Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Sanctity of the Lord's Day: Resources

Here are some excellent resources on the sanctity of the Lord’s Day:

1. In order to understand the basic doctrine of the Lord’s Day, I would begin by studying the succinct statements in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. Westminster Confession, Chapter 21, is titled, “Of Religious Worship and the Sabbath Day.” Larger Catechism Questions 115-121 expound the fourth commandment. Shorter Catechism Questions 57-62 do the same. The Confession and Catechisms are available online for free.

2. If you want to go deeper than these basic statements, I would encourage you to read Joseph Pipa’s TheLord’s Day and Walter Chantry’s Callthe Sabbath a Delight. These books provide the biblical basis and practical application of the commandment.

3. There are a variety of free online resources.

            Alistair Begg’s sermons on the fourth commandment are available here

            David Strain’s article, “A Well-Spent Sabbath,” is worth a read

            R.L. Dabney’streatment of the subject is fantastic, although it isn’t easy reading

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Answering a Jewish Objection to Jesus: World Peace

Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus claim that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because he did not bring world peace. In support of this Jewish objection to Jesus are a variety of messianic prophecies. One of many examples is Isaiah 2:4, which says, “He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Since the nations are still at war, Jesus cannot be the Messiah, according to the Jews.

How should Christians respond to this objection? Let's begin with areas of agreement. We concur that these texts are Messianic. The Hebrew Bible foretells the coming of a Messiah who will be an exalted King. This Ruler will bring peace to the world. There is no question about that. However, when we read the Bible carefully, we will also find many messianic passages, which give a different view of the Messiah. These passages must be equally taken into account.

The Messiah is depicted as one who comes riding on the clouds of heaven in exalted glory (Daniel 7:13), but we also read of Messiah coming “humble and mounted on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Isaiah’s prophecy contains many references to the Messiah. The earlier prophecies in chapters 2, 9, and 11 certainly emphasize that Messiah will be a righteous King who brings peace to the world. However, when we read the Servant of the Lord prophecy in Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we discover that Messiah will only be exalted after a period of suffering and death. In the end, God’s servant will be “high and lifted up, and shall be exalted” (Is. 52:13), but that only takes places after “he was wounded for our transgressions” and “crushed for our iniquities”; “upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace” (Is. 53:5). “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Is. 53:6). God’s servant did this because he was “an offering for guilt” (Is. 53:10). Thus it is only after the Messiah suffers and dies that he is exalted to his throne (Is. 53:12).

When it comes to the biblical portrait of the Messiah, then, we find this pattern: suffering precedes glory. The same pattern is found in Psalm 22. Suffering and rejection come first (Ps. 22:1-21); then comes exaltation (Ps. 22:22-31). It doesn’t happen overnight, but God has promised: “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.”

Jesus truly is the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). He purchased peace by his death on the cross (Is. 53:5). His peace doesn’t begin the outward (the cessation of war) but the inward (the forgiveness of sins). We must have peace within before we have peace without.
Through his resurrection Jesus has been exalted to God’s throne where he rules and reigns as the Lord’s Anointed. But as was the case in the days of King David, the nations are rebelling against the Lord’s righteous rule. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us” (Ps. 2:1-3). The nations are still at war because the nations are still rebelling against the Lord and his Anointed.
God’s purpose, however, isn’t thwarted by mankind’s rebellion. “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath and terrify them in fury, saying, ‘As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill’” (Ps. 2:4-6). God has established Jesus as King. He laughs at the futile attempts of the nations to resist his righteous rule. “I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you’” (Ps. 2:7).
The good news is that God will give to his only begotten Son the nations as a heritage (Ps. 2:8-9). But again, this doesn’t happen overnight. Though Christ, God has now sent out his word from Jerusalem (Is. 2:3), summoning the nations to his presence (Matt. 28:19-20). Until the nations bow before King Jesus, the Prince of Peace, nation will rise up against nation (Matt. 24:7) and the gospel will be proclaimed to all the nations (Matt. 24:14). Only then the end will come. The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Is. 11:9).

