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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

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.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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An Exposition of Question 19 of An Orthodox Catechism, by Hercules Collins

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 26, 2014 at 11:20 am

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Q. 19. From what source do you know this [i.e., who the mediator is]?

A. Out of the gospel which God first made known in paradise (a), and afterwards did spread it abroad by the patriarchs and prophets (b), shadowed it by sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (c), and lastly accomplished it by His only begotten Son, Christ our Lord (d).

(a) Gen. 3:15.

(b) Gen. 22:18; 49:10-11; Acts 3:22; 10:43; Rom. 1:2; Heb. 1:1.

(c) John 5:46; Heb. 10:7ff.

(d) Rom. 10:4; Gal. 3:24; 4:4; Heb. 13:8.

 This is a marvelous statement. Where do we learn about the Mediator? “Out of the gospel,” the Catechism asserts. The gospel is the good news of a Mediator, ordained by God, who takes care of our sin problem, which includes our guilt and lack of righteousness unto eternal life.

Here the Catechism asserts that the gospel was revealed very soon after Adam and Eve fell into sin. It asserts that it was spread subsequently by the patriarchs and prophets. It was shadowed or typified by the sacrificial system and other ceremonies in the Old Testament. And finally, it was accomplished by our Lord. Our Confession says something similar to this. In 7.3, we read, “This covenant is revealed in the gospel; first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation by the seed of the woman, and afterwards by farther steps, until the full discovery thereof was completed in the New Testament.”

Both the Catechism and our Confession cite Genesis 3:15, which says, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel” (NASB). This is actually given in the form of a curse on the serpent, the pawn of the devil. The promise is that one will come from a woman who will deal a death-blow to the devil and all the effects of the devil on the earth. In 1 John 3:8, we read, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (NASB). The promise of a skull-crushing seed of a woman is very old and it is the first revelation of good news for sinners. It is fulfilled in the incarnation, life, ministry, sufferings, death, and victorious resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Both the Catechism and our Confession assert that the gospel was in the Old Testament. Listen to the words of Paul in Romans 1:1-3a, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which [gospel] He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning His Son…” (NASB). The gospel was first revealed as a promise in the Old Testament.

Both the Catechism and our Confession assert that the gospel was accomplished by our Lord Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. When we read the New Testament, it is clear that it views the coming, ministry, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord as the fulfillment of promises given long before the New Testament was written. For example, listen to Paul before King Agrippa, “22 So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, stating nothing but what the Prophets and Moses said was going to take place; 23 that the Christ was to suffer, and that by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles” (Acts 26:22-23 NASB).

We learn about the Mediator in the gospel, which was first promised in the Old Testament then accomplished by our Lord as recorded for us in the New Testament.

Richard Barcellos
Grace Reformed Baptist Church
Palmdale, CA
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Five Books on Credobaptism versus Paedobaptism

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 19, 2014 at 1:25 pm

A couple of young people who occasionally drive from Williamsburg to attend our church, recently asked me to recommend some books on a confessional perspective on believer’s baptism by immersion, as they are studying the issue of credobaptism versus paedobaptism.  Here are five suggestions (listed in chronological order by the year published) with a few annotations:

dagg.church order

  1. John L. Dagg, Manual of Church Order (The Southern Baptist Publication Society, 1858; Gano Books, 1990).

This is the companion volume to Dagg’s Manual of Theology(1857).  It provides a classic defense of believers’ baptism by immersion (pp. 13-73).  Special focus is given to the linguistic argument regarding the verb baptizo with references to its uses in ancient Greek.

String Pearls

  1. Fred Malone, A String of Pearls Unstrung (Founders Press, 1998).

This booklet, originally written in 1977, describes the author’s transition from being a Presbyterian to being a Baptist.  It can be read online here.  For a fuller treatment on the subject of baptism you can also read his book, The Baptism of Disciples Alone:  A covenantal argument for credobaptism versus paedobaptism (Founders Press, 2003).

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  1. Samuel E. Waldron, Biblical Baptism:  A Reformed Defense of Believers’ Baptism (Truth for Eternity Ministries, 1998).

This 80 page booklet from a leading contemporary Reformed Baptist systematic theologian provides a careful exegetical, theological, and practical discussion of baptism.

brunson

  1. Hal Brunson, The Rickety Bridge and the Broken Mirror:  Two Parables of Paedobaptism and One Parable of the Death of Christ (iUniverse, 2007).

This self-published book from a former Southern Baptist who considered becoming a Presbyterian but who eventually became a confessional Baptist offers a creative take on the topic by imagining a discussion between the Presbyterian B. B. Warfield, the dispensationalist J. N. Darby, and the confessional Baptist C. H. Spurgeon.

crampton

  1. W. Gary Crampton, From Paedobaptism to Credobaptism:  A Critique of the Westminster Standards on the Subjects of Baptism (Reformed Baptist Academic Press, 2010).

A pastor and scholar describes his transition from the Presbyterian to the confessional Baptist position through a study of the Westminster Standards.  For my written review of this book look here (for the same review in audio look here).

 

Jeffrey T. Riddle, Pastor
Christ Reformed Baptist Church
Charlottesville, Virginia
www.jeffriddle.net
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An Open Letter to the Christian Magistrates in Virginia

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 19, 2014 at 1:07 pm

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To my Christian brethren who occupy positions of authority as magistrates in the Commonwealth of Virginia:

Grace to you and peace in the name of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I praise God that He has providentially placed you in these positions of authority.  You exist as salt and light in an environment which often resembles Babylon.  Like Daniel, you are now placed in the difficult position of remaining faithful to God while at the same time fulfilling your duties as civil magistrates.  For many of you, your duties include the issuance of marriage licenses.  The Federal courts have decreed that Virginia must issue such licenses to homosexual couples, directly nullifying our State constitution.  By extension, their decree is such that Virginia and all of her political subdivisions must celebrate that which God has called an abomination.

As a brother in Christ and fellow Virginian, I write to you in order to encourage and exhort you.  Your consciences are about to be tested.  You will be required to issue marriage licenses to those who will use them to mock God’s law and His created order (Rom 1:18-27).  For the first time in the history of Virginia, our Commonwealth will officially endorse sexual sin and require everyone to recognize it as valid.  Let these words sink in.  This is the new reality.  There is no neutral ground in this situation.  Those who rule over us now demand the outright denial of Christ’s lordship over the area of marriage.  What shall the righteous do?

Any Christian who is in a position to issue marriage licenses may take only one of two options.  First, a Christian magistrate (for example, a clerk of the court) may choose to resign his office for the sake of conscience.  By doing so, he will not give aid or assistance to the act of desecrating the institution of marriage.  He may humbly remove himself from the situation while losing his job in the process.

Second, a Christian magistrate has the option of openly resisting this wicked decree.  He may use his position of authority to affirm that marriage is only as God has revealed it to be (Matt. 19:4-6).  What does this look like in practice?  Brethren, let me be abundantly clear in what I mean by this.  If a Christian chooses to stay in that position of magisterial authority, then it is his clear and unambiguous duty to deny marriage licenses to any homosexual couple seeking them.  Admittedly, this second option requires much more courage and will result in huge targets painted on the backs of those who pursue it.  By going this route, you will endure attacks of various sorts and you will undoubtedly lose your job in the process.

It is here that your faith will be tested.  It is at this moment that the eyes of the world will see whether Christ is truly Lord over every aspect of your lives.  I do not write these things in a cavalier manner, for I know that this will cost you your jobs and livelihoods.  Yet there are many costs in the Christian life.  Indeed, having Jesus as Lord means that we may suffer great loss–including the loss of our very lives!  All that we have in this life belongs to God and we have it by His grace.  We are obligated to give up what He would have us give up.  We can trust that He will take care of us in our time of need (Matt 6:25-34).  Do you trust Him?

The option you do not have is to capitulate to the demands of this decree.  God’s law trumps the edicts of man every time.  There is no middle ground upon which to rest.  As Christians, our consciences are captive to the Word of God.  If we side with the world against the clear teaching of Scripture, then we have turned our backs on the One who bought us with His own blood.  We’re either on the side of the world or we’re on the side of our Lord.  As James 4:4 communicates clearly, friendship with the world means enmity with God.  As Christians, we are not permitted to bow down to idols or burn incense to Caesar.  Neither are we permitted to endorse sexual immorality.

In the Book of Exodus, the Hebrew midwives were faithful to the Lord by disobeying the evil decree of Pharaoh (Ex. 1:17).  When Peter and the other apostles were ordered to stop preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem, they responded by saying that they will obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  There are numerous other instances in Scripture as well as church history in which the people of God are forced to defy the civil state.  Your situation is no exception.  We are never to obey government when they require us to disobey God.

When Paul gives his teaching on civil government in Romans 13:1-7, he’s assuming that the authorities are operating in accordance with God’s ethical standards.  After all, the magistrates are to be a check against those who do evil (vv. 3-4).  They are to restrain wickedness, not promote it.  The civil state did not create the institution of marriage, but rather it is given by God as part of His common grace.  Only the Creator of the universe defines marriage.  Therefore, let us not give unto Caesar that which rightly belongs to God alone.

Finally, brethren, let me exhort you to be strong and of good courage.  Be faithful to God above all else.  Humble yourselves before Him in prayer and ask Him to show you the way in which you should go.  Spend time reading His word.  Know that there are many of us praying for you.  There will come a day when you will be held to account for how you have used your position of civil authority.  As Christian magistrates in the Commonwealth, do all things to the glory of God.  Whatever comes to pass, may the Holy Spirit equip you and sanctify you in the truth.

Your brother in Christ,
Joshua A. Dermer
Reformed Virginian

The Reformed Baptist Trumpet. April-June 2014 RBT.Vol 5. No.2

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 15, 2014 at 1:22 pm

Trumpet-Book-of-Life.

The Reformed Baptist Trumpet. April-June 2014 Vol 5.No 2 is available online – Click here

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Calvin’s Passion for Church Unity

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 13, 2014 at 12:32 pm

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Calvin labored long and hard to promote church unity. His goal was to bring together all true believers into one communion. He once wrote a letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer to propose an assembly of the most eminent men of learning from all the various churches that had embraced the pure doctrine of the gospel, in order that they might make careful study of the Word of God and then draw up a true and distinct confession to which all might subscribe.

Unity and unanimity, he said, are necessary if the church wants to persist in this world. Yet spiritual unity does not require uniformity. He understood that the unity Christ wants His people to pursue is first of all a unity in the truth (John 17). Such unity, Calvin believed, was attainable even if some doctrinal differences continued to exist. As he explained:

For not all articles of true doctrine are of the same sort. Some are so necessary to know that they should be certain and unquestioned by all men as the proper principles of religion. Such are: God is one; Christ is God and the Son of God; our salvation rests in God’s mercy, and the like. Among the churches there are other articles of doctrine disputed which still do not break the unity of the faith.… First and foremost, we should agree on all points. But since all men are somewhat beclouded with ignorance, either we must leave no church remaining, or we must condone delusion in those matters which can go unknown without harm to the sum of religion and without loss of salvation.22[1]

 

22 Institutes 4.1.12.

[1] Pronk, Cornelis. “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Church.” Calvin for Today. Ed. Joel R. Beeke. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009. 148–149.

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The Testimony of a Raggedy Ann

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on August 12, 2014 at 9:27 am

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A Parable about Biblical Self-image

Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord (1 Sam 2.12).

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10-12).

From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight (Psa 72.14).

But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matt 10.30-31).

I came into this world as a gift from a loving mother to her infant daughter. My maker remembered that she used to have a Raggedy Ann doll when she was a little girl, and she loved it so well. Now that a precious little girl had been born to her, it only seemed right that she should have one too.

Now my maker’s sewing skills left a little bit to be desired, but she tried the best she could to take some scrap material from around the house and make me like the cherished Raggedy Ann of her childhood memories. In a few weeks, I was done, and I was gently placed in the crib beside her little baby girl.

Daughter did not pay much attention to me in those early days, but within a few months she was clutching me close during her naps. Not long after she learned to crawl, she was dragging me all over the house! It was a little tiring, but I sure liked the attention. Eventually Daughter became a toddler and graduated from a crib to her own little regular bed. Mother came every night to tuck her in and kiss her goodnight, and Daughter insisted that Mother kiss me too, every single time.

On Daughter’s sixth birthday, a rich aunt gave her an expensive porcelain doll, destined to become a collector’s item. At first I was a little jealous, because this doll was so much prettier than me, but I noticed that in no time, she was sitting all by herself on a shelf, while I continued to be loved and carried by Daughter.

You know, all this use can take its toll on a doll like me. Daughter liked to carry me around constantly by my right arm, and one day, it finally pulled off. She cried as if it were the end of the world, but Mother got out her needle and thread and sewed it right back on, as good as new. Another time something kind of bad happened. I know she didn’t mean to do it, but once Daughter left me out in the yard before a thunderstorm. Before she realized what had happened, it began to pour, and did I get soaked! Mother found me there and put me through the washer and dryer. That was an experience I’ll never forget, but when it was all over, though I was showing my age, I was clean and dry again. Once, the family cat got me and scratched off one of my eyes, but in no time Mother sewed another one right back on.

When Daughter was fourteen, Mother became very ill. She was so sick she had to stay in the hospital for a long time. Whenever Daughter came to visit her, she brought me along. Mother always kissed Daughter on the forehead before we left, and according to our long-established custom, I got the last kiss.

Just after we returned home from one visit, Daughter got the news that Mother had gone to heaven. Daughter clutched me to her chest and cried for the longest time. I became damp with her tears. Even though she was such a grown-up teenager, she still took me to bed with her, often crying herself to sleep. I was looking pretty shabby by then, but I knew Daughter loved me more than ever before.

Once as a young married lady, Daughter had a yard sale. She found that pretty porcelain doll in an old chest up in the attic, and she put it out with the other things. A nice lady came and bought it for twenty-five dollars. Then she looked up and saw me sitting in an upstairs bedroom window. “Oh, an old Raggedy Ann!” she exclaimed. “How much do you want for that one?” Daughter just smiled and said, “That one’s not for sale, ma’am. Raggedy Ann and I go back a very long time together, and though she doesn’t look like much, to me she’s priceless.” The window was open a little bit and so I heard this conversation. You can’t imagine how good it made me feel!

I realize that in myself I am really quite worthless, but I also know that I am Daughter’s most prized possession.

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