Friday, April 29, 2011

Heavenly Providence and Fatherly Kindness

8. God's sovereign sway over the life of men

To this end, the prophet is mindful that in their desperate straits God suddenly and wonderfully and beyond all hope succors the poor and almost lost; those wandering through the desert he protects from wild beasts and at last guides them back to the way [Ps. 107:4-7]; to the needy and hungry he supplies food [v. 9]; the prisoners he frees from loathsome dungeons and iron bands [vs. 10-16]; the shipwrecked he leads back to port unharmed [vs. 23-30]; the half dead he cures of disease [vs. 17-20]; he burns the earth with heat and dryness, or makes it fertile with the secret watering of grace [vs. 33-38]; he raises up the humblest from the crowd, or casts down the lofty from the high level of their dignity [vs. 39-41]. By setting forth examples of this sort, the prophet shows that what are thought to be chance occurrences are just so many proofs of heavenly providence, especially of fatherly kindness. And hence ground for rejoicing is given to the godly, while as for the wicked and the reprobate, their mouths are stopped [v. 43]. But because most people, immersed in their own errors, are struck blind in such a dazzling theater, he exclaims that to weigh these works of God wisely is a matter of rare and singular wisdom [v. 43], in viewing which they who otherwise seem to be extremely acute profit nothing. And certainly however much the glory of Gdd shines forth, scarcely one man in a hundred is a true spectator of it!

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion
(Book 1, Chapter 5) 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Dispensationalism: an Overview and Critique

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A good, fair, balanced critique of Dispensationalism for any who might be interested. The last part of the message was exceptionally good as pastor Martin covers the bad effects such doctrines can have in the lives of their adherents.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Man Before God's Majesty

"Hence that dread and wonder with which Scripture commonly represents the saints as stricken and overcome whenever they felt the presence of God. Thus it comes about that we see men who in His absence normally remained firm and constant, but who, when He manifests His glory, are so shaken and struck dumb as to be laid low by the dread of death -are in fact overwhelmed by it and almost annihilated. As a consequence, we must infer that man is never sufficiently touched and affected by the awareness of his lowly state until he has compared himself with God's majesty."

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion
(Book 1, Chapter 1)

An Imminent (Any Moment) Return?

An Imminent (Any Moment) Return?

In the late 1820s and early 1830s amidst the spiritual milieu of the 19th century a strange new group of teachings began to develop within the church and now, 170 years later, these teachings are everywhere. These teachings have come to be known as Dispensationalism.

One of the core beliefs of Dispensationalism which surfaced in the early 1800’s in association with the ministry of a man by the name of Edward Irving (amidst an outburst of “charismatic gifts”, such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing and some other more bizarre phenomena such as the “automatic writing” of Mary Campbell) was the teaching of a secret, invisible coming of Christ to take the church away from this earth at least seven years before His Second coming.

Dispensationalism teaches that this first Second Coming of Christ, the secret coming for His church, is “imminent”. The word imminent actually means “to project, threaten, ready to take place” or “to hang threateningly over ones head”.  When Dispensationalists use this word, however, they are usually saying something slightly different. Namely this; that this secret return of Christ could happen at any moment. It seems to be an undisputed fact among Dispensationalists that the writers of the New Testament taught that Christ could come back at any moment and that no prophesied events must take place before He can come back.

As a former Dispensationalist, my own thinking went something like this: since the Apostles taught that Christ could come back at any moment, then there could not be any prophesied events which must take place before He comes back. And if there are no prophesied events which must take place before Christ comes back to remove His church, and the tribulation (a seven year time of Gods wrath on the earth) is a prophesied event, then the tribulation must happen after the rapture (removal) of the church. And if the tribulation occurs after the rapture of the church, then the dispensational distinction between Israel and the church must be true, and therefore the doctrines of Dispensationalism must be the proper way to interpret Scripture.

There was only one problem with this logic, the apostles never taught that Christ could come back at any moment with no prophesied events occurring first! They could not have done so. The New Testament did not support such an idea of imminence at all. In fact, it demands some amount of time pass in which several events must take place. More than once it implies that this period of time would be somewhat lengthy. But I had heard it said so many times that the writers of the New Testament expected an “any moment” return of Christ that I never really stopped and examined this teaching at all. Some passages seemed to confirm this belief at first glance, so I just assumed that it was true.

