Friday, October 31, 2008

Sermon of the Week: Paul Washer's "Ten Indictments"

It was October 31, 1517 when Martin Luther posted his "Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences" (better known as "The Ninety-Five Theses") on the door of the Castle church at Wittenberg. In that spirit, our sermon of the week is a modern jeremiad against the contemporary evangelical church in America from Paul Washer: "Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church in America." If you've ever listened much to Washer you'll hear many of the same illustrations and anecdotes in this message he uses in others, but it's still worth considering.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Robert George on Obama's Abortion Extremism

For any pro-life evangelicals out there who have been flirting with the idea of voting for Obama, read this sobering article by Robert George, a professor at Princeton and member of the President's Council on Bioethics.
The article begins:
Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.
Yet there are Catholics and Evangelicals-even self-identified pro-life Catholics and Evangelicals - who aggressively promote Obama's candidacy and even declare him the preferred candidate from the pro-life point of view.
What is going on here?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Christian's Joy in Worship

I recently read an article on worship by Terry Johnson ("Worship from the Heart" in The Worship of God [Christian Focus, 2005]: pp. 161-80) that offers a good discussion of the concept of joy in worship.

Johnson notes that "Christian joy is not the joy of the bar room or the ball field, but of those who fear the God whom they love." He adds that "even in the athletic world, there is a difference between the joy expressed when the winning touchdown is scored and that expressed at the awards banquet two months later. In both cases the emotion is joy, yet the manner of expressing it differs as one moves from one setting to another. Similarly the joy of worship is not like that of the arena."

In answer to the preacher who asked why we can’t get as excited in the church as we do at football games, Johnson replies, "that kind of excitement is unsuitable for public worship; gospel joy is a different kind of pleasure." He continues, "Our joy is a deep emotion, similar to peace, experienced at a level unrecognized by the world. It is not the noisy exuberance and excitement of the arena, but it is ‘inexpressible and full of glory’" (1 Pet 1:8).

He concludes his remarks on joy in worship: "Our joy is a reverential joy, in public displayed with restraint. Ostentatious displays of zeal, whether by shouting, by raising hands, by leaping about, or by other such physical manifestations, have been restrained in Reformed circles by a sense of what is appropriate in public worship service, as well as the desire not to draw attention to oneself or to claim too much for oneself. We do not pray so as to be seen by man, whether on the street corner or in the public assembly. God alone is to be glorified (Matt 6:1-18)."

May the Lord grant to us the experience of this kind of peace and reverential joy in his presence!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article for 10/21/08.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Routley on Calvin and the tendency of musical worship toward degeneracy

I just read Erik Routley little book Christian Hymns Observed (Prestige, 1982). Chapter 3 is titled "The Crisis of the Reformation." He describes the formation of the Genevan Psalter under Calvin and notes, "It remains a monument to all that was best in Calvin's conception of religion" (p. 21).
He concludes, "You might say that Calvin saw the infinite possibilities of degeneracy in these new [Reformation] freedoms; you might even say he saw 'The Old Rugged Cross' coming and did what he could to warn us against it. But he didn't win" (p. 21). Routley's sense seems to be that Calvin promoted the singing of unaccompanied canonical psalms alone, because he wanted to build a protective fence around "degeneracy" in the realm of the musical aspects of worship (typified for Routley in schmaltzy songs like "The Old Rugged Cross").


Jesus: Our Temple

Note: Below is an edited excerpt from last Sunday’s sermon (10/19/08) on Mark 13:1-13:

As Jesus went out of the temple, one of his disciples said to Him: "Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!" (Mark 13:1). Indeed, the temple of Jesus’ day was a remarkable structure. It was one of the wonders of the Roman world.

We should not be surprised that the disciples of Jesus, as pious Jews, were in awe of this place. Nonetheless, they were clearly demonstrating their dullness to the teaching and mission of Christ. Jesus had exposed the spiritual corruption of the temple. The religious leaders had made it a den of thieves (Mark 11:17). Jesus had come to do away with this whole place and its entire sacrificial system by his "once for all" death on the cross. This whole place would be obsolete by the end of the week! It would be replaced by Christ. And Jesus’ disciples are still admiring the building!

