the growing Christlike character, increasing love for God and people, and the fruit of the Spirit (John 14:2; 15:1-16:33; Gal 5:22-25; James 2:18). “The best evidence of true salvation is not having raised a hand or prayed a prayer, or having been baptised or christened. Instead, the true test of an authentic work of God in one’s life is sanctification as God continues the moral transformation he began in regeneration.” (Grudem et al, Bible Doctrine: An Overview, ESV, 2533) Sometimes this progress is slow….very slow. Other times it is fast…instant. God works differently in each person. His work is DEFINITIVE yet PROGRESSIVE. Where sanctification is entirely absent in a person’s life it must be asked whether that person has truly been born again. I’ll hand you over the Belgic Confession now to see what it says!

Belgic Confession: Article 24

We believe that this true faith, produced in man by the hearing of God’s Word and by the work of the Holy Spirit, regenerates him and makes him a “new man,”^57 causing him to live the “new life”^58 and freeing him from the slavery of sin.

Therefore, far from making people cold toward living in a pious and holy way, this justifying faith, quite to the contrary, so works within them that apart from it they will never do a thing out of love for God but only out of love for themselves and fear of being condemned.

So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,”^59 which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.

These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.

So then, we do good works, but nor for merit– for what would we merit? Rather, we are indebted to God for the good works we do, and not he to us, since it is he who “works in us both to will and do according to his good pleasure” ^60– thus keeping in mind what is written: “When you have done all that is commanded you, then you shall say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have done what it was our duty to do.’ “^61

Yet we do not wish to deny that God rewards good works– but it is by his grace that he crowns his gifts.

Moreover, although we do good works we do not base our salvation on them; for we cannot do any work that is not defiled by our flesh and also worthy of punishment. And even if we could point to one, memory of a single sin is enough for God to reject that work.

So we would always be in doubt, tossed back and forth without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be tormented constantly if they did not rest on the merit of the suffering and death of our Savior.

^57 2 Cor. 5:17 ^58 Rom. 6:4 ^59 Gal. 5:6 ^60 Phil. 2:13 ^61 Luke 17:10

The Art of Divine Contentment

“Discontent is to the soul as a disease is to the body: it puts it out of temper and much hinders its regular and sublime motions heavenward”. So said the English Puritan author Thomas Watson.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring the idea of Christian contentment. Just what exactly is it and what should it look like? How important is it in the Christian’s life and what effect does true contentment have upon the Christian? I have chosen “The Art of Divine Contentment” by Thomas Watson as the text for this series as it is one of the best available on the subject.  Joel Beeke and Randall Pederson share this view, stating in their mammoth ‘introductory’ book “Meet the Puritans” that, “Godly contentment is a theme missing from many pulpits today. A serious reading of this treatise…..would do much to fill this void”.

Before we begin to think about Christian contentment, let’s learn a little bit about Thomas Watson.

Watson was born in Yorkshire, England (c 1620), had a pretty normal upbringing typical of that era and eventually went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1642 from Emmanuel College, Cambridge. He was a dedicated scholar, who wrote many books. Some of his best works, alongside our chosen text, include,

–          All Things for Good– A work based on Romans 8:28 that God works all things for the good of the Christian. “If someone asks, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” or “How can I know if I am called by God?,” offer them this book. Its chapters on the love of God, effectual calling, and the purpose of God are especially helpful in understanding Romans 8:28.” (Beeke & Pederson, Meet the Puritans)

–          The Beatitudes–  An exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

–          A Body of Divinity– This is Watson’s magnum opus; his most famous work. In this book Watson follows the question and answer format of the Westminster Shorter Catechism and offers up 176 sermons on the essential teachings of Christianity. One reviewer on Amazon.com says “This book needs to be bought, understood and appreciated. My hope is that it will soon sell like wild-fire spreads.” I couldn’t agree more with that assertion! Buy this book and read it!!

–          The Godly Man’s Picture– In this book Watson describes 24 marks of a godly man including “moved by faith,” “fired with love,” “prizes Christ,” “loves the Word,” “is humble,” “is patient,” and “loves the saints”.

–          The Great Gain of Godliness– Despite having a catalogue of 12,000 books in His library, this is one that Spurgeon wished he had. “This volume would be a great find if we could come at it, for Watson is one of the clearest and liveliest of Puritan authors.” The book is Watson’s exposition of Malachi 3:16-18 and in it he aims “to encourage solid piety an confute the atheists of the world, who imagine there is no gain in godliness.” A  fantastic little volume which combines rich spirituality, nourishing doctrine, and sane practical wisdom coupled with fascinating illustrations and a very pleasant style.

–          The Lord’s Prayer– Initially this was a companion to ‘A Body of Divinity’ but can be read alone without it. Watson continues the question and format method of ‘A Body of Divinity’ in an attempt to explain the petitions of Jesus’ model prayer.

–          The Ten Commandments– Watson’s third volume on the Shorter Catechism which examines the 10 commandments and the moral law as a whole. An extremely valuable work.

Watson was a Presbyterian and expressed his strong Presbyterian views during the Civil War. He was imprisoned in 1651 for his part in a plot to restore the monarchy to the throne however was released and reinstated in 1652. In 1662, due to the Act of Uniformity (a parliamentary act which made all churches adhere to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer and Church of England practices) he was ejected from his pastorate. However, Watson continued to preach in private- in barns, homes, and woods- whenever he had the opportunity.  He then ministered alongside a fellow Puritan giant, Stephen Charnock, at Bishopsgate, until Charnocks death in 1680. He continued to labour until his health failed. He died suddenly in 1686 while engaged in private prayer.

His depth of doctrine, clarity of expression, warmth of spirituality, love of application, and gift of illustration enhanced his reputation as a preacher and writer. This has made him one of the most popular and accessible Puritan writers for the modern reader. Do yourself a favour and get some of his books. You will be enriched and encouraged in your faith if you do so.

Next in the series: An Introduction to Christian Contentment

What should we look for in a church??

In the consumer-driven age in which we live it is the customer who has all the power. I mean, think about it. We can choose what TV we want to watch, when we want to watch it, how we want to watch it (High Definition or standard definition). We can choose what radio stations we want to listen to, what electrical products we want to buy, what magazines we want to read, what food we want to buy, what friends we have on facebook and on and on we could go. The “customer is always right” is the marketing ethos of the 21st century, however is the customer always right when it comes to church, or rather is the layperson always right?

You see we naturally imbibe certain mindsets/worldviews from the society and culture that we are immersed in and I am wondering if this “consumer is always right” thing is becoming a sub conscious mindset of us Christians? I’ve heard stories of new pastors being told by laymembers “remember who pays your cheque” when they tried to implement biblical changes to the organisation and running of the church. What the church member meant in saying this was basically “if you do something i don’t like i’ll not be giving the money in to pay your wages mate”. This is a classic example of a church member thinking they have some sort of superior choice over the pastor/elders in relation to how the church should be run. There are many mumblings and grumblings today about how people want church to “be done”. Some of these are justified, for there are churches out there that are dying who continue to insist upon holding to the unbiblical traditions of men, pushing away the younger generation in the process. However, there are also churches who are trying so hard to be hip and relevant that they have completely abandoned the New Testament teaching about what a church should be. They almost act as if the New Testament is completely silent about how church should be done.

In his book ‘The Paradox of Choice- Why More is Less’ Barry Schwartz highlights this consumeristic phenomenon sweeping through our churches today. He observes,

“We are unwilling to regard religious teaching as commandments, about which we have no choice, rather than suggestions, about which we are the ultimate arbiters. We look upon participation in a religious community as an opportunity to choose just the form of community that gives us what we want out of religion

If our mindset as Christians is focused on the self, what we want out of Christianity, the only thing that will happen is that we will grow more and more discontented with our churches and with our walk with Christ. God does not exist for us….we exist FOR HIM. He has given us his word, the Bible, whose authority we are to sit under, not twist or ignore to suit our own sinful desires. So when it comes to “doing church” just what does the Bible teach about how we should do church? Well, to be sure, there are some grey areas, areas which the Bible is silent on, such as what clothes to wear, what instruments to use, what programmes should be run etc. However there are certain areas that the Bible is clear about. The guys at 9 Marks Ministries have, in my opinion, hit the proverbial nail on the head when it comes to this issue and below is a list of the 9 aspects or duties that they believe are vital for a church to be a healthy New Testament church. Have a look and see what you think…..

  1. Expositional preaching. Does the pastor preach God’s Word, or his own ideas? Does he allow Scripture to set his preaching agenda, or does he pick topics by some other criteria?
  2. Biblical theology. Does the church openly confess key biblical doctrines? Do the leaders consistently teach sound doctrine?
  3. A biblical understanding of the gospel. Does the church clearly proclaim the good news about what Jesus Christ accomplished for sinners in his death and resurrection? Consistently?
  4. A biblical understanding of conversion. Does the church teach that people must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8)? Does the church teach that in order to become a Christian, a person must repent of sin and trust in Christ, both of which are ultimately gifts of God?
  5. A biblical understanding of evangelism. Does the church preach the gospel to non-Christians and encourage its members to do the same? Does it understand that it’s our responsibility to preach the message of salvation yet God is the only one who can do the saving?
  6. Biblical church membership. Does the church take membership seriously by seeking to ensure that its members faithfully attend? Does it encourage members to fulfill the biblical “one-anothers” with each other?
  7. Biblical church discipline. Does the church lovingly, patiently practice church discipline?
  8. Biblical discipleship and growth. Does the church expect and equip its members to grow spiritually? Does the church encourage its members to disciple one another? Growing as a Christian should be normal, not exceptional.
  9. Biblical church leadership. Is the church led by godly, qualified men? Does the church look to Scripture to determine its leadership structure?

Recovering True Biblical Masculinity

I come from a cavalry family, as in horse soldiers. My great-grandfather was a cavalry scout in the frontier West. My grandfather commanded the Army’s last horse cavalry regiment (in 1938, believe it or not). At that point, our family switched from horses to tanks, and both my father and I served as tank officers. Suffice it to say that I possess a fair amount of cavalry paraphernalia. In fact, I am writing this at a desk beneath a print of a horse cavalryman firing from his saddle.

Of all the great cavalry movies, none holds a dearer place in my heart than John Wayne’s classic, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Portraying Captain Nathan Briddles, a grizzled Civil War veteran who is facing the end of his career, the Duke is a walking cornucopia of manliness. When I was a young armored cav officer, I not only watched this movie roughly a thousand times but absorbed much of its ethos. Anyone who has seen this movie can tell you that Captain Briddles’ approach to manliness can be summed up in two words: Never apologize! Over and over again, he grills his hapless lieutenants, always with the same emphasis: “Never apologize, Mister!” I am afraid that I took this counsel a bit too much to heart, with the result that my early 20s were a little more obnoxious than they needed to be.

When I became a Christian, however, I learned that not every manly saying in John Wayne movies should be adopted. “Never apologize” may sound great in theory, but in practice it can combine with a man’s sin nature to make him overbearing and arrogant. As I became more familiar with Scripture, I learned about two different words that do a far better job of summarizing how a man should live. These are: “work” and “keep.” Taken together, these two words serve as a summary of the Bible’s mandate for masculine behavior. Men are called to be men, fulfilling our calling before God in this world: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Gen. 2:15). Our calling in life really is this simple (although not therefore easy): We are to devote ourselves to working/building and keeping/protecting everything placed into our charge. What exactly do these two words signify? Let’s take a few moments to look more closely.

Click here for the rest of this article by Richard Phillips

The Belgic Confession- Articles 21-23

Article 21: The Atonement

  • We believe that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek– made such by an oath– and that he presented himself in our name before his Father, to appease his wrath with full satisfaction by offering himself on the tree of the cross and pouring out his precious blood for the cleansing of our sins, as the prophets had predicted.For it is written that “the chastisement of our peace” was placed on the Son of God and that “we are healed by his wounds.” He was “led to death as a lamb”; he was “numbered among sinners”^45 and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, though Pilate had declared that he was innocent.

    So he paid back what he had not stolen,^46 and he suffered– the “just for the unjust,”^47 in both his body and his soul– in such a way that when he senses the horrible punishment required by our sins his sweat became like “big drops of blood falling on the ground.”^48 He cried, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”^49

    And he endured all this for the forgiveness of our sins.

    Therefore we rightly say with Paul that we “know nothing but Jesus and him crucified”;^50 we consider all things as “dung for the excellence of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”^51 We find all comforts in his wounds and have no need to seek or invent any other means to reconcile ourselves with God than this one and only sacrifice, once made, which renders believers perfect forever.

    This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus– that is, “Savior”– because he would save his people from their sins.^52

    ^45 Isa. 53:4-12 ^46 Ps. 69:4 ^47 1 Pet. 3:18 ^48 Luke 22:44 ^49 Matt. 27:46 ^50 1 Cor. 2:2 ^51 Phil. 3:8 ^52 Matt. 1:21

Article 22: The Righteousness of Faith

  • We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him.For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely.

    Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God– for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior. And therefore we justly say with Paul that we are justified “by faith alone” or by faith “apart from works.”^53

    However, we do not mean, properly speaking, that it is faith itself that justifies us– for faith is only the instrument by which we embrace Christ, our righteousness.

    But Jesus Christ is our righteousness in making available to us all his merits and all the holy works he has done for us and in our place. And faith is the instrument that keeps us in communion with him and with all his benefits.

    When those benefits are made ours they are more than enough to absolve us of our sins.

    ^53 Rom. 3:28

Article 23: The Justification of Sinners

  • We believe that our blessedness lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of Jesus Christ, and that in it our righteousness before God is contained, as David and Paul teach us when they declare that man blessed to whom God grants righteousness apart from works.^54And the same apostle says that we are justified “freely” or “by grace” through redemption in Jesus Christ.^55 And therefore we cling to this foundation, which is firm forever, giving all glory to God, humbling ourselves, and recognizing ourselves as we are; not claiming a thing for ourselves or our merits and leaning and resting on the sole obedience of Christ crucified, which is ours when we believe in him.

    That is enough to cover all our sins and to make us confident, freeing the conscience from the fear, dread, and terror of God’s approach, without doing what our first father, Adam, did, who trembled as he tried to cover himself with fig leaves.

    In fact, if we had to appear before God relying– no matter how little– on ourselves or some other creature, then, alas, we would be swallowed up.

    Therefore everyone must say with David: “Lord, do not enter into judgment with your servants, for before you no living person shall be justified.”^56

    ^54 Ps. 32:1; Rom. 4:6 ^55 Rom. 3:24 ^56 Ps. 143:2

Prospective Dangers for the Young and Reformed

Without doubt God’s Spirit has been moving in the past few years to awaken thousands of young Christian men and women all over the world to the truths of historic, biblical Christianity.  This is a great thing, however, becoming “reformed” does not mean you’ve made it. It doesn’t give you any right to be puffed up with pride or to slack off the fight against sin and the temptations of the world. In this video Paul Washer briefly outlines a few of the pitfalls the young and reformed need to be watchful for. Watch, be encouraged and take heed.

The 10 Effects of Believing the Doctrines of Grace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. I have just completed teaching a seminar on this topic and was asked by the class members to post these reflections so they could have access to them. I am happy to do so. They, of course, assume the content of the course, which is available online from Desiring God Ministries, but I will write them here in the hope that they might stir others to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what I call “Calvinism.”

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.

I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late ’70′s, the threefold statement of the goal of all God’s work, namely, “to the praise of the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. “From him and through him and to him are all things. To him the glory forever” (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.

It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the Psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.

One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.

God is swept into this. Hence the trifling with divine things.

Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don’t seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather.

Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon, “Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn” (Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 57).

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.

After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at our hope, and at the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and at the power of God at work in us – that is, the power to raise the dead.

Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound.

The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,

The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339f).

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.

In my book, The Pleasures of God (2000), pp. 144-145, I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism. The same thing happened in England in the 19thcentury after Spurgeon.

Iain Murray’s Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454, documents the same thing: “Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy.”

You can also read in J. I. Packer’s Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160, how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster.

These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular.

1 Timothy 3:15, “The church of the living God [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.

I can hardly read the newspaper or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing.

When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am able to be shocked. So many Christians are sedated with the same drug as the world. But these teachings are a great antidote.

And I pray for awakening and revival.