The main reason this objection fails is that it doesn't distinguish the two comings of Messiah. First, the Messiah comes in humble suffering. Second, he comes in triumphant victory. Peace will come to the world; war shall cease. But that will not happen until the nations are evangelized and Jesus returns to establish his kingdom on the earth. But when that happens, what a day of rejoicing it shall be!
So let me encourage you, my Jewish friend, to obey the words of King David: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:12). Find your refuge in Jesus Christ, the son of David, the King of kings, and the Prince of Peace! 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Reading List for Growing Christians

A Reading List for Growing Christians

Here’s a list of books that will strengthen your walk with the Lord. This isn’t fluff. Many of these books will challenge you intellectually and spiritually. Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive, and I’m sure I’ll edit it over time. At the end of the list, there are some links to online Reformed bookstores. Unlike the average bookstore at a shopping mall, most of what you find in these online stores will be solid. Happy reading!   

God’s Existence & Perfections-

Knowing God, by J.I. Packer

The Attributes of God, by A.W. Pink

The Existence and Attributes of God, by Stephen Charnock

Holy Scripture-

Scripture Alone, by James White

Knowing Scripture, by R.C. Sproul

Taking God At His Word, by Kevin DeYoung

The New Testament Documents, by F.F. Bruce

The King James Only Controversy, by James White

Understanding the Bible-

The Reformed Study Bible, by Ligonier Ministries

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart

Whole Bible Commentary, by Matthew Henry

Commentaries, by John Calvin

Biblical Worldview-

The writings of Francis Schaeffer

How Now Shall We Live, by Colson and Pearcy

Total Truth, by Nancy Pearcy

Creation Regained, by Al Wolters

Justification by Faith-

The Everlasting Righteousness, by H. Bonar

Justification, by J.V. Fesko

The God Who Justifies, by James White

Christian Life (Sanctification)-

Holiness, by J.C. Ryle

Transforming Grace, by Jerry Bridges

The Joy of Fearing God, by Jerry Bridges

The Godly Man’s Picture, by Thomas Watson

A Quest for Godliness, by J.I. Packer

Holiness by Grace, by Bryan Chapell

Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

God’s Law-

The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, by J. Douma

Pathway to Freedom: How God’s Laws Guide Our Lives, by Alistair Begg

How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments, by Edmund P. Clowney

Reformed Theology-

The Westminster Confession of Faith, G.I. Williamson

Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions, Published by Faith Alive

Systematic Theology, by Louis Berkof

Grace Unknown: The Heart of Reformed Theology, by R.C. Sproul

The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, by Lorraine Boettner

The Sovereignty of God, by A.W. Pink

Chosen by God, by R.C. Sproul

The Lord’s Day (Christian Sabbath)-

Call the Sabbath a Delight, by Walter Chantry

The Lord’s Day, by Joseph Pipa

Corporate Worship-

With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship, by Hart and Muether

Reformed Worship, by Terry L. Johnson

In the Splendor of Holiness, by Jon D. Payne

O Come, Let Us Worship, by Robert G. Rayburn

Christian Baptism-

William the Baptist: A Classic Story of a Man’s Journey to Understand Baptism, by James M. Chaney

Word, Water, Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on Baptism, by J.V. Fesko

Christian Baptism, by John Murray

Children of the Promise: the Biblical Case for Infant Baptism, by Robert R. Booth

Children of Promise, by Geoffrey W. Bromily

The Lord’s Supper-

Given for You: Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper, by Keith Mathison

The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper, by Robert Bruce

Church History-

The Church in History, by B.K. Kuiper

Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley


On Being Presbyterian, by Sean Michael Lucas

Seeking a Better Country, by Hart and Muether


God-Centered Evangelism, by R.B. Kuiper

Tell the Truth, by Will Metzger

The Soul Winner, by Charles Spurgeon

The Old Evangelicalism, by Iain Murray

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, by J.I. Packer 

Biblical Counseling-

Competent to Counsel, by Jay Adams

How to Counsel Biblically, by John Macarthur


Each for the Other, by Bryan Chapell

When Sinners Say, “I Do,” by Harvey

Reforming Marriage, by Doug Wilson

Raising Children-

Bringing the Gospel to Covenant Children, by Joel Beeke

Shepherding a Child’s Heart, by Tedd Tripp

Gospel-Powered Parenting, by William Farley

A Godly Home-

Family Worship, by Joel Beeke

Christian Living in the Home, by Jay Adams


Creation and Change: Genesis 1:1—2:4 in Light of Changing Scientific Paradigms, by Douglas F. Kelley

Did God Create in Six Days? Eds. Joseph Pipa and David Hall

Darwin on Trial, by Phillip E. Johnson

Gender Issues-

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, by Piper and Grudem


Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue, by R.C. Sproul


The Same-Sex Controversy, by James White and Jeff Niell

The Bible and the Homosexual Practice, by Robert Gagnon

Valuable Sets for the Home:

The Christian’s Reasonable Service, by Wilhelmus a Brakel

The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer

Promise and Deliverance, by Degraaf

The Christian in Complete Armour, by William Gurnall
Puritan Paperbacks, published by Banner of Truth 

Online Bookstores with a Reformed Perspective-

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Old Self Is Dead

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Romans 6:6

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:9-10

            There's a popular misconception about the nature of a Christian. It claims that a Christian is a hybrid of two equal natures: an old self and a new self. It's the idea of a believer as a fifty-fifty combination of two radically different natures.  

On the surface, this view seems correct because it feels correct. As Christians, we definitely struggle with sin. “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17). And what Christian can’t identify with Paul’s experience in Romans 7:15-20? Conversion doesn’t eradicate sin in the Christian’s life. We will be fighting and putting our sin to death until glory.

At the same time, we must not think of the Christian’s nature as having two equal parts: old and new. This can convey the impression that my true self is really neutral, and I must daily choose between my two natures. When I choose to live according to my new nature, I have victory in the Christian life, but when I choose to live according to my old nature, I fall. Put in these terms, hopefully, we can see the problem.

The core identity of the Christian isn’t neutral. The old self is dead! He was crucified with Christ (Romans 6:6), and we put him away at our conversion (Colossians 3:9). We are new creatures in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have now put on the new self which is being renewed day by day. Instead of thinking of ourselves as a hybrid of an old self and a new self, we need to consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11).

How then should we describe ourselves as Christians? We are new selves with remaining corruption in our lives. Anthony Hoekema says, "We are genuinely new, though we are not yet completely new." Paul calls this remaining corruption “the sin that dwells in me.” What is interesting is that Paul doesn’t speak of indwelling sin as being at the core of my nature. Read Romans 7:20 carefully: “Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” As a man with a new self, Paul wants to do what is right, but when he fails—and this is very important—he says, “it is no longer I who do it.” Now we know Paul isn’t denying the Christian’s responsibility for sin. Paul knows he is responsible for his sins. At the same time, he refuses to say sin is part of his identity (his “I”). He clearly sees himself as a new man with remnants of sin in his life, but those remnants no longer define him as a man in Christ.

This is critical. It means, when a Christian sins, he is acting contrary to his new nature in Christ. He is contradicting himself at a fundamental level. If you took the hybrid view, then, when a Christian sins, he is simply making a bad choice between two equally-opposing forces. But that’s not the way Paul speaks. When a Christian sins, it is no longer I who do it! Instead, I am allowing my remaining corruption to take over who I truly am!

So it’s best to say that as Christians we are new selves with remnants of our old man. The old man has been crucified with Christ. The old man has been put off. Now we must live according to who we really are in Christ. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:11). We must put to death our remaining sin (Colossians 3:5). We must stop offering our bodies up in the service of sin (Romans 6:13). We are new! Sin no longer defines us. We are not under the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14). We are living the Christian life from the point of decisive victory in the present and an assured victory in the future. To paraphrase John Owen, we can kill our sin because it has already been killed in Christ on the cross.

The struggle is real. We will battle with our sin until the day we die. We want to please Christ, but sin lies crouching at the door, ready to pounce. But we need to remember that we are not a fifty-fifty combination of flesh and Spirit. Yes, it may feel like that, but all is not as it seems! Our minds and hearts must be informed by the truth of what is, not what seems to be. We have been crucified with Christ. Our old self has been dealt a lethal blow, and we have been given a new self. This is who we are now. We are not neutral. We are disposed toward godliness. God has changed our desires and direction in life. In Christ we are bent towards obedience. The old man is dead. Believe the gospel!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Covenant Baptism: Is It the Same Thing as a Baby Dedication?

When Christians who aren’t from a Reformed background try to understand covenant baptism, they often compare it to a baby dedication. There are, of course, obvious similarities, making this a natural comparison, but there are meaningful differences—and the differences go beyond the use of water! Essentially, in a baby dedication, the ceremony focuses on the act of the parents; the parents are dedicating their child to God. They certainly do this in a covenant baptism, too, but this isn’t its primary purpose. In a covenant baptism, the purpose is to signify and seal God’s promises to us. Yes, parents dedicate their children to God, but we must understand this as a response to God’s covenant promises to be God to us and our children (Genesis 17:7, Acts 2:38-39). The primary thing is the action of God. God is making promises to us. God is assuring us of his promises through the waters. God is placing his triune name upon us. As always, it isn’t about you—it’s about God.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Should We Begin with God's Love in Our Evangelism?

Contemporary approaches to evangelism almost always begin with God’s love. People are told, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life,” or simply, “God loves you.”

In most churches, it's taken for granted that this is the place to begin when sharing the gospel. In fact, if you challenge this approach, many Christians will look at you as if you had a second head!

Well, the more I have studied the Bible, theology, and church history, the more I have become convinced that it's generally unwise to begin our evangelism with God’s love. Please don’t misunderstand me. I certainly believe we must proclaim God’s love, but I don’t think it’s the biblical starting point. Here are some of the considerations that have led me to this conclusion.

1.     There is not one example of anyone taking this approach in the New Testament. Neither Jesus nor his Apostles began evangelistic encounters with “God loves you.” If this were the right approach, why can’t we find one example of it? Read through the four Gospels and the Book of Acts and you’ll find a variety of starting points. You won’t find one example that begins with “God loves you.” Surely there is wisdom in this.

2.     Sinners will not embrace God’s love unless they are first convinced of their sin. Although saying, “God loves you,” may be used by the Holy Spirit to convince a sinner of his guilt, it doesn’t ordinarily have that impact. Instead, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). How will sinners be able to comprehend God’s love for them in Christ’s death unless they are first made aware of their sin?

3.     This approach gives sinners the false impression that God doesn’t have a holy hatred for sinners. Most people are unaware that God has a holy hatred for the wicked, which is astounding. Christians have been fed so much cheap grace that they are shocked when you show them the very clear verses speaking of God’s hatred. For example, see Psalm 5:5; 11:5 (Read those verses carefully. Notice that they teach a hatred for the sinner, not just the sin.)  

4.     This approach fails to distinguish the different aspects of God’s love. We affirm God’s love for mankind in general. According to Jesus, God shows this love in the rising and setting of the sun and the sending of the rain upon the earth (Matt. 5:45). We also affirm that God has a loving posture toward all mankind and invites all to believe the gospel (John 3:16). But we also need to recognize that God has a special, unique love for his elect, and, in most cases, when the Bible speaks of God’s love, it speaks of his love for his Church. Believers are those who are loved by God (Romans 1:7). We are the “beloved.” If you simply consult a concordance, you’ll find that most references to God’s love are in the epistles, which are addressing believers.  

5.      This approach is relatively new in church history. As far as I can tell, this emphasis goes back to D.L. Moody. If you consider the Protestants who preceded him, they simply didn’t preach this “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” gospel. Instead, they spent a great deal of time talking about God’s holiness, his law, and man’s sin and guilt. The older preachers certainly spoke about God’s love in Jesus, but they did so only after they had explained God’s holiness and righteousness. If you look at the track record of the new approach, I don’t think it can be disputed that it has produced many false conversions. If you want a good study of the older approach, which is far more biblical in my opinion, consult Iain Murray’s The OldEvangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Celebrating Reformation Sunday

The last Sunday in October is known as Reformation Sunday. It celebrates the beginning of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

Reformation Sunday is a time for us to celebrate how God acted in history to preserve the gospel for us today. We are beneficiaries of what God did through men like Luther. Let us never forget to study Church History, thank God for his mercies to us, and learn the lessons of God’s providential dealings with his people.

Here are some practical ways to celebrate the Reformation this upcoming Lord’s Day.

1.     Prayerfully read and study the Scriptures addressing Reformation themes. For example, read about the authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17), salvation by grace (Ephesians 2:1-10), and justification by faith alone (Romans 3-4).

2.     Digest a biography about one of the Reformers. A good biography on Martin Luther is Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand. T.H.L. Parker has a good book on Calvin’s life and legacy.

3.     Watch a movie about Luther and the Reformation. There is an older version and a newer one. This can be a great family activity! 

4.     Include your children by reading to them an age-appropriate version of the Reformation and its heroes. Reformation Heritage has put out some great books for kids.

5.      Visit Ligonier Ministries and listen to excellent sermons and lectures on the history and theology of the Reformation. They are completely free!

I hope you have a wonderful Reformation Day with your family!