Matthew Henry says of this passage: "We may see here how apt many of Christ’s own disciples are to idolize things that look great, and have been long looked upon as sacred…. How little Christ values external pomp, where there is not real purity…."

When I read this, I thought of people who decided on the church they will attend based on the aesthetics of the building. Better to attend a gospel preaching church that meets in a storefront, a field, or a barn than one that meets in a grand old building but is void of the gospel.

I also thought of folk who want to have a grand wedding in a church building in a lavish ceremony, but they do so without any thought of what it might mean to have a Christian marriage.

Notice Jesus’ answer in Mark 13:2: "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Can you imagine the look on the disciples faces when Jesus said this?

On one hand, Jesus is here making a prophetic prediction about the total destruction of the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. It was burned to the ground and the great stones they were admiring were, as Josephus wrote, "dug up to the foundation" with nothing left "to make those that came hither believe it has ever been inhabited."

Beyond the prediction, however, Jesus is also taking a wrecking ball to their false conceptions of piety. It is not rich men making great gifts but a widow putting in two paper thin coins (Mark 12:41-44). It is not a magnificent building, but his body. Jesus himself is now our temple!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Evangel article for 10/22/08.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Persecuted Church in India

Photo: A Christian in her burned home in the Indian state of Orissa.
I began preaching yesterday on the Olivet Discourse in Mark 13 and gave some attention to Jesus' prediction of persecution his disciples would face in the gospel age:

Mark 13:9 But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them. 10 "And the gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. 12 Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

I noted some of the persecution faced by believers today including recent stories about a Gospel for Asia missionary and his wife beaten by Hindu radicals (see here). Someone sent me this story today from the New York Times ("Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert of Leave") about current threats against believers in India. It begins:

BOREPANGA, India — The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.

They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.

“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”

India, the world’s most populous democracy and officially a secular nation, is today haunted by a stark assault on one of its fundamental freedoms. Here in eastern Orissa State, riven by six weeks of religious clashes, Christian families like the Digals say they are being forced to abandon their faith in exchange for their safety.

The forced conversions come amid widening attacks on Christians here and in at least five other states across the country, as India prepares for national elections next spring.

Join me in praying for believers in India.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sermon of the Week: A Young Pastor Reflects on Life and (Near) Death

I ran across this message on sermonaudio and want to commend it to you. Brad Baugham is a young pastor (in his early 30s) in South Carolina who experienced serious heart problems that have threatened to end his life. He preached this reflective message on his experiences to his congregation: "A Peronal Testimony: The God of All Mercy." Baugham manages to be honest and forthright in telling his personal story, while also remaining humble and lifting up Christ. Give it a listen and you will be encouraged, or share it with someone you know facing serious illness.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Exposition of Jude: Part 11 of 25

Note: This is a series of occasional verse by verse expositions of Jude. An archive of this and past commentaries may be found under the label "Jude Exposition" below.

Jude 1:11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.

Jude announces a warning here against false teachers. That warning is: "Woe to them!" The prophets of the Old Testament often announced similar "woes." One of multiple examples would be Isaiah’s words in Isaiah 3:1: "Woe to the wicked!" Jesus also, like the prophets of old, announced such "woes" on the wicked of his day. Read Matthew 23 where Jesus seven times said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" (see vv. 13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29)!

After this woe of warning, Jude makes comparison between the false professors of his day and three examples of wickedness in the Old Testament.

First, he points to the story of Cain (Genesis 4). Cain was, of course, the man who committed the first murder, unjustly striking down his brother Abel. The "ungodly men" (Jude 1:4) whom Jude opposes have followed in "the way" of Cain, rather than the way of Christ. Perhaps, as with Cain, they had failed to flee from sin which was crouching "at the door" (Genesis 4:7) with a desire to rule over them. Maybe these men had committed murder, or they had been filled with an irrational and unjust anger (the moral equivalent to murder; cf. Matthew 5:21-22).

Second, Jude notes that they ran greedily "in the error of Balaam for profit." Balaam was a pagan prophet whom the Moabites hired to curse Israel (see Numbers 22-24). When Balaam opened his mouth to curse Israel; however, the only thing he could utter were blessings. Nevertheless, Balaam stands in Scripture as a negative example of those who do spiritual things for greedy motives. Jude accuses the false teachers of peddling the things of God for material gain (cf. 1 Timothy 6:6-10).

Third, comparison is made between these men and the those who joined Korah in his rebellion against the leadership of Moses (see Numbers 16). The Lord’s response was to open up the ground under their feet and to swallow them up (see Number 16:30-33). Perhaps, like Korah these false teachers were rebelling against those in spiritual authority over them. Perhaps they were rejecting the authority of the Scriptures. They wanted to be in charge and make up their own rules.

So, we see Jude denouncing three specific kinds of wicked behavior: a murderous or hateful spirit (Cain); a greedy spirit (Balaam); and an anti-authoritarian spirit (Korah). To all these, Jude announces a "woe" of warning.

  • How are the "woes" announced by the prophets, Christ himself, and Jude a sign of God’s gracious desire to see sinners turn from wickedness?

  • Do you ever struggle with the sin of Cain (unjust anger or a murderous spirit)?

  • What signs of a spirit of Balaam (desire for greedy gain) do you see in the church today?

  • Like Korah, do you ever struggle to respect and submit to rightful authority, including the authority of the Scriptures?


Baptist Faith and Message (2000) Catechism

SEBTS Church historians Keith Harper and Nathan Finn run the Baptist Studies Online site. It has some interesting article and resources.
Among these is a link under primary sources to three Baptist Catechism. Catechisms are currently enjoying renewal of use in churches and families after a long dormant period. The three posted include: Keach's 1677 Catechism, Spurgeon's 1858 Catchism, and "Know the Truth: 60 Questions and Answers On Christian Belief, A Catechism for Boys and Girls" based on the Baptist Faith and Message (2000) that was developed by the First Baptist Church of Tallassee, Alabama. This is the first catechism I have seen based on the BFM (2000).

Monday, October 13, 2008

True Woman Manifesto

Several of our ladies from JPBC attended the True Woman Conference in Chicago last week. The Nancy Leigh DeMoss organized event drew over 6,000 women on site with thousands of others participating online. It promoted "The True Woman Manifesto," a counter-cultural statement on Biblical womanhood. You can read the Manifesto here and sign it here.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Lord's delight in making saints of those who hear and perceive

Here's an excerpt from last Sunday's message at JPBC from Mark 12:28-34. I was reflecting on the scribe who came to Jesus with a sincere question:
Mark 12:28: Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"
There are two marks of openness in this man. First he was hearing ("and having heard" is just the participle for hearing or listening). This man had been listening as Jesus had been reasoning with the Pharisees and Herodians (v. 13) and the Sadducees (v. 18). He was willing to listen to the responses of Jesus. Second, he was perceiving or knowing that Jesus had answered well. How many have come to listen to Christ in his Word thinking that it will be little more than nonsense? Then, they find to their great surprise that they perceive in the reply of Christ what appears to be the very standard of what is wise, sensible, and true, while it is his critics who appears shrill and unreasonable. Jesus delights in taking captive the hearts of men and women who think they will be opposed to him, but when they stop to hear and perceive, they find themselves intrigued by Christ, drawn to Christ....

I think of the great expositor of Scripture Arthur Pink. Before he came to know the Lord he was in what was then called a "Theosophical Society," a kind of forerunner of the New Age movement. Iain Murray titles the first chapter in his biography of Pink, "A Spiritualist Medium Becomes a Christian." As a young man in his early 20s Pink was a rising star and in demand speaker in these Theosophical Societies. He had even been invited to move to India to study more closely Eastern religions.
His father, however, was a believer and one evening as Pink came home from a speaking engagement, his father gave him this verse: "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). That verse tormented Pink and he spent three days in his room praying and crying out to God. When he left that room he was converted. He kept his appointment to speak at the next (and what would prove to be his last) Theosophical meeting, but his message was not what they expected to hear. He shared with them the Gospel. Later he recorded, "Why did I leave Spiritism and Theosophy?… Because it failed to satisfy my soul. I was trying to save myself. There was no peace for a burdened conscience, no assurance of sins forgiven, no power of sin broken, no sanctification of heart. I found I could not save myself and came to the only one who could save me" (in Murray, The Life of Arthur W. Pink, p. 12).

The Lord still delights in taking skeptical scribes and making them his saints.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Palin Predicament and Two Point Complementarianism

I plan to watch the Vice Presidential debate tonight. The nominaton of Sarah Palin as the Republican VP nominee has kicked off a lot of discussion in conservative evangelical circles over the propriety of women civil magistrates. It's an old debate (see John Knox's 1558 tract, "The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women" challenging the rule of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Mary of England).

Moderate David Gushee of Mercer wrote an op-ed piece ("The Palin Predicament") in USA Today chiding conservative evangelicals who would not allow a woman to serve as Pastor in their local church but who are enthusiastically welcoming Palin as a VP nominee. The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) responded by arguing that there is no contradiction in holding a complementarian view of gender roles in the home and church but not in the civil sphere. David Kotter of CBMW has written a series of articles supporting the propriety of women serving as civil magistrates (see the first here).

On the other hand, Doug Phillips of Vision Forum has called the nomination of Palin "the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last ten years at least." Pastor Eric Einwechter has written an article ("Sarah Palin and the Complementarian Compromise") critiquing not only Palin's nomination but, more pointedly, the mainstream evangelical embrace of her nomination. He has also responded to Gushee's USA Today article. See also an article today in the Los Angeles Times on the debate over Palin among conservative evangelicals.

Phillips and Einwechter charge CBMW, Al Mohler, and other leading evangelicals with promoting partial or compromised complementarianism. Einwechter calls it "'two-point complementarianism' (i.e., the view that the headship of men and the separate roles of men and women apply in the family and in the church but do not apply in the social or civil sphere). One wonders if in addition to identifying three, four, or five point Calvinists, we might also begin to hear a distinction between those who hold a two or three point complementarian position.


The Conversation Continues: What's the deal with angels?

Note: This is a series of responses to questions that we did not get to discuss in our summer church family fellowship.

Question: What’s the deal with angels? When were they "created"? What’s the order/rank of angels?


The Bible teaches that angels are distinct, spiritual creatures who function as God’s special messengers and servants. They were created by God at some point in holy history. In Nehemiah 9:6 we read, "Thou, even thou art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host…." The Bible does not give us a direct narrative description of the creation of angels, as it does of the creation of human beings (see Genesis 2). We must assume that they were created sometime before the sixth day of creation (see Exodus 20:11: "For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them….). The doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture states that the Bible does not provide us everything that we could possibly know but only with everything that we need to know.

Just as the creation of angels is never directly described in Scripture, neither is there a direct narrative of the rebellion and fall of some of the angels. By Genesis 3:1 the serpent is there to deceive Adam and Eve. In Revelation 12:9 John describes "the great dragon that was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan." Satan has "his angels" who oppose the cause of Christ (see Rev 12:7, 9). Jude 1:9 speaks of "the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation" whom God "hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgement of the last day (cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

We are told the specific names of only two angels in Scripture: Gabriel (Dan 8:16; 9:21; Luke 1:19, 26) and Michael (Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 1:9; Rev 12:7). As to the order of angels, there are distinctive groups of angels, like the cherubim (Gen 3:24; Psalm 18:10; Ezek 10:1-22); the seraphim (Isaiah 6:2-7); and the four living creatures (Ezek 1:5-14; Rev 4:6-8). Michael is called a "one of the chief princes" in Daniel 10:13 and an "archangel" in Jude 1:9 (cf. 1 Thess 4:16 for the only other use of this word in the Bible). He leads the hosts of heaven against Satan in Revelation 12:7. Through the years, many have been tempted to veer into detailed speculation about the order and ranks of angels, but we should beware of going beyond what is clearly revealed in Scripture.

Angels are our fellow creatures. Mankind is made "a little lower than the angels" (Psalm 8:5) and at the resurrection we will be "as the angels" in that we will not marry or be given in marriage, but our entire focus will be on the service and worship of God.

It is certainly wrong to have an unhealthy interest in angels. There are two great scenes in Revelation in which the apostle John falls down in worship before angels, but then he is firmly rebuked by the angel: "See thou do it not: I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God…" (Rev 19:10; cf. 22:9). God will not share worship or devotion with any creature—even with angels!