But what does the New Testament actually say?

I found John 21:8-22 to be particularly devastating to my belief in the Dispensational view of the Rapture. In this passage Peter was told “by what death he would glorify God”. In verse 18, he is told that he would grow old and be crucified. This conversation was apparently well known to the early Christians, for the statement of Christ in verse 22 caused many of the brethren to believe that John would not die but live until the second coming (a fact which they were reading into Jesus’ words as John points out in verse 23).

It was a well known fact among the early church that Peter would grow old and be crucified! Therefore, they also knew that Jesus could not come back “at any moment” before this took place.

Consider the implications of this fact. It seems to be commonly agreed that Peter died sometime around 64 AD under the persecution of Nero, after most of the New Testament was already written! (67 AD. according to Charles Ryrie, a leading Dispensationalist, in his Introduction to 2nd Peter in the Ryrie Study Bible).

Paul’s last letter (2nd Timothy) was written about the same time Peter was put to death. (Ryrie dates the writing of 2 Timothy a year before Peter’s martyrdom). Think about that for a moment; Paul knew that Peter would grow old and be crucified and Paul most likely wrote all of his books before peter died, Paul, therefore, could not have taught anyone that Christ’s return could occur at any moment in any of his writings!
Neither could Peter have taught such a view of the “any moment” return of Christ for he knew that he would be dead before Christ would return.  In fact, it is commonly agreed that all of the New Testament, except for maybe John’s letters, were written before 65 AD and yet these are the very letters that are used to support the teaching of an any moment return!

But besides Peters death there were other time consuming events that were spoken of.

For instance, the Great Commission demands that some amount of time pass before the second coming. In Matthew 28:18-20, Christ tells his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. In Acts 1:8, Christ tells them that they would witness of Him in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth!

In Acts 9:15, 16, Ananias is told that Paul must suffer many things and bear Christ’s name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. In Acts 22:21, Paul is told that he will be sent far away to the Gentiles. And in Acts 23:11, Paul is told that he must also bear witness in Rome just as he had in Jerusalem.

In Luke 21:6, 20-24, Jesus tells His disciples to flee from Jerusalem when they see it “surrounded by armies” because both Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed (an event which did not take place until 70 AD.!), the Jews would be led away captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”! And again, in 2 Thessalonians 2, speaking of “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him” (verse 1), Paul says that “that day will not come unless the falling away comes first and the man of sin is revealed”.

In 2 Peter 3:3, shortly before his death (1:14), Peter tells his readers that “....there shall come in the last days scoffers walking after their own lust and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’ for since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.

Peter says that these mockers “will come”, future tense! In the future they will come to the church and say “where is the promise of His coming”. In other words, they will mock Christians because they have been saying that Christ is coming back for so long, and He still hasn’t come back!

Why hasn’t Christ come back? Because God has a redemptive purpose and thousands of years of patience (3:8)! In fact, He has so much patience that we will be tempted to think that He is “slack concerning His promises” (3:9) but Peter warns us not to succumb to this temptation, but to remember that God is long suffering with us (3:9).

Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:1 that in the latter times some “will depart” (future tense) from the faith and in 2 Timothy 3:1 he says “that in the last days perilous times will come” (future tense). Does this sound like the words of a man expecting Christ to return at any second?

How can we possibly maintain that the New Testament writers believed that Christ could come back at any moment with no prophesied events which must take place first?

If we will look just a little further we will also see that many of Christ’s parables either imply or explicitly teach that a prolonged period of time must pass between the first and second coming.

In Matthew 13, Jesus explains the kingdom in parables to a group of people who were very confused as to what the kingdom would be like. They expected the kingdom to come suddenly, powerfully and gloriously. But Jesus explains that many who heard of the kingdom would turn away from it (verses 4, 19). Some would receive it with great joy but quickly abandon it (verse 5, 20, 21). Others would listen for a moment but then turn aside after worldly things (verse 7, 22). Not the glorious, powerful kingdom they were expecting!

It would start off small like a mustard seed (verse 31, 32), like a little leaven (verse 33) or like a treasure hid out in a field (verse 4), but it would grow into a large tree “so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches”. Like a little leaven, it would leaven the whole lump of dough (verse 33) and like a dragnet it would gather fish until it was full. These things imply some time.

In another parable in Matthew 24:48, 49, the evil servant says in his heart “my master is delaying his coming”, and begins to beat his fellow servants. In Matthew 25:5, ALL of the virgins fell asleep “while the bridegroom was delayed”. In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, the master gives out the talents and immediately goes on a journey (verse 15). Verse 19 tells us that “after a long time the Lord of those servants came and settled accounts”.

Many read the repeated warnings in these parables of Matthew 24 and 25 which say “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (24:42, 44, 50; 25:13) and they say “see, Christ is warning them of his ‘any moment’ return!” But the exact opposite is true.

In Luke 19, He tells the same basic parable as the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25 and note why he tells them this parable in verse 11 “He spoke another parable....because THEY THOUGHT THE KINGDOM OF GOD WOULD APPEAR IMMEDIATELY”. They had an “any moment” view of the kingdom and Christ in effect warns them that a great deal of time would pass and many would fall asleep waiting, while others would get tired of waiting and go out and beat their fellow servants and hang out with the drunkards.

In this context Christ is not warning us of His “any moment” return, but rather He is warning us not to fall asleep during His long absence! For those who get tired of watching and fall asleep, He will come upon them like a thief. They will be surprised and unprepared for His intrusion. But it is not so for the watching and waiting Christian. That day may “overtake” us but not “like a thief” (1 Thess. 5:4). Though we do not know the day nor the hour, we are told of many signs which signal that day’s approach and when we see these things begin to take place, we are told to “look up and lift up” our heads because our “redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). We will “see the Day approaching” (Heb. 10:25). But as time drags on we will be tempted to quit watching, so He warns us against this tendency but yet it seems that it has happened just as He said it would; many of the “wise virgins” have fallen asleep along with the foolish.

Brethren, if our definition of imminence equates it with “any momentness”, I believe we have made a mistake. Just because we are to watch for Christ’s return, long for His return and live in light of His return, it does not mean it can happen at any second. The apostles did not believe this and, as we saw, they could not have taught it, and if they did not teach it, we should not believe it.

If, however, our definition of imminence is that the Second Coming is “hanging over our heads”, that it and the events associated with it could come to pass very quickly, and that it looms very large on the horizon and will make all the other events in our lives pale in comparison, then I believe that we are in agreement with the Scriptures.

Just as the word imminent speaks of something which projects upward, ‘That Day” towers above all others. Every other “day” stands in its shadows and points to it. Every other “day” that comes to us should remind us that “That Day” is also coming quickly. In this sense the return of Christ is truly imminent.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Lord's Day Sabbath: 4/24/11

The Overthrow of Satan

THE wisdom of God greatly and remarkably appears in so exceedingly baffling and compounding all the subtlety of the old serpent. Power never appears so conspicuous as when opposed and conquering opposition. The same may be said of wisdom. It never appears so brightly, and with such advantage, as when opposed by the subtlety of some very crafty enemy, and in baffling and confounding that subtlety. — The devil is exceeding subtle. The subtlety of the serpent is emblematical of his, Gen. 3:1. He was once one of the brightest intelligences of heaven, and one of the brightest, if not the very brightest, of all. And all the devils were once morning stars, of a glorious brightness of understanding. They still have the same faculties, though they ceased to be influenced and guided by the Holy Spirit of God. And so their heavenly wisdom is turned into hellish craft and subtlety. — God in the work of redemption has wondrously baffled the utmost craft of the devils, and though they are all combined to frustrate God’s designs of glory to himself, and goodness to men. — The wisdom of God appears very glorious herein. For... Read More..... 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

putting shackles upon sleeping men

"So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men."

— Voltarine de Cleyre

Bearing Children and Building Family Economies

Some great stuff on family economics from Kevin Swanson and Generations Radio:

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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Eighth Commandment: Covenant Property

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While America has spent a bazillion dollars over the last century fighting Marxism and Communism across the globe we have, as the speaker points out, at the very same time, swallowed their philosophy and instituted many of their social changes "..our confusion covereth us: for we have sinned against the LORD...." (Jer.3:25). In this message Chris Strevel gives us a little food for thought on many of the issues surrounding the Eighth Commandment such as: Gods ownership and sovereign distribution of everything, the covenantal context of theft, providence, contentment, debt, tithing, paper money, taxes, eminent domain, restitution and much more.

While it's probably entirely too late to get back onto the economic cliff that we've driven off of, this is the kind of stuff we'll need to think through should God graciously give us the chance to start over again at some point in the future. Some very good and very timely teaching on the covenantal context of theft:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sufficiency of Scripture Conference

You won't want to miss this! The SOS (Sufficiency of Scripture) conference messages are being posted on the NCFIC website for free right now. Messages from speakers such as Scott Brown, Doug Phillips, Ken Ham, Vodie Baucham, Joe Morecraft, R.C. Sproul, Jr., Paul Washer, Kevin Swanson, Jeff Pollard and many more: Sufficiency of Scripture Conference

the straightedge to which we must be shaped

“…So it happens in estimating our spiritual goods. As long as we do not look beyond the earth, being quite content with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue, we flatter ourselves most sweetly, and fancy ourselves all but demigods. Suppose we but once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and to ponder his nature, and how completely perfect are his righteousness, wisdom and power- the straightedge to which we must be shaped. Then, what masquerading earlier as righteousness was pleasing in us will soon grow filthy in its consummate wickedness. What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness. What wore the face of power will prove itself the most miserable weakness. That is, what in us seems perfection itself corresponds ill to the purity of God.”

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion
(Book 1, Chapter 1)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Pattern of the Lord's Day

If we accept the witness of Scripture there can be no question that the weekly Sabbath finds its basis in and derives its sanction from the example of God himself. He created the heavens and the earth in six days and "on the seventh God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it" (Gen. 2:2,3). The fourth commandment in the decalogue sets forth the obligation resting upon man and it makes express appeal to this sanction. "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it" (Exod. 20:11). 

Many regard this Sabbath institution as a shadow of things to come and, therefore, as an ordinance to be observed, has passed away because that of which it was a shadow has been realized in the full light of the new and better covenant. At this point suffice it to ask the question: has the pattern of God's work and rest in creation ceased to be relevant? Is this pattern a shadow in the sense of those who espouse this position? The realm of our existence is that established by creation and maintained by God's providence. The new covenant has in no respect abrogated creation nor has it diminished its relevance. Creation both as action and product is as significant for us as it was for Israel under the old covenant. The refrain of Scripture in both Testaments is that the God of creation is the God of redemption in all stages of covenantal disclosure and realization. This consideration is invested with greater significance when we bear in mind that the ultimate standard for us is likeness to God (cf. Matt. 5:48; 1 John 3:2,3). And it is this likeness, in the sphere of our behaviour, that undergirds the demand for Sabbath observance (Exod. 20:11; 31:17). 

The Lord's Day Sabbath: 4/17/11

Saturday, April 16, 2011

an end to all prophecies

"This, however, remains certain: the perfect doctrine he has brought has made an end to all prophecies. All those, then, who, not content with the gospel, patch it with something extraneous to it, detract from Christ's authority. The Voice that thundered from heaven, 'This is my beloved Son; ... hear him' (Matt. 17:5; cf. Matt. 3:17), exalted him by a singular privilege beyond the rank of all others. Then this anointing was diffused from the Head to the members, as Joel had foretold: 'Your sons shall prophesy and your daughters ... shall see visions,' etc. (Joel 2:28). But when Paul says that He was given to us as our wisdom (I Cor. 1:30), and in another place, 'In him are hid all the treasures of knowledge and understanding' (Col. 2:3), he has a slightly different meaning. That is, outside Christ there is nothing worth knowing, and all who by faith perceive what he is like have grasped the whole immensity of heavenly benefits. For this reason, Paul writes in another passage: 'I decided to know nothing precious ... except Jesus Christ and him crucified' (I Cor. 2:2). This is very true, because it is not lawful to go beyond the simplicity of the gospel And the prophetic dignity in Christ leads us to know that in the sum of doctrine as he has given it to us all parts of perfect wisdom are contained" 

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion

The Trojan Horse of "Emergency"

"Every collectivist revolution rides in on a Trojan horse of "emergency". It was the tactic of Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini. In the collectivist sweep over a dozen minor countries of Europe, it was the cry of men striving to get on horseback. And "emergency" became the justification of the subsequent steps. This technique of creating emergency is the greatest achievement that demagoguery attains."  

— Herbert Hoover.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sincere Tyranny and Omnipotent Moral Busybodies

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

- C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The vain expectation of new doctrine or revelation

"For in [Christ] 'all treasures of knowledge and wisdom are hid' (Col. 2:3) with such great abundance and richness that either to hope for or to seek any new addition to these treasures is truly to arouse God's wrath and provoke him against us. It is for us to hunger for, seek, look to, learn, and study Christ alone, until that great day dawns when the Lord will fully manifest the glory of his Kingdom (cf. I Cor. 15:24) and will show himself for us to see him as he is (I John 3:2). And for this reason this age of ours is designated in the Scriptures as 'the last hour' (I John 2:18), the 'last days' (Heb. 1:2), the 'last times' (I Peter 1:20), that no one should delude himself with a vain expectation of some new doctrine or revelation. 'For at many times and in many ways the Heavenly Father formerly spoke through the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken in his beloved Son' (Heb. 1:1-2), who alone can reveal the Father (Luke 10:22); and he has indeed manifested the Father fully, as far as we require, while we now see him in a mirror (I Cor. 13:12)" 

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion

Capitalization and Decapitalization

"Capitalization is the accumulation of wealth, the conversion of work, savings, and forethought into tangible working assets. No progress is possible without some measure of capitalization. It is a serious error to assume that socialism and communism are opposed to capitalization or to capitalism; their opposition is simply to private capitalism, but their dedicated policy is to state capitalism. For the state to plan any program of progress, public works, or conquest, work, frugality, and forethought are necessary. The work is exacted from the people by force; the frugality or savings is again forced out of the people by means of wage controls, compulsory savings and bond-buying programs, and slave labor, the forethought is provided by the state planners.

State capitalism is seriously defective for a number of reasons. Most notably, first of all, it represents theft. The private capital of the people is expropriated, as well as their work and savings. It is thus a radically dishonest capitalization.

Second, forethought is divorced from work and frugality, that is, the planners are not the ones who provide the work and the sacrifice. As a result, the planners have no brake of immediate consequences imposed upon them. They can be prodigal in their waste of manpower and capital without bankruptcy, in that the state compels the continuance of their non-economic and wasteful planning. The consequence is that, wherever planning is separated from work and savings, instead of capitalization, the result is decapitalization. Socialism is thus by nature imperialistic, in that it must periodically seize or annex a fresh territory in order to have fresh capital to gut by expropriation. State capitalism is thus an agency of decapitalization.

…. capitalization in a society requires a background of faith and character. In every era of history, capitalization is a product of the Puritan disposition, of the willingness to forego present pleasures to accumulate some wealth for future purposes. Where there is no character, there is no capitalization but rather decapitalization, the steady depletion of wealth. Society becomes consumption centered rather than productive, and it begins to decapitalize the centuries-rich inheritance which surrounds it.

Thus, decapitalization is preceded always by a breakdown of faith and character. Where men feel that private happiness is man's purpose and goal rather than serving and glorifying God, and finding joy in Him, where men feel that life owes them something rather than seeing themselves as debtors to God, and where men feel called to fulfill them­selves apart from God rather than in Him, there society is in rapid process of decapitalization."

From: Institutes of Biblical Law
By Rousas J. Rushdoony / P & R Publishing

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Albert N. Martin: Puritan Evangelism

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The Churches Violation of the Third Commandment

Taking the Name of the Lord in Vain: The Churches Violation of the Third Commandment

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”

Exodus 20:7  -The Third Commandment

There is perhaps no group of people on earth today who need to take this commandment to heart like the Church of Jesus Christ.  While many have relegated this commandment to those who say a mere word while cursing, the commandment itself is much broader than that.

While we should have known better, it is my contention that we the church are profoundly guilty of breaking this command.  For this reason it is my intention to show three things concerning this text.
  1. What is meant by “the name” of the Lord.
  2. What is meant by “vain”.
  3. How this commandment can be broken.
I) What is meant by “the name” of the Lord.

When we turn to scripture it is quickly apparent that “the name” or “His name” is referring to much more than just a word.

Following are some examples:

·         “…then men began to call on the name of the Lord.”
Genesis 4:26

·         But to you who fear My name the sun of righteousness shall arise…”
Malachi 4:2

In these verses, as in many others, the “name of the Lord” or “My name” refers to all that God is and often highlights some attribute or another in the context of the passage.

·         And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.”
Deuteronomy 18:19

·         But the prophet which shall presume to speak in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.”
Deuteronomy 18:20

In these verses, as in many others, “in the name of the Lord” is another way of saying “by His authority”, “by His command”, “in His stead”, or “in His place”.  It speaks of someone doing or even just claiming to do something by His express command, such as speaking a message from Him.

·         If my people, which are called by My name…”
2 Chronicles 7:14

·         And all the people of the Earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee.”
Deuteronomy 28:10

In these verses the “name” of the Lord speaks of people who are closely associated with Him.

·         Is this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes?….”
Jeremiah 7:11

·         For the children of Israel have done evil in my sight, saith the Lord: they have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it.”
Jeremiah 7:30

In these verses, the name of the Lord speaks of a place closely associate with Him.

·         And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him, from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the Lord of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubim.”
2 Samuel 6:2

In this verse the name of the Lord speaks of a thing closely associated with Him.

These are just some of the ways in which “the name of the Lord”, “His name” or “My name” are used in Scripture: To encompass all that God is, often highlighting some attribute or another, to speak of someone who does something or even claims to do something by His authority and direct command; and to speak of people, places and things closely associated with Him.

II) Secondly, what is meant by the word “vain”.

This word has numerous shades of meaning in Scripture. It speaks something that is foolish, silly, trivial or insignificant.  It speaks of uselessness, emptiness, falsehood and deception. It speaks of something marked by futility and ineffectualness; something which has no value or importance.  It is often used in the context of idolatry, idols and false religion for false religion is empty and devoid of substance.  It is useless, it has no value and it does not accomplish anything for the one practicing it.  

Now when we put these things together it becomes abundantly clear that “taking the name of the Lord in vain” has much less to do with how we use a word and much more to do with our attitude toward the God who is represented by those words.

III) Thirdly, some ways in which this commandment can be broken.

1) Using the Lord’s name out of anger while cursing or as an exclamation.

While people will often say that they did not mean anything by it, that is exactly the point of this commandment; it’s not to be used in a meaningless or careless manner. Such a use of His name exhibits a flippant attitude toward who God is.
2) By using euphemisms meant to convey the words without actually saying the words themselves.
3) By lying or attempting to deceive someone by swearing on the Bible or “by the temple” (Matthew 23:16-22). In this way and other ways something closely associated with God or “called by His name” is being used in a vain manner.
4) By saying that you are a Christian, one of those called by His name, when you are not.
5) By living in sin while professing to be a Christian. This “pollutes” (Jeremiah 34:16) and dishonors God’s name, giving unbelievers the opportunity to blaspheme against it.
6) By saying “the Lord told me….” or “the Lord said to me….”

How prevalent this has become in the church today! But we know from Scripture that God is no longer giving supernatural direct revelation to anyone. 

We know that supernatural gifts were worked in and through the apostles in order to validate their apostleship (2 Cor.12:12) that they might form the foundation of the church of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:20) by organizing the Church and committing to writing the new revelation given to them. We also know that apostles had to have seen Jesus Christ (1 Cor.9:1), and that Paul was the last (1 Cor. 15:8).  We know that there are no longer any Apostles and that the supernatural gifts associated with them began to die off as the New Testament canon was committed to writing and the Apostles martyred.  Even in their own lifetime’s these miraculous gifts were beginning to wane (2 Tim. 4:20).

The Apostles and those closely associated with them are gone. The cannon of Scripture is closed and the foundation is laid unchangeable; never to be added to nor taken away from. The written Word of God is all that we need and sufficient for every circumstance of every aspect of life (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). God is not giving audible, direct and infallible revelation to anyone at this time.

So if you claim that God has spoken to you audibly giving you new, direct and infallible revelation, then we know not to listen to you.  And if you did not hear an audible voice from heaven, then why are you saying “the Lord told me…”?  Attaching the Lord’s name to your feelings and impressions is dishonest, deceptive and dangerously similar to the sin of the false prophets of old who tried to give their words an authority that they did not have by using the Lord’s name in a vain, empty, deceitful manner.  If you did not mean that God actually spoke to you then why are you saying that He did?  You are being careless with the name of God.
7) By making God, His word, His people or anything else closely associated with Him the subject and butt of our jokes.

While humor and laughter are both good in the proper circumstances, making jokes of the things of God trivializes and demeans them. We are dealing with matters of eternal consequence; we’re sinners dealing with a Holy God!  How can we make jokes of these matters one minute and then expect the world to take them seriously the next?  By our very attitude towards these things we are bleeding them of their weight and importance before the eyes of an on looking world.
8) By having any sort of flippant, careless or trivial attitude toward God.

While there is much more that could be said, this summarizes it all.

The Third Commandment is not about a word or words; it’s about our attitude towards the God of those words.  This is about the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “…hallowed be Thy name.” The Lord must be treated as holy by all who would come near Him (Lev. 10:3).

But nonetheless, a trivial, flippant attitude has swept over the church like a flood.  It is seen everywhere we look.  It’s seen in the blasphemous attitude that speaks of God as being “cool” or views Him as a “buddy”. Those who came closest to the presence of God in Scripture fell down before Him as if dead (Rev. 1:17, Ez. 1:28) , condemned themselves for their sinfulness (Is. 6:5, Luke 5:8, Job 40:4) and trembled with fear (Acts 9:6, Ex. 3:6). Without exception they were awestruck and filled with reverence. No one treated God like their “buddy”.

This attitude is even seen in the way people dress to come into the public worship and special presence of God. According to scripture, the Lord is present in a special sense when His people meet corporately to worship Him (Matt. 18:20) and they are to prepare themselves for this meeting (Ex. 19:11).  Who would not prepare themselves to meet with a mere earthly ruler, such as a Governor or the President, by dressing cleanly and nicely in order to show honor and respect?  But when it comes to meeting with the King of Kings in corporate worship our kids often look like they’re going to play in the dirt, teenagers like they’re going to a rock concert and parents like we’re going to go work in the garden. And even worse than that, many young women come dressed in blatantly immodest clothing (the attire of a harlot Pr. 7:10) in direct violation of God's word (1 Timothy 2:9). While it is true that God looks at the heart, let’s be honest, our attire reflects a great deal of what we think, feel and value in our heart.

Where do we stop?  This flippant attitude toward God is seen in the way that professing Christians often treat each other, in the man exalting and God belittling theology embraced by so many, in the funny little pithy sermons meant to draw a crowd and please men while avoiding the offensive and difficult truths of God’s word.  It’s seen in the way people do not pay attention to the Word preached, the way people do not sing with the congregational singing, the way people only go to church occasionally. It’s seen in the bad theology sung by so many Christian performers and by the endless multitude of "Christian" rock groups who mimic the world like a little boy who longs to be like his big brother.

Brethren, how can we avoid the conclusion; we have broken this commandment on a massive scale! So much of what we say and do reveals how little we think of our God. We have emptied eternal matters of their gravity, weight and power.  We have trivialized the things of God and have made buffoons of ourselves! We have taken His name in vain and Romans 3:18 condemns us; “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” To put it simply the Church is irreverent!

Brethren, we should cry to the Lord to give us a heart that we may fear Him, that good may come to us and our children (Jer. 32:39).

Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”

Monday, April 11, 2011

How detestable is this madness:

Here, however, the foul ungratefulness of men is disclosed. They have within themselves a workshop graced with God's unnumbered works and, at the same time, a storehouse overflowing with inestimable riches. They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride. They feel in many wonderful ways that God works in them; they are also taught, by the very use of these things, what a great variety of gifts they possess from his liberality. They are compelled to know—whether they will or not—that these are the signs of divinity; yet they conceal them within.....How detestable, I ask you, is this madness: that man, finding God in his body and soul a hundred times, on this very pretense of excellence denies that there is a God?

-John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Book Review: The Works of George Swinnock

I really didn't know much at all about George Swinnock when I bought this 5 volume set of books at a close-out sale for almost nothing some ten years ago or so, but he's grown on me a lot over that time. I didn't know it at the time but I was like a man who had just bought a small piece of land for a few dollars completely unaware that it was full of gold, silver and many other precious gems just beneath the dirt.

George Swinnock (1620-1673), a gifted English Puritan pastor, was one of the 2000 and some Puritan ministers who refused to take the oath concerning the Act of Uniformity in May of 1662. A new “Prayer Book” had been introduced into the churches at that time and any form of worship other than that prescribed in this new book was forbidden to be practiced. Around 2000 Puritan ministers refused to conform to this Act and were removed from their pulpits and reduced to poverty in what became known as the "Great Ejection of 1662". 

I haven't met many people who are familiar with these books, but for the life of me I don't know why. At 5 volumes it's one of the shorter and more affordable Puritan works and it's packed full of Puritanism at its best! When I stop and reflect on these volumes three things immediately come to mind:

1)      1) It is extremely easy to read.

While I love reading many of the other Puritans like John Owen or Thomas Goodwin, I have found them to be much more work by comparison. Mining in Swinnocks works is much less labor intensive and the jewels are everywhere.

2)     2)  It’s teaming with illustrations.

One thing I particularly enjoyed about reading Swinnock is that he probably uses more illustrations per square inch than any of the other Puritan writers out there. If you enjoy lots of pithy little illustrations sprinkled in your reading you're going to love Swinnock. 

For instance, when speaking of the regulative principle of worship in one paragraph he brings in currency, coins, winds and a compass as illustrations:

"...Our work is not to make laws for ourselves or others, but to keep the laws which the great prophet of his church hath taught us; that coin of worship which is current amongst us must be stamped by God himself. We are to be governed as the point in the compass, not by the various winds, (the practices of former ages, or the fashions of the present generation, which are mutable and uncertain,) but by the constant heavens. Our devo­tion must be regulated exactly according to the standard of the word. It is idolatry to worship a false god, or the true God in a false manner.” -Vol. 1

 When speaking of worshiping God from our hearts, in one instance, he uses the Lute as an illustration:

"...The deeper the belly of the lute is, the pleasanter the sound; the deeper our worship comes from the heart, the more delightful it is in God's ears." -Vol. 1

When speaking of Scriptures doctrine of clothing he speaks of innocency as man’s first robe and heaven-spun attire:

“...Innocency at first was man's comely robe, in comparison of which the richest clothes are but nasty rags. Ah, how lovely did he look in that heaven-spun attire! In his primitive splendour, the most gaudy and costly apparel would have been but as a cloud over the face of the sun, or a coarse curtain over a beautiful picture. But sin caused shame, and shame called for clothes to cover it”

I could literally go on and on and on with such quotes but in the interest of time and space I’ll be putting further quotes under the "George Swinnock" label on the blog.

3)      3) These volumes are immensely practical.

Swinnock can often hardly seem to mention a doctrine without diving right into its practical implications and applications. While such practicality is true of most of the Puritans, and is perhaps the one of the most stunning features of their writings (at least those that I’m familiar with), it seems to be especially true of these five volumes. Just a quick glance at the Contents at the beginning of each book will bear this out. The entire first two volumes and part of the third are entitled “The Christian Man’s Calling” and deal with every aspect of the Christians life. Covering how we Christians may “exercise ourselves to godliness” in everything from prayer and taking of the sacraments to hearing the word preached to how we eat, drink and dress. These first three volumes deal with every aspect and relation of family life, recreation, work, self-examination, prosperity, adversity, solitude, sanctifying the Sabbath,  visiting the sick and even how we can die well. I don’t think he missed anything!

Other subjects dealt with in the remaining two and a half volumes are the beauty, dignity and duty of civil magistrates, the incomparableness of God, the fading of the flesh, Heaven and Hell epitomised, salvation, regeneration, the sinner’s final sentence and his farewell sermon upon his ejection from Rickmansworth in 1662.

If you’d like an easy to read, relatively inexpensive, extremely practical and very edifying sample of Puritanism at its best, you might want to consider the Works of George Swinnock.

"We confess that we have rejoiced in the writings of Swinnock as those that find great spoil. So pithy and pungent and practical, few books are more fitted to keep the attention awake, and few so richly reward it."  - Dr. James Hamilton

"George Swinnock had the gift of illustration largely developed, as his works prove...they served his purpose, and made his teaching attractive...there remains a rare amount of sanctified wit and wisdom."  -C.H. Spurgeon

George Swinnock Works at 
George Swinnock Works at
George Swinnock Works at