Tuesday, 21 June 2011

John Calvin on the Image of God in Man

Commentary on Gen 1:26

In our image, etc Interpreters do not agree concerning the meaning of these words. The greater part, and nearly all, conceive that the word image is to be distinguished from likeness. And the common distinction is, that image exists in the substance, likeness in the accidents of anything. They who would define the subject briefly, say that in the image are contained those endowments which God has conferred on human nature at large, while they expound likeness to mean gratuitous gifts. But Augustine, beyond all others, speculates with excessive refinement, for the purpose of fabricating a Trinity in man. For in laying hold of the three faculties of the soul enumerated by Aristotle, the intellect, the memory, and the will, he afterwards out of one Trinity derives many. If any reader, having leisure, wishes to enjoy such speculations, let him read the tenth and fourteenth books on the Trinity, also the eleventh book of the “City of God.”
I acknowledge, indeed, that there is something in man which refers to the Fathers and the Son, and the Spirit: and I have no difficulty in admitting the above distinction of the faculties of the soul: although the simpler division into two parts, which is more used in Scripture, is better adapted to the sound doctrine of piety; but a definition of the image of God ought to rest on a firmer basis than such subtleties.
As for myself, before I define the image of God, I would deny that it differs from his likeness. For when Moses afterwards repeats the same things he passes over the likeness, and contents himself with mentioning the image. Should any one take the exception, that he was merely studying brevity; I answer, (87) that where he twice uses the word image, he makes no mention of the likeness. We also know that it was customary with the Hebrews to repeat the same thing in different words. besides, the phrase itself shows that the second term was added for the sake of explanation, ‘Let us make,’ he says, ‘man in our image, according to our likeness,’ that is, that he may be like God, or may represent the image of God. Lastly, in the fifth chapter, without making any mention of image, he puts likeness in its place, (Gen_5:1.)
Although we have set aside all difference between the two words we have not yet ascertained what this image or likeness is. The Anthropomorphites were too gross in seeking this resemblance in the human body; let that reverie therefore remain entombed. Others proceed with a little more subtlety, who, though they do not imagine God to be corporeal, yet maintain that the image of God is in the body of man, because his admirable workmanship there shines brightly; but this opinion, as we shall see, is by no means consonant with Scripture. The exposition of Chrysostom is not more correct, who refers to the dominion which was given to man in order that he might, in a certain sense, act as God’s vicegerent in the government of the world.
This truly is some portion, though very small, of the image of God. Since the image of God had been destroyed in us by the fall, we may judge from its restoration what it originally had been. Paul says that we are transformed into the image of God by the gospel. And, according to him, spiritual regeneration is nothing else than the restoration of the same image. (Col 3:10, and Eph 4:23.) That he made this image to consist in righteousness and true holiness, is by the figure synecdochee; for though this is the chief part, it is not the whole of God’s image. Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth. For there was an attempering in the several parts of the soul, which corresponded with their various offices. In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and moulded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order. But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining in us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed. For besides the deformity which everywhere appears unsightly, this evil also is added, that no part is free from the infection of sin.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Joyce Meyer - Heretic

[Most of the quotations are taken from Christless Christianity, by Hank Hanegraaff]

Jesus Suffered not the Wrath of God toward our sins but the torment of demons

"During that time He entered hell, where you and I deserved to go (legally) because of our sin. He paid the price there. ...no plan was too extreme. ... Jesus paid on the cross and in hell... God rose up from His throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God, 'Let Him go.'” What Should You Believe, p. 35-36

[After the 3 days Christ spent in hell] “God rose up from His throne and said to demon powers tormenting the sinless Son of God, “Let Him go.”” The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, p. 42

“There is no hope of anyone going to heaven unless they believe this truth I am presenting. You cannot go to heaven unless you believe with all your heart that Jesus took your place in hell.”  The Most Important Decision You Will Ever Make, p. 37

Health & Wealth Gospel

“I would think that after thirty-eight years a diligent, determined person could have crawled over to the edge of that pool. Even if that man had only moved an inch a year, it seems that in thirty-eight years, he ought to have been able to get close enough to the edge to just roll over into the water when it was stirred up”. Eight Ways to Keep the Devil Under Your Feet, p. 27

“Thirty-eight years is a long time to lie somewhere, waiting for somebody to do something for you. I would have been on the edge of that pool, and next year when the angel came around, when that water started bubbling, I would have fallen in and said, “Either I’m going to get healed or I’m going to die, but I’m not staying like this””. Eight Ways to Keep the Devil Under Your Feet, p. 28

“’For the thing which I greatly fear comes upon me, and that which I am afraid befalls me’ (Job 3:25). Fear is a terrible emotion – a self-fulfilling one. Job had fears concerning his children and finally reached a place in his life where he saw his fears coming to pass. The Bible says it will be unto us as we believe (see Matthew 9:29). That principle works in the negative as well as the positive. We can receive by fear as well as by faith”. Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone, p. 9-10

“It is vital for us to understand that it is illegal for Satan to put sickness on us, and there is no good reason to let him do it… It was illegal for Satan to kill Jesus, but he was able to do it because Jesus allowed him. Why? Because Jesus was going to use Satan’s illegal action to bring salvation to the world! So it’s illegal for Satan to bring sickness on us, and we must stand against it… The moment we begin to recognize the symptoms of sickness, we need to stand against them – we need to resist them in the same way we would resist the temptation to sin… I believe that by the stripes of Jesus, I am healed.” Practical Steps to Understanding and Experiencing Healing, online at http://www.joycemeyer.org/our Ministries/Magazine/0703/Healing+and+wholeness.htm, retrieved 24 September 2008.

Sinless Perfection

“Now whether you like it or not, whether you want to admit it or not, whether you want to operate on it or not, you are made the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ. Most people who go to denominational churches never ever hear that! They never hear it! Never! All I was ever taught to say was, ‘I, a poor, miserable sinner.’ I am not poor. I am not miserable. And I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell! That is what I were [sic] and if I still was, then Jesus died in vain. Amen?” Joyce Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, cassette tape, sermon recorded at Life Christian Center in Saint Louis, Mo., no date, tape on file.

“I didn’t stop sinning until I finally got it through my thick head I wasn’t a sinner anymore. And the religious world thinks that’s heresy and they want to hang you for it. But the Bible says that I’m righteous, and I can’t be rrighteous and a sinner at the same time.” Joyce Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, cassette tape, sermon recorded at Life Christian Center in Saint Louis, Mo., no date, tape on file.

“I am not poor, I am not miserable, and I am not a sinner. That is a lie from the pit of hell. That is what I were and if I still was, then Jesus died in vain.” Joyce Meyer, From the Cross to the Throne, cassette tape, sermon recorded at Life Christian Center in Saint Louis, Mo., no date, tape on file.

Word of Faith

“Words are containers for power. They carry creative or destructive power, positive or negative power. And so we need to be speaking right things over our lives and about our futures if we expect to have good things happen. Because what you say today is what you’ll probably end up having tomorrow.”  Enjoying Everyday Life¸Trinity Broadcasting Network, 16 July 2002.

“speaking forth the truth to the devil… is the only way to see a mindset changed”. Eight Ways to Keep the Devil Under Your Feet, p. 51

“I got fire in my belly tonight, because I know! I know! I know! That there’s power in and life in right words. That words are containers for power, and I don’t care about what kind of mess you got, I am begging you tonight to stop talkinga bout it, and start talking about what the Word says, and what you can have. Make yourself a list, do some work, do some homework, make sure you got a Scripture to back up every one of your confessions.

We’re not talking about some magic goofy, you know, weird New Age thing. I’m talking about doing what the Bible says, calling those things that be not as though they are, prophesying to the dead, dry bones in your life. Oh, you dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord.

Maybe you need to get your checkbook out and say, ‘Oh you checkbook, hear the Word of the Lord, you are not going to stay empty all of your life.’ Ah, somebody says this is just too weird for me, well then just stay broke. What you’re doing’s not working! You listen to me, checkbook, the first 10 percent of everything that goes into you is going to God’s work, and you are going to be full to overflowing! And I am going to be blessed, and I am going to be a blessing.” Enjoying Everyday Life, Trinity Broadcasting Network, 21 August 2008.

“’When I talked with Dr Roberts today and we talked about this seed-faith thing, he said something awesome!... The word receiving means receipting… When you give you get a receipt in heaven, [and] when you have a need you can then go with your receipt and say, ‘You see, God, I have got my receipt from my sowing, and now I have a need, and I’m cashing in my receipt.’” Praise the Lord: Praise-a-Thon, Trinity Broadcasting Network, 3 November 2003.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Don Fortner's Supposed Heresies of Reformed Doctrine

This article of mine has been published on the website of the Limerick Reformed Fellowship, of which I am a member.

Don Fortner is a Baptist preacher from the United States. Apart from his erroneous Baptistic views, he holds to the historic Five Points of Calvinism, including a denial of the "Free Offer of the Gospel" and "Common Grace". I have listened to some of his sermons on the Atonement which I thoroughly enjoyed.

However, a sermon which Fortner preached in 1997, entitled "Five Subtle Heresies of Reformed Doctrine", was recently brought to my attention by a friend on Facebook. Fortner takes these supposed "heresies" from the Westminster Confession (with which we would agree nearly 100%) and the 1689 Baptist Confession.

I wrote the below review and refutation of Fortner's charges for that friend on Facebook. However, considering that Fortner is a famous enough preacher, the LRF decided to publish this article for the good of all His children everywhere and for the glory of His Name.

The "Five Subtle Heresies of Reformed Doctrine" are as follows, with refutations beneath each heading.

  1. The heresy of necessary consequence.

By this Fortner means the idea expressed in the Westminster that “the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture”. Fortner maintains that we ought only believe that which is “expressly set down in Scripture” - everything else is a product of man's logic – which apparently is inherently unspiritual. [Click here for a pamphlet entitled "Logic and Scripture"]

The refutation of this is very simple – if Fortner believes that God is Triune, then Fortner himself believes the “heresy of necessary consequence”. For nowhere in Scripture does it explicitly say that there is one God in Three Persons – rather, this is “deduced from Scripture by good and necessary consequence”.

With the same logic (yes, he uses logic all the time!) he demands of paedobaptists that we give an explicit example of a baby being sprinkled as baptism. Since Scripture nowhere gives an explicit example of a woman partaking of the Lord's Supper, one nearly wonders whether his congregation have only men partaking? If we understand the meaning of the Lord's Supper, and the catholicity of the New Testament church (“there is neither male nor female...”, Gal. 3:28), we do not need an explicit example, however. Rather, we “deduce from Scripture by good and necessary consequence” that believing women ought to partake equally with believing men. In a similar manner, we deduce from the meaning of circumcision and baptism and the unity of the covenants that we ought to baptise the children of believers. [Click here for an introduction to the biblical, Reformed teaching on baptism]

Regarding his rant against creeds and confessions of faith, claiming that he has the "Bible alone" as opposed to those who have written creeds, this is laughable. He has a creed. He believes that the Bible teaches certain things. His church has a confession of faith. Theirs is merely not written down. His church's position, for example, is that baptism is for adult believers only and only by immersion. This is a creed. But they don't write it down, thinking somehow that this is more spiritual. [Click here for a pamphlet entitled "A Plea for Creeds"]

  1. The heresy of conditional grace.

This part is so bad that I could barely believe my ears. He said that faith is “not an instrument of justification”! Instead our justification was finished when Christ died.

He does not understand what the Bible means by justification – justification is declaring someone righteous (Pr. 17:15). It is NOT the imputation of righteousness (which is how Fortner apparently understands it). When the Bible and the Reformed creeds teach that faith is the instrument whereby we are justified, it means that it is by faith that God declares TO US, IN OUR CONSCIENCE that we are justified. It is not saying that our faith is the LEGAL GROUNDS of that justification. The legal ground is ONLY the blood of Christ imputed to us. To state it more fully, justification by faith alone refers to God declaring us righteous only on the basis of Christ's righteousness imputed to us, which declaration we hear and receive into our conscience by faith.

This (correct) view of justification by no means denies that God has always loved the elect and viewed them as righteous (Jer. 31:3; Rom. 9:11-13; Num. 23:21).

As part of this same heading, he claims that the Westminster Confession and the 1689 Baptist Confession teach that sanctification DEPENDS on man. This is completely ridiculous. These confessions do not teach that sanctification depends upon us. Rather, they state that believers are sanctified “by Christ's Word and Spirit dwelling in us” (WCF & BCF 13:1). They teach monergistic sanctification.

  1. The heresy of self-righteous assurance

By this he means the false doctrine that assurance is based primarily on seeing within ourselves the work and progress of sanctification, i.e. that a believer may only be assured of his salvation insofar as he sees within himself true good works. Fortner correctly condemns this as a terrible doctrine that enslaves Christians to fear and doubt. For indeed true justifying faith always gives peace of conscience (Rom 5:1ff) which is assurance. That is, assurance is an essential part of faith.

Sadly, in the case of the Baptist Confession, he is certainly correct in that they deny this:

“This infallible assurance is not so joined to the essence of faith that it is an automatic and inevitable experience. A true believer may wait long and fight with many difficulties before he becomes a partaker of it." (BCF, 18:3)

The Westminster indeed seems to have a similar wording (18:3), though the exact meaning of this passage is disputed by Presbyterians, some holding the correct view and others not.

This is one of the reasons that we rejoice in the Three Forms of Unity, which explicitly make assurance part of the essence of faith and grants assurance to every believer (e.g. Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1).

However, since believers are not yet free from sin, so they equally are not yet free from a lack of faith. And where there is lack of faith, there is unbelief. And where there is, at times, unbelief, there is (at times) lack of assurance, such that as God’s children walk in disobedience, they grieve His Spirit and often lose His inner testimony of their adoption. For this reason all the Reformed Confessions correctly teach that assurance (and faith) is ordained by God to grow and be strengthened through the use of the means of grace, namely the preaching and the sacraments in a true Church. [Click here to read a pamphlet entitled "The Gift of Assurance"]

  1. The heresy of legalism

Don Fortner claims that the Reformed faith holds that believers must still keep the Mosaic Law. Again, this is simply laughable. He quotes the Westminster: “The moral law doth forever bind all...” (19:5) However, the Westminster does NOT say “The Mosaic Law doth forever bind all...”

This “moral law” that "forever binds all" is summed in the 10 commandments – does Fortner think that today one may kill, steal, worship idols or commit adultery? Is this moral law no longer valid for believers in Fortner's opinion?

Fortner claims he has “studied” the Westminster Confession; did he not read the preceding 2 articles, which state that all the ceremonial (e.g. animal sacrifices, jubilee years) and political (e.g. stoning disobedient children) laws of the Old Testament have been “abrogated”?

Having quoted Rom. 6:14 and 7:4, Fortner concludes, “there is absolutely no sense in which believers are under the law”. If Fortner is right, when believers murder, they are apparently not transgressing the law.

And if he is right, then the Apostle Paul was guilty of heresy when he reminded the elect, believing children of the congregation at Ephesus of the 5th commandment (Eph. 6:1-2). Equally the Apostle of Love reminds us, “this is love, that we walk after his commandments”, 2 John 7.

No; believers are no longer under the law in the sense that they are no longer condemned because they fail to keep it, and believers ought never to obey the law in order to merit salvation; rather, as the Westminster says in the succeeding article, the (moral) law is of great use to believers by showing them how they may express gratitude for their free salvation and pointing out their sins so they might flee to Christ continually.

As Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

If Fortner had more closely studied the Scriptural proofs provided in Westminster Confession, he would have found reference to ample statements in the New Testament that make clear that believers still ought to keep the moral law – though not in order to merit, which motivation is strongly condemned by the Westminster Confession.

And about his denial that the 4th commandment is valid today: The wording of the 4th commandment makes it clear that this commandment is not rooted in the Mosaic covenant, but rather in the creation of the world, and as such is universally valid for all men. And Christ reinforced this (Mark 2:27). In light of this, Col. 2:16 is clearly referring to the various special Sabbaths which were added under the Mosaic covenant as part of the ceremonial laws, and which believers certainly are no longer under obligation to observe.

  1. The heresy of sacramentalism

The two Confessions correctly state that the sacraments are a means of grace. Fortner denies that they “seal” grace to believers. They only “signify” it. Fortner correctly sees that if the sacraments are “seals”, then they are means of grace – and not merely symbolic.

What does Scripture say? “And [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a SEAL of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised...” (Rom. 4:11). And the Apostle Paul identifies circumcision with baptism (Col. 2:11-12) and also says that in the Lord's Supper we actually (and not merely symbolically) commune with Christ (1. Cor. 10:16).

This is not, as Fortner claims, Romish doctrine. Rome teaches that everyone who physically partakes of the sacraments partake of the reality, whereas the Reformed doctrine and holy Scripture teach that only the elect partake of the reality, and that not through the physical eating and drinking, but through the eating and drinking of faith (John 6:53-58). But the sacraments are without doubt a “seal of the righteousness of faith” to the elect – a means of grace. To the rest, they are a savour of death unto death – like preaching, the other means of grace (2Co. 2:16). [For a further explanation of the biblical, Reformed view of Baptism, see Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Days 25-27 and Belgic Confession Article 34]

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Using our Time for the Glory of God

Finally a post again! It's an article of mine that was published in May 2010 edition of Beacon Lights, a monthly magazine for young people organised by members of the Protestant Reformed Churches. If you read it, I hope it will give you a renewed zeal to dedicate your life, body and soul, to God.

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Cor. 10:31)

Whatsoever we do? Really? Including eating and drinking? What about after a hard day’s work helping my parents, surely a few hours in the evening I can just please myself?

The inspired Apostle teaches us, that in everything we are to have the glory of God as our first and primary aim. This includes eating, sleeping, laughing, playing, doing homework and cleaning our rooms. As a preacher once said in all seriousness, it even includes “drinking a glass of orange juice.”

Or, to put it another way, it is sin to live even one second in a day not for the glory of God.

What is the foundation of this command? Ultimately, it is this: “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (I Pet. 1:16). The triune God is devoted in all his being and doing, every part of it, to his own glory, and we ought to be likewise.

This has very serious implications for us. It means it is not acceptable for our mindset to be, “as long as this isn’t outright sin…;” or, “I read the Scriptures this morning, prayed, did my homework, and now I can just do what I want.”

Rather, the decisive question for everything we do, from brushing our teeth to going to church, ought to be, “how may I please my Lord in this situation?” Thus, what God says to us about our time is, “use all the time that I have given to thee in order to honour me in thy heart and actions.”

Using all our time for the glory of God does not mean that we ought never to enjoy the good things of this world. We are not Anabaptists. The idea that everything that a Christian does must be explicitly “spiritual” and that a Christian cannot enjoy the good things of this world is nothing but asceticism. These rules of “touch not; taste not; handle not” have indeed a show of wisdom and humility, but are in fact nothing but will worship and despising the good things God has made (Col. 2:20-23). There is nothing wrong with playing games or going out for a fancy dinner occasionally. Rather, in doing these things, we ought to ensure that we are serving our heavenly Father. For example, when we play games with our younger siblings, we ought to put the desire to help them above the desire to win. Or when we invest in some nice food, we ought to receive it from God with gratitude in our hearts (I Tim. 4:4-5), and to have conversation pleasing to him while eating. Thus, not only is it not sin to enjoy the things of this world, but God is actually honoured as the Giver of these good things through our faithful enjoyment of them. As Solomon says, “it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion…this is the gift of God“ (Ecc. 5:18,19)—and to despise God’s gifts and not rejoice in them is sin. However, this liberty ought never to be taken as an excuse to indulge the flesh (Gal. 5:13) and of course it is only liberty to enjoy the good things of this world, since we ought to hate all else (I Jn. 2:15).

As we hear this high standard of God, the new man in us will cry, “I can never do this! I cannot in this life do everything without fail in obedience to God’s revealed will!”

And so the first response of faith, that precious union with our Saviour Jesus Christ, is to flee to him for refuge from the fiery wrath of the holy triune God. Though I am writing this article, I am not writing from the viewpoint of one who has fully achieved what he sets forth, but one who struggles daily to forsake himself and cleave to God. And so we must always keep this in mind as we pursue a life of complete devotion to him: If the Apostle Paul could not perfectly serve God with all his time (Rom. 7:14ff), neither can we. Therefore we must continually cry in our hearts: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vv. 24-25).

This also is the foundation upon which we must build a good stewardship of our time: Not a desire to earn God’s favour, nor the lustful yearning of our sinful hearts to prove ourselves better than our friends, but rather the truth that, as our beloved Heidelberg Catechism formulates it, “I with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ…” (Q&A 1; cf. I Cor. 6:19). Being assured of this by Spirit-worked faith, our Father calls upon us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God (Rom. 12:1) out of thankfulness for what he has done for us in Christ (Eph. 5:8).

It is worthwhile at this point to quote John Calvin:

We are not our own: Let not our reason nor our will, therefore, sway our plans and deeds. We are not our own: let us therefore not set it as our goal to seek what is expedient for us according to the flesh. We are not our own: in so far as we can, let us therefore forget ourselves and all that is ours.

Conversely, we are God’s: let us therefore live for him and die for him. We are God’s: let his wisdom and will therefore rule all our actions. We are God’s: let all the parts of our life accordingly strive toward him as our only lawful goal…

Let this therefore be the first step, that a man depart from himself in order that he may apply the whole force of his ability in the service of the Lord. [John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3.7.1. As quoted in David J. Engelsma’s The Reformed Faith of John Calvin, p. 215.]

The very first thing we must do to dedicate all our time to serving the living God is to believe in the forgiveness of our sins for the sake of Christ. Otherwise, it will be cold legalism. Assurance (an integral part of faith[Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 21]) will free us to love God from the heart, so that we are in sweet fellowship with him and so that we can obey him out of thankfulness. Assurance, and joy (which is a result of assurance), we attain not by trying to work up in ourselves fake emotions, or looking for some sort of mystical, Puritan experience, but primarily by faithful attendance to the means of grace, namely, the preaching of God’s Word and the administration of the sacraments in a true church,[Canons of Dordt, Head V, Article 14] which must be mixed by sincere faith from the heart (Heb. 4:2). In this way, we will be readied for offering our time as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to him.

Having this foundation before us is the great battle in our struggle to offer all our time to God. The main reason we fail (and we will often fail) in using our time wisely is not that we are lacking the practical advice we need, but that our hearts are far from God and we love the things of this world more than he who loved us and gave his Son for us.

Loving God is where our main struggle will be.

However, practical advice is not useless (see for example the book of Proverbs). I will now seek to share some practical pointers from my own experience, based upon biblical principles, as to how we might better use our time.

First, think of the example of Christ in the Gospels. He was very aware of the divine schedule to which he must keep (John 2:4, 7:30), always conscious of the will of his father (John 5:30b). This good order in his life is of course a reflection of the perfect order of God in all his dealings within the Trinity and with his creatures. From this, we can gather that it would be a good idea to more consciously plan out how we will use and order our time, rather than doing everything spontaneously. God is a God of order.

Second, following on from the previous point, well thought-out daily routines play a big part in an effective use of time. Imagine if the church council had to think up service times and orders of worship every Lord’s Day anew, so that they changed every week—there would be a lot of confusion! In the same way, if for example our private study of scripture or prayer times change every day and are left to whenever they can be squeezed in, they probably will not be of good quality or will even be skipped more and more. Though it is certainly not sin to skip a day’s private scripture reading for good reason, this can easily become a habit in itself if we are not careful to maintain that routine. This need for a routine is rooted in the fact that God created us this way, which he strongly signified by the cycles of night and day, the seven-day week with a day of rest and the four seasons of the year. We are indeed “creatures of habit.”

Third, as we try to become more disciplined in our use of our time, we should be careful not to become overzealous by setting too high targets for ourselves or by consciously planning out every single thing we can possibly think of. I remember in my first year in college I decided that getting up 20 minutes prior to leaving for lectures (that is, 8:30) was far too late, so I resolved to get up at 7am—and completely failed for the first week. Eventually, I realised I should gradually work my way toward an early start, which then worked quite well (by the grace of God). The example of wicked King Saul’s overzealous command that his army not eat any food until the evening is a good example of setting too high a target (I Sam. 14:24ff).

Which brings me to the fourth point. Something many of us young people struggle with is too much sleep; we all like to sleep in in the mornings. However, the Proverb comes to us, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (6:10-11). Though there are times when it is fine to sleep in, this should probably be the exception rather than the rule. It is a good idea to get up early in time to begin the day with devotional reading and prayer (though some of my friends find they can do devotions better in the evenings). Getting up early in the morning and being well rested (after the initial 5 minutes of drowsiness, of course) is a great way to start the day! Especially as part of a daily routine, regular bed and waking times are very important, not least because irregular sleeping patterns are not good for our bodies physically.

Fifth, a good principle to use is, “first work, then play.” My mum drilled this into me and I am very thankful to her for it. If we “play” first, it is all too easy to “play” too long so we do not leave ourselves sufficient time to do our house chores or homework. Also, “play” is much more enjoyable if it follows “work” (and conversely, “play” isn’t as enjoyable when we are skipping or procrastinating “work”). This principle will also help us as we become adults, when we will have to work for everything (before) we eat, drink and enjoy. And, of course, it is a principle found in God himself, who created the world in six days, and then rested in and enjoyed his finished creation on the seventh, just as Christ worked to accomplish our salvation and then entered into his heavenly rest.

And until we enter into that same rest when our earthly labours have come to an end, let us grow in grace through the means appointed thereunto by the almighty, so that we might more and more offer up our bodies as living sacrifices, that the church might be built up, the elect saved, the reprobate wicked justly condemned, and God receive the glory that is due to his name.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

The Man Who Tasted All the Pleasures of This World

Whenever the world tells us that we have not yet fully tasted all its pleasures, we may reply: a man has gone before us so exceedingly rich according to the standards of this world, that he was able to indulge in everything his "eyes desired". He sought out all the pleasures of this world: silver was to him as common as stone and all his drinking vessels were pure gold; rulers came to him from all over the world to seek his wisdom; he had 700 wives and 300 personal concubines. Which man today is his equal in worldly attainments?

Having tasted all that this world has to offer, Solomon declared that all these are but "vanity", and that it is only in "fearing God and keeping his commandments" that man can find true happiness (Ecc 12:13).

By faith, we, God's children, know this to be true.

By faith we do not need to"try out" and "taste" the pleasures of this world to know that our Father which is in heaven is far better.

We live by His Word, which is to us the True Bread which comes from heaven, Jesus Christ His only begotten Son. We eat Him by the Spirit through faith.

We enjoy the good things of this world, but our hope is not in them. Our hope is in the return of our merciful Saviour to rescue His saints and destroy all wicked unbelievers and usher in the eternal kingdom.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Restrictions of Religious Freedom in Ireland

With the coming Civil Partnership Bill and with the passing of the Lisbon Treaty, Ireland is firmly on the road toward "tolerance" and "inclusiveness", meaning the tolerance of all false religion but the forbidding of the true. This includes the attitude of many of the false churches of our day who meekly support this view of "tolerance" and use it to oppress and attack the true church.

The official response and advise of the Evangelical Association of Ireland toward this proposed bill is typical of their Anti-Christian stance and totally in keeping with their political correctness and their idea that the kingdom of God is brought about by compromising with the world. Instead of warning against the Bill, they do not even recommend an opt-out clause so that Christians registrars, for example, can refuse to personally do homosexual marriages (or rather, "civil union"). Lot in his heart was against the sodomy happening in Sodom & Gomorrah, but because he compromised, he lost his wife and daughters and was himself nearly destroyed had the angels not taken him by the hand and dragged him out of the city. I guess EAI wants to stay in the city. As the EAI report says, "nor do we have a duty to try and impose Biblical morality on public life by force of law". I guess Christians shouldn't oppose legalising abortion either. Or any type of murder.

My hope is not in myself because I am a wicked sinner, and not in the Government, because they are also made up of wicked sinners, nor in a future earthly kingdom of Christ, because Christ's kingdom is not of this world and can never be of this world (John 18:36), but in the Christ of the heavenly kingdom, who sits on a throne on the right hand of God the Father and rules all things according to His good pleasure, for the good of all those for whom He shed His precious blood, and for the glory of the Father, and who will one day return to burn up this world and all the wicked unbelievers with fire and establish a new heaven and earth in which all God's children will reign for ever and ever.

I post this Irish Independent article by a secular Irish writer here in the hope that especially Irish people would realise that religious freedom in our country is being eroded, and that not at a slow pace. I also post it to show that some secular writers have more sense than EAI.

David Quinn: Religious freedoms under attack from equality laws
By David Quinn
Friday February 05 2010

The more equality a society has the less freedom it has. The trick is to find the right balance between the two. This is an absolute rule of politics and no one should ever be elected to office without knowing it.

