Archive for October, 2012

  1. Reformation Day: Voices from the Past

    Posted on October 31st, 2012 by David Burnette

    Given that today is Reformation Day, it’s only appropriate that we cite two of the most influential reformers – Martin Luther and John Calvin – on two of the most critical issues of the Reformation: the nature of justification and the authority of Scripture.

    First, here’s Luther on saving faith and why this faith cannot be mixed with works as the means of being justified before God:

    “This faith cannot exist in connection with works – that is to say, if you at the same time claim to be justified by works, whatever their character – for that would be the same as ‘limping with two different opinions’ (1 Kings 18:21), as worshiping Baal and kissing one’s own hand (Job 31:27-28), which, as Job says, is a very great iniquity. Therefore the moment you begin to have faith you learn that all things in you are altogether blameworthy, sinful, and damnable, as the Apostle says in Romans 3:23, ‘Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,’ and, ‘None is righteous, no, not one;…all have turned aside, together they have gone wrong’ (Rom 3:10-12). When you have learned this you will know that you need Christ, who suffered and rose again for you so that, if you believe in him, you may through this faith become a new man in so far as your sins are forgiven and you are justified by the merits of another, namely, of Christ alone.”

    Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian” in Three Treatises, 280-281.

    And here’s Calvin on the self-authenticating nature of God’s Word:

    “Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that is has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men.”

    John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I: VII: 5 (80).

  2. The Attractiveness of The Fear of the Lord

    Posted on October 30th, 2012 by David Burnette

    In our final highlight of Ed Welch’s excellent book, When People are Big and God is Small, we move from the insight that fearing the Lord is the antidote to fearing people (which we saw in the last post), to learning how it is that we grow in this fear of the Lord. Welch states the problem this way:

    “We must learn to know that our God is more loving and more powerful than we ever imagined. Yet this task is not easy. Even if we worked at the most spectacular of national parks, or the bush in our backyard started burning without being consumed, or Jesus appeared and wrestled a few rounds with us, we would not be guaranteed a persistent reverence of God. Too often our mountain-top experiences are quickly overtaken by the clamor of the world, and God once again is diminished in our minds. The goal is to establish a daily tradition of growing in the knowledge of God.” (113)

    Welch suggests the book of Proverbs as a practical guide for growing in the fear of the Lord. He notes,

    “To grow in the knowledge of the Holy God we must find such knowledge beautiful and attractive. This is where the book of Proverbs can help. The heart of the book is the fear of the Lord: it is the gateway, the path, and the end of wisdom – “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

    Since the fear of the Lord is the great treasure of life, Proverbs tries to woo us to it. It tries to make the fear of the Lord as attractive as possible.” (113-114).

    Along with reflecting on Proverbs, Welch points to a number of other ways in succeeding chapters to counteract the fear of man. The remaining chapter titles are instructive:

    • - Biblically Examine Your Felt Needs
    • - Know Your Real Needs
    • - Delight in the God Who Fills Us
    • - Love Your Enemies and Your Neighbors
    • - Love Your Brothers and Your Sisters
    • - The Conclusion of the Matter: Fear God and Keep His Commandments

    If you struggle with the fear of man, codependency, or peer pressure (and who doesn’t to some extent?), Welch’s book is a great resource. He and the entire CCEF ministry continue to serve the church well.

     

  3. Unreached

    Posted on October 29th, 2012 by Jonathan

    Han Chinese, Xiang of China

    Population:  35,580,000

    Primary Religion:  Ethnic Religions (42.60%)

    Christian/Evangelical:  0.40% / 0.30%

    Other Religions:  34% Non-Religious, 20% Buddhist

    Persecution Rank:  21

    Language:  Chinese, Xiang

    The Xiang are traditionally acknowledged as the most stubborn and proud of all Chinese peoples. “The people themselves are the most clannish and conservative to be found in the whole empire, and have succeeded in keeping their province (Hunan) practically free from invasion by foreigners and even foreign ideas.”

    In 1911 the Xiang were described as “the best haters and best fighters in China. Long after the rest of the empire was open to missionary activity, Hunan kept its gates firmly closed against the foreigner.”

    Recently there has been an upsurge in religious interest in Hunan, as people seek to fill the spiritual void in their hearts. “A monastery in Hunan has witnessed tens of thousands of pilgrims arriving to worship the three ‘gods’ of Communist China - Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai and Zhu De. This pilgrimage has set alarm bells ringing in the local government over the revival of superstition.”

     

    In 1861 Welsh missionary Griffith John met a Hunan military mandarin, who “boasted of the glory and martial courage of the Hunan men, and said there was no danger of their ever believing in Jesus or of His religion taking root there.” The pride of the Xiang has made them the most unreached of all Han Chinese peoples. Today only 80,000 of the Xiang are Christians. The entire Christian population of Hunan is numbered at no more than 120,000. Because of internal strife, the Hunan church has been described as a “disaster area.”

    Prayer Points

    • Pray that the Lord would use the recent interest in religion to mercifully point Han Chinese of Hunan (that is, the Xiang) to Himself.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts, show them the error of their ways, humble them before the Father, and receive the good news of Jesus through faith in Him.
    • Pray that the small number of Xiang believers living in Hunan, China will begin to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
    • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Xiang.
    • Pray that the Lord will send laborers into the harvest in Hunan, China.

    This information taken from Joshua Project. For more information on the unreached of China, see also Operation World.

  4. Well Said…

    Posted on October 26th, 2012 by David Burnette

    1. What is a Disciple?: A good word for those who profess faith in Christ. Being a disciple means that you are learning from your Lord.

    2. A Good Word for Shepherds: A sermon by Tom Schreiner on pastoring from Acts 20. (HT: Justin Taylor)

    3. Don’t Add to God’s Word:  The temptation to go beyond what Scripture expressly says is tempting in many cases, but resist it. You’ll only hurt people in the end. (HT: Trevin Wax)

  5. Practical Counsel on Discipleship from Chan & Platt

    Posted on October 25th, 2012 by David Burnette

    David Platt and Francis Chan give some practical counsel on discipling others in the video above. Find out more about the Multiply discipleship material here.

    This topic of making disciples is the focus of Multiply. The Multiply Gathering led by David Platt and Francis Chan is Nov. 9th & 10th (you choose the evening) and the webcast is FREE. Register here. Check out the Multiply website and blog for more.

  6. Ryle: Persevere and Press On

    Posted on October 24th, 2012 by David Burnette

    In his discussion of what it means to count the cost (Luke 14:28) of being a Christian, J.C. Ryle closes by exhorting those who have counted the cost to endure in faithfulness:

    If any reader of this paper really feels that he has counted the cost, and taken up his cross, I bid him persevere and press on. I dare say you often feel your heart faint, and are sorely tempted to give up in despair. Your enemies seem so many, your besetting sins so strong, your friends so few, the way so steep and narrow, you hardly know what to do. But still, I say, persevere and press on.

    The time is very short. A few more years of watching and praying, a few more tossings on the sea of this world, a few more deaths and changes, a few more winters and summers, and all will be over. We shall have fought our last battle, and shall need to fight no more.

    The presence and company of Christ will make amends for all we suffer here below. When we see as we have been seen, and look back on the journey of life, we shall wonder at our own faintness of heart. We shall marvel that we made so much of our cross, and thought so little of our crown. We shall marvel that in “counting the cost” we could ever doubt on which side the balance of profit lay. Let us take courage. We are not far from home. IT MAY COST MUCH TO BE A TRUE CHRISTIAN AND A CONSISTENT BELIEVER; BUT IT PAYS.  

    Ryle, Faithfulness and Holiness: The Witness of J.C. Ryle, an Appreciation by J.I. Packer, 185.

  7. The Fear of the Lord

    Posted on October 23rd, 2012 by David Burnette

    In the second half of his book, When People Are Big and God is Small, Ed Welch moves from defining and talking about the ways in which the fear of man shows up, to talking about how to combat that fear. His fundamental answer: the fear of the Lord.

    All experiences of the fear of man share at least one common feature: people are big. They have grown to idolatrous proportions in our lives. The control us. Since there is not room in our hearts to worship both God and people, whenever people are big, God is not. Therefore, the first task in escaping the snare of the fear of man is to know that God is awesome and glorious, not other people.” (95)

    Welch describes two aspects of the fear of the Lord. First, there is a terror of God, or “threat-fear.” This is the kind of fear that all people rightly have as unclean sinners before a holy God. For the believer, this kind of fear is fading due to God’s love, but for the unbeliever it is always present, even if hidden in various guises.

    Welch defines the other aspect of a biblical fear of the Lord as follows:

    “…a fear reserved exclusively for those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ. This fear means reverent submission that leads to obedience, and it is interchangeable with ‘worship,’ ‘rely on,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘hope in’” (97).

    This latter kind of fear, what Welch calls a “worship-fear,” knows of God’s just anger toward sin, but it trusts in “God’s great forgiveness, mercy, and love” (97).

    As Welch notes, having a right fear of the Lord is not easy, for it is opposed by the world, our own flesh, and the Devil. But God has provided help in this battle:

    With such adversaries, growing in the fear of the Lord will not be a smooth process. Instead, it will be the path of warfare. We must hate the evil and ungodly assumptions of the world, we must hate our own sinful nature, and we must hate Satan. To accomplish these tasks demands the most powerful resources we have: the Word, the Spirit, and the body of Christ” (101).

    By God’s grace, let’s use the resources He has given so that He might appear to us as He is: glorious and worthy of fear.

     

  8. Unreached

    Posted on October 22nd, 2012 by Jonathan

    Han Chinese, Holo of Taiwan

    Population:  13,338,000

    Primary Religion:  Ethnic Religions

    Christian/Evangelical:  1.20% / 0.90%

    Other Religions:  36.60% Buddhist, 1% non-religious, 2.2% other/small

    Language:  Chinese, Min Nan

    The Diaspora Han Chinese, including those living in Taiwan, have generally maintained  their Chinese culture.  This means that though living outside mainland China in places like Taiwan, they have continued with their unique Chinese diet and language.  This goes back to their belief that their Han culture is superior.

    By and large, they have also maintained their traditional Chinese religion, which is characterized by a blending of philosophies. It has added elements of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism over the course of time. Their beliefs are centered around the concept of maintaining harmony.

    The Han Chinese are very superstitious, consulting horoscopes in an attempt to determine what course of action will promote harmony and bring good luck. They also believe in a pantheon of spirits who inhabit the earth. The spirits of their ancestors supposedly roam the earth, and if treated properly, are benign and bring good luck. Ghosts are believed to exist as the spirits of people who are angry at the circumstances of their death; these spirits are said to be malicious and capricious. Deities are supposedly the souls of people who lived especially virtuous lives. They are believed to have spiritual powers that can be used to benefit those who worship them.

    Although the Han Chinese still claim adherence to these beliefs, they seem to have little effect on their everyday lives. In fact, many of them are non-religious in practice.

    The Diaspora Chinese are often mistreated in the lands in which they live. In some countries, anti-Chinese riots have occurred. In nearly all of the countries, nationals are envious of the Diaspora Han Chinese because of their success in business, commerce, and trade.

    The Han Chinese suffer from great spiritual needs. Many of their adopted nations are open to the Gospel, and several evangelistic tools are available in their Chinese dialects. Nevertheless, only a few Diaspora Han Chinese in Laos, Nepal, Tanzania, and Thailand have converted to Christianity. They remain in bondage to superstition and false religion. These precious people need loving Christians to introduce them to the One who can truly set them free.

    Prayer Points

    • Pray that the Lord will grant favor to the churches and missions agencies that are focusing on the Han Chinese, specifically those in Taiwan.
    • Ask the Holy Spirit to soften their hearts, show them the error of their ways, humble them before the Father, and receive the good news of Jesus through faith in Him.
    • Pray that the small number of Han Chinese believers living in Taiwan will begin to share the love of Jesus with their own people.
    • Pray that Christian broadcasts, evangelical literature, and the Jesus film will be effective tools for reaching the Diaspora Han Chinese, and that local Taiwanese churches will intentionally reach out to the Han among them.
    • Ask God to use Christian businessmen to boldly share the gospel with the Han Chinese.
    • Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Han Chinese of Taiwan.

    This information taken from Joshua Project. For more information on the unreached of China, see also Operation World.

  9. Well Said…

    Posted on October 19th, 2012 by David Burnette

    1. New City Catechism: If you haven’t heard about this catechism yet, be sure and check it out. A number of pastors and theologians (both past and present), from John Calvin to John Piper,  have combined for an excellent tool for knowing and passing along the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. This is a phenomenal resource.

    2. It’s My Present Sins that Bother Me: Sometimes we can accept that our pre-conversion sins have been forgiven, but once we’re Christians, there’s a tendency to think that God is totally put-off with us when we sin. To make matters worse, our consciences are more sensitive to sin’s ugliness. Dane Ortlund points to Romans 5:1-11 for the remedy.

    3. Hath God Said?: “The challenges to inerrancy are more direct than ever,” says Al Mohler. Here’s a post and a related panel discussion on this critical topic. The truth of Scripture must be defended at all times.

  10. The Glory of God-Centered Conversion

    Posted on October 18th, 2012 by David Burnette

    Pastor David addresses the topic of conversion from Ezekiel 36 – “The Glory of God-Centered Conversion.” Conversion was the topic of the 9Marks at Southeastern 2012 conference.