Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Image: 2018 Youth Conference @ Machen Conference Center
CRBC hosted our third annual Virginia Reformed Baptist Youth Conference at the Machen Conference Center in Highland County Virginia last Friday-Saturday (May 18-19).
Our guest speaker was Van Loomis, Pastor of Redeeming Grace Church in Matthews, Virginia.
The conference theme was "Developing the Spiritual Disciplines" (1 Timothy 4:8).
Here are audio links for the 2018 conference messages:
Friday, May 18, 2018
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 9:39-10:6.
And the stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers (John 10:5).
Jesus here makes the point that not only do the sheep know the voice of their shepherd, but they also know the difference between his voice and the voice of a stranger, an imposter (v. 5).
This verse stresses the importance of discernment among believers (cf. 1 John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”).
Calvin says of John 10:5: “This is the spirit of discernment, by which the elect discriminate between the truth of God and the false invention of man.”
Believers know the difference between Christ’s voice and the voice of a stranger.
I have heard that when persons are trained to detect counterfeit currency, they do not study phony money but the real thing. If they know the real currency, they will recognize the false when it comes before them.
Because believers know the true Christ they can recognize his voice and reject that which is not his voice.
I have heard some lament those who profess faith and then leave it for a false belief—like Mormonism. The problem is poor evangelism. Such persons were never actually converted. They never truly knew the voice of Christ, or they would have known and rejected the voice of the stranger.
Consider the discipline known as apologetics. They key is not necessarily knowing everything about every religion or religious group out there but about knowing Christ.
I read sometime back the memoir of Charles Marsh, longtime Brethren missionary to Northern Africa, who noted that some of his fellow missionaries made the mistake in evangelizing Muslims of thinking that they must first explain Islam to them. In so doing, they inadvertently become teachers of that religion, rather than Christianity. No, Marsh said, we must focus on explaining Christ to them.
The elect will not abandon Christ, but false professors will. The sheep will hear the voice of their shepherd in Christ, and they will turn away from the voice of the stranger.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Friday, May 11, 2018
“…and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).
When I teach a class on the New Testament and Early Christianity I sometimes have students read a brief tract called The Epistle to Diognetus. The work is dated c. AD 120-200. We don’t know the name of the author, but he was an early Christian living in the age after the apostles who was attempting to provide a defense or apology for the faith during a time of persecution and harassment. There is something in his description of believers in his times that fittingly describes who Christians are or should be in every age:
For them, any foreign country is a motherland, and any motherland is a foreign country. Like other men, they marry and beget children, though they do not expose their infants. Any Christian is free to share his neighbor’s table, but never his marriage-bed. Though destiny has placed them here in the flesh, they do not live after the flesh; their days are passed on the earth, but their citizenship is above in the heavens. They obey the prescribed laws, but in their own private lives they transcend the law. They show love to all men—and all men persecute them. They are misunderstood and condemned; yet by suffering death they are quickened unto life. They are poor, yet making many rich; lacking all things, yet having all things in abundance. They are dishonored, yet made glorious in their very dishonor; slandered, yet vindicated. They repay calumny with blessings, and abuse with courtesy. For the good they do, they suffer stripes as evildoers; and under strokes they rejoice like men given new life. Jews assail them as heretics, and Greeks harass them with persecutions; and yet of all their ill-wishers there is not one who can produce good ground for this hostility (in Louth, Early Christian Writings, p. 145).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Thursday, May 10, 2018
My book review of Peter Enns, The Sin of Certainty: Why God Desires Our Trust More Than Our "Correct" Beliefs (HarperCollins, 2016) has just come out in the spring issue of Midwestern Journal of Theology, Vol. 17, No. 1 (2018): 162-165.
I have posted a pdf of the review to my academia.edu site (read here). You can find the entire journal online here (as well as back issues).
This book and the draft of my review was also the subject of Word Magazine # 90 (listen here).
Friday, May 04, 2018
Image: Azaleas, North Garden, Virginia, May 2018
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on John 9:26-38.
John 9:26 Then said they to him again, What did he to thee? how opened he thine eyes? 27 He answered them, I have told you already and ye did not hear: wherefore would ye hear it again? will we also be his disciples?
When the Pharisees asked the man born blind what Jesus had done to him and how he had opened his eyes (v. 26), he responded, in part, by asking them: “wherefore would ye hear it again? will ye also be his disciples?” (v. 27b).
There is great irony in this. Of course, they do not want to be his disciples. They want to accuse the Lord Jesus Christ as had been their motivation with brining to him the woman taken in adultery (see 8:6).
There is also an interesting truth in these questions: Disciples are indeed those who rejoice in repeated hearings of accounts from the life and ministry of Jesus. This is why we love to read our Bible (especially the Gospels) and why we love to hear the preaching and teaching of the Word.
The text of the old gospel hymn reflects this sentiment:
Tell me the story of Jesus, write on my heart every word.
Tell me the story most precious, sweetest that every was heard.
We love to hear the story of Jesus, of his parables and his miracles, but especially to hear of his death, burial, and resurrection. One mark of a genuine disciple is the desire to hear the old, old story again and again.
If you are a professed believer and do not have that desire, this should bring you grave concern for your spiritual state.
May we show that we are Christ’s disciples by virtue of our desire to read the inspired accounts of Christ’s ministry and to drink in teaching and preaching on his life.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeffrey T. Riddle
Wednesday, May 02, 2018
More from Calvin’s commentary on Romans 9:
Did Calvin believe that the image of God in man had been completely obliterated through his fall into sin? This will be a caricature of what will later be called “total depravity.” Calvin, however, presents a more nuanced view here:
It is true that we are all born blind, but still, amidst the darkness of corrupt and depraved nature, some sparks of continue to shine, so that men differ from brute beasts. Now, if any man, elated by proud confidence in his own opinion, refuses to submit to God, he will seem—apart from Christ—to be wise, but the brightness of Christ will strike him with dismay; for never does the vanity of the human mind begin to be discovered, until heavenly wisdom is brought into view.
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Another gleaning from Calvin’s commentary on John 9:
Calvin reflects on the casting out of the healed man (v. 34: “and they cast him out”; v. 35: “Jesus heard that they had cast him out”) by the Pharisees and draws comparison to unjust excommunication of faithful men by Rome:
By this example, are we taught how trivial and how little to be dreaded are the excommunication of the enemies of Christ.
But so far are we from having any reason to dread that tyrannical judgment by which wicked men insult the servants of Christ, that, even though no man should drive us out, we ought of our own accord to flee from that place where Christ does not preside by his word and Spirit.
He even reflects on how the casting of the man out from the synagogue worked for his good, for:
If he had been allowed to remain in the synagogue, he would have been in danger of becoming alienated from Christ, and plunged in the same destruction with wicked men.
He then draws a parallel to the experience of Martin Luther and other Reformation men:
We have known the same thing by experience in our own time; for when Dr. Martin Luther and other persons of the same class, were beginning to reprove the grosser abuses of the Pope, they scarcely had the slightest relish for pure Christianity; but after that the Pope had thundered against them and cast them out of the Roman synagogue by terrific bulls, Christ stretched out his hand, and made himself fully known to them. So there is nothing better for us than to be a very great distance from the enemies of the Gospel, that Christ may approach nearer to us.