Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Vision (4.17.14): Baptism and Lord's Supper

We had our second-Sunday Sunday School discussion last Lord’s Day afternoon on baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

In the discussion I noted a five part series of messages I did back in 2010 when we were preparing to particularize (constitute) as a church and to begin the practices of these ordinances (or sacraments).   I framed the messages on a series of questions and answers.  Here are links to those sermons for those who’d like to review them:






I also made mention of a book review I did of Keith A. Mathison’s Given for You:  Reclaiming Calvin’s Doctrine of the Lord’s Supper (P & R, 2002), which influenced my understandings of the Lord’s Supper and especially how it functions as an element in worship and the frequency with which it is observed.

Finally, I noted that we are about to complete our Sunday afternoon Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism sermon series by covering questions 70-82 which also deal with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.  Hopefully this series will help us to refresh, examine, clarify, reinforce, and confirm our understandings of these key Biblical practices in our church.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Doctrines of Grace Series: Irresistible Grace


 
Note:  I continued our Doctrines of Grace series in Lynchburg on Sunday evening with a message on the "I' in TULIP:   Irresistible Grace.  Below is the opening to the message including a definition of this doctrine:
 
Irresistible grace is the doctrine that God graciously applies the redemption purchased by Christ to the saved in such a way that their hearts are utterly and gladly taken captive to Christ.  The redeemed are drawn by God’s Spirit to trust completely in Christ for their salvation.  God lovingly overcomes any stubborn resistance to him and makes the redeemed his glad and willing servants.


We have already discussed man’s state in sin and his total inability to seek God (T); God’s plan to save mankind and his sovereign election of those who would be saved (U); and God’s accomplishment of redemption through Christ’s death on the cross (L).  We now come to the application of that redemption to the hearts of sinful men so that through faith in Christ they are saved (the I of TULIP).  This is where the doctrines of grace demonstrate a robust trinitarian thelogy:  the Father elects; the Son redeems; the Spirit applies redemption.


Imagine the following scenario:  Two people hear the gospel preached.  One is converted and becomes a solid believer.  The other is left cold by the gospel and remains in his unbelief.  What made the difference in the response of the two men?  The Arminian says the difference is merely that the first man chose God and the second man did not.  The Arminian implies that there was some special quality within or some work performed by the first man that distinguished him in the eyes of God from the second man.  The doctrines of grace say that the first man was saved by a sovereign act of God’s free grace alone.  The first man would have been just as indifferent to the gospel as the second man if the Spirit of God had not graciously drawn him to Christ.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prayer at 2014 Cove Creek Opening Ceremonies

Image:  Cove Creek Commissioner John Grisham
presides over the Opening Ceremonies

Saturday was Opening Ceremonies at Cove Creek Baseball Park.  This is our family's tenth year of playing ball at Cove Creek and my fourth year coaching the Rookie League Hot Rods.  Last season was a "re-building year," but this season we've started off strong winning our first two games.  I was asked to do the opening prayer (it is a private park and we can still do this).  Here's the text:

Gracious and loving God,

Today we can say with the Psalmist, “the heavens declare the glory of God” and the firmament shows forth his handiwork (Psalm 19:1).

As we stand on the threshold of a new season of baseball here at Cove Creek, we bring you thanksgiving for the past and ask your blessing for the future.

We thank you for providing the benefactors, administrators, and officials whose generosity, hard work, and guidance have made this place possible.

We thank you for the coaches and parents for their instruction and support.  Help us to encourage excellence in competition without being overbearing or unkind.  Make us to be circumspect in our criticism and liberal in our praise.

And today we especially thank you for these young athletes, for their readiness, enthusiasm, and excitement for this new season.  We ask that you would watch over their physical safety.  Help them to honor their parents, their elders, and all those in positions of rightful authority by being respectful and considerate.   Help them to strive for excellence in proportion to their abilities, to be fair in competition, generous in victory, and noble in defeat.

Help us, as the apostle Paul taught, to do all to your glory.

And teach us to follow the timeless rule given by Jesus:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

We ask all this in Christ’s name, Amen.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

New Word Magazine: Review: Bart Ehrman on How Jesus Became God


I just uploaded a new Word Magazine which I recorded on Friday, reviewing the NPR Fresh Air interview with Bart Ehrman on his new book, How Jesus Became God.

JTR

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Vision (4.10.14): Grace Points: What gives meaning to life?


Note:  Here’s the script to another one of the “Grace Points” radio spots (audio here).  Continue to pray for these devotionals as they are being broadcast.

Welcome to Grace Points, a ministry of Christ Reformed Baptist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia:

What gives meaning to life?

After the fall of communism, a large Scandinavian department store opened in Budapest, Hungary.  The company put up billboards throughout the city.

On the billboards were two books.  On the left side was a red book titled “Karl Marx:  Das Kapital.”  On the right side was the store catalogue with all its goods.  In the middle was a question:  “Which makes your life better?”

The Christian would add a third book to the billboard:  the Bible.  Life is more than materialism or politics.  Life is about knowing the God of the Bible.  This is where we find meaning.

Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

Christ Reformed meets for worship each Sunday at 10:30 am at the Covenant Lower School, 1000 Birdwood Rd., just off the 250 bypass.  They can also be reached on the web at christreformedbaptist.org, where you’ll find audio sermons and more Grace Points.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Vision (4.3.14): What is repentance unto life?



Note:  In our Sunday afternoon catechism series I preached last Sunday on Question 70:  What is repentance unto life?  Below are seven points from the sermon, along with the closing quote from John Colquhoun:

“I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies” (Psalm 119:59).


“When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18).


1.  Repentance is a Biblical necessity in the order of salvation:

2.  Repentance is a saving grace.


3.  Repentance is not merely the sorrow of the world that works death but godly sorrow that works life (2 Corinthians 7:9-11).


4.  Repentance requires having a true sense of sin.


5.  Repentance involves the apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ.

 
6.  Repentance involves having grief and hatred of sin.


7.  Repentance involves two turnings:  (1) turning away from sin and forsaking it and (2) turning toward God to strive after new obedience.


In his work on "Evangelical Repentance," Scottish preacher John Colquhoun (1748-1827) recommended the following questions for self-examination:


Survey minutely your inclinations and thoughts, your words and actions, even from your earliest years. Put to yourself seriously questions such as these: What have I been intending and pursuing all my days? What has been the rule of my conduct? The maxims of men or the Word of God? The customs of the world, or the example of Christ? What has the supreme love of my heart been fixed on? Have I given to Christ, or to the world, my strongest desires and warmest attachments? Has it been my habitual intention to please God, or to please myself? Has it been His glory that I have aimed at in every pursuit, or my own gratification, wealth or honor? Is it in heaven or upon earth that I have been chiefly aiming, to lay up treasures for myself? Has God in Christ been the delightful subject of my frequent meditation and conversation? Or have I regarded religious thoughts and converse as insipid and wearisome? Have I been out of my element when employed in the delightful work of prayer and praise, of reading and hearing the glorious Gospel? And have I found more pleasure in licentious mirth and trifling conversation? Have I kept the Sabbath, and with holy reverence frequented the sanctuary of the Lord? Or have I profaned His Sabbath, and poured contempt on His ordinances? And have I relied for all my right to eternal life on the surety-righteousness of Jesus Christ, and trusted cordially in Him for all His salvation? Or have I relied for a title to life partly on my own works, and trusted in Him for a part only of His salvation? Propose with impartiality these questions to yourself, and suffer conscience to return a faithful answer, in order that you may so discern your self-deformity, as to abhor yourself, and repent in dust and ashes.


Source: John Colquhoun, True Repentance (Choteau, MT: Old Paths Gospel Press, n.d.): 23-24.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

CT Article: The Most Popular and Fastest Growing Bible Translation Isn't What You Think It Is

 
Note:  While working on a book review for the Holman KJV Study Bible, I ran across this interesting article (3.13.14) from Christianitytoday.com: 
 
When Americans reach for their Bibles, more than half of them pick up a King James Version (KJV), according to a new study advised by respected historian Mark Noll.
 
The 55 percent who read the KJV easily outnumber the 19 percent who read the New International Version (NIV). And the percentages drop into the single digits for competitors such as the New Revised Standard Version, New America Bible, and the Living Bible.
 
So concludes "The Bible in American Life," a lengthy report by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Funded by the Lilly Foundation, researchers asked questions on what David Briggs of the ARDA, which first reported the results, calls "two of the most highly respected data sources for American religion"—the General Social Survey and the National Congregations Study.
 
The numbers are surprising, given the strong sales of NIV translations in bookstores. The NIV has topped the CBA's bestselling Bible translation list for decades, and continued to sell robustly in 2013.
 
The high numbers of KJV readers confirm the findings of last year's American Bible Society (ABS) State of the Bible report. On behalf of ABS, Barna Group found that 52 percent of Americans read the King James or the New King James Version, compared with 11 percent who read the NIV.
 
