Sunday, May 4, 2008

Being a 'man'.

First off I really sorry for posting on this topic. I realise that the christian book shop market is somewhat saturated with literature on it, and most off you who started off caring, like myself, have probably become so fed up where you'r actually way past the point where you care. Anyway here's my two bit rant...

First off I've been readoing to/listening to a lot of Mark Driscoll recently. I think he presents himself, or at least his ideal, as the only way to be Biblical 'man' but as far as I can tell I lot of things he says as just pain wrong. For example if being a 'man' involves "telling the lady at the front of the church with her tambourine to can it" then thats not the kind of man I want to be. If realising that "not everyone was welcome to our church", then again, I don't want to be that guy. Also he swears a lot (do a count of the times he uses p**s or BS... its an eye opener), and really doesn't seem to think about what he says. Not what I would call an exemplar of Biblical manhood. I should point out that I do actually agree with lots of what he says, and his defence of the Biblical Gospel is outstanding. Doesn't make the other stuff OK.

It seems to me that Driscoll and others like him such as John Eldridge are reacting to what they see as "pussys" in churches across the world. On this I kind of agree. I don't want to be a sweater wearing lady boy BUT, and heres the important bit, BUT if those guys love God, trust Jesus and seek to serve him and witness to his glory, whats wrong with that?! Isn't it bigoted to say that just because someone doesn't fit in with your matcho illusions of what a man (growl) is, they're somehow displeasing to God? What a load of rubbish. I'm not a 'scrapper' and to be honest don't think I'm that macho so it really annoys me that these guys can tell me I'm a "pussy" and that somehow the way I am displeases God. Find me a verse in the Bible that says if you're not into physical sports or fighting your less of a man... you won't find one.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Miraculous Gifts and All That

Ok so here's my two cents worth on the topic. I've been thinking about it all week (well for some of it at least) and this is my definitive stance. Broadly speaking I am a cessassionist. I believe that the 'miraculous gifts' seen in the New Testement and proclaimed as still in evidence today by Charasmatics/Pentecostals are, in fact, no longer needed and not in use...

Blunt, I know.

First things first. We have to ask ourselves 'what are miracles?' 'what is the biblical position of miracles?' it seems abundantley clear to me from scripture that miraculous acts in both the OT & NT were ALWAYS used as proof of either the prophets ministry i.e Elijah, Moses or concerning the validity of Jesus i.e Christ himself and the apostles. As far as I am concerned the biblical pattern of miracles can be best summed up like this "where miracles are performed we should expect to hear the inspired Word of God spoken. When there is no prophet there is no signs." Walter J. Chantry Signs of the Apostles (Banner of Truth).

Well, we have the Word of God. It is complete. The canon of Scripture is closed.

Therefore anyone who proclaims that they are bringing some sort of special revelation from God is clearly not. If someone speaks in tongues 'from God' they are not. If someone prophecies a word 'from God' they are not. If anyone claims to heal a person 'from God' they are not. God has spoken, he has fully revealed himself in his Word and in his Son. In sending us Jesus God has granted us the greatest 'miraculous gift' that of salvation and faith.

And if someone were to say 'well I know thay my gifts are not a revelation from God but I still miraculously speak in tongues...' So what? It's not God's word, so who cares what they say?

Scripture promises that the 'miraculous gifts' will depart in 1 Cor 12 & 13 but what will remain? Love. 1 Corinthians 13 8-12 is fairly conclusive on the matter.

My dad reckons that 'spiritual gifts' is a topic that can never be fully resolved and defeated from scripture either way. I'm not so sure. But my mind is made up. This topic pales in comparison to other theological battle grounds and whilst I am always prepared to stand my ground, my mind is made up and so I will not worry.

I too found Ferguson's 'The Holy Spirit' extremely tough, his scholarly writing head is a tough one to crack! But I would reccomend Walter J Chantry's far more slender pastoral book which has been a real help for me this week.

