Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Archive for 2013|Yearly archive page

Godless Gossip

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 27, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Proverbs 11:13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

The Bible is replete with warnings to control our tongue so that we do not sin with our speech. We see this in the third commandment, that we are not to take the name of the Lord our God in vain, and in the ninth commandment, that we are not to bear false witness against our neighbor.

But swearing and lying are not the only sins we can commit with our tongues. The text cited above specifically warns us against tale bearing, and it is not the only passage that does so.

What is tale bearing? It is sharing negative information about others with those who do not have a need to know or a right to know that information. If someone is not part of the circle of offense or part of the circle of remedy – if they are not part of the problem or part of the solution – then they have no need to know and no right to know the negative information about another. The negative issue should be discussed and dealt with and resolved among those who are rightly involved in it, and no one else.

The only other category of person who may have a need to know or a right to know negative information about another is someone who has a high probability of being significantly harmed by that person in the immediate future if they do not know that information. For example: a woman who is thinking about dating an individual may have a need to know and a right to know about his past criminal history, depending on the circumstances.

The principle is this: Negative information about others should be concealed from all those who do not have a need to know or a right to know that information.

A talebearer does not respect these limitations on sharing information. He reveals secrets to those who have no need to know them, nor any right to know them.  He speaks aloud of these things to whoever will give him an ear.

Tale bearing is sometimes done under the guise of “I just wanted to share a prayer request with you…” or some other specious rationale. Often it is done without any rational at all.

Proverbs 26: 22 says: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.” Talebearers wound brethren, they do not heal them; they divide brethren, they do not unite them; they create strife, they do not bring peace to the parties involved.

The goal of speaking of the sins of another to those who have a need to know and a right to know about them is to bring about restoration of the offending party, it is not to harm their reputation or satisfy the tingling ears of those who love gossip, which is what the tale bearer is seeking to achieve.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I do not imagine you want your sins paraded before the whole world – so do not parade the sins of others before the world either. Conceal the matter, unless there is a biblical requirement to share it with others.

Rebuke talebearers. Proverbs 25:23 says: “The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” And if they do not respond to reproof, then have nothing to do with them. Proverbs 20:19 says: “He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.”

Be one who heals, who unites, and who brings peace with your words. Proverbs 10:19 says: “In a multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Be wise. Refrain from tale bearing.

Pastor Max Doner
Sovereign Grace Bible Church
Lebanon, Oregon

God With Us (Charles Spurgeon)

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 24, 2013 at 3:02 pm

Hey Don’t Say Gay

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 21, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Recently I conducted the wedding of an unconverted couple with whom I met some dozen times for premarital counseling.  Alas, during the wedding I committed a costly cultural crime.  I commended the couple for getting their sexuality aligned with biblical norms in a day of rampant fornication, adultery and homosexuality.  That was it: one innocuous reference to homosexuality in a list of sexual sins.  The fornicators and adulterers in the crowd apparently took the comment in stride.  But the homosexuals and a surprising coterie of the concerned complained to the couple.  My cultural faux pas has occasioned a fresh realization of just how far common grace has eroded.

It’s not like I’m unaware that homosexual activists are being culturally successful.  Their success at cultural infiltration has happened in my generation.  I remember attending the first meeting of a new homosexual campus group at a state university in Ohio in 1973.  I wanted to hear how these people were justifying themselves and what they hoped to accomplish.  When the time came for input from the audience, I asserted that their main concern should not be their sexuality but their idolatry.  Scowls and murmured opposition turned into shouting abuse after I read Romans 1:24-27.  For the rest of the meeting I was honored to be the example of the kind of people the gay group needed to silence.  I knew, of course, that it was not me they wanted to silence, but the voice of God speaking to their conscience in the words of Scripture.

In the 1980’s the gay movement swelled.  Marshall Kirk, a researcher in neuropsychiatry, and Hunter Madsen, a public relations consultant, set the gay agenda in their 1989 book After The Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s.  The book urged gay activists to target three sectors of society: the media, the judiciary, and the institutions of education.  They advanced a six-point strategy:

  1. Talk about gays and gayness as loudly and often as possible.
  2. Portray gays as victims, not aggressive challengers.
  3. Give homosexual protectors a “just” cause.
  4. Make gays look good.
  5. Make the victimizers look bad.
  6. Solicit funds from corporate America and major foundations in support of the homosexual cause.

The onslaught of AIDS in the 90’s set the stage to promote the profile of victimization and advance the language of “rights-speak” to move the discussion away from sexual sin into civil rights and needed legislation.  The media, the judiciary, and the educational institutions have extensively become conduits to convey the “gospel of gay” to an American populace increasingly ignorant of the “gospel of God.”

The argument that we meet now is the “they were born that way,” natural orientation argument.  In other words, the issue is not what homosexuals do but what they are. The terms “sexual preference” used in the 70’s and 80’s revealed too much of an exercise of personal choice.  Now the issue concerns “sexual orientation,” a much more clinically sounding term that points to biology, nature.  I admit that sorting through all this “orientation” stuff is not easy.  There is no scientific consensus that homosexuality originates in genes, or parental influences, or cultural conditioning, or any combination thereof.

As a fallen creature, it doesn’t surprise me that my physiological and psychological proclivities render me liable to certain sins more than others.  Psalm 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb, these who speak lies go astray from birth. Scripture teaches me that I am a “natural” liar.  In my now fallen nature, I am born with an inbred orientation to lie.  Lying may come naturally to me, but “to lie” is still an act, a behavior which is measured by God’s moral law.  The act of lying is not rendered less immoral simply because the Bible tells me that I’m a natural-born liar.  No, I’m naturally born in real trouble.  Both my fallen nature and my sinful acts render me blame-worthy before a holy God.  I need to be saved, big time!

Could a man, in this fallen state, have an inbred orientation to homosexuality?  That’s where the debate rages.  But is not homosexuality constituted by one’s sexual acts?  Do not homosexual acts first serve to identify the homosexual who only after indulging in such activity has warrant to even ask “Was I born this way?”  What pattern of sin, sexual or otherwise, is not traceable to our fallen nature?  If we were not sinful, we would not sin.  Who of us does not go astray from birth into various patterns of sin?

Peter tells us that righteous Lot (was) oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (2 Peter 2:7).  The word oppressed means tormented, distressed, or worn out: subdued after a hard struggle.  Lot was offended by Sodom’s society, but he eventually capitulated and was worn down by the oppressive prevalence of their sensual conduct.  Are we being worn down, subdued after a struggle?  Mark Bergin’s article “Evangelical Shift” ( WORLD January 31, 2008 ) indicates that we are.

A Pew survey from 2006 revealed that 30 percent of white evangelicals and 35 percent of black Protestants favor same-sex civil unions. Another Pew study from last year found that 14 percent of all white evangelicals and 15 percent of all black evangelicals support the more radical same-sex marriage.

What’s more, a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner survey conducted for Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly in September found that 58 percent of white evangelicals ages 18 to 29 support either gay marriage or civil unions. For those 30 years and older, the number dipped to 46 percent. (The Rosner poll included those who identified themselves as fundamentalist, evangelical, charismatic, or Pentecostal or who said they were born-again Christians.)

According to the Rosner poll, a full quarter of white evangelical young adults agree that “gay and lesbian couples should have the same legal right to marry as do a man and a woman.”

The spike in such nontraditional views among youth suggests substantial movement on the issue over the past decade. But is a reexamination of Scripture driving that shift?

Good question, Mark.  Are almost 50 percent of Evangelicals being Scriptural or being subdued?  We cannot allow the homosexual agenda to wear us down.  Al Mohler concludes his 2008 volume Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance by alerting us to seven strategies homosexual activists are employing to wear us down:

1.     The psychological strategy: to change the discussion from what a person does to what his self-conscious orientation is.  This strategy seeks to remove moral accountability from sexuality.

2.     The medical strategy: “Anything that can be ‘psychologized’ can also be ‘medicalized.'”  The history behind the American Psychiatric Association’s decision to remove homosexuality from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973 reveals a rationale of political and ideological pressure, not the scientific discovery that homosexuality is in fact, normal.  Mohler points out that the APA’s decision not only affected how we are to view homosexuality, but also how we are to view ourselves.  One day in 1973 the AP agreed that an indicator of healthy moral thinking was to view homosexuality as abnormal.  The next day the APA saw such a view as unhealthy, bigoted, repressive, whereas they then saw the evidence of mental health to be an acceptance of homosexuality as an “alternative lifestyle.”

3.     The political strategy has been the least effective.  Recent voting indicates the American populace, while being worn down, is yet reluctant to give homosexuality full societal sanction.

4.     The legal strategy however has been very effective.  (See Robert Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Regan Books, 1996 which argues that the radicals of the 60’s, bent on social engineering, have extensively permeated the judiciary.)

5.     The educational strategy seeks to separate the child from his or her parents and to advance deviant sex education curriculums from elementary schools through universities.

6.     The cultural strategy employs the media and entertainment industries.

7.     The theological strategy seeks to dismantle biblical morality in those institutions which train future leaders of the church.  Activists justify sexual perversion with a perverted, twisted interpretation of biblical texts which clearly indict homosexuality as abominable sin.  (See Al Mohler’s Bog, “Sex and the Seminary” January 13, 2009 for an eye-opening look at the audacity of those pushing this agenda into the theological arena.)

Mohler concludes his book warning of the potential collapse of Western culture if society allows ungodly social engineers to dismantle the moral foundations of sexual normalcy and the family.  He calls us to counter the attack at each of the seven battle lines drawn above.  He urges us to bear witness by being ourselves sexually pure and exemplifying godly family life.  He calls for us as Christians and as churches to reach into the lives of those ensnared in sexual sin and declare the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  We are all only saved sinners.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

We need to call men to be what God created us to be: image of God.  Only in Christ are sinners of every sort remade in God’s image, and given the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:24).

Alan Dunn

The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 20, 2013 at 10:31 am

More than a Memory

The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace: More than a Memory by Richard Barcellos is now available. Here is a brief description from the Preface:

The book is not an exhaustive treatment of the Lord’s Supper. It has a primary focus which can be stated in question format. How is the Lord’s Supper a means of grace? I do not deal with many important issues related to the Supper, nor do I interact with all the secondary historical-theological issues and sources. My aim is very specific–to provide exegetical and theological grounds upon which the Supper is seen as a means of grace. I will also examine some of the Reformed tradition’s confessions and catechisms. That part of the study seeks to illustrate how the exegetical and theological data has been formulated into doctrinal statements and to confirm that my thesis is not novel.

The book has a Foreword by James M. Renihan and recommendations by Michael Haykin, Robert Oliver, Carl Trueman, and others

Here are the recommendations of two RBF contributors:

The Lord’s Supper is more than a memory. Modern Baptists have often fallen into the “dead memorial” category. Others have emphasized self-examination to the point of morbidity. Our Particular Baptist forefathers taught the “spiritual presence of Christ” in the supper and an understanding of this is vital to our spiritual vitality. This new book by Dr. Barcellos will be a great help for men in the ministry, and those studying for the ministry. May God use this book as a catalyst in bringing about continuing reform in our churches.

Pastor Steve Marquedant
Sovereign Grace Baptist Church
Ontario, CA

None of us have fully appreciated the stupendous blessing which the Lord’s Supper is to Christ’s church, but Dr. Barcellos’ excellent treatment of this subject can strengthen our grasp upon the exalted reality. With capable exegesis of key Scripture passages, demonstrable consistency with the best systematic theology, and informed interaction with historic Christian thought, this important work will, with God’s blessing, assist modern pastors to realize better the true nature of this second ordinance of Christ as a capacious channel of sanctifying grace. With unqualified recommendation I urge a careful reading of this book, especially if your theologically-formative influences were similar to mine, committed to the memorial view of the Supper, not unusual among Baptists of the last century or so.

An especially delightful surprise awaits the reader at the end, where Dr. Barcellos cogently links the profound spiritual realities he has proven from Scripture with the most practical implications for the manner of Lord’s Supper observance in our churches. The connection of doctrine and practice in this area may not have been obvious at first, but having seen it in print, I find it inescapable. May the Lord reform His churches and strengthen our unity by the standard of His Word and through the sound teaching of this incisive analysis.

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, NH

The book can be purchased at RBAP or Amazon.

.

Should we read the Old Testament like some early disciples of Christ did?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 12, 2013 at 8:00 pm

I want to look briefly at John 2. In this passage, we will note that some early disciples give evidence of the concept of Christ as the target of the Old Testament, that to which it pointed. I think this will become clear in the discussion below. But should we read the Old Testament like they did? I think the answer is yes. We will discuss this toward the end of this post.

Here is John 2:13-22 in the NASB.

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; 16 and to those who were selling the doves He said, “Take these things away; stop making My Father’s house a place of business.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME.” 18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

We often think of hermeneutics, interpreting the Bible, as something we do. That is true. However, notice verses 17 and 22 of John 2. John 2:17 begins by saying, “His disciples remembered that it was written…” This is John’s commentary on the thought process of some of Christ’s disciples in the first century prior to the writing of the New Testament. The words “it was written” refer to what was already written at that time. John tells us what “was written” and what Old Testament text these disciples were thinking about by quoting Psalm 69:9, “ZEAL FOR YOUR HOUSE WILL CONSUME ME” (Cf. John 15:25 and 19:28 where Jesus applies this Psalm to himself.). The disciples were interpreting the Old Testament (independent of the New Testament) during the life of our Lord. John’s comment informs us that they started connecting the dots from the Psalms to Jesus while our Lord was on the earth. In other words, their minds were making hermeneutical moves while Christ’s zeal for God’s temple, his Father’s house, was being manifested. As the Word who became flesh manifested himself among men, those who believed in him began to interpret Scripture in light of him (or him in light of Scripture!).

John 2:22 says, “So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” Note first the time when “His disciples remembered that He said this,” that is, “when He was raised from the dead…” The resurrection, among other things, triggered the memories of these disciples. Note second what “this” of “He said this” refers to. It refers to what Jesus said as recorded in verse 19, where we read, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Note third John’s comment about what Jesus said. “But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2:21). Note fourth that “they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” (John 2:22). The “Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken” are not the same thing. The “word which Jesus had spoken” is recorded in John 2:19. The Scripture must refer to the Old Testament. The disciples were interpreting the Old Testament (not only during the ministry of our Lord, but also after his resurrection and prior to the writing of the New Testament and surely during and after its writing). The resurrection became an interpretive event through which the early disciples “believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” Just as they began connecting the dots during our Lord’s life-unto-death sufferings (John 2:17), so they continued to connect the dots when he entered into his glory, his resurrection (John 2:22; Cf. John 12:16 for the same phenomenon with reference to connecting the dots between our Lord and the book of Zechariah.).

Though it is true that we interpret the Bible in our day, it is also true that the early Christians interpreted the Bible of their day–i.e., the Old Testament. Some of their interpretations made it into the New Testament, as illustrated above. Though this does not mean that all of their personal interpretations of the Old Testament reflected the divine intention of the ancient text, it does mean that their interpretations recorded in the New Testament and affirmed by the authors of the New Testament (e.g., John) are infallible interpretations,[1] reflecting the intention of God who first gave the text. This is so because “All Scripture [i.e., Old and New Testament] is inspired by God” (2 Tim. 3:16) and inspiration implies infallibility.

It is obvious that interpreters of Scripture today have an advantage over the first-century interpreters mentioned above. We have God’s own interpretation of the historical sufferings and glory of Christ–our New Testaments. But I think there is a good lesson for us to learn from the discussion above. When our Lord Jesus was on this earth, the Spirit of God was causing the disciples of Christ to recall texts of Scripture due to the presence and ministry of Christ. What their musings on the Old Testament contained in the New Testament show us is that the Old Testament points to Christ. The early disciples saw this more and more as they contemplated our Lord and the Old Testament. The inspired documents of the New Testament confirm that they were right. Not only was Jesus Christ the promised One, he was that to which the Old Testament pointed (e.g., Luke 24:44ff.). The early disciples did not reinterpret the Old Testament in light of Christ; they interpreted it as pointing to Christ. And our New Testament is God’s confirmation that they were right to do so. If it was right for them to do so, then it is right for us to do the same. The Old Testament is not about Christ simply because the New Testament says so. It is about Christ because that was God’s intention from the beginning. This is how the early Christians (and our Lord) read the Old Testament. This is how we ought to as well.

These disciples were interpreting the Old Testament as their Lord did (e.g., John 5:39, 45-47). The entire New Testament is based on Jesus’ view of himself in relation to the Old Testament. The sinless Son of God saw the Old Testament as that which pointed to him. The authors of the books of the New Testament not only agreed with this assessment, they wrote in light of it. And since the writings of the New Testament are inspired documents, this is also God’s view of Jesus and the Old Testament. In other words, the New Testament is the infallible interpretation of Jesus in relation to the Old Testament. This is no small matter, indeed! Jesus understood the Old Testament to be the Word of God and he understood it as pointing to him. Jesus’ view of the Old Testament became the view of the writers of the New Testament. It seems to follow that Christian interpreters ought to follow the lead of Jesus and the authors of the New Testament. Unfortunately, not all agree.[2] But the conclusion seems inescapable. If Jesus viewed the Old Testament as a witness to himself and the authors of the New Testament did as well (utilizing the same hermeneutic as Jesus), then all Christian interpreters ought to follow them.

Should we read the Old Testament like some early disciples of Christ did? I think the answer is yes.

Richard C. Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA
.

[1] This is not the same as claiming they were infallible interpreters.

[2] Cf. Richard N. Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975, 1999 [second edition]) and Robert L. Thomas “The New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” The Master’s Seminary Journal (TMSJ) Volume 13, No. 1 (Spring 2002): 80, 87, 88, 96; and “The Great Commission: What to Teach,” TMSJ Volume 21, No. 1 (Spring 2010): 7. Both Longenecker and Thomas argue that Christ and the Apostles utilized hermeneutical principles that were descriptive of them but not normative for us.

Jobs Wanted

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 9, 2013 at 10:36 am

jobs

This is not a post about employment, it’s about people. To put it another way, I am talking about capital ‘J’ Jobs. You know, the Job of the bible. If I were to ask you if you wanted to be like Job or if you wanted your church to be full of Jobs you would, no doubt, cringe. What kind of sadist wishes Job’s condition upon another person? We live in a world which is full of suffering and the Bible addresses for us the benefits that come to the body of Christ through suffering (James 1:2ff) These things being so, Job’s reaction to suffering, in it’s initial stages, in it’s full flower, and following the Lord’s self revelation, have much to commend our attention, instruction, and imitation. But I want to focus for a moment upon the description of Job before his suffering.

Job is described by the Holy Spirit in these terms, “that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.” There are other folks in the Bible described in similar language (more of this in an upcoming post). In the words of 1 John 3:7, he practiced righteousness. He had a perfect justifying righteousness before God in Christ and a practical, demonstrable and real practice of righteousness on earth. He lived his life in the fear of God. He lived for the eyes and ears of God. He lived for the smile of God–and he had it. When sin presented itself he fled. When it corrupted him inwardly or outwardly, he repented, forsook it, was cleansed, empowered and went on. When the pathway of duty was made known, his heart would have cried, “I will run in the way of your commandments” or in the words of his coming Savior, “I have come to do your will, O God.” (Psalm 119:32 and Hebrews 10:7–see also Psalm 40:8). Does that sound like someone you know? Does it sound like your pastor, your deacon, your father or mother, your husband or wife, your brother or your sister? Does it sound like the average Joe (or Josephine) at your church? Does it sound like someone you would want to know? Does it sound like the kind of person you would want to be part of your fellowship? Does he sound like a dreaded Legalist or Pharisee?

As you read the book of Job and the rest of the Bible it becomes apparent that the Holy Spirit is not speaking about sinless perfection. But the Spirit is speaking truthfully. The Lord speaks of the rarity of such an individual at this time, “Have you considered my servant, Job, that there is none like him on the Earth?” Sadly, this description is rare in our own day as well. There seems to be an almost perverse joy in Christian’s speaking about how bad they are. The more they fail, the more they indulge, the more ‘raw’, ‘authentic’, ‘wounded’, and hence ‘useful’ they are in ministering to believers and unbelievers. We’re just a bunch of sinners, a bunch of failures we are told repeatedly. We have black hearts, deceitful hearts, cold hearts. What we seem to be saying is that grace has not made much of a difference to our daily lives. We have gained little in regard to the fear of God and the pursuit of holiness. The putting off of the old man, the crucifying of the flesh, and the refusal to make provision for it in regard to its lust is somehow seen as dangerous and contrary to the gospel. I would argue that Job’s character epitomizes the gospel. Paul told Titus that the ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11, 12) and that Jesus ‘gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.’

Is there evidence that He has and is doing this in your life and in your flock? Where are those in our midst notable for their God fearing? Notable for shunning and hating evil (as defined by God)? Notable for their uprightness and blamelessness (that is, they obey God–including confessing and forsaking their sin, consistently and actually)? Our faith is not only to be proclaimed, it is to be lived. Sinners must not only hear our gospel, they must see the effects of the gospel (Matt. 5:16, 1 Tim. 5:25, Titus 3:8, 1 Peter 2:12). In this is the Gospel proven, in this God is glorified, in this the church is strengthened, in this we shine as lights.

Reformed Rap and African American Culture

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 6, 2013 at 11:48 am

After listening and reading material put out by other African American reformed Christians on the topic of reformed theology and Christian rap, it’s time for us to think clearly about rap music and its effect on African American culture.

When I first became a Christian I joined a suburban African American Baptist church. My first church experience was a good representation of what of a typical (dispensational) Baptist church was like. Rap music was never a medium that was completely embraced. Every once in a while you would hear a Christian rap artist, but it wasn’t a regular practice in the life of the church. Once I became reformed in my thinking, I was immediately surrounded by rap culture (specifically reformed rap). I myself was under the impression that this is what it meant to be reformed and black. Rap music is not just another genre of music, it’s a culture. Rap culture influences the way people talk, act, and dress and it has filtered down into the church.

What is concerning to me (and should be concerning to everyone else) is making reformed rap the standard for African American Christians to be reformed. The problem with this is that it creates a culture where reformed theology for African Americans automatically equals hip hop music. In other words if you embrace the one, you must embrace the other. This issue begs the question, “are all African Americans raging hip hoppers?” The simple answer is no and to assume so is a major stereotype.

We are not relating to African American culture as a whole if pastors (who are not rappers) continue to peddle rap music into every church they are called to serve. My wife asked me an excellent question not too long ago. She asked me why the majority of African American pastors who graduate from top reformed seminaries target almost exclusively urban communities? could it be because there is a new reformed movement known as Christian hip hoppers? I’m not ready to say I have it all figured out, but I will say the emphasis on rap music is very interesting. There are many African Americans who are not in to rap music at all. Many predominantly African American churches have no real ties or commitments to the movement except to get the young people more interested. In fact if you ask the average African American pastor what he thinks of Christian rap, he would probably tell you it’s a worldly genre.

I do believe that God can redeem what has been used for evil, but do we need more idols? Rap music has been a major idol in African American culture. Secular rap promotes violence, killing, sex, drugs, and other acts explicitly condemned by God in scripture. And it’s no surprise that many people who regularly listen to rap music embrace the lifestyles being promoted. Therefore we should be encouraging people to flee idolatry, not run towards it (1 Cor 10:14). It’s almost as if we’re communicating to the world that African Americans need more rap music, when in fact what they need is more of Christ. If people are attracted to our churches because they’re dope, or because the Pastor is slick, then we need to consider Psalm 119:59: “When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies.” The Apostle Paul didn’t come to the gentiles with some catchy hook or impressive word, but he came in the demonstration of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:4).

If you take away all of the lights and the rhyme schemes, will hypocrites and the unconverted remain in your church? I will let those in the reformed rap movement find out. If men and women are attracted to our churches because of rap music and not Christ and His word, then we have failed.

Am I saying that Christians can’t produce good sound hip hop music if that’s what they’re in to? No I’m not. But I do believe there needs to be some sort of separation when it comes to the church and rap music for the sake of all African Americans.  I believe we would be doing ourselves a favor by not creating another fad as we have enough of those to avoid.

My desire is to see my fellow reformed African Americans think more clearly about this because we need to avoid creating a culture of being urban in order to feel welcomed in the church. There is always the temptation to try it another way or try another technique to get more people interested in the church or sound theology. But may God help us to be faithful to Him and to follow the example He has given us in His word.

Tyrese Jackson
Member of New Life Community Church in King
.

John Calvin on John 3:16-17

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on December 5, 2013 at 8:01 am

16. For God so loved the world. Christ opens up the first cause, and, as it were, the source of our salvation, and he does so, that no doubt may remain; for our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Savior. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. And this order ought to be carefully observed; for such is the wicked ambition which belongs to our nature, that when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits. Accordingly, we imagine that God is reconciled to us, because he has reckoned us worthy that he should look upon us. But Scripture everywhere extols his pure and unmingled mercy, which sets aside all merits.

And the words of Christ mean nothing else, when he declares the cause to be in the love of God. For if we wish to ascend higher, the Spirit shuts the door by the mouth of Paul, when he informs us that this love was founded on the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:5.) And, indeed, it is very evident that Christ spoke in this manner, in order to draw away men from the contemplation of themselves to look at the mercy of God alone. Nor does he say that God was moved to deliver us, because he perceived in us something that was worthy of so excellent a blessing, but ascribes the glory of our deliverance entirely to his love. And this is still more clear from what follows; for he adds, that God gave his Son to men, that they may not perish. Hence it follows that, until Christ bestow his aid in rescuing the lost, all are destined to eternal destruction. This is also demonstrated by Paul from a consideration of the time;

for he loved us while we were still enemies by sin, (Romans 5:8, 10.)

And, indeed, where sin reigns, we shall find nothing but the wrath of God, which draws death along with it. It is mercy, therefore, that reconciles us to God, that he may likewise restore us to life.

This mode of expression, however, may appear to be at variance with many passages of Scripture, which lay in Christ the first foundation of the love of God to us, and show that out of him we are hated by God. But we ought to remember — what I have already stated — that the secret love with which the Heavenly Father loved us in himself is higher than all other causes; but that the grace which he wishes to be made known to us, and by which we are excited to the hope of salvation, commences with the reconciliation which was procured through Christ. For since he necessarily hates sin, how shall we believe that we are loved by him, until atonement has been made for those sins on account of which he is justly offended at us? Thus, the love of Christ must intervene for the purpose of reconciling God to us, before we have any experience of his fatherly kindness. But as we are first informed that God, because he loved us, gave his Son to die for us, so it is immediately added, that it is Christ alone on whom, strictly speaking, faith ought to look.

He gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him may not perish. This, he says, is the proper look of faith, to be fixed on Christ, in whom it beholds the breast of God filled with love: this is a firm and enduring support, to rely on the death of Christ as the only pledge of that love. The word only-begotten is emphatic, (ἐμφατικὸ ν) to magnify the fervor of the love of God towards us. For as men are not easily convinced that God loves them, in order to remove all doubt, he has expressly stated that we are so very dear to God that, on our account, he did not even spare his only-begotten Son. Since, therefore, God has most abundantly testified his love towards us, whoever is not satisfied with this testimony, and still remains in doubt, offers a high insult to Christ, as if he had been an ordinary man given up at random to death. But we ought rather to consider that, in proportion to the estimation in which God holds his only-begotten Son, so much the more precious did our salvation appear to him, for the ransom of which he chose that his only-begotten Son should die. To this name Christ has a right, because he is by nature the only Son of God; and he communicates this honor to us by adoption, when we are engrafted into his body.

That whosoever believeth on him may not perish. It is a remarkable commendation of faith, that it frees us from everlasting destruction. For he intended expressly to state that, though we appear to have been born to death, undoubted deliverance is offered to us by the faith of Christ; and, therefore, that we ought not to fear death, which otherwise hangs over us. And he has employed the universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers. Such is also the import of the term World, which he formerly used; for though nothing will be found in the world that is worthy of the favor of God, yet he shows himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when he invites all men without exception to the faith of Christ, which is nothing else than an entrance into life.

Let us remember, on the other hand, that while life is promised universally to all who believe in Christ, still faith is not common to all. For Christ is made known and held out to the view of all, but the elect alone are they whose eyes God opens, that they may seek him by faith. Here, too, is displayed a wonderful effect of faith; for by it we receive Christ such as he is given to us by the Father — that is, as having freed us from the condemnation of eternal death, and made us heirs of eternal life, because, by the sacrifice of his death, he has atoned for our sins, that nothing may prevent God from acknowledging us as his sons. Since, therefore, faith embraces Christ, with the efficacy of his death and the fruit of his resurrection, we need not wonder if by it we obtain likewise the life of Christ.

Still it is not yet very evident why and how faith bestows life upon us. Is it because Christ renews us by his Spirit, that the righteousness of God may live and be vigorous in us; or is it because, having been cleansed by his blood, we are accounted righteous before God by a free pardon? It is indeed certain, that these two things are always joined together; but as the certainty of salvation is the subject now in hand, we ought chiefly to hold by this reason, that we live, because God loves us freely by not imputing to us our sins. For this reason sacrifice is expressly mentioned, by which, together with sins, the curse and death are destroyed. I have already explained the object of these two clauses,

which is, to inform us that in Christ we regain the possession of life, of which we are destitute in ourselves; for in this wretched condition of mankind, redemption, in the order of time, goes before salvation.

17. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world. It is a confirmation of the preceding statement; for it was not in vain that God sent his own Son to us. He came not to destroy; and therefore it follows, that it is the peculiar office of the Son of God, that all who believe may obtain salvation by him. There is now no reason why any man should be in a state of hesitation, or of distressing anxiety, as to the manner in which he may escape death, when we believe that it was the purpose of God that Christ should deliver us from it. The word world is again repeated, that no man may think himself wholly excluded, if he only keep the road of faith.

The word judge (πρίνω) is here put for condemn, as in many other passages. When he declares that he did not come to condemn the world, he thus points out the actual design of his coming; for what need was there that Christ should come to destroy us who were utterly ruined? We ought not, therefore, to look at any thing else in Christ, than that God, out of his boundless goodness chose to extend his aid for saving us who were lost; and whenever our sins press us — whenever Satan would drive us to despair — we ought to hold out this shield, that God is unwilling that we should be overwhelmed with everlasting destruction, because he has appointed his Son to be the salvation of the world.

When Christ says, in other passages, that he is come to judgment, (John 9:39;) when he is called a stone of offense, (1 Peter 2:7;) when he is said to be set for the destruction of many, (Luke 2:34:) this may be regarded as accidental, or as arising from a different cause; for they who reject the grace offered in him deserve to find him the Judge and Avenger of contempt so unworthy and base. A striking instance of this may be seen in the Gospel; for though it is strictly

the power of God for salvation to every one who believeth, (Romans 1:16,)

the ingratitude of many causes it to become to them death.. Both have been well expressed by Paul, when he boasts of

having vengeance at hand, by which he will punish all the adversaries of his doctrine after that the obedience of the godly shall have been fulfilled, (2 Corinthians 10:6)

The meaning amounts to this, that the Gospel is especially, and in the first instance, appointed for believers, that it may be salvation to them; but that afterwards believers will not escape unpunished who, despising the grace of Christ, chose to have him as the Author of death rather than of life.[1]


[1] John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries: John, Jn 3:16–17.

Fearing Sin

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on November 15, 2013 at 4:48 pm

fear

True sorrow over sin is very practical, for no one can truly hate sin while living in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely in theory but experientially, as a child who has been burned now fears fire. We should be just as afraid of sin as someone who recently has been robbed is afraid of thieves. CHS

Every now and then I will have a conversation with a pastor friend who will ask the question…did you hear about so and so…the tone of the question lets me know that what follows is not going to be pleasant. It normally happens that so and so is out of the ministry, perhaps that he has left his wife and his family, that he has brought some horrible shame upon the church because he failed to watch over his heart.

Whenever I hear such things, and, I have heard them far too often in my life, I always ask, when did it start? When did that preacher stop fearing God? How did he excuse the compromises that have led him to where he now is? How did he get into the pulpit and preach like that when he knew where he was and what he was doing the week before? What happened to that man the first time he trespassed? What emboldened him to do it again and again till his conscience was hardened and his prayers ceased and his faith went cold and he become something he thought he would never become.

1. You should fear sin because of its separating, power-sapping effects

Isaiah 59:1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.

Judges 16:20 20 And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

In the battle that we are in and in the battle that is upcoming, we do not need to have God’s arm shortened or to purposefully dull His ear.

The church of this age is asking ‘where is the power’, ‘why are we so ineffectual’. May not part of the answer to these questions be the compromises we have made and the sins we continue to indulge in?

2. You should fear sin because God has promised to openly expose it

I take this from the well known words of Numbers 32:23 23 “But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the LORD; and be sure your sin will find you out.

Luke 12:2-3 2 “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. 3 “Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

Ecclesiastes 12:14 14 For God will bring every work into judgment, Including every secret thing, Whether good or evil.

2 Corinthians 5:10 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Whether in this life or more importantly..in the life to come, who and what you are will be exposed. There will be no hypocrisy in the age to come.

3. Fear the power of sin to disturb your peace and assurance of salvation 

Psalm 32:2-4 2 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit. 3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah

Proverbs 28:13 13 He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

4. Fear the power of sin to wreck havoc in your community

Joshua 7:1ff
You know the narrative of the effects of Achan’s sin. Shame and defeat was brought upon the nation, real men with real families died as a result of his actions. Though the nation was not complicit in his crimes, they shared in his punishment. Like it or not, we are joined to one another in the body. If the liver has cancer the whole body suffers. Think of the threat that Jesus made to the church in Ephesus (See Rev. 2) that He would remove their candlestick if they did not repent and do the first works. Were there no believers in that church who had clung fast to their first love? The sins of some effect the whole.

5. Fear the power of sin to both quench and to grieve the Holy Spirit

1 Thessalonians 5:19 19 Do not quench the Spirit.

Ephesians 4:29-30 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

I believe one of the greatest problems of our modern age is that we do not truly believe in the power of the Holy Spirit as the means of accomplishing our mission. We pay lip service to prayer but our real hope is in men and programs. Modern evangelicals have abandoned corporate prayer meetings and rare and brief are the prayers uttered in public worship. Cursed is the man who trusts in man!

6. Fear the power of sin to corrupt and turn you from the path of righteousness and heaven

Consider the case of the man Demas. We first read of him in Colossians 4:14 14 Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. He is then mentioned by Paul in Philemon 1:23-24 23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, greets you, 24 as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow laborers
And then we read of him again in 2 Timothy 4:9-10 9 Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world…
This present world…more literally this present age…what Paul calls in Galatians this evil age.

Matthew 5:28-30 28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

Hebrews 10:24-31 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

7. Fear the Power of Sin To Silence Your Witness

And that in two ways. The first is those who know of your hypocrisy

Romans 2:23-24 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,”

And the second is the inability of you to bear witness when you know your own life does not promote the very thing you are trying to teach others.
It is the righteous man who is as bold as a lion.

1 Peter 3:15-16 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

8. Fear the consequences of unforgiven sin

It was sin that brought the curse into the world, sin cast angels from heaven, it was sin that brought about a great flood, it was sin that brought down fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, it was sin that brought death to David’s family and pestlience in the land, sin that brought about the invasion of Israel and the bloody soaked destruction of Judah, it was sin that nailed the Savior to the cross and it sin, sin unrepented of and unforsaken, that has and that will cast untold millions into eternity separated from God.

Matthew 25:41 41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Jim Savastio, Pastor
Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville
.

No Explicit Command in Scripture? – Sam Waldron on Corporate Prayer

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on October 29, 2013 at 9:29 am

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,430 other followers

%d bloggers like this: