Friday, June 26, 2015

Word Magazine # 38: Review: M:28 Bible Study

Note:  I posted to today WM # 38:  Review:  M:28 Bible Study.  Below are my notes for this episode (that I did not always follow) along with links to various sites related to the M:28 Bible Study and to ISI, the organization promoting it. 

Purpose:  I am doing this review in response to a request from a CRBC member who is doing short term mission support service in another country. While there he has encountered missionaries using a Bible study called “M:28.”  He had some negative intuitive reactions to the some of the concepts being used in the study and asked me to look at the material and offer a critique.  This WM is the response to that request.  Hopefully others might find it helpful.

Where does M:28 come from?

If you google something like “M:28 Bible Study” you will be directed to the website for this ministry:

The homepage has the title heading:  “M:28 Global Discipleship Initiative”

I assume that the M:28 name comes from Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission, though I could not find a place where this is clearly explained.

On a welcome page, the M:28 is described as an initiative of a para-church organization (ministry or business?) called ISI (International Students, Inc).  The welcome page is signed by Dr. Doug Shaw, President and CEO of ISI.

This led me to the website for the organization.  It is apparently based in Colorado Springs, CO with multiple affiliated persons (staff?) located at various college and Universities across the country where the focus is ministry to international students.  The Virginia page, for example, lists a number of schools where ISI apparently has some ministry to international students including both UVA and PVCC.

One page linked on an alternative website offers a brief history of the organization noting that it began in Washington DC in 1953.  It shifted to “a conference-based strategy” in 1972 and moved to Star Ranch in Colorado Springs that same year.  In the mid-1980s it began to focus on “equipping local church members to reach out to international students on nearby campuses.”  Shaw, the President, joined the organization in 2001.  Another page does list a board of twelve persons, mainly business leaders.

Shaw, howewer, is the only staff member I could find with a profile.  Even that one is a little vague.  For example, it says he has both an earned MA and PhD but it does not say in what field he earned these degrees or where he earned them. Was either degree in theology?

The ISI website does include a brief statement of faith that does affirm things like the inspiration of the Bible, a Trinitarian understanding of God, etc.

Furthermore, a statement of ISI’s Mission and Core Values does mention cooperation with and dependence upon local churches, though I could find no links to supporting churches.

Back to the site, there is an M:28 background page which indicates that this method has been around in some form for about 20 years (since 1995?).  It also includes some other interesting information about M:28.  Here is the page’s content (with some sections underlined for emphasis by me):

Some 20 years ago, God moved in the hearts of a number of church planters to reconsider the church planting process. They went back to the Scriptures and discovered that today’s western church may have made the process too complicated, and burdened it with western cultural baggage. As they stripped the process down to just the essentials, churches in their spheres of influence began to multiply rapidly. This movement became known as the organic church movement or CPM (Church Planting Movements). It is based on the Discovery Bible Study approach to truth discovery. According to this model (David Watson and others), the Word of God and the Spirit of God are sufficient for anyone to follow Jesus. Anything we give people other than the Word of God (e.g., interpretations, background, theology, definitions, examples, etc.) carries with it cultural baggage which will thwart the natural growth of new churches in their culture.

The foundation of ISI's M:28 Global Discipleship model is the Discovery Bible Study process. Once a spiritual seeker, or a "person of peace" has been identified, we meet with them and go over a simple 4-step bible study. Afterwards, they are encouraged to share truth they have discovered with others (friends, family, acquaintances, etc.) and report back what happened.

After 2-3 weeks of meeting, the group is closed. Group members are encouraged to meet with any additional people who want to join by forming another group with that person and their friends. Many people are ultimately part of two groups.

When a student, or group of students come to know Christ personally, we begin discipleship bible study with them, following the same truth discovery model. The discipleship process is based equally on sharing results of obedience, learning new truth from God's Word, and practicing obedience to new truth for the next step. Key passages are provided for M:28 discipleship bible studies, which can be done one-on-one, in small groups, or even over Skype with returnees.

Let me return to the two underlined sections from this page:

1.  The creators claim that the Western church has made Christianity too complicated and they simply want to strip things down to the essentials.

2.  The creators believe that things like “interpretation, background, theology, definitions, examples, etc.” carry too much “cultural baggage’ and so are to be avoided.

Oddly enough and contrary to this claim, this sounds like a typical, modern Western evangelical approach to the Bible (solo scriptura rather than sola scriptura).    This reflects a primitivism that suggests one can read the Bible with no preconceived notions of tradition or doctrine.  But reading and study of the Bible must necessarily involve theological presuppositions and theological interpretations.  Unless you are going to read the Bible in Hebrew or Greek, for example, you are going to be dependent on the interpretation of the translators!

What is the M:28 method of Bible study?

Let’s turn now to discuss the M:28 Bible Study method.  Now, admittedly I am making these comments based on the brief, sample material shared on the website.  There are apparently longer and more documents that one receives if he goes through their training.

But on the site, one can find a pdf which gives both the “Facilitator Guide” and the “Bible Study Guidelines (also called Group Rules)” (also available as pdfs here).
Let’s look at each of these:

First the “Facilitators Guide”:

1.  The leader is called a “facilitator.” If we are stripping things back to Biblical practice why is he not called a teacher or an elder or a pastor?  What restrictions are there on this role?  Must one be a mature Christian?  Is there a confessional or church membership requirement?  Can a woman lead the study?

2.  Each study session is base on three segments:  connect, discover, respond (and then close with prayer—by whom?  A volunteer?  Does this include non-believers leading in public prayer?).

The connect segment seems designed to be an icebreaker.

The discovery segment focuses on a Bible passage being read aloud twice, retold, and then discussed with the facilitators asking questions like, “What does this passage mean?”

The Respond segment uses application questions that begin, “If this passage is true…” giving room for response for those who do not accept the Bible as true.

Second, the “Bible Study Guidelines” (Group Rules):

The guidelines include instruction to limit discussion only to the passage being read.  What about Scripture interpreting Scripture?

The facilitator is also told “don’t teach” and “Don’t contribute your answer/comment to every question.”  If a “strange” or “wrong” interpretation is given (note the quotation marks) the facilitator is given strategies for redirection, including letting the group develop a “culture of self-correction.”  But what if the group also agrees with the wrong interpretation?

Note: The pdf handout include a note that these questions are adapted from “David Watson’s CPM [Church Planting Movement] Resources.”  David Watson is a former SBC missiologist.

Note:  M:28 includes at least three series:  Discovering God series (evangelism) and the Following Jesus Series and Growing in Maturity Series (discipleship).

Some concerns about M:28:

In the end, I believe I understand why the young man who had been part of our confessional RB church had some intuitive reactions against the M:28 Bible Study method.  Here are several concerns:

1.  M:28 is promoted by a para-church, non-denominational organization with seemingly only weak ties to existing local church ministry.

2.  It assumes that Bible study can be done without interpretation and theology.

3.  It promotes a method of evangelism based on small group discussion meetings.  Is this the NT model?  No.  The NT model for evangelism is based primarily on the means of preaching.

4.  It promotes leadership by non-authoritative facilitators rather than by elders, persons gifted and called to preach and teach the gospel.  It therefore represents a revolt against Biblical, ecclesiastical authority.

5.  By promotion of relativistic and non-directive methods it actually reinforces the ways of this world rather than promoting a Christian worldview, ecclesiology, and authority based on Biblical teaching.

6.  It explicitly rejects the Reformed and Biblical notion of “Scripture interpreting Scripture.”

Conclusion:  God can use whatever means he is pleased to use.  I would not, however, suggest or promote the M:28 Bible Study as a means for either evangelism or discipleship. Contrast the method promoted by M:28 with the models given in Acts where the revealed means of evangelism and discipleship is the public preaching and teaching of the Word of God by appointed officers (not small discussion groups) (cf. Acts 8:31, 35; 9:20, 22; 10:30-32; 13:7).


The Vision (6.26.15): Scenes from 2015 CRBC Vacation Bible School

This week (Monday-Thursday) we completed our annual Vacation Bible School at CRBC.  The theme this year was "The Life and Teaching of the Apostle Paul."  Here are few scenes from the week:

The day began with a "Bible-Bearer" leading the children into VBS.

Each day began with Bible study.

Topics for the week:  Day One:  Paul's Conversion on the Damascus Road; Day Two:  Paul's Three Missionary Journeys; Day Three:  Paul's Trials; Day Four:  Paul's Letters and His Legacy

Singing Scripture and Camp Songs was a big part of the week.  "The Fruit of the Spirit" remains a popular one with the children.

Stephanie O. led crafts again this year.  Here a group puts a model of Paul's ship on a string before it wrecks on the rocks below.

Another craft scene

Recreation time is also always a big hit.

Nothing like a game of "Duck-Duck-Goose"!

Bible lesson review:  Using sentence strips to put the events of Paul's life in order.

Each day ended with lunch on site.

VBS: old friendships renewed; new friendships made.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Vision (6.18.15): Wherewith shall I make the atonement?

“Wherefore David said unto the Gibeonites, What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make the atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of the LORD? (2 Samuel 21:3).

Last Sunday morning at CRBC I preached from 2 Samuel 21.  It is an unsettling chapter.  A famine strikes the land for three years due to King Saul’s sinful treatment of the Gibeonites.  When David approaches them, they demand that seven of Saul’s descendants be killed and their bodies hung or impaled.  David complies.  “And after that God was intreated for the land” (2 Samuel 21:14).

Old Testament commentator Dale Ralph Davis says of 2 Samuel 21:  “No one can evade the raw horror of this scene.  We can only try to understand (up to a point) what is happening” (see p. 223).  These seven men “become, as it were covenant-breakers who stand in the place of Saul.”

Davis adds that if you feel horror at this passage that is a good thing.  That is what you should be feeling.  He states:  “Readers should be aghast.  The text says atonement is horrible; it is gory.  Atonement is never nice but gruesome.”

He recalls all the Biblical sacrifices:

It was all mess and gore.  From the slicing the bull’s throat in Leviticus 1 all the way to Calvary God has always said that atonement is nasty and repulsive.  Christians must beware of becoming too refined, longing for a kinder, gentler faith.  If we’ve grown too used to Golgotha perhaps Gibeah (v. 6) can shock us back into truth:  atonement is a drippy, bloody, smelly business.  The stench of death hangs heavy wherever the wrath of God has been quenched.

The atoning sacrifice of these seven men was an imperfect sacrifice.  The Lord for his own sovereign purposes ended the famine and brought rain.  Yet this was just one broken covenant.  What atonement would be made for countless others, for myriads upon myriads of broken vows?  These were imperfect victims.  These were mere sinful men.  What type of perfect sacrifice would have to be offered to atone for the sins of the whole world?  This sacrifice only brought momentary relief to a time of famine.  What sacrifice could bring about not only temporal relief but eternal justification for sinners?

There is only one verse where the English word “atonement” is used in the AV of the NT:

Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

If you read the context, it is clear that Paul that this atonement has been brought about by the death of Christ on the cross. Compare:

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

What 2 Samuel 21 points us toward is the mystery and the scandal of the cross.  This is a hard truth and even an impossible truth for unregenerate man to fathom.  The old liberal preacher Harry Emerson Fosdick called it a “slaughterhouse religion.”  I recently saw the atheistic scientist Richard Dawkins in a video railing against any notion that God had to kill his son in order to offer forgiveness. He said something like, “If he is God why can’t he just offer forgiveness without any sacrifice.”  But Dawkins misses the point.  This is not a natural truth.  It is not a human truth.  It is a divine truth and a revealed truth.

NT scholar Leon Morris in his classic work The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross observes:

He is a righteous God, even in justifying the ungodly; and the propitiation which he set forth in Christ Jesus, dying in His sinlessness the death of the sinful is the key to the mystery (p. 278).

David asked the Gibeonites:  “What shall I do for you and wherewith shall I make the atonement….?”

And the ultimate answer comes back:  It has been made in Christ.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeffrey T. Riddle

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Daniell: Tyndale "gave to English not only a Bible language, but a new prose."

Image:  Facsimile of the  full page woodcut print of Matthew dipping his pen in a pot held by an angel, which prefaced Tyndale's translation of Matthew in the "Cologne Fragment."

I’m still enjoying David Daniell’s William Tyndale:  A Biography (Yale, 1994).  In his discussion of Tyndale’s early efforts at translating the Bible into English while in Cologne, Germany, Daniell offers this reflection on how Tyndale’s labors shaped the development of English prose:

Yet something more important is happening; the English into which Tyndale is translating has a special quality for the time, being the simple, direct form of the spoken language, with a dignity and harmony that make it perfect for what it is doing.  Tyndale is in the process of giving us a Bible language.  Luther is often praised for having given, in the ‘September Bible’, a language to the emerging German nation.  In his Bible translations, Tyndale’s conscious use of everyday words, without inversions, in a neutral word-order, and his wonderful ear for rhythmic patterns, gave to English not only a Bible language, but a new prose.  England was blessed as a nation in that the language of its principle book, as the Bible in English rapidly became, was the fountain from which flowed the lucidity, suppleness and expressive range of the greatest prose thereafter (pp. 115-116).

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Death of Herod Agrippa I in Acts 12 and Josephus

Last Sunday afternoon I exposited the account of the death of Herod Agrippa I as recorded in Acts 12:17-25.  In preparation I ran across this helpful compilation by G. J. Goldberg of parallels between the New Testament and Josephus.

The Acts account of Herod Agrippa I's death is indeed nicely paralleled by Josephus' account in his Antiquities of the Jews (see here).

Among details that concur:

1.  Herod had traveled from Judea to Caesarea before his death;
2.  Herod was "arrayed in royal apparel" (Acts 12:21; Josephus says he wore a silver garment which resplendently reflected the sun's rays);
3.  Herod gave a speech and his sycophants praised him as a god;
4.  Soon after the speech, Herod became violently ill and later died.  Josephus says he had a "violent pain" in his "belly" while Luke says "he was eaten of worms" (Acts 12:23).  Luke also adds that he was smitten by "the angel of the Lord" because "he gave not God the glory" (Acts 12:23).

Of note is the way that Josephus' account supports the historicity of Luke's account in Acts.  Luke adds a distinctive theological interpretation, but his account agrees with Josephus in the main details.  This parallel and others like it support the conclusion that Luke was a reliable ancient historian and counters those who would dismiss the historicity of his narrative or suggest that Luke was prone to fabrication.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

David Daniell on Erasmus Legends

I was reading today from David Daniell’s classic work, William Tyndale:  A Biography (Yale, 1994).  I was struck by his discussion of Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum where Daniell makes reference to the “legend” that Erasmus rushed the work into print and that it was subsequently riddled with errors.  Here, in part, are his comments:

There is a legend that Erasmus worked with Froben his printer at break-neck speed in 1516 in order to get ahead in the market….  The legend, partly resulting from Erasmus’ own explanation of haste, perhaps as a cover for possible errors, has been used to condemn the enterprise; in fact, all the parts of Erasmus’s volumes show care and accuracy (pp. 60-61).

Indeed, the “legend” that Erasmus did his work quickly and sloppily was popularized by Bruce Metzger in his influential works on text criticism and those ideas were then picked up and passed on by others (like D. A. Carson and James White).  I believe that these legends were largely promoted in the modern era in order to undermine the authority of the Textus Receptus.  The first I heard of anyone debunking these Erasmus legends was in the writings of Erasmian scholar M. A. Screech.  David Daniell’s voice can now be added as well.  For more on this listen to the discussions in WM #  25 and WM # 26.


2015 Cove Creek Closing Ceremonies

Today (June 13) was "Championship Saturday" and the closing day for the regular season at Cove Creek baseball park.  I served as head coach of my son Isaiah's "Pirates" team in the Major League (11-12 year olds) this year.  Though we finished the regular season in third place (of three pretty evenly matched teams), we caught fire in last week's playoffs and made it to the championship game today, winning 4-1 over the regular season champion Cubs.  I'm very proud of this team and the way they played today!

I'm also proud of Isaiah who was voted by his peers to receive the "Sportsmanship Award," one of three individual awards given in each league.  This was his second year in a row to win the award, having received it last year in the Minor Leagues. He follows in the footsteps of his older brother Sam who was a four-time recipient of the award during his CC career and his sister Lydia also won this award in the only year she played softball at CC. 

Image:  With championship games completed, the crowd gathers for closing ceremonies at Cove Creek.

Image:  The Pirates (and assistant coaches) celebrate the win after receiving their trophies in the closing ceremonies.

Image:  Isaiah lays a smacker on the championship trophy.

Image:  CC Commissioner John Grisham (and he does a little writing on the side) speaks with boys chosen for the All-Star season following closing ceremonies about the responsibilities of "wearing the uniform" and representing CC.  You can see my son Joseph in the center who gets his first chance to play the All-Stars season this year on the CC U-9 team.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Vision (6.11.15): God's Kingdom Cannot Be Shaken

Note:  Here is one of the applications from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Sheba’s rebellion against David in 2 Samuel 20.

“And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel” (2 Samuel 20:1).

Though David’s kingdom was stricken and though it teetered, it did not completely fall.  Through it all David’s kingdom was able to persevere.

So it is with the kingdom of Christ here on earth.  It can be attacked, as Abalsom attached David’s kingdom. But it will not completely fall.  It can suffer the woes of internal schism and division, as Sheba attempted to divide David’s kingdom.   But it will not completely fall.  It can suffer the petty and wrongheaded actions of its weakest members, as David’s kingdom survived the devious actions of Joab.  But it will not completely fall.  Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18).