Thoughts anyone?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Apologies and sermons

My profoundest apologies for the lack of posting in this blog. Time seems to hurry on at a formidable pace and there never seems enough hours in the day. Thanks to Tom for getting my mind back onto the blog and sometime this week, when I've collected my thoughts a little I'll publish a post in reflection on Tom's thoughts. But for know, who reads this blog? (other than Caleb!) I'd appreciate knowing, even if you had the mildest of interests! It'd be good to get some feedback on what you think we should try and do. for know though, before I post on Spiritual Gifts, here is the script from the first sermon I have preached- given on the Good Friday at my church MREC. Let me know your thoughts and comments! The sermon was given to the church fellowship AM, and it was meant as a meditational thought to encourage/challenge (rather than evangelistic)

Mark 15:6-41

Why did Jesus die on the cross?

We come together as a fellowship of believers at this time to remember the Lord Jesus Christ and his death, not just before communion but also on Good Friday, that day that we remember Jesus being nailed to the tree.

The cross is the single most important event in all of history. Nothing else can even be considered comparable to it, for nothing else has ever had the impact upon humanity that the cross had and has. For on that tree, roughly 2000 years ago the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings was pierced for our transgressions OUR transgressions! He was mocked, struck and spit upon v19 not for anything He had done, for he was completely sinless 1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in his mouth” but he received these actions for you, and for me. Shall we take a few moments this morning, as we look upon the cross, to ask a big question. Why did Jesus die upon the cross for me? From my own experience, often in our Christian lives the thrill of the cross begins to erode after our conversion and we in many ways take Christ crucified for granted.
Jesus’ death wasn’t just a random event; it didn’t just see the Son of God cleverly caught in a sinister and evil plot by the High Priests. It was much more than that. Although verses 11-15 seem to show that this was all the High Priests own doing and that they were outplaying God in an elaborate game of chess, if we re-wind 700 years to the time of Isaiah we should be amazed at what we read in chapter 53: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” and a few verses later in v10 comes the astounding part “Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”
Do you see what I’m saying? I hope so. Jesus Christ dying on the cross wasn’t a random event. It was a divine plan, and it was the Lord’s will. The Chief priests that thought themselves the architects were merely the pawns. Acts 2:23 reveals God’s purpose “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross”

Let’s take a few minutes to look at three reasons why Jesus died on the cross so. Firstly Jesus’ death upon the cross was all about Liberty. Why did God plan to sacrifice His own son? So that we might be granted liberty… granted freedom… and so that Jesus might be victorious. Only Christ could achieve the plan that God the father had for his people, only Christ could bear the weight of sin upon his shoulders. In shouting out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus took God’s curse upon himself and whilst, as JC Ryle says, it would be useless to try and fathom the depth in meaning of these words, what we can say wholeheartedly is that at that moment Jesus achieved His purpose and victory was gained. Earlier in Mark 10:45 Jesus had promised that He was “to give his life, as a ransom for many” there is a price that must be paid, and God demands that a ransom must be given so that the many are given liberty. Throughout the Old Testament we constantly see the theme of reconciliation, God reconciling the people of Israel to himself, demanding that they repent and then bestowing his blessings upon them. As 2 Corinthians 5:19 tells us “God was in Christ reconciling us to himself” we need to be reconciled to God because we face His judgment and it is Christ who completes that work, not us. The believer is forgiven not because he deserves to be forgiven, but because Christ has set us free. Hebrews 2:14 puts it like this: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil” The devil’s power has been broken, Christ has won the victory and set us free Jesus has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” 2 timothy 1:10. Just as God had, in times before, saved his people the Israelites by granting them liberty from Egypt so God has given us liberty through the sacrifice of his son. It is interesting to note a parallel in this the death of Christ to the Exodus, where we read of the ninth plague being that of three day of darkness before the death of the first born son in the tenth plague. In v33 there is three hours of darkness upon the land before God’s own firstborn son dies. In this we see that it is only through Jesus’ death that light is restored to the land. We are granted liberty from destruction and we receive victory over death- because Jesus died on the cross in our place and for our sin.

Secondly we can see that Jesus’ death upon the cross was out of love. This seems an obvious point doesn’t it? We have all seen, and maybe at times owned an object which says ‘Jesus loves me’. We are all familiar with the Jesus Christ of love. But why exactly does Jesus’ death on the cross mean that he loves us? Well, from the very beginning of his ministry Jesus accepted his role as mediator for us, in Matthew 3:15Jesus accepts his position, that his must fulfil righteousness by being baptised so that he could be identified with his people in order to bear their sins. By making himself fully obedient to God, even unto death. As we read in Galatians 2:20 “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” What a wonderful statement! Jesus Christ the son of God gave himself for me! In breathing his last Jesus accepted the burden of my sins and was punished by God as a substitute, out of love for me the sinner. In doing so, as a believer I died with him, my sins are taken in his death and I am given new life in him through his resurrection! When we realise that Jesus gave himself for us that wonderful statement in John 3:16 becomes even more wonderful. God gave his son as a sacrifice because he so loved the world! Jesus died on the cross because he loved us, his people and the knowledge of this should cause us to rejoice! Ephesians 5:2 says “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. Even though he was to suffer a brutal death, one of barbaric beating and horrendous humiliation Jesus did it willingly out of his love for those that he came to save. To the believer this act of love means everything because in Christ’s sacrifice of love I am given new life, I am raised in his resurrection as a new being not because of my own power but because he loved me enough to die on a cross for me.

Thirdly and finally let us look at the law. Why did Jesus Christ die on the cross? Well, because a price needed to be paid, the law had to be kept. Story Of Ebay Throughout His covenant with Israel God demanded that a sacrifice be made for the sins of the people, it was to be a pure offering of the best of their flocks but this old model had failed because of the sinful nature of the people. By sending down his son, Jesus Christ, God sent a sacrifice to cover all sacrifices so that whoever believes may have their sins forgiven. This is because the very nature of God must be satisfied, as a just God and a righteous God he demands that the debt to sin be paid. God is “a faithful God who does no wrong” Dt 32:4 and who promises that “I will not… be false to my faithfulness” Psalm 89:33 as Stott points out. God must be faithful to himself and must be satisfied- that is why there can only be one way and a sacrifice must be made. Therefore Jesus, on the cross, became a substitution for our sins by accepting the wrath of God so that God might look at us without sin. In Galatians we read that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, cursed is he who hangs on a tree” as we learnt last Sunday evening. Only Christ could be such a substitute and that is why in the First epistle of John 2:2 says that “he is the propitiation of our sins” according to Wayne Grudem propitiation means a sacrifice that bears God’s wrath to the end and in doing so changes God’s wrath towards us into favour”. By becoming a propitiation for us Christ satisfies the law of God and appeases Him to look upon us favourably because “the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin” 2 John 1:7. God’s satisfaction is achieved in Christ’s substitution because there can be no other way. Christ died for us so that the law of God would be fulfilled and so that it is possible for us to be reconciled to him.

What does that mean for us? Well let us rejoice that Christ has died for us and that he did so to satisfy the demands of the law, and in doing so he has given us liberty free from the bonds of sin through his love for us. What a Saviour we have, a Saviour that was ridiculed on the cross, that was spat upon and beaten and yet after he breathed his last caused the centurion standing beside him to realise that he was the Christ “truly this man was the Son of God” v39 In the midst of such a horrible scene, even a hard soldier saw the wonderful sacrifice of our dear Saviour who was pierced for our transgressions and died so that we might have eternal life.

As believers we should be at liberty! But do we still live in fear of condemnation? Believer, there is no need to. If we trust in Christ we are free from all condemnation and are assured of his amazing grace.
What difference doe the knowledge of Christ’s death have on our lives? We know why Christ died for us, what are we going to do about it? Mark 16 14-16 the great commission- we must go out and tell all of our wonderful saviour!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Enigmatic... in more ways than one!

So today I've read through Sinclair B Fergusans "The Holy Spirit". I'm just as confused as ever! It seems to me that the argument about the continuation or cessation of the miraculous gifts is such a hard one to debate is because the two sides of the argument are, essentially, arguing about the same passages of scripture. Take Ephesians 2:20...

19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (NIV)

Cessationists argue that this verse (within the context of the surrounding chapter) is indicative of the fact that the foundation of he apostles (including the use of the miraculous gifts) has now been completed, and as such they cease to exist. Continuationists would argue that this foundation is actually an example, and thereby we should follow it, and as such still seek and use the miraculous gifts. You see what I mean? It's not that there's a whole heep of verses that the cessationists use to prove their point, or conversely the continuationists. THEY'RE ARGUEING ABOUT THE SAME VERSES! They just interpret them differently!

I'm no greek scholar so I'm finding at hard to understand and decide which of these (as well as several other similar tyoe disputes) is correct. Thoughts anyone?

Also I sat today with my dictionary by my side, Fergusan, as well as the bible it turns out, is somewhat enigmatic. Why do theologians feel the need to use such complecated language? I'm sure it's unnecessary and it takes me twice as long to trawl through books!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Miraculous Gifts

If you'd have asked me when I first became a christian if I beleived in the continuation of the miraculous gifts I'd have said of course, having not realised that some people didn't. This was undoubtedly due to the nature of the church I grew up in. If you'd have asked me a couple of months ago I'd have given a resounding no. Now I'm not so sure. I've been trying to read up on both sides of the argument using books like Counterfeit Miracles by BB Warfeild, Charasmatic Chaos by John Macarther, Wayne Grudems Systematic Theology and various (some definately dodgy) pentacostal sermons online.

It seems to me that the argumant is really all about terminology. What did Paul actually mean by the term tongues for instance? Does he mean a random collection of sounds or an actaul language, such as occured on the day of pentacost? I'm convinced of the later by Macarthurs arguments. I think. What is the precise definition of what prophesy is?! Grudem gives some helpful pointers, but they contradict those given by Warfield.

My mind = a mess.

Thoughts anyone?!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Seven Certain Signs of True Conversion pt. 3

The third sign that Masters considers is that of fellowsip, something that I personally have taken for granted as perhaps a byproduct of conversion rather than a sign of it. But I am persuaded that it must be a sign, in the sense that it shows our faith in a very practical way.

3) The family bond
i In Acts 2:42 we can see that following their conversion the believers immediately drew towards one another for fellowship, creating a kinship as we see in 1 John 3:14.
ii Fellowship should be a compulsion for a believer and we should be drawn into the spiritual family of a local church.
iii If an individual shows no signs of a need for fellowship, or want to talk of the things of God it is unlikely that they are saved.
iv A believer also sees a gap emerge between themselves and non chrisitan friends, not that they love them any less but that true godly fellowship is missing.

It seems true that real faith should create a need for godly fellwoship, and that as believers we should be drawn to one another. Therefore it seems reasonable that any evidence for or against this should be considered a sign of faith.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seven Certain Signs of True Conversion pt. 2

Today I read the second 'sign' and it certainly helped me in my broad considerations of the subject. Incidently I am also studying John Stott's 'The Cross of Christ' and chapter four helped nit together many of the ideas concerning our state of sinfulness that I mentioned yesterday.

2) Understanding Scripture
i Masters states that a new believer should have a mind that understands and loves God's Word and honour its authority in our lives.
ii Unbelievers find scripture obscure and complicated- therefore a believer must be the opposite.
iii The Holy Spirit alone can unlock Scripture in our hearts, even though we may not understand everything we should have hearts that yearn to learn from Scripture.
iv God's Word should be the authority in our lives, in all aspects. A true convert will wish to obey Scripture on all points.
v We should have a steadfast attitude to Scripture- not someting we turn to in troubled times but at all times.

Again, I believe that these are helpful pointers- Scripture is God's direct revelation to us and a true believer should hold it as the authority on all matters. If we question the authority of God through Scripture are we truely saved?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Seven Certain Signs of True Conversion

Over the next week, or possibly ten days, I intend to write a brief summary of a very helpful booklet entitled 'Seven Certain Signs of True Conversion' by Peter Masters. In the Christian walk we are often arrested by doubts over assurance and I find it helpful to consider our conversions and test them according to scripture. If anybody has any contrary opinions or helpful additions, I would be grateful to hear.

1) Conviction of sin
This section can be broken down into seven helpful points, which are as follows:
i The clear mark of grace is the conviction of sin which leads to true repentance (Acts 2:37-38) a knowledge of the burden of sin will drive us to repent.
ii We shall see that we have 'a broken and contrite heart' (Psalm 51:17) there should not be a passing acknowledgment of sin- but a devastating realisation.
iii Conviction of sin is painful, if it is not it is likely to be superficial.
iv Christ must be acknowledged as our Saviour before anything else- friend, helper, supporter.
v We must be keen to see such a conviction in ourselves, we must have shown a deep and earnest desire to receive new life.
vi Our attitudes to sin and Christ must change, we must lose our love of sin and grow in our love of Christ.
vii We must yield wholly to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord.

I think these are good principles in expecting a conviction of sin. If we do not realise our sinfulness, why would we want a Saviour? We should continually grieve our sinful attitude to God and glorify in his grace in sending his son as our dear redeemer!

Friday, August 17, 2007

When is Enough enough?

Its been a while hasn't it? The summer has gone so quickly and I seem to have filled up my time by doing... not a lot. Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about this question; in terms of our Christian Faith, when is enough enough?

I guess I'm asking this for a number of reasons. First of all I recently attended the banner of truth conference in Leicester. It was awesome. I learnt a lot and had a really good weekend. However I think its fair to say that for a lot of the time I felt out of my depth, by a long way. I was surrounded by academics who knew way more that me about everything Christianity related. This got me to tihnking that even if I devoted my whole life to the study of scripture I would probably never know or be as wise as these men. Is that OK? Should I want to? Should I just be content to not really get stuff but to understand what I need to for salvationa and try to live it out as best I can? To be a shining light to the world serving people but not really being bothered about heavy, academic theology or should we all be striving to be the next John MacArthur or Sinclair. B. Ferguson?

Secondly what exactly is required for salvation? Ye its sems a simple question doesn't it. A belief in a bibical gospel. That Jesus was the Son of God who came to earth to die for us and to take the punishment we deserve for our sin so that our relationship with God can be restored. Grace. (OK so that VERY simple but you get the idea). BUT what about things like limited atonement or the sovereignty of God? Christians believe vastly different things about these issues... for instance my views are quite different to my Dads but I don't doubt his Christianity for one second. Whats that about? What is it ESSENTIAL to believe for salvation and what are the issues that we can put to one side and say are secondary?

I'm a simple man. I like simple things. But, when it comes to my faith is it OK to be... simple? Thoughts anyone?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Provisions of Scritpture.

How great is the Word of God!? How often does it answer our needs?! I have been reminded again of the promises that God bestows upon his people within Sctripture after some recent events.

A friend of mine from church named Brian, 16, had a horrible accident whilst diving into a shallow river in Latvia last week and was left with a broken neck and, at the moment, paralisis from the neck down. The tragic events have some clear parallells at this point with the story of Joni Eaereckson Tada, if you are familiar with that. The last week has seen some really dark times for him, the family and the church but thankfully Brian is stable now and out of Intensive Care. However, there are a whole host of possibilities that might occue over the next few weeks but we can be comforted by the knowledge that Brian is under the care of his great God. A number of passages have stuck in my mind throughout the last week and served as promises of God's unfailing word and i'd like to share them as examples of how Scripture is unfailingly relevent.

The day before the accident the youth bible study looked at 1 John chapter 5 v14-5 which states:

14This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

We know that if we pray to God seeking his will he will hear our prayers!! What a fantastic promise and real encouragment in the face of tragedy.

As a family we read a Psalm a day after tea and it so happened that on the day after the news we read Psalm 34 which says:

17 The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all; 20 he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

Whilst we might not know the will of God in Brian's life, or the result of this current state, we are assured of the Lord's presence and deliverence for his glory. What fantastic knowledge. Please pray for Brian and the family, our Lord hears the prayers of his people.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Edwards on Arminianism

A few years ago I decided that I needed to mature in my spiritual life and began to take a great interest in reading and understanding doctrine. One of my first areas of consideration was the doctrine of Predestination (being the wonderfully volatile subject it is) and was introduced to a wonderful book called Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented by Steele, Thomas and Quinn. After reading the book, and the relevant scripture that is found in abundance within, I became a fully convinced, badge wearing Five Pointer (although more of a TUPIP than a TULIP). University then held many interesting conversations amongst my Christian peers and I tried my hardest to defend Calvinism.

However, I have always struggled with the challenge of knowing how firm to hold onto the set of doctrine known as Calvinism. Should it be something that I refuse no ground to? Or should I be willing to sacrifice it in the face of Arminianistic brothers and sisters in the name of unity? Iain Murray shares some helpful thoughts from Jonathan Edwards:

"...he saw, as Owen before him, that Christianity itself could not long be upheld if concessions were made to accommodate objections to Calvinism. The danger from Arminianism lay not simply in a few particular errors but in its whole tendency. While it claimed to be based upon Scripture the popular strength of its arguments depended on the contention that Calvinistic belief is not reconcilable with human reason... This mode off argument by-passed two facts; first, that reason is 'impaired, depraved and corrupted', and second, that 'the gospel requires men to believe things above reason merely on the authority of Divine revelation.' If all the doctrines 'which have anything of spiritual mystery in them and so not absolutely reconcilable unto reason as corrupt and carnal' were judged as Arminianism judges the doctrine of sovereign grace, how much Christianity would remain?" Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography by Iain Murray (published by Banner of Truth)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jonathan Edwards

Recently I have been reading Iain Murray's excellent biography of Jonathan Edwards published by Banner. I have taken a great interest in Edwards this year having found his abridged works (published by Grace Publications) most helpful. I was struck by Edwards' direct and unapologetic style and his scripture centred approach which both shook me and allowed me to vividly imagine his awed audience. Murray's biography tells of a highly intelligent young man who became consumed with a passion for God's word at a very young age, devoting his entire life towards the preaching of it. It saddens me that very few Pastors today seem to preach as Edwards did- the gospel is plain and simple and should be preached as so! I hope and pray that my heart will ever be changed to be like Edwards' and the Puritans- that I might be meek and humble and also full of zeal for the word of God!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Breaking and Packing

Sorry for the lack of posting recently. My computer has completely died and so i'm relying on occasionaly using Tom's Mac. I'm also packing up all my worldly belongings before moving home. Tom has no excuses, he's just lazy ;)

Also... I've still not found anything to do next year (although I have a few things in the works) so I'd really value your prayer as to the direction of my life. Also if anyone knows of anything for a 21 year old to do for a year, preferably in some kind of Christian context let me know!!

I'll try to post something on John MacArthur tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Reformed and Ever Reforming

Sometimes it's hard as a Christian to fall into the trap of labelling yourself (see this post as a poetic satire) and whilst I often guiltily feel that I shouldn't, I can't help but label myself as perhaps different from someone else. As a result I suppose that I would simply refer to myself as a Reformed Christian- holding to the truths and attitudes of the great reformers. But whilst I still struggle with this and attempt to understand the rights and wrongs of classification I thought it would be helpful to pass on a message from my Pastor, David Finnie, at Ebenezer Evangelical church in Bangor. This comes from the introductory message in the monthly magazine:
As indicated in the churches constitution, Ebenezer's doctrinal position is expressed in the great reformed Confessions of church history and particularly so in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). Like those previous generations in the history of the church, we have formulated our doctrine and practise in a way that we think best reflects the teachings of Holy Scriptures. In this sense, Ebenezer can accurately be described as a Reformed church.
There is, however, a danger in classifying ourselves as a reformed church and thinking that we have arrived in terms of doctrine and practise. It is the danger of thinking that we have got it ALL right, that all the reforming has already been done and there is nothing more to do. Such a conclusion would be naive and dangerous.
If we claim to have the Word of God as "our supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct" (as in the SoF) then surely there is a need to be continually examining our position and practise in the light of God's word. There is an ongoing need to bring our inherited convictions to the bar of Holy Scripture and, if necessary, adjusting them so that they conform to the teachings of God's Word. If done in a proper spirit and with the correct motives, then examination and evaluation of this nature is not dangerous but healthy. After all it was examination and evaluation of this nature, which characterised the early Christians. Speaking about the believers from 1st Century Berea, Luke says they "examined the Scripture every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11)
And so, in addition to being a Reformed church, we ought to be a reforming church, a church which is willing to reform in its desire to conform more to the teachings of God's Word. As the Reformers of a bygone era used to say: "ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda"- "the church reformed and always to be reformed."
Many thanks to David for this helpful message may it be every believers attitude.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Issues in Worship (pt 1)

Throughout my Christian life I have been exposed to many different variations on worship. (To clarify when I talk about worship, in this context I will be talking about the act of singing and praising within a church service.) I have been to churches where if a song was written post 1600 it was considered to be ‘loud’ and ‘unruly’. Conversely I have attended churches where anything written pre 2000 is considered ‘out of date’ and ‘boring’. How then can we decide how we should worship? What is appropriate and what isn’t in a Bible believing church? The Bible has much to say on this topic and over the next few posts I will be considering these passages and explaining my own thoughts on the subject.

Firstly, the Bible tells us to sing praises to God, and there are plenty of examples of this happening. (2 Samuel 22:50, Psalm 9:11, Jeremiah 31:7, Isaiah 12:6, James 5:13, Colossians 3:16, Revelation 5:13.) So, singing to God is good, and he can certainly be glorified by it. It is something we are commanded to do and something that should definitely be part of Christian meetings of all types.

But, does this mean that there are only certain types of songs that should be incorporated, only certain styles that should be sung? My answer would be no, and I will explain why looking at what makes a ‘song’.

Firstly we shall consider the issue of style, and by this I mean the musical style of the song. In recent years songs of a more modern style (i.e. with electric guitars and drums) have started to appear in our churches. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. Whatever song we are singing in church will obviously reflect the popular music of the time. Hymns written 100 years ago contain melodies and harmonies similar to those found in the popular music of the time. Writers are influenced by the music they hear every day. The disciples, the early church or King David would not have been singing Charles Wesley or Matt Redman songs would they? Does this mean the songs they sang were invalid? No! The songs they sang and the tunes they used would have almost certainly have influenced by the popular music of the times, as well as the instruments available. How many churches have you been to where a Harp or a Lyre was used in the music group? Not many I would suspect but the Bible clearly states that these instruments were used to Praise and Glorify God, Psalm 150:3 .To dismiss a song simply because of it’s style is wrong and to say that certain instruments should or should not be used in churches is narrow minded.

At this stage let me clarify one very important point. Just because these styles are not wrong does not mean that they will be to everyone’s taste and that is fine. We are to sing songs and worship our Lord with whatever style of music helps us best. To say that we must impose more modern styles on those in our churches who find them unhelpful is just as narrow minded as saying that we must not use this style of worship at all.

Lets not forget that the point of worship is to Glorify God. He is the one to whom we are singing our praises and we aren’t to just sing along, getting into the music of a good song and forgetting why we’re singing in the first place. (This issue will be addressed in a later post). God is Glorious beyond out imagination. We are to give him ALL the glory for He is more than deserving of it. However in terms if style I believe we may use whatever style helps us to Glorify him through song.