The KJV also received almost 45 percent of the Bible translation-related searches on Google, compared with almost 24 percent for the NIV, according to Bible Gateway's Stephen Smith.
 
In fact, searches for the KJV seem to be rising distinctly since 2005, while most other English translations are staying flat or are declining, according to Smith's Google research.
 
Smith, whose research on how technology is shaping Bible use is profiled in this month's CT cover story, blended data from Google Trends and the Google Keyword Tool to see how English Bible translations compare in search terms. Bible translation searches may not necessarily be an indicator of Bible transation usage—a Bible Gateway study earlier this year found dramatic differences between the cities most likely to search for Bible verses and the American Bible Society's list of top "Bible-minded" cities.
 
Nevertheless, other studies also indicate that the KJV remains the translation powerhouse. A 2011 Lifeway study, for example, found that 62 percent of Americans—and 82 percent of Americans who regularly read the Bible—own a copy of the KJV.
 
"Although the bookstores are now crowded with alternative versions, and although several different translations are now widely used in church services and for preaching, the large presence of the KJV testifies to the extraordinary power of this one classic English text," Noll commented in the IUPUI report. "It also raises most interesting questions about the role of religious and linguistic tradition in the makeup of contemporary American culture."
 
Noll, a leading evangelical scholar, wrote a cover story for CT on where the world would be without the KJV.
 
The study from IUPUI in some ways paints a more religious picture of Americans than the ABS/Barna study, recording that 78 percent read their Bibles monthly, compared with the 41 percent found by Barna and the 53 percent found by Lifeway.
 
But IUPUI also found that fewer Americans read their Bibles every day—just 9 percent, less than the 13 percent recorded by Barna and half of the 18 percent found by Lifeway.
 
IUPUI also noted several main tells: You're more likely to read the Bible if you're female (56 percent compared with 39 percent of men), African American (70 percent read at least once a year, compared with 46 percent of Hispanics and 44 percent of whites), and older (56 percent of those over 70 years old, compared with 44 percent of those between 18 and 29). You're also more likely to read the Bible if you live in the South (61 percent) rather than the Northeast (36 percent).
 
While IUPUI found that readers name Psalm 23 as their favorite scripture, followed by John 3:16, Barna found that more people liked John 3:16 the best, followed by Psalm 23. (CT covered the 10 most-searched Bible verses of 2013.)
 
CT has reported on ABS's State of the Bible reports, including how the Bible gained 6 million new antagonists in 2013.
 
CT's previous coverage of the KJV includes a history of the translation, its influence, and how the KJV compares to other translations.
 
CT's previous coverage of the NIV includes the Southern Baptist Convention's rejection of the 2011 version for avoiding male pronouns where both genders are intended and responses from Lifeway and CT.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Limited Atonement: Responding to Objection Passages


 
 
Note:  Last Sunday in Lynchburg, we continued our series on the Doctrines of Grace.  I did a follow-up to my message on “Limited Atonement” with a message on “Objection Passages to Limited Atonement.”  Below is part of the introduction to the message along with the eight objection passages I reviewed:


Many of the objections raised against the doctrine of Limited Atonement relate to the interpretation of various passages using the word “all.”  Those who object usually take for granted that the word “all” in every instance refers to “all humanity.”  When read in context, however, the word “all” very often refers to “all the elect.”


We make this kind of discernment in everyday life.  One might hear the following report on the news:  “There was an accident involving a single vehicle with four passengers.  All were killed.”  Upon listening to this report, one does not suppose that all human beings were killed or that all the people in the city were killed in the accident.  The context makes clear that “all” refers to all the passengers.  Knowing the context is a key to right interpretation.  Many read the Gospels and the epistles as universal missives to all humanity, rather than as communication written to a particular audience.  This clouds their ability to understand these passages.


Many also confuse the astonishment expressed in the New Testament over the fact that both Jews and Gentiles (all kinds of men; men from the whole world) are being saved.  Paul, for example, is staggered with amazement that in Christ “the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ through the same gospel” (Eph 3:6).  Some confuse this emphasis with the notion that all men without exception are redeemed (universalism) or potentially redeemed (Arminianism).


Here are the eight objection passages reviewed:


1.  John 1:29

 

2.  John 3:16

 

3.  John 12:32

 

4.  2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

5.  1 Timothy 2:1-7

 

6.  2 Peter 3:9

 

7.  1 John 2:2

 

8.  2 Peter 2:1