The story is told of the early church that a pagan ruler once arrested a group of elders in an attempt to stamp out the fledgling Christian movement.  This godless man threatened these pastors with curses saying, “We will completely destroy you Christians.  We will rip apart your churches.  We will tear your movement down.  We will destroy it.”

And one of the pastors responded, “But sir, if we have not been able to do this through our own sin and pettiness, we do not think that you will be able to do it either.”

The old-time radio preacher J. Vernon McGee commented on 2 Samuel 20:  “Underneath the faith that failed [i. e., David’s faithfulness] was a faith that never failed [i.e., God’s faithfulness]” (Thru the Bible, Vol. 2, p. 235).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

"Still Alice" and ministering to those with Alzheimer's Disease

A couple of weeks ago I read the Lisa Genova novel Still Alice (Gallery Books, 2007, 2009) about a fifty year old college professor who develops early onset Alzheimer ’s Disease.  The book has become better known since a movie by the same title based on it was released last year with Julianne Moore winning a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the title character.

I have not seen the film, but I did enjoy reading the book.  Anyone who has had a loved one suffer with this disease (as my mother did) will find much with which he can relate.  I would also commend it to ministers to help them understand and care for those who suffer with this disease, other forms of dementia, or any cognitive impairment, and their families.

One interesting scene reminded me of how such trials raise spiritual questions even in those who live otherwise secular lives.   When Alice is coming to terms with the diagnosis, she makes a few feeble attempts to ask spiritual questions about her condition.  While out for a walk she enters an Episcopal church near her home and sits down in a pew from where she sees a banner which reads, “GOD IS OUR REFUGE AND STRENGTH, A VERY PRESENT HELP IN TROUBLE.”

The narrator then describes:

She couldn’t be in more trouble and wanted so much to ask for help.  But she felt like a trespasser, undeserving, unfaithful.  Who was she to ask for help from a God she wasn’t sure she believed in, in a church she knew nothing about?
She closed her eyes, listening to the calming, oceanlike waves of distant traffic, and tried to open her mind.  She couldn’t say how long she sat in the velvet-cushioned pews in that cold, darkened church, waiting for an answer.  It didn’t come. She stayed longer, hoping a priest or parishioner would wander in and ask her why she was there.  Now, she had her explanation.  But no one came (p. 98).

This reminded me that we have opportunities to evangelize and minister to persons who are facing trials, including the trial of Alzheimer’s Disease.


Sunday, June 07, 2015

Wedding Sermon

Note:  I had the privilege of performing a wedding on Friday evening at Ash Lawn Highland for a young couple from our church.  Here is the text of the wedding sermon.

Wedding Sermon
Tom Frick and Sarah Washburn
June 5, 2015
Genesis 2:20-24; Ephesians 5:17-33

It is time.  We have arrived.  This is what all the preparation and planning has been about.  This is the time for the two of you to stand here before God, before your families, and before these Christian witnesses to make a covenant with the Lord and with each other to live as husband and wife.

God has brought you together to bless you and grow you stronger in Christ and through your union to bless others.  But most of all he has brought you together to magnify his glory in your union.

There is no magic.  There are no secret incantations.  We will be here just a few brief minutes.  The amazing thing is that you will likely feel no different 20-30 minutes from now, but your whole life will be changed forever. You walk in here today as two people, you will leave as one.  You walk in here as a son and a daughter from two distinct and different households; you leave having laid the foundation for your own household.  You have come to be married.

You have come here to do something that many in the world today are finding to be a limiting inconvenience to be avoided altogether or—at the least—to be postponed as long as possible.  And that’s not even to mention all those who are trying to change the very definition of this sacred institution.  You are making a pledge at a young age to live together for a lifetime in covenant as husband and wife.  What you are doing is counter-cultural and Biblical.

What is marriage?

The Bible tells us that marriage was the first social institution created by God.  When God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, God saw that is was not good for man to be alone and that there was no “help meet for him” among all the other creatures (Gen 2:20).  God then completed an act of spiritual surgery.  God placed Adam in a deep sleep, and he drew a rib from Adam’s side and fashioned the first woman.  God then brought her to the man.  A wife comes as God’s gift to man. 

In Genesis 2:23 we read:

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

In Genesis 2:24, then, God himself ordains the institution of marriage with these words:

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

Now, sadly, human sinfulness has tarnished the goodness of that original design.  After the fall of man into sin as recorded in Genesis 3, corruption, distortion, and competition came into the marriage relationship.

Then, when the God-man Jesus Christ came into this world, he began the redemption of the marriage relationship, calling us back to the pre-Fall ideal.  As Christians we strive to have Genesis 1-2 marriages in a Genesis 3 world.

When the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with questions about divorce in Matthew 19, he answered by calling them back to Genesis 1-2:

Matthew 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

This was also the teaching of the apostles, as evidenced by Paul’s writings in Ephesians 5:22-33:

By God’s grace all men may enjoy the benefits of the institution of marriage.  Only the Christian, however, realizes its true nature and intent—to reflect the relationship and design of government between Christ and the church.

Sarah, you are to love Tom in the same way that the church loves Christ—by godly and intelligent submission and reverence for him as your husband.

J. R. Miller in the 1882 book titled Home-Making writes:

A true wife makes a man’s life nobler, stronger, grander… ‘turning all the forces of manhood upward and heavenward.’  While she clings to him in holy confidence and loving dependence she brings out in him whatever is noblest and richest in his being.  She inspires him with courage and earnestness.  She beautifies his life.  She softens whatever is rude and harsh in his habits or his spirit.  She clothes him with the gentler graces of refined and cultured manhood.  While she yields to him and never disregards his lightest wish, she is really his queen, ruling his whole life and leading him onward and upward in every proper path (p. 58).

Tom, you are to love Sarah in the same way that Jesus loves the church—by godly and manly self-sacrifice, radically and always placing her needs above your own.

Again, Miller writes:

It is a solemn thing for any man to assume such a trust and take a life—a gentle, delicate, confiding young life—into his keeping, to cherish, to shelter, to bless, until death either takes the trust out of his hands or strikes him down.

Alas how many never realize the sacredness of the responsibility they so lightly assume! How many fail, too, to keep the holy trust!  How many trample with rude feet upon the delicate lives they swore at the altar to defend and cherish till death!  How many let selfishness rule instead of love!  How many fail to answer the needs of the tender hearts they have pledged themselves to fill and satisfy with love!  Every husband should understand that when a woman, the woman of his own free will and deliberate choice, places her hand in his and thus becomes his wife, she has taken her life, with all its hopes and fears, all its possibilities of joy and sorrow, all its capacities for development, all its tender and sacred interests, and placed it in his hand, and that he is under the most solemn obligations to do all in his power to make that life happy, beautiful, noble, and blessed.  To this he must be ready to make any personal sacrifice.  Nothing less than this can be implied in loving as Christ loved his Church when he gave himself for it (p. 36).

We should recognize today that you each marry a sinner.  You have both fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).  Yet you also marry a sinner who has been saved by grace through faith and one who is steadily being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. 

It is to forge such a union that blesses man and honors Christ that we come here today.

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Christ Reformed Baptist Church, Louisa, Virginia

Thursday, June 04, 2015

The Vision (6.4.15): David Points to the Greater Reconciler

Note:  Here is one of the applications from last Sunday’s sermon on 2 Samuel 19:

2 Samuel 19:18 … And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan; 19 And said unto the king, Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart. 20 For thy servant doth know that I have sinned….

One of the things we see in 2 Samuel 19 is that David was an imperfect agent of reconciliation who points to a greater reconciler.

We can focus on David’s dealings with just one person:  Shimei, the man who had cursed him. There are some significant gospel overtones to the conversation David has with Shimei.  Shimei pleads for his iniquity not to be imputed to him (v. 19).  He confesses his sin (v. 20).  David extends to him mercy (vv. 22-23).

It all sounds good.  But later we learn the rest of the story.   David had not perfectly forgiven Shimei and was not, in fact, lastingly reconciled to him.

In 1 Kings 2, while David is on his death bed he gives these ominous instructions to his son Solomon:

1 Kings 2:8 And, behold, thou hast with thee Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite of Bahurim, which cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim: but he came down to meet me at Jordan, and I sware to him by the LORD, saying, I will not put thee to death with the sword. 9 Now therefore hold him not guiltless: for thou art a wise man, and knowest what thou oughtest to do unto him; but his hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.

And, in fact, Solomon carries out his father’s instructions (see 1 Kings 2:44-46).

The thing that I am struck by here is the contrast between David and Christ.  What David could not do even on a temporal basis, Christ has done on an eternal basis.

A verse that came to mind was this:

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Notice especially the phrase in v. 19:  “not imputing their trespasses unto them.”

Another that came to mind was this:

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

We have a perfect Reconciler in the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of David.  If we confess our sins he will forgive us and he will not impute our trespasses against us.  Thanks be to God!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle