Friday, March 08, 2013

On the Death of an Abortionist

Dr. Carl Hoffman, long time abortionist at A Woman's Choice of Greensboro abortion clinic died earlier this week. Should we be rejoicing that this murderer of literally thousands of children will no longer be able to perform such operations? Should we be mourning that yet another sinner has entered into a Christless eternity? The following are just a few thoughts that I believe will help us to work our way through the difficult variety of emotions that may come upon hearing such news.

One clear theme in the Bible is that the Lord is exceedingly patient with sinners.  He says of Israel, "All the day long I have stretched out My hand to a disobedient and obstinate people." (Isa 65:2) and also in Ezekiel 33:11, "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord God, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?'" But there does come a time, even for Israel, when their sins were so numerous and their rebellion so deeply rooted, that the Lord tells Jeremiah "Do not pray for the welfare of this people. When they fast, I am not going to listen to their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I am not going to accept them. Rather I am going to make an end of them by the sword, famine and pestilence." (Jer 14:11-12). We know that the Lord did eventually bring in the Assyrians and the Babylonians to enact judgment on Israel. God is indeed patient, but His patience has its limits.

Even in the life of Jesus, the message was originally, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt 4:17). But by the end of His ministry, the time for repentance has nearly passed, and He now pronounces "woe" on the ones who have opposed Him at every turn (Matt 23:13-36).

So yes, we should be somewhat saddened by the death of Dr. Hoffman. But I can confidently say he is one man whom I know I am innocent of his blood (as Paul says in Acts 20:26-27). Time and again I plead with him to repent, to flee from the wrath to come. And yet, like so many others in this world, he chose to stiffen his neck and harden his heart. When we stand at the judgment seat of Christ in that great day and the books are opened, exposing each one's work, all the redeemed will stand in applause and praise to God when he is cast into hell.

Let us not "rejoice" in the death of the wicked before it is time, but neither let us lament the fact that the Lord is a holy and righteous judge. Until that great day, we continue to preach the message of repentance and free grace found only in Jesus.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Pastoral Insight from Biblical Theology

At the beginning of his recently published book, Transformed by God: New Covenant Life and Ministry, David G. Peterson immediately grabbed my attention by saying, “Biblical theology must have a pastoral application, because God reveals his character and will to bring us into relationship with himself, not simply to stimulate our thinking.” The following is one example of Peterson’s ability to make pointed pastoral connections to rigorous exegesis.

“Pastorally, the teaching of Luke-Acts in this connection has several important implications. First, the link between forgiveness and repentance is a warning against any presumption of cheap grace. As Paul puts it in Romans 2:4, ‘God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.’

Secondly, those who receive the forgiveness of sins made possible by the atoning death of Jesus, together with the gift of his Spirit, are empowered to live new lives to his glory. Hearts are changed through coming to know the grace of God in the person and work of Jesus. This is the transforming knowledge of God that Jeremiah predicted. Such transformation is relational and moral. Devotion to Jesus, rather than to the law of Moses, is the key.

Thirdly, God who has been faithful in fulfilling his covenant promises can be trusted to continue transforming lives through the preaching of the gospel and the enabling of his Spirit. Acts shows that evangelism and the nurture of believers are divine activities, accomplished through human agents, to achieve God’s covenant plan for the blessing of the nations. Those who engage in these ministries today can share the confidence of the apostles in God’s enabling.

Fourthly, forgiveness through Jesus anticipates the acquittal of final judgment, while the gift of the Holy Spirit anticipates the resurrection life of God’s kingdom. These eschatological gifts are the solid basis for hope in a world where temptation, sin, persecution, sickness and death continue to assault believers and cause doubt. 

Fifthly, the renewal promised by the New Covenant is not for individuals in isolation but for God’s people collectively. Restored Israel becomes the nucleus of the church, which in due course includes people from every nation. The gospel of grace, in the power of the Spirit, nurtures and transforms believing communities, giving them one heart and mind and enabling God’s light to shine through them into a dark world. “ (emphasis added, pp.75-76)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

I Press On That I May Know HIM!

Bob Jennings has gone to his reward, and is now worshiping the Lord face to face. We who remain here are charged with the necessity to continue to press on in our pursuit of Christ and Christ-likeness. I will let brother Jennings exhort you to this. Be sobered brethren, and be disentangled from this world's many snares.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Good News of the Gospel for Depression

"For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted." Hebrews 2:18

Ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3, this world has be plagued with the effects of sin. Sin is devastating and it leaves a trail of destruction in its wake. Every day there are opportunities for believers and unbelievers alike to view the sorrow, suffering, pain, and death which are the result of sin. Every day the temptation to despair, hopelessness, and depression stands ready to present itself. The believer has the unique opportunity to call upon the One who was tempted in every way, yet without sin,[1] and plead for His help to overcome the temptation to depression. To understand the absolute necessity of calling on Christ, one must first understand the need.

 Recently, an article published in TIME magazine decried the conflict of interests occurring in the medical industry. Since 2004, pharmaceutical companies have spent $58 billion dollars in marketing. Of this, an astonishing 87% was directed at doctors.[2] These companies are willing to invest so much in marketing their products because they know there is even bigger money to be made when physicians prescribe them. This is not to say that medications cannot be helpful in particular circumstances. However, it is a good indication that we live in a culture that would rather prescribe you a pill than actually deal with a problem. Modern medicine is built upon a materialistic understanding of the universe. As such, there is no concern for what spiritual factors may be underlying a condition. As Christians, we know the truth that man is both body and soul. When the soul suffers, so does the body, and vice versa. Therefore, we must never neglect careful inquiry into the health of our spiritual condition even as we are seeking to understand a physical condition.

 Depression has been accurately defined as "A debilitating physiological response to our thoughts of haplessness (despair or joylessness), which becomes a person's reason for not handling the most important issues of life."[3] This definition is more helpful than many because it contains within it the "cause-effect" relationship between body and soul. Here, Dr. Smith identifies the cause as "thoughts of hopelessness" and the effect as a "debilitating physiological response." For this reason we need to be extremely careful about being loose with our language. Too often people label themselves or others "depressed" when they really mean "sad" or "sorrowful" or "down in the dumps." Emotions like these are the natural response to the fallen world around us. It is right to feel sorrow over sin, grief over the loss of a loved one, even sadness and disappointment when situations don't work out as we'd hoped. Sometimes we may even feel "down in the dumps" for no particular reason. The difference between these emotions and depression is found in our definition above. Dr. Smith rightly notes it is when feelings "become a person's reason for not handling the most important issues of life" that depression has set in. Therefore, we may view depression as different by degree, not kind. That is, depression is not a unique emotion, but an unchecked degree of emotion. So, there is a way to be "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing",[4] but when depression sets in, rejoicing ceases.

 Perhaps the greatest help we can derive from our definition of depression is the recognition that, to a large degree, depression is the response to our thoughts. Dwelling on thoughts of hopelessness will open the doors wide to depression. I speak from experience when I say that sometimes the depressed individual actually wants to remain depressed, in order to justify wallowing in self-pity and sin. As believers, we have been given the Word and prayer to help us in all of life's circumstances. If we would allow the Word to shine its piercing light through the clouds of depression, we just might find the gloominess lifting. However, too often the inactivity associated with depression is used as an excuse for further inactivity. As a result, the depressed individual neglects the disciplines of Bible study and prayer, the very things that the Lord has given us to overcome every one of life's trials. John Bunyan understood this, and spoke to it in his allegory, Pilgrim's Progress. In one section, Christian and his companion Hopeful are abducted and held captive by Giant Despair in the dungeon of Doubting Castle. The Giant beats the travelers mercilessly and then gives them the option of suicide or an agonizing, torturous death. Christian is lost in hopelessness and begins to reason that suicide may be the best option. Hopeful speaks reason into their situation and stays Christian's hand. Finally, after some days in the dungeon, near starvation, the following scene occurs:

Now, a little before it was day, good Christian, as one half amazed, brake out in this passionate speech, What a fool, (quoth he) am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty! I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will (I am persuaded) open any lock in Doubting Castle. Then said Hopeful, That is good news, good brother; pluck it out of thy bosom and try. Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and began to try at the dungeon door, whose bolt (as he turned the key) gave back, and the door flew open with ease, and Christian and Hopeful both came out.[5]

How often do we, like Christian, forget the promises of God and find ourselves trapped in the dungeon of despair and doubt when we may just as well be walking in liberty on the King's highway?

 It is the Christians responsibility and obligation to look to Christ for grace and help in their time of need.[6] The writer of Hebrews was acutely aware of his audience's struggles and temptations. They had previously endured much for their faith.[7] But now, they were tempted to throw up their hands and go back to the safety of Judaism. Perhaps they were even tempted to depression when they saw the sufferings they and their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ were facing for their faith. The writer of Hebrews knew their greatest need, and so he penned a letter pointing them to the unique glories of Christ. Jesus ought to be the Christian's greatest source of comfort and strength when faced with any one of life's manifold trials. As the writer of Hebrews reminds them, "For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."[8] Are you tempted to depression? Consider Jesus! He suffered, bled, died, and rose again to purchase both forgiveness for your sins and strength for your journey.[9]

 For most of us, depression is a choice. We make thousands of decisions every day. Each of those decisions will be, even if subconsciously, directed by the promises of God's Word, or by the propaganda of this world. When we choose depression, we choose to neglect the promises of God and the grace and help available before His throne. Jesus, our perfect example, paved a better way:

 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance [including depression] and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)

[1] Hebrews 4:15
[3] Robert Smith, The Christian Counselor’s Medical Desk Reference (Timeless Texts: Stanley, NC, 2000); p. 206.
[4] 2 Corinthians 6:10
[5] John Bunyan, Pilgrim's Progress & Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners (Vintage Spiritual Classics: New York, 2004); pp. 100-101.
[6] Hebrews 4:16
[7] Hebrews 10:32-34
[8] Hebrews 2:18
[9] 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Blessed Are Those Who Die in the Lord

Richard Baxter said he endeavored to preach as a dying man to dying men. He was speaking of the nature in which he wanted to preach... It's not often you get to hear a man who truly is dying speaking to you only footsteps from the grave. Be sobered by the following sermon from brother Bob Jennings who is dying of pancreatic cancer.

For updates from Bob, check his site as often as you'd like.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Loving Like Christ Loved

Last Wednesday night the men of Shepherd's Fellowship gathered and discussed 1 John 4 regarding the love which all true Christians will demonstrate for one another. I thought this quote by Jonathan Edwards was especially instructive as to what the love ought to look like.

He [Christ] thus loved us without any expectation of ever being requited by us for his love. He did not stand in need of anything we could do for him, and knew that we should never be able to requite him for his kindness to us, or do anything towards it; for he knew that we were poor, maimed, halt and blind, empty needy vagabonds, who could only receive from him, and could render nothing to him. He knew that we had no money or price; that instead of receiving anything from us, he must give us all things that we needed, or we should be eternally without them. Now how far shall we be from a selfish spirit, and how contrary to it, if we love one another after such a manner, or if there be the like spirit of love in us towards others which was in Christ towards us. Our love to others will not depend on their love to us; but we shall do as Christ did to us, love them, though enemies. We shall not only seek our own things, but we shall be in our hearts so united to others that we shall look on their things as our own. We shall look on ourselves interested in their good, as it was in Christ towards us. We shall be ready to forego and part with our own things in many cases for the things of others, as Christ expended and was spent for us. And these things we shall do without any expectation of being requited by them, as Christ did such great things for us without expectation of any requital from us.
~Jonathan Edwards~

Source: The Old Guys

Wednesday, August 15, 2012 Boycotts New Covenant Theology

I received an email update several days ago from regarding a particular book they will not be carrying. Apparently they felt this book is a significant enough problem theologically that it doesn't deserve to be on their shelves. I saw the email, read it, sighed, and deleted it. Now I see it's causing quite a stir on various sites and blogs, so I am linking to the pertinent articles for the edification of those who stop by Grace in the Triad.

The text of the email reads:

As most of you already know, Monergism Books is dedicated to upholding a Christ-centered biblical theology, which we believe, Reformed/Covenant theology most closely reflects. If you have been following us for any amount of time you should know that we try, by the grace of God,  to carefully choose books and  resources to promote and warn visitors about books with theological problems. This is one of those times. We believe that Kingdom through Covenant both misrepresents Covenant Theology and promotes an unbiblical alternative. Of course we are not trying to decide for you what to buy, but rather, encourage you in the right direction when you have a choice in the books you read.

Some might be under the false impression that we oppose the theology in this book because it is Reformed Baptist. But this is not the case. Kingdom through Covenant is not a Reformed Baptist work or Reformed at all. Historically Reformed Theology has been synonymous with Covenant Theology. So-called New Covenant Theology is actually a reaction against confessional Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians and Covenant Theologians in general. We are not against it because it is Baptist. by no means.  In fact, We carry and encourage you to purchase Baptist Greg Nichols excellent work of covenant theology because we think that it accurately represents classic Covenant Theology from Baptist perspective. Just to clarify, we will not be selling Kingdom through Covenant or making it avaialble [sic].  We regard "New Covenant Theology" as a significant theological error ... but of course you are free to purchase it elsewhere.  We appreciate your understanding that we are taking a stand on this issue and we do appreciate your business ... even though it may not be for this particular book. :)

So we recommend Sacred Bond and Nichols book over Kingdom through Covenant

As most of you will know, the pastors of Shepherd's Fellowship of Greensboro unapologetically espouse New Covenant Theology, though we certainly do not agree on all points with everyone who chooses to self identify with that label.

Various blogs have responded better than I could here so I will simply link to them. (If you don't have time for all four, read AOmin and City of God.)

Alpha & Omega Ministries

City of God

A Blake White

Christ My Covenant

It is disappointing to see taking this position, but not altogether surprising. I haven't read the book, but I can assure you that as a result of all this, I will! Maybe you should too...

Update: The Gospel Coalition has an interview with the authors and is giving the book some good press. Check it out, it's worth a read.