And I try to preach to create a people that are so God-saturated that they will show and tell God everywhere and all the time.

We exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.

This is the point of Romans 8:28-39.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God’s sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.

All of life relates to God. There’s no compartment where he is not all-important and the one who gives meaning to everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Seeing God’s sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that “he accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.

The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. “Hallowed be thy name” means: cause people to hallow your name. “May your word run and be glorified” means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.

We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.

“God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 11:19).

“Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you” (Deuteronomy 30:6).

“Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes” (Ezekiel 36:27).

“Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil” (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

“Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel” (Acts 16:14).

9. These truths reminds me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.

So it gives hope to evangelism, especially in the hard places and among the hard peoples.

John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also. They will heed my voice.”

It is God’s work. Throw yourself into it with abandon.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.

Isaiah 46:9-10, “I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand that I will accomplish all my purpose’”

Putting them altogether: God gets the glory and we get the joy.



The Belgic Confession: Articles 8-11

Article 8: The Trinity

  • In keeping with this truth and Word of God we believe in one God, who is one single essence, in whom there are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct according to their incommunicable properties– namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father is the cause, origin, and source of all things, visible as well as invisible.The Son is the Word, the Wisdom, and the image of the Father.

    The Holy Spirit is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son.

    Nevertheless, this distinction does not divide God into three, since Scripture teaches us that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each has his own subsistence distinguished by characteristics– yet in such a way that these three persons are only one God.

    It is evident then that the Father is not the Son and that the Son is not the Father, and that likewise the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.

    Nevertheless, these persons, thus distinct, are neither divided nor fused or mixed together.

    For the Father did not take on flesh, nor did the Spirit, but only the Son.

    The Father was never without his Son, nor without his Holy Spirit, since all these are equal from eternity, in one and the same essence.

    There is neither a first nor a last, for all three are one in truth and power, in goodness and mercy.

Article 9: The Scriptural Witness on the Trinity

  • All these things we know from the testimonies of Holy Scripture as well as from the effects of the persons, especially from those we feel within ourselves.The testimonies of the Holy Scriptures, which teach us to believe in this Holy Trinity, are written in many places of the Old Testament, which need not be enumerated but only chosen with discretion.

    In the book of Genesis God says, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.” So “God created man in his own image”– indeed, “male and female he created them.”^6 “Behold, man has become like one of us.”^7

    It appears from this that there is a plurality of persons within the Deity, when he says, “Let us make man in our image”– and afterwards he indicates the unity when he says, “God created.”

    It is true that he does not say here how many persons there are– but what is somewhat obscure to us in the Old Testament is very clear in the New.

    For when our Lord was baptized in the Jordan, the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my dear Son”;^8 the Son was seen in the water; and the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.

    So, in the baptism of all believers this form was prescribed by Christ: “Baptize all people in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”^9

    In the Gospel according to Luke the angel Gabriel says to Mary, the mother of our Lord: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and therefore that holy one to be born of you shall be called the Son of God.”^10

    And in another place it says: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.”^11

    “There are three who bear witness in heaven– the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit– and these three are one.”^12

    In all these passages we are fully taught that there are three persons in the one and only divine essence. And although this doctrine surpasses human understanding, we nevertheless believe it now, through the Word, waiting to know and enjoy it fully in heaven.

    Furthermore, we must note the particular works and activities of these three persons in relation to us. The Father is called our Creator, by reason of his power. The Son is our Savior and Redeemer, by his blood. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, by his living in our hearts.

    This doctrine of the holy Trinity has always been maintained in the true church, from the time of the apostles until the present, against Jews, Muslims, and certain false Christians and heretics, such as Marcion, Mani, Praxeas, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Arius, and others like them, who were rightly condemned by the holy fathers.

    And so, in this matter we willingly accept the three ecumenical creeds– the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian– as well as what the ancient fathers decided in agreement with them.

    ^6 Gen. 1:26-27 ^7 Gen. 3:22 ^8 Matt. 3:17 ^9 Matt. 28:19 ^10 Luke 1:35 ^11 2 Cor. 13:14 ^12 1 John 5:7 (KJV)

Article 10: The Deity of Christ

  • We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only Son of God– eternally begotten, not made nor created, for then he would be a creature.He is one in essence with the Father; coeternal; the exact image of the person of the Father and the “reflection of his glory,”^13 being in all things like him.