The Soviet Union strove for maximum equality and it destroyed freedom in the process. Rather less dramatically, there are those in this country who want the State to take over all state-funded schools.

They want to do this in the name of equality but if they get their way they will remove from all but the richest parents the right to choose from a variety of schools for their children.

Feminists want as many women as possible to do paid work, again in the name of equality. To this end measures are introduced -- such as state-subsidised child-care -- which make it easier for women to go to work, but much harder for them to stay at home because one-income couples end up paying more tax to subsidise the child care they don't use.

All kinds of new anti-discrimination laws are now being passed around the Western world and these also have the effect of attacking freedom.

Using these laws, the Equality Authority recently tried to force Portmarnock Golf Club to accept women as members. The authority clearly does not believe in freedom of association. Happily, the Supreme Court does and the authority failed.

But the new anti-discrimination laws are bearing down hardest not on men-only golf clubs, but on religion because the practise of religion is increasingly seen as being inherently discriminatory.

Just this week the Pope, ahead of a visit to Britain later this year, got himself into trouble with "human rights" groups (meaning left-wing pressure groups) when he indirectly highlighted the extremely serious implications of Britain's proposed new Equality Bill for religious freedom.

Already British equality laws are restricting religious freedom. For example, its Sexual Orientation Regulations have forced Catholic adoption agencies to close down because they won't accept gay couples as prospective adoptive parents.

One of the implications of the new Equality Bill in its proposed form is that it will become much harder for religious organisations to employ individuals who believe in, and will show respect for, their employer's ethos. If your employees don't respect your ethos, your ethos will soon be dead in the water.

In a clear reference to this proposed law -- which has united all the major religions in opposition, including the very mild Church of England -- the Pope said: "The effect of some of this legislation designed to achieve this goal (of equality) has been to impose unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs."

Similar laws now exist in this country. For example, if we still had active Catholic adoption agencies here and they took the same attitude as their counterparts in Britain towards same-sex couples they would be in serious trouble under the Equal Status Act.

But the upcoming Civil Partnership Bill, which will give marriage-like rights to same-sex couples, will also attack religious freedom; and with a few notable exceptions, no one in Leinster House seems to care.

For example, under this legislation a church hall that refused to rent itself out to a gay couple wishing to celebrate their civil union there could be sued. Its ethos wouldn't matter a jot.

Similarly, if a printer was asked to print off the invites, and said he couldn't on grounds of religious belief, he too could be sued.

As it is, under the Equal Status Act, if a printer was asked to print material he deemed blasphemous, he would have to or he would be found guilty of religious discrimination.

The logic of all this is inexorable. Britain's equality minister, the odious Harriet Harman, appears to believe that places of worship should be forced to host same-sex civil union ceremonies -- after all, discrimination is discrimination.

Stonewall, the militant gay rights group in Britain, agrees. It believes that in the next 20 years or so, the various religions should be forced to allow gay marriage, or else.

Even now, there is pressure in Ireland to rescind Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act which allows religious organisations to employ according to ethos. This, too, is deemed to permit unjust discrimination and therefore it too must go.

The hilarious thing is that Britain's National Secular Society told the Pope to butt out of politics, that religious belief could not be above the law.

But what if the law seeks to restrict religious belief, to limit our ability to practise our religion as we have always done? What then?

This isn't a case of the Church interfering with the State. It's a case of the State interfering with the Church and it is doing so in the name of the new moral absolute, equality. Disastrously, and shamefully, our politicians seem all too happy to impose this new absolute.


- David Quinn

Irish Independent

Monday, 9 November 2009

I'm Justified

I found a beautiful poem on another blog which I wanted to share.
I'm Justified

Not because I'm holy,
Not because I'm right,
Not because I've fled from Sin,
Not because I fight, against that deadly foe,
called sin, that strikes me blow by blow.

Not because I run so well,
Not because my sins I tell, my Priest in heaven Jesus Christ.
Not because I keep apace,
With godly men, and not disgrace,
the spotless name of Christ. I do.

I'm justified by God's free grace,
Wherein my sin He did erase,
And stands me right before his face,
For works before me done,
The righteous work by God the Son,
Upon the cursed tree,
Three gifts now given me,
A righteousness not my own,
A heart of flesh for heart of stone,
bound up by faith alone.

I am Justified.