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The days of special visions and voices and prophesyings have passed away

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on October 1, 2014 at 3:28 pm

spurgeon

“Now the hand of the Lord was upon me in the evening.”—Ezekiel 33:22.

Perhaps, in the special sense in which Ezekiel uses this expression, we shall not expect to feel “the hand of the Lord” upon us. God may not call us to prophesy as Ezekiel did, although in the Scriptural use of the word “prophesy” the preacher of the Word is still called to deliver the message which he has received from his Lord’s lips. The days of special visions and voices and prophesyings have passed away, but we can still say with Peter, “We have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”[1]

 

[1] Spurgeon, C. H. The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons. Vol. 58. London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1912.

 

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Is Your Church Worship More Pagan than Christian?

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 30, 2014 at 2:36 pm

worship

Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. He alone is the One who brings us to God. The popular but mistaken notions regarding worship music undermine this foundational truth of the Christian faith. It is also ironic that while many Christians deny the sacramental role of those ordinances which the Lord Himself has given to the church (baptism and the Lord’s Supper) they are eager to grant music sacramental powers. Music and “the worship experience” are viewed as means by which we enter the presence of God and receive his saving benefits. There is simply no evidence whatsoever in Scripture that music mediates direct encounters or experiences with God. This is a common pagan notion. It is far from Christian.

Read it here

Scenes from the 2014 Keach Conference

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm

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Pics from the 2014 Keach Conference on the Stylos blog – click here

Christ and His Table-Companions

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 25, 2014 at 9:19 am

The Lord's Supper

I thank God that, coming to this table every Sabbath-day, as some of us do, and have done for many years, we have yet for the most part enjoyed the nearest communion with Christ here that we have ever known, and have a thousand times blessed his name for this ordinance. – C.H. Spurgeon

 Surely one of the paradoxes in Spurgeon’s ministry was that although he was famous as a practitioner of the art of preaching as well as the most well-known homiletical theoretician among British evangelicals, he was a vigorous promoter of celebrating Holy Communion each Lord’s Day. He often expressed his conviction on this subject. For instance, in a sermon on the dimension of table fellowship he tells us that it is his custom to observe the sacrament every Sabbath day as a number of others in his congregation regularly do and have done for many years. In this, he tells us, they enjoyed the nearest communion with Christ they had ever known and again and again blessed his name for this ordinance. (Hughes Oliphant Old. “Holy Communion in the Piety of the Reformed Church”. Ed. Jon D. Payne. Tolle Lege Press, 2013. p.788.)

2014 Keach Conference

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 24, 2014 at 2:57 pm

Keach2014 (1)

What?  The Keach Conference is an annual theology and ministry conference presented by the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA).  It is open to anyone to attend.  There is no cost to attend, but participants are encouraged to pre-register.

When?  Friday evening-Saturday morning, September 26-27, 2014.

Where?  The 2014 Keach Conference will meet at the Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, 7336 Riley Road, Warrenton, VA 20187.

What is the 2014 theme?  We are continuing our ongoing series through the Second London Baptist Confession.  This year we are on Chapter Eight  “Of Christ the Mediator.”

Who are the speakers?  The speakers will be Pastor Jim Savastio of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky and Pastor Earl Blackburn of Heritage Baptist Church of Shereveport, Louisiana.

How do I register? Cost: FREE, Web: Register Now!

What is the schedule?  The schedule will be as follows:

Friday evening, September 26 @ 6:30 pm (Session I):

  • Message: The Glory of the Mediator – Jim Savastio
  • Message: “The Exclusivity of Christ” (LBC 8:2) & John 3:22-36 – Earl Blackburn
  • Fellowship and Literature Tables

Saturday morning, September 27 @ 9:30 am (Session II):

  • Message: “The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life & Ministry of Christ the Mediator” (LBC 8:3)- Earl Blackburn
  • Message:  The Pre-eminence of the Mediator – Jim Savastio
  • Question & Answer Session with the speakers

The Call to the Ministry

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 11, 2014 at 10:37 am

Charles H Spurgeon

The first sign of the heavenly call is an intense, all-absorbing desire for the work. In order to a true call to the ministry there must be an irresistible, overwhelming craving and raging thirst for telling to others what God has done to our own souls; what if I call it a kind of στοργη, such as birds have for rearing their young when the season is come; when the mother-bird would sooner die than leave her nest. It was said of Alleine by one who knew him intimately, that “he was infinitely and insatiably greedy of the conversion of souls.” When he might have had a fellowship at his university, he preferred a chaplaincy, because he was “inspired with an impatience to be occupied in direct ministerial work.” “Do not enter the ministry if you can help it,” was the deeply sage advice of a divine to one who sought his judgment. If any student in this room could be content to be a newspaper editor, or a grocer, or a farmer, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a senator, or a king, in the name of heaven and earth let him go his way; he is not the man in whom dwells the Spirit of God in its fulness, for a man so filled with God would utterly weary of any pursuit but that for which his inmost soul pants. If on the other hand, you can say that for all the wealth of both the Indies you could not and dare not espouse any other calling so as to be put aside from preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, then, depend upon it, if other things be equally satisfactory, you have the signs of this apostleship. We must feel that woe is unto us if we preach not the gospel; the word of God must be unto us as fire in our bones, otherwise, if we undertake the ministry, we shall be unhappy in it, shall be unable to bear the self-denials incident to it, and shall be of little service to those among whom we minister. I speak of self-denials, and well I may; for the true pastor’s work is full of them, and without a love to his calling he will soon succumb, and either leave the drudgery, or move on in discontent, burdened with a monotony as tiresome as that of a blind horse in a mill.

“There is a comfort in the strength of love;
’Twill make a thing endurable which else
Would break the heart.”
 

Girt with that love, you will be undaunted; divested of that more than magic-belt of irresistible vocation, you will pine away in wretchedness.

This desire must be a thoughtful one. It should not be a sudden impulse unattended by anxious consideration. It should be the outgrowth of our heart in its best moments, the object of our reverent aspirations, the subject of our most fervent prayers. It must continue with us when tempting offers of wealth and comfort come into conflict with it, and remain as a calm, clear-headed resolve after everything has been estimated at its right figure, and the cost thoroughly counted. When living as a child at my grandfather’s in the country, I saw a company of huntsmen in their red coats riding through his fields after a fox. I was delighted! My little heart was excited; I was ready to follow the hounds over hedge and ditch. I have always felt a natural taste for that sort of business, and, as a child, when asked what I would be, I usually said I was going to be a huntsman. A fine profession, truly! Many young men have the same idea of being parsons as I had of being a huntsman—a mere childish notion that they would like the coat and the horn-blowing; the honour, the respect, the ease; and they are probably even fools enough to think, the riches of the ministry. (Ignorant beings they must be if they look for wealth in connection with the Baptist ministry.) The fascination of the preacher’s office is very great to weak minds, and hence I earnestly caution all young men not to mistake whim for inspiration, and a childish preference for a call of the Holy Spirit.

Mark well, that the desire I have spoken of must be thoroughly disinterested. If a man can detect, after the most earnest self-examination, any other motive than the glory of God and the good of souls in his seeking the bishopric, he had better turn aside from it at once; for the Lord will abhor the bringing of buyers and sellers into his temple: the introduction of anything mercenary, even in the smallest degree, will be like the fly in the pot of ointment, and will spoil it all.

This desire should be one which continues with us, a passion which bears the test of trial, a longing from which it is quite impossible for us to escape, though we may have tried to do so; a desire, in fact, which grows more intense by the lapse of years, until it becomes a yearning, a pining, a famishing to proclaim the Word. This intense desire is so noble and beautiful a thing, that whenever I perceive it glowing in any young man’s bosom, I am always slow to discourage him, even though I may have my doubts as to his abilities. It may be needful, for reasons to be given you further on, to repress the flame, but it should always be reluctantly and wisely done. I have such a profound respect for this “fire in the bones,” that if I did not feel it myself, I must leave the ministry at once. If you do not feel the consecrated glow, I beseech you return to your homes and serve God in your proper spheres; but if assuredly the coals of juniper blaze within, do not stifle them, unless, indeed, other considerations of great moment should prove to you that the desire is not a fire of heavenly origin.[1]


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, Vol. 1: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle. (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1875), 23-25.

 

Don’t Pray Like This (Matt 6.7-8)

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on September 6, 2014 at 10:21 am

Pray

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (AV).

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him (ESV).

Acceptable prayer only comes from some people praying in a certain way—in short, from Christian believers praying biblically, according to God’s revealed will. Obviously the prayerless are spiritually lost, but it is startling to consider that God rejects many if not most religious people throughout the world, along with their unscriptural prayers.

Jesus saves us from useless praying by turning our hearts toward the true and living God, and then by instructing us in the right way to pray. We must think about God in the right way, and then this will improve how we address Him in prayer.

Everybody Prays, Sort of

I speak generally, admitting exceptions. Praying in one form or another is not exclusive to Christianity. It is also found in Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, for example. Complete prayerlessness is more prevalent in the modern, secular West.

Jesus assumes His disciples pray: “when ye pray.” A “prayerless Christian” is an oxymoron. J. C. Ryle states it bluntly: “To be prayerless is to be without God, without Christ, without grace, without hope, and without heaven. It is to be on the road to hell” (A Call to Prayer).

Jesus also recognizes that the “heathen” or “Gentiles” do something that is at least comparable to prayer. He warns His disciples not to pray like them.

Christians Tend to Pray Like Unbelievers

We should be deeply humbled by the realization that we do not just intuitively know how to pray as we ought (Rom 8.26). That is why the disciples properly pled with Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11.1). Our sinful hearts breed sinful habits of sinful speech in our prayers. The Lord knows that we desperately need spiritual renovation and biblical reformation to pray acceptably. His instruction here implies as much. In essence, He counsels us, “Don’t pray like this,” and then He describes the unacceptable prayers most people offer. Even as true Christians, we are prone to imitate their bad example.

According to Jesus, what about their praying was so objectionable? Two things: the form and the purpose.

The form is condemned using a rare Greek word, translated “vain repetitions” (AV) and “empty phrases” (ESV).

The verb battalogeō (“keep on babbling”) is very rare, apart from writings dependent on the NT (BAGD, p. 137b). It may derive from the Aramaic baṭṭal (“idle,” “useless”) or some other Semitic word; or it may be onomatopoetic: if so, “babble” is a fine English equivalent. Jesus is not condemning prayer any more than he is condemning almsgiving (v. 2) or fasting (v. 16). Nor is he forbidding all long prayers or all repetition. He himself prayed at length (Luke 6:12), repeated himself in prayer (Matt 26:44), and told a parable to show his disciples that “they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). His point is that his disciples should avoid meaningless, repetitive prayers.

Jesus also condemns the purpose behind such heathen praying. “They think they shall be heard for their much speaking” (or, “many words”). Tibetan prayer wheels in the Buddhist tradition are believed to have the same meritorious effect as orally reciting the prayers.[2] Roman Catholic priests assign a specific number of “Hail Mary’s” and “Our Father’s” for penance after auricular confession, which is no better. But even Evangelicals may imagine that prayer’s efficacy increases with length, and that God must be “softened up” to give us what we ask in prayer. The very notion is heathen and clearly denounced by Jesus in this passage.

Remedy: We Must Always Remember that God Is Our Caring Father

Jesus sees our spiritual problem as rooted in a wrong idea about the nature of God, especially as He relates to Christians. The word “for” (v. 8) connects two ideas: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” You don’t need to babble incessantly in prayer. This is insulting to God, because it implies He is so hard-hearted that you must pester Him like a disrespectful five-year-old trying to get attention, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” until Daddy finally erupts, “WHAT!?”

As a Christian, you already have God’s attention and His devoted love. Your Father already knows absolutely everything and He is infinitely wise. He is committed to give you everything you need for your ultimate salvation. He already gave up His only begotten Son on the cross for you. Your prayers do not inform Him of anything, but it pleases Him that you should ask in faith, for in this way you glorify Him as your God and Father in heaven.

Keeping that always in mind will help us pray like children beloved of our heavenly Father—thoughtfully, thankfully, trustingly. Amen.

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com

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[1] Gaebelein, F. E., Carson, D. A., Wessel, W. W., & Liefeld, W. L. (1984). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_wheel

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2014 Keach Conference

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 30, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Keach2014 (1)

.What?  The Keach Conference is an annual theology and ministry conference presented by the Reformed Baptist Fellowship of Virginia (RBF-VA).  It is open to anyone to attend.  There is no cost to attend, but participants are encouraged to pre-register.

When?  Friday evening-Saturday morning, September 26-27, 2014.

Where?  The 2014 Keach Conference will meet at the Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, 7336 Riley Road, Warrenton, VA 20187.

What is the 2014 theme?  We are continuing our ongoing series through the Second London Baptist Confession.  This year we are on Chapter Eight  “Of Christ the Mediator.”

Who are the speakers?  The speakers will be Pastor Jim Savastio of the Reformed Baptist Church of Louisville, Kentucky and Pastor Earl Blackburn of Heritage Baptist Church of Shereveport, Louisiana.

How do I register? Cost: FREE, Web: Register Now!

What is the schedule?  The schedule will be as follows:

Friday evening, September 26 @ 6:30 pm (Session I):

  • Message: The Glory of the Mediator – Jim Savastio
  • Message: “The Exclusivity of Christ” (LBC 8:2) & John 3:22-36 – Earl Blackburn
  • Fellowship and Literature Tables

Saturday morning, September 27 @ 9:30 am (Session II):

  • Message: “The Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life & Ministry of Christ the Mediator” (LBC 8:3)- Earl Blackburn
  • Message:  The Pre-eminence of the Mediator – Jim Savastio
  • Question & Answer Session with the speakers

Dependency on the Holy Spirit

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 29, 2014 at 4:05 pm

puritan preaching

The Puritans were convinced that both preacher and listener are totally dependent on the work of the Spirit to effect regeneration and conversion when, how, and in whom He will.4 The Spirit brings God’s presence into human hearts. He persuades sinners to seek salvation, renews corrupt wills, and makes scriptural truths take root in stony hearts. As Thomas Watson wrote, “Ministers knock at the door of men’s hearts, the Spirit comes with a key and opens the door.”5 And Joseph Alleine said: “Never think you can convert yourself. If ever you would be savingly converted, you must despair of doing it in your own strength. It is a resurrection from the dead (Eph. 2:1), a new creation (Gal. 6:15; Eph. 2:10), a work of absolute omnipotence (Eph. 1:19).”6

Modern evangelists need to be persuaded that the Spirit’s regenerating action, as John Owen wrote, is “infallible, victorious, irresistible, and always efficacious”; it “removeth all obstacles, overcomes all oppositions, and infallibly produces the effect intended.”7 All modes of action which imply another doctrine are unbiblical. As Packer writes: “All devices for exerting psychological pressure in order to precipitate ‘decisions’ must be eschewed, as being in truth presumptuous attempts to intrude into the province of the Holy Ghost.” Such pressures may even be harmful, he goes on to say, for while they “may produce the outward form of ‘decision,’ they cannot bring about regeneration and a change of heart, and when the ‘decisions’ wear off those who registered them will be found ‘gospel-hardened’ and antagonistic.” Packer concludes in a Puritan vein: “Evangelism must rather be conceived as a long-term enterprise of patient teaching and instruction, in which God’s servants seek simply to be faithful in delivering the gospel message and applying it to human lives, and leave it to God’s Spirit to draw men to faith through this message in his own way and at his own speed.”8[1]

 

4 Packer, A Quest for Godliness, pp. 296–99.

5 A Body of Divinity, p. 154.

6 An Alarm to the Unconverted, pp. 26–27.

7 Works, 3:317ff.

8 A Quest for Godliness, pp. 163–64.

[1] Beeke, Joel R. Puritan Evangelism: A Biblical Approach. 2nd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2007. Print.

Cheering on the Christian Runner (Heb 12.1-3)

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 27, 2014 at 6:00 am

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A famous college football coach, Lou Holtz, once said, “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” He was able to lead many teams to victory.

Absolutely nothing is more worthwhile than the Christian life. When we come to die, this is all that matters: “Have we come to Christ and lived for Him to the end?” Our eternal happiness depends on this.

And living for Christ has its own adversities. Lou Holtz and his men faced other football teams. A Christian faces the world, the flesh, and the devil. They openly oppose us one minute and try to seduce us the next, and we are called to resist them constantly. It is easy to become discouraged and to wonder if we can finish as Christians.

Scripture helps us in a thousand ways. For example,

1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds (Heb 12.1-3).

The analogy: The Christian life is like a marathon race

The Christian life has a clear sports analogy; it is like a marathon race. Several things are similar: it is voluntary, it is hard, and it has an end with a reward. Like runners, we feel tempted to quit along the way. That temptation is here described as being “wearied and faint in your minds” (v. 3). We must not “get tired and stop trying” (NCV). We need to be cheered on in the race.

The Boston Marathon has a famously hard stretch known as “Heartbreak Hill” at mile 20 of 26. Each year they set up a “cheer zone” at the top of the hill so friends and family can inspire their favorite runner to finish the race. These Bible verses are a cheer for the Christian runner.

The cheer: “Let us run the race with endurance” and finish as champions

The main idea is an exhortation: “Let us run with patience [endurance, steadfastness] the race that is set before us.” This is the one thing necessary. You must endure to finish the race. Every day, you have to put one foot in front of the other, spiritually speaking. To motivate us, this passage cheers us on with several things I would bring to your attention.

I. Consider those who have gone before

Hebrews 11 is a roster of champions that have finished the race before us. Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and too many others to mention, are all brought before us for the inspiration of their noble examples. Knowing the stories of these champions will invigorate us.

Then Hebrews 12 begins, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses” (ESV). Many have thought this means they are witnesses of us, as if they were watching us from elevated stands, but I don’t think that is the idea. Another translation puts it this way, “Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith” (NLT). Their examples witness or testify to something, the certainty of spiritual victory by faith. The phrase “by faith” or “through faith” appears 21 times in Hebrews 11. Millions of people have run this race and finished well. They did it by faith. So can you. Only believe God and His Word, and keep running!

II. Consider the encouragement you have now

The rest of verse 1 sounds like a spiritual coach telling us how to succeed, and just knowing how is very important.

1)         “Let us lay aside every weight.” The ancient competitive runner tried to become as light as possible. He adopted a strict regimen of diet and exercise to get slim and strong. On race day, the ancient Greek athlete stripped off his clothes and ran naked. A Christian needs to focus on spiritual things, leaving behind everything that makes holiness harder to practice. That includes some things that are innocent just because they are a distraction from what is more important.

2)         “Let us lay aside . . . the sin which doth so easily beset us,” or, “the sin which clings so closely” (ESV). You and I both have our “besetting sins,” the last ones to go. Since they drag us down spiritually, they should have our special attention for repentance. We can run the race best when we “always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man” (Acts 24.16), and so can say, like Paul, “I am not aware of anything against myself” (1 Cor 4.4).

3)         “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Living as a Christian is more than just not sinning. It is a positive, sustained effort to follow Jesus, in worship and in service to others every day, driven by His love in my heart. Nike has a slogan, “Just do it!” This exhortation is like that.

III. Consider Jesus at the finish line waiting for you

The last and best part of the cheer is in verses 2-3a (q.v.). Jesus ran this race of faith long ago and He finished well. His trials were worse than ours, since He suffered the humiliation and pain of the cross. He looked forward to the joy that would be His at the end. Now we Christians can also endure if we keep looking to Him and considering Him. Only a steady, believing gaze on Him will keep us pounding the pavement on Heartbreak Hill.

It is as if Jesus Christ is now standing at the finish line cheering us on. He cheers us by the grace He gave to countless others now in glory. He cheers us by the helpful advice found everywhere in Scripture. He cheers us by being there for us when we come to the end, exhausted from this spiritual marathon, and we fall into His arms, and He is so pleased, with so much love for His champions! Jesus is not only the greatest example to us, but He Himself is the reward for finishing the race! When a Christian dies, he or she is immediately with the Lord in blissful rest from all the hardship of this life’s marathon. So run with endurance until He embraces you. Amen. Ω

D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
Exeter, New Hampshire USA
http://cbcexeter.sermonaudio.com
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