    He is the Son of God not only from the time he assumed our nature but from all eternity, as the following testimonies teach us when they are taken together.

    Moses says that God “created the world”;^14 and John says that “all things were created by the Word,”^15 which he calls God. The apostle says that “God made the world by his Son.”^16 He also says that “God created all things by Jesus Christ.”^17

    And so it must follow that he who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ already existed when all things were created by him.

    Therefore the prophet Micah says that his origin is “from ancient times, from eternity.”^18 And the apostle says that he has “neither beginning of days nor end of life.”^19

    So then, he is the true eternal God, the Almighty, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.

    ^13 Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 ^14 Gen. 1:1 ^15 John 1:3 ^16 Heb. 1:2 ^17 Col. 1:16 ^18 Mic. 5:2 ^19 Heb. 7:3

Article 11: The Deity of the Holy Spirit

  • We believe and confess also that the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally from the Father and the Son– neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but only proceeding from the two of them. In regard to order, he is the third person of the Trinity– of one and the same essence, and majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son.He is true and eternal God, as the Holy Scriptures teach us.

Seven Characteristics of Highly Evangelical Christians

An Article by Thom S. Rainer

For over twenty years I have been researching and studying churches, primarily those in North America. I had the joy of serving as senior pastor in four churches where God blessed with evangelistic growth. I have written over twenty books about the church in America.

I am not giving you my credentials to impress you, but simply to share that my life’s passion has been leading and learning about evangelistic churches. At this point in my life and ministry, however, I realize that I have not given sufficient attention to one of the primary characteristics of evangelistic churches.

The Great Omission

It is so obvious. Indeed it is so clear that I am surprised at my neglect of this factor. Stated simply, the evangelistic churches that I have researched for the past twenty years have one or more highly evangelistic Christians.

I know. The previous statement is no great revelation. It is almost stating the obvious. But, if it is reality, why are we not hearing more about these Christians who seem to have a passion for evangelism? Why are we not doing a better job of telling their stories?

In this short article I hope to address this great omission.

Seven Characteristics

It is inevitable that, when we do research on evangelistic churches, we learn about one or more members in the church who, to use the book title by Charles H. Spurgeon, embody the traits of “The Soul Winner.” Oftentimes one of those members is the pastor. But we have also seen many laypersons who are themselves soul winners.

In our interviews with these people, or with those who tell us about the soul winners, we began to discern some clear patterns. We called those patterns “the seven characteristics of highly evangelistic Christians.”

1. They are people of prayer. They realize that only God can convict and convert, and they are totally dependent upon Him in prayer. Most of the highly evangelistic Christians spend at least an hour in prayer each day.

2. They have a theology that compels them to evangelize. They believe in the urgency of the gospel message. They believe that Christ is the only way of salvation. They believe that anyone without Christ is doomed for a literal hell.

3. They are people who spend time in the Word. The more time they spend in the Bible, the more likely they are to see the lostness of humanity and the love of God in Christ to save those who are lost.

4. They are compassionate people. Their hearts break for those who don’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They have learned to love the world by becoming more like Christ who has the greatest love for the world.

5. They love the communities where God has placed them. They are immersed in the culture because they desire for the light of Christ to shine through them in their communities.

6. They are intentional about evangelism. They pray for opportunities to share the gospel. They look for those opportunities. And they see many so-called casual encounters as appointments set by God.

7. They are accountable to someone for their evangelistic activities. They know that many good activities can replace Great Commission activities if they are not careful. Good can replace the best. So they make certain that someone holds them accountable each week, either formally or informally, for their evangelistic efforts.

The “Secret” of Evangelistic Churches

The secret is really no secret at all. Ultimately, evangelistic churches see more persons become Christians through the passionate efforts of highly evangelistic Christians. More than any programs. More than any church events. More than anything else, we are the instruments God has chosen to use.

Sometimes we ask the question “What is my church doing to become more evangelistic?” But the better question is “What am I doing to become more evangelistic?”

Charles H. Spurgeon was right. We need more soul winners.

We need more highly evangelistic Christians.