Thursday, April 27, 2006

Various and Sundry

  • I have uploaded to our sermon audio page, the mid-week teaching I did on "A Biblical Response to Judas and the Da Vinci Code" and also an audio file reading of the paper I did on "John Piper's Baptism and Membership Proposal: A Neo-Landmark Response."
  • Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has apointed Rob Nash, an academic from Georgia's Shorter College and a person with no formal missionary (cross-cultural) experience, as the new leader of its Global Missions division (see ABP article). He replaces the "team" of Gary and Barbara Baldridge. By the way, when Barbara Baldridge resigned for "personal reasons" there was never any explanation or journalistic investigation by the moderate press on the reasons for her departure. Compare this to the scrutiny given the resignation of Bob Reccord from the NAMB.
  • There is more news about Baptists and public ("government") schools. A liberal group has advocated support while a conservative one is advocating withdrawal. I am doubtful this will reappear in Greensboro since a resolution was passed last year in Nashville.

Why I'm not at "Together for the Gospel"

The much anticipated "Together for the Gospel" mega-conference for Pastors is going on in Louisville (Wed-Friday), hosted by Mark Dever, Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, and C. J. Mahaney. "Guest" speakers will include R. C. Sproul, John Mac Arthur, and John Piper. You can read a live blog of the meetings from Tim Chalice. My friend Travis Hilton is there and I thought about going with him but chose not. Why? Too much travel and time away from church and family. Too little conference money when I am going to the Richmond HEAV homeschool conference in June, the Greensboro SBC meeting in June, the Evangelical Forum and BGAV meeting in VA Beach in November, and the ETS meeting in DC in November. There will be another T4G meeting in 2008. Maybe then.
Another hesitation about this meeting is the whole notion of conferences to hear "celebrity" preachers. I know that this is the farthest thought from these men's minds and that their intentions are wholly good and godly for this conference, but it does perpetuate, even unwittingly, this mindset. Perhaps we are doing the same thing with our Evangelical Forum meetings (Dever spoke for us last year). But is this not the same sort of thing that worldly, seeker-sensitive, purpose driven evangelical types are criticized for? Come hear this great speaker, or attend this conference, and your ministry/life will be changed!
Another pet peeve: At the T4G blog you can read the conversation taking place between the four (Mohler, Dever, Duncan, and Mahaney) but you can't really take part (you can give comment but they are not posted). Though it is nice to overhear their conversation on ministry and theology, should we not be pursuing our own conversations with people who actually have the time to know us and who are not just trying to influence us?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 5 of 11

Paragraph five in the JPBC membership covenant reads as follows:

We will live as disciples of Jesus Christ – redeemed sinners in a sinful world. We will be loving, just, and truthful at home, at work, at school, and wherever we go. We will not conform to this world’s self-seeking, self-deceiving ways, but we will instead seek the straight and difficult path spoken of by our Lord, bearing faithful witness to God’s unfailing love.

This statement reminds us that we are to live as committed followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ. "Disciple" might also be translated by the word "student." We are indeed pupils under the tutelage of Christ. Jesus’ call to discipleship is laid out in Luke 9:23: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me." In the Great Commission Jesus told us to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20).

The covenant also reminds us that although Jesus has saved us and called us out of the world, for now we still live in the world. John wrote that we are not to love the world or the things that are in the world (1 John 2:15). Paul said we are to come out and be separate and distinct (2 Corinthians 6:17). Yes, we are physically in the world, but spiritually we are set apart from it. There should be a marked difference in the way a Christian lives his life and the way an unsaved man lives his life.

We are also reminded here that as followers of Christ we are to be true "non-conformists." We are not non-conformists in the way some people try to be—in outlandish dress or behavior—but in the manner Paul describes in Romans 12:2: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." This non-conformity to worldly ways is to be expressed in every sphere of life.

Jesus has no half-hearted or partial disciples. We are either completely committed to him or we are not committed to him at all. There is no middle ground.

May God grant us grace to live in faithfulness as true disciples of Jesus.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Patriarchy: The New Legalism?

The so-called Patriarchy movement is gathering momentum in Christian circles. It can be seen in ministries like Doug Philip’s Vision Forum, Philip Lancaster’s Patriarch Magazine, and R. C. Sproul Jr.’s Highland Study Center (but note Sproul’s recent defrocking!). This is a much more radical Christian response than the Piper-Grudem-esque Council for Biblical Manhood-Womanhood wing of evangelicalism. I believe it is also a much more radical approach to revival and reformation than those who are seeking church reform like Mark Dever, et al, in that it seeks a reformation in the institution of family that will, in turn, influence churches. The Patriarch movement has now engendered the "family-integrated" church movement.

The danger with any purity movement, however, seems to be legalism. Some are warning of "familiolotry." Pastor Pete Hurst of Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church in Hampton, Virginia, a PCA congregation that experienced a split over this issue, has an interesting sermon series on Patriarchy that is worth a listen in evaluating this new movement and the issue of Christian conscience.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Response to a critique of my McVey review

My review of Steve McVey's Gracewalk still draws an occasional email. I got one over the weekend from "Dennis." He wrote:
as a baptist I can see where you do not understand or comphrehend what Mcvey says. You need structure aparently. Personally I dont need a King mouthpiece. Your denomination is unscriptural and performance related. The basic truth is its not a works salvation or you wouldnt need Jesus Christ. I pick up the pieces of people lives every day that were hurt by the so called organized church.
My response to "Dennis":


Thanks for your feedback on the McVey review. You make a few comments to which I want to respond:

First, you said, "as a baptist I can see where you don’t understand or comprehend what McVey says."

Can you help me out by being specific as to where I have misunderstood Mr. McVey? Is there some point, in particular, at which I have misinterpreted his ideas? Or are you objecting to my disagreement with his ideas as I have accurately understood and presented them? Do you see how those are two different issues? I stand open to correction on either point if you can show me my error.

Next, you write: "You need structure apparently. Personally I don’t need a King mouthpiece."

I don’t exactly understand the "King mouthpiece" comment. Anyway: Yes, I gladly admit that as a sinner I need structure. I need the structure of God’s Word, the Scriptures (this is the mouthpiece I want to listen to and what I am saying is that my reading of it does not jibe with McVey).

I also need to submit to the three foundational institutions as established by God and revealed in Scripture: the family, the civil authority, and the church.

My reading of the Bible indicates that men have a tendency toward disorderliness and God does not like that. For examples, see the golden calf episode in Exodus 32:24-25:

NKJ Exodus 32:25 Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), 26 then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, "Whoever is on the LORD's side -- come to me." And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.

See also the unsettled situation in Israel at the time of the Judges (21:25):

NKJ Judges 21:25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

See also God’s judgement of Eli’s household in 1 Samuel 3:13:

NKJ 1 Samuel 3:13 "For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows, because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them.

This theme is continues in the New Testament. See the restrictions Paul places on unruly worship in 1 Corinthians 14 including his rebuke: "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints" (v. 33).

See also Paul’s household rules in Ephesians 5:21-6:9 and Colossians 3:18-4:1 where wives are to submit to husbands, children to parents, and servants to masters.

Christian citizens are also to submit to civil authority (Romans 13:1-7).

And Christians as individual members of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) are to submit to the godly, spiritual leaders of the church, most notably the elders: "Obey those who rule over you and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account…" (Hebrews 13:17). See also Paul’s first letter to Corinth when he encourages the believers to submit to leaders like Stephanas (16:15-16).

What do we find in the Bible? Structure, structure, structure!

Third, you say my "denomination is unscriptural and performance related."

Agreed, "denominations" per se are not in the Bible but the concept of fellowship and accountability among churches is (see Paul’s collection for the saints in Jerusalem as only one example in 2 Corinthians 8-9). As for the SBC being "performance related" I largely agree and am doing what I can to change that.

As to your final comment that you "pick up the piece of people (sic) lives every day that were hurt by the so called organized church," let me offer a few thoughts. First, are there bad churches where people get hurt? Yes. But there are also good churches. In truth, there are mostly impure churches trying to be more faithful. Churches are not man’s idea but God’s. Jesus constituted the church (see Matthew 16:18-19; 18:15-19; and 28:19-20). The NT provides instruction on how to organize churches (like leadership roles in 1 Tmothy 3). Is organization evil? Certainly not. Yes I have met many who claim to have been burned by organized churches. Sometimes it is true and they need comfort and healing in healthy churches. But sometimes what they call being "hurt" was their own unwillingness to turn from sin or to submit to appropriate authority.

I have found that some who distrust "organized" churches really dislike accountability and discipline.

As I said in my review, I do not see how McVey’s lawless and undisciplined gospel deals with all those passages that tell us the Christian life is constant striving toward godliness (even with the full assurance that we are saved by grace alone). Ponder Paul’s exhortation in 2 Corinthians 13:5a: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves."

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff

Guest preachers coming to JPBC in 2006

I just completed the details last week and am excited to announce that JPBC will host two outstanding preacher-teachers in the course of this year.

First, Andreas Kostenberger will be leading our annual Church Retreat September 29-30 (Friday-Saturday) at Camp Little Crossroads and also preach at JPBC on Sunday, October 1. His wife, Marney, and four children will also be joining us for the sessions. The topic will be "A Biblical Vision for Christian Family."

Dr. Kostenberger is a native Austrian and has taught NT at Southeastern Seminary since 1996 and serves as the Editor of the Journal for the Evangelical Theological Society. He has written and taught extensively on Christian family issues, marriage, gender issues in the church, and male-female roles.

Second, Paul David Washer will come for an extended preaching mission November 29-December 3 (Wednesday through Sunday evening). Washer leads the Heartcry Missionary Society, now based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Last year I went to hear Paul preach at a small independent Baptist church near Lynchburg (home church of JPBC’s Ben Parziale) along with a few JPBC-ers (Steve Belcher, Geoff Glass, Elija Widder-Varhegyi, and the Rawlings family). He is one of the most passionate and humble preachers of the gospel I have ever heard, and I look forward to his ministry among us.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Church Covenant Series: Part 4 of 11

This series covers the eleven paragraphs of our JPBC membership covenant. The fourth paragraph reads:

We will pray to God both privately and together, giving Him thanks for all His gifts, seeking His forgiveness and guidance, and bringing to Him our concerns and requests.

This plank in our covenant stresses that we will be a people committed to prayer. As with Bible study, we make a commitment to do this both privately and together (corporately).

Jesus himself set out the guidelines for a disciple’s private prayer life in the Sermon on the Mount: "But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly" (Matthew 6:6). Jesus taught us that our prayers are to be simple, humble, and God-centered (see Matthew 6:5-15). Paul wrote that we are to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thessalonians 5:17). As members of JPBC we commit ourselves to cultivating a life of private devotion and constant prayer.

We also commit ourselves to praying together with our fellow believers. The Scriptures are clear that powerful things happen when God’s people come together in agreement in prayer. Consider carefully the statement made by Jesus in Matthew 18:19-20: "if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three of you are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." Do we take this promise seriously? When we have problems or distress are we committed to joining with likeminded brothers and sisters in prayer?

We should also pay close attention to James 5:13-16:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

Our members should know that in times of distress that they can call upon the spiritual leaders of the church to pray over them. We should fully expect that God will be pleased to save the sick and forgive sinners in response to our prayers.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sunrise Sermon Outline: "And With What Shall I Make Atonement?"

We gathered for sunrise worship yesterday at 6:30 am at Riverview Cemetery. My text was 2 Samuel 21:1-14. My guess is that I may have been the only person on planet earth using this text for an Easter sermon.

Here’s my outline:

Introduction: This is a most unusual story and a most unusual text for Easter morning. Bear with me as we make the connections. For all the times I’ve read through the Bible, it was not one that was very familiar to me. It is a frightening story. It is not one that would make a good "Precious Moments" figurine!

I. The story:

A famine has come upon the land for three years. King David inquires of the Lord and finds that the famine is God’s punishment on Israel for King Saul’s poor treatment of the Gibeonites (pagan Amorites).

David desires to soften the wrath of God: "And with what shall I make atonement…?" (v. 3).

The Gibeonites suggest that seven descendents of Saul be given them to be put to death (vv. 5-6), and David agrees: "I will give them" (v. 6).

The victims are selected (v. 8). They include Armoni and Mephibosheth (not the son of Jonathan by the same name), the two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine.

The punishment is delivered and the victims are "hanged on a hill before the Lord" (v. 9). The text notes that this was during the ‘barley harvest." Was this some pagan fertility ritual?

The grieving Rizpah keeps vigil over the corpses not allowing the carrion birds or beasts to tear the bodies of her sons (v. 10).

David arranges for the proper burial of their bodies along with the remains of Saul (vv. 11-14a).
The story ends in v. 14b with the note: "And after that God heeded the prayers for the land."

II. Text of Terror?

Stepping back and looking at this passage presents a challenge. Was God’s wrath satisfied by the sacrifice of these victims? What does this say about the justice of God? This is the sort of passage that makes people hate the "God of the OT."

III. Parallels between the sacrifice of the seven sons of Saul and the sacrifice of Christ.

There are at least six parallels:

1. Sevens sons: The people of Israel are suffering for the sin of Saul and bear corporate guilt.
Jesus: All mankind is suffering for the sin of Adam. "I am not a sinner, because I sin; I sin, because I am a sinner."

2. Seven sons: Seven innocent victims are chosen to make atonement.
Jesus: One innocent (and completely sinless) victim is chosen to make atonement.

3. Seven sons: The sacrifice of victims is made by hanging them before the Lord.
Jesus: Jesus suffers and dies on the cross.

4. Seven sons: A noble woman (Rizpah) cares for the dead bodies of the victims.
Jesus: His women disciples come to care for his body.

5. Seven sons: They are placed in a tomb.
Jesus: He is placed in a tomb.

6. Seven sons: God’s holy wrath is satisfied.
Jesus: God’s holy wrath is satisfied.

Now we come to the key difference: The seven sons of Saul remain in the tomb, but Jesus is raised from the dead!

We can note many examples of the few being sacrificed for the many. But what happened to Jesus is something more. God demonstrated that in raising him from the dead. In the face of our sin, our question is that of David: "With what shall I make atonement…?" And we find the answer in the cross and resurrection of Christ (see Romans 5:6-10).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Pliny's letter and early Christians: To meet before daybreak

JPBC will host a sunrise service this Sunday morning at 6:30 am at the Riverview Cemetery in the Woolen Mills neighborhood of Charlottesville. Last year I was pondering whether or not Easter is Biblical (see the article). I concluded that, at the least, it is always right for believers to worship the risen Christ on the first day of the week.
One of the earliest records we have of the Christian movement outside the pages of the New Testament is a letter written in 112 AD by Pliny (the Younger), Roman governor of Bithynia, to the Emperor Hadrian [quotes are from Henry Bettenson's Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford Press, 1963): 3-4)]. Pliny writes to ask his Emperor how he should handle the rising numbers of people in his territory who are being accused of being Christians.

He notes that those accused are "of all ages and classes and of both sexes" and warns that "the contagion of this superstition has spread not only in cities, but in the villages and the rural districts as well." Due to the rise of this sect, the pagan temples "have been almost deserted."
Pliny notes that the accused are forced to recant, offer worship to the statues of the gods, and curse Christ. He adds that cursing Christ is something "genuine Christians cannot be induced to do." He explains his process:

I ask them if they are Christians. If they admit it I repeat the question a second and third time, threatening capital punishment; if they persist I sentence them to death.

Even this hardened Roman, however, seems sympathetic to the plight of these Christians. He notes that they declare,

…the sum of their guilt or error had amounted only to this, that on an appointed day they had been accustomed to meet before daybreak, and to recite a hymn antiphonally to Christ, as to a god, and to bind themselves by an oath, not for the commission of any crime but to abstain from robbery, adultery, and breach of faith, and not to deny a deposit when it was claimed….

What Pliny was describing was likely the Lord’s Day gatherings of the believers to remember the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

One of the historical proofs of the reality and power of the resurrection is the fact that clusters of believers like this one in Bithynia began to appear all over the Roman world within just a few years after the earthly ministry of Jesus. What caused men and women of all backgrounds to abandon the pagan gods and worship Christ as God? The power of the resurrection!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

We're number 23!

Imagine my surprise when I opened the March 30, 2006 issue of the Religious Herald and discovered that JPBC was number 23 among some 1,000 BGAV churches in VA in per capita cooperative program giving. My buddy Travis Hilton’s Parkview church in Bluefield is no. 91, but who’s counting? :)

This is ironic for several reasons. First, we have cut considerably what we give to the BGAV. We opted out of the giving tracks and created our own plan that designates most of our mission dollars to the SBC. We cut out completely all the educational institutions in VA and various other causes. We no longer give to the Alma Hunt offering (state missions offering) or the CVBA, our local association –at least on paper. Obviously, our SBC giving counted in the mix.

My guess is the main reason we showed up on the list at all is because we also reduced our membership list a few years back and removed several hundred "inactive members" to create a more accurate accounting of who we are. Though we gave less, we also had fewer members to divide into that number for per capita figuring. Ergo, "We’re number 23!"

Of well, we can bask in the glory of being a leading Virginia Baptist Church for a moment at least. "What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting" (2 Cor 11:17).

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hudson Taylor, schooling, and vacation

The biography of Hudson Taylor (1832-1905), missionary to China, is available to listen to online here.
As a homeschooling Dad, I was struck by the fact that Taylor did not attend a formal school until he was 11 years old and then only for a few years. How did previous generations produce such literate, committed, and able men without what we consider to be conventional schooling?
I leave for Spring break vacation this week, so no more entries till next week.

Church Covenant Series: Part 3 of 11

This series covers the eleven paragraphs of our JPBC membership covenant. The third paragraph reads:

We will prayerfully and regularly study the Holy Bible both privately and together to discern the will of God for ourselves and for His church and to learn the eternal principles which undergird our life on Earth.

This section reminds us that we are to be a Scripture soaked and saturated people. We are to immerse ourselves in God’s Word. We are to be like the Bereans of Acts 17 who "received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (v. 11).

The covenant reminds us that we are to read and study the Bible both privately and together. We are to take the Bible into our personal prayer closets to read and meditate over its pages. Part of our personal spiritual discipline by which we "exercise" ourselves unto godliness (1 Timothy 4:7) is the constant reading of Scripture.

We are also to study the Bible together. Private study of Scripture is never enough. We need to read the Bible with the church. God uses the pastors, teachers, and members of the church to teach us his Word. The corporate study of God’s Word in the church also holds us accountable for right understanding of Scripture and guards us from esoteric, indulgent, and erroneous interpretations. Corporate Bible study at JPBC takes place in worship, Sunday School, mid-week meetings, Men’s Bible Study, Vacation Bible School, and at various other times.

As this covenant makes clear, until and unless we are grounded in God’s Word we will not be familiar with the principles that are to govern our lives. This includes our personal lives, our family life, and our life as a church. May God give us a heart and a hunger for meditating on his word "day and night" (Psalm 1:2).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle