When you feel overwhelmed by your sin and failures, remember the finished work of Christ on your behalf and ascribe blessing and glory to God for the love and forgiveness we enjoy at the hand of our loving, kind, compassionate, and merciful Father.
Although we may not be acutely aware of every sin, our conscience testifies to our sense of weakness and failure. In particular, our memories remind us of times in our lives when we may have sinned miserably—angry tempers, selfishness, divorce, harshness, neglect of children or parents, and pride are just a few transgressions we may have committed.
We recognize how the trials we have brought upon ourselves have originated in our own sin. Yet the Lord uses them to train us, to discipline us. The author of Hebrews declares:
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? (Heb. 12:5-7)
1. The Discipline of a Loving Father
It is good to self-examine and learn from our failures. Yet, perhaps more important than lessons learned is the question: how is God glorified in this? Is it possible that even in our self-inflicted trials—when we are acutely aware of our fallen, sinful nature—the glory of God is manifested by his work in and for us? Absolutely.
2. We Are Weak and Dusty Creatures
Consider our weakness as dusty creatures made from earthy clay.
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By R. Scott Clark — 10 months ago
Written by R. Scott Clark |
Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Has not the PCA already taken a clear and unequivocal position on the natures and person of Christ and on images of God? That this a live issue both theologically and practically tells us something about the role of the Standards in the life of the church. It seems to me that the future of the PCA hangs on this question as much as any other.
When the Westminster Assembly (1643–52), which was composed of Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians, deliberated on the moral law of God, they agreed on with the church of all ages and times on the abiding validity of God’s moral law. In their Confession (19.5) they wrote: “The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.” The Larger Catechism (1647), which the assembly debated between April and October, 1647, explained the consensus of the ancient (pre-eighth century) church and of all the Reformed churches on the “good and necessary consequence” (WCF 1.6) of the second commandment:
You shall not make any graven images or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them: for I Yahweh your God am a jealous God, visiting the sin of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of those that hate me; and showing mercy to thousandth generation of those who love me, and keep my commandments (Exod 20:4–6).
The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.
In the modern period, the divines have taken a good deal of abuse for their opposition to mental images of Christ, but about the Assembly’s opposition to representations of God the Son incarnate there can be no doubt.
Good Faith Subscription
In the history of American Presbyterianism since the early eighteenth century the trend has been toward subscribing the Standards (i.e., the Westminster Confession and catechisms) not because (quia) they are biblical but insofar as (quatenus) a candidate or minister believes them to be biblical. The Book of Church Order (BCO) of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) permits exceptions to the Standards
only if in the court’s judgment the candidate’s declared difference is not out of accord with any fundamental of our system of doctrine because the difference is neither hostile to the system nor strikes at the vitals of religion (BCO 21-4 (f).
It is this writer’s understanding that it is the practice of some PCA presbyteries, under their “good faith” (BCO 21-4(g)) approach to confessional subscription, to allow candidates for ministry to take exception to the Standards on the second commandment and specifically images of Christ. The material issues have been discussed here and elsewhere at length. On this see the resources below. It would, however, surprise our Reformed fathers (and our fathers in the ancient church) to no end to discover that Christians had decided in that images of God the Son incarnate are morally adiaphora. Nevertheless, under the PCAs BCO, it is apparently possible.
It is one thing to dissent from the Standards of the church. It is quite another to flaunt that exception to the Standards publicly and thereby to risk offending the consciences of those who hold the ancient Christian view and who agree without exception to the understanding of God’s Word as confessed by all the Reformed churches in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Whether ministers (in the language of the PCA, Teaching Elders) may teach things that are contrary to the confession of the church is a matter of debate in the PCA. How this could be a debate is not exactly clear. When the church has confessed her understanding of God’s Word on a particular point, that is the church’s understanding. The church does not confess an interpretation of Scripture or conviction about every issue. Some things truly are morally indifferent (adiaphora). When the church has prayed, studied an issue, deliberated, debated, and finally confessed a view there should be little question oner what the church intends to impose upon her members.
By Dr. Steve Viars — 1 year ago
Written by Dr. Steve Viars |
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Is it even possible to make progress toward obeying Paul’s command to avoid coarse jesting? Yes, but only if supernatural means are applied. Jesus shed His blood on the cross for sins such as these.
One of the more unfortunate stories to emerge from our culture last week was the resignation of Jon Gruden, coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after the media released details of private e-mails between Gruden and league associates that included slurs against black, female, and gay players, referees, owners, and league officials. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, a frequent recipient of Gruden’s ire, instructed his staff to review 650,000 e-mails as part of a workplace misconduct investigation. After Gruden’s comments came to light, Goodell sent samples to the Raiders just prior to Gruden’s resignation.
Gruden’s fall was spectacular, given his Super Bowl victory with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002, a successful career as an analyst with ESPN, and his 10-year, $100 million contract with the Raiders. He said in his resignation statement that he “never meant to hurt anyone.”
A Clear Command
Followers of Christ can learn important lessons from this stunning series of events. Paul told the Ephesians; “there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Ephesians 5:4). Each of us would be wise to ask if we speak in certain ways to select people that denigrates others in an attempt to be humorous or clever. Coarse jesting has no place among the children of God.
Some might argue that these were private e-mails and that Goodell was simply being vindictive to release them. Christians should remember that the terms “private” and “electronic” do not coexist. Our pastoral staff often applies the test of, “what would that sound like if it was read in open court?” Since our communications have been subpoenaed for a number of legal cases over the years, we try to never write anything to each other that does not meet that test. Even though we enjoy one another and often joke around, even in our private exchanges we seek to avoid humor that we would not also use publicly.
By Simonetta Carr — 1 year ago
Selina died in 1791 from respiratory complications and was buried next to her husband. She had no money to leave behind (in fact, she was in debt), having spent everything she owned for the furthering of the gospel. Some of her chapels continued into the twenty-first century. Selina was and is still a controversial figure. She has been accused of being domineering, sometimes irascible, and taking too much responsibility on herself. She remains a towering figure in eighteenth-century Christianity, not only in England, but in many countries where she sent missionaries or supported preachers.
“And what if you save (under God) but one soul?”
This question, addressed to a still hesitant John Wesley, is a good summary of the life goal and drive of Selina Hastings, countess of Huntingdon.
Selina’s Early Life
Born in 1707 to an upper-class family in Northamptonshire, England, Selina faced challenges from an early age. She was only six when her parents separated over issues of money and alleged infidelity. She and her older sister Elizabeth stayed with their father, rejecting her mother’s claims over the family’s estate. Only after her mother’s death, Selina extended her assistance to her younger sister Mary, who had lived with their mother.
Selina’s marriage, at 21 years of age, to Theophilus Hastings, ninth earl of Huntingdon, brought her much happiness. Her letters reveal her love for her husband and their seven children, all born within the first ten years of marriage. But this early joy was marred by persistent health problems that forced Selina to spend much time at the thermal springs of Bath. She profoundly disliked the decadence of the place and missed her family, yearning to return home.
This dissatisfaction was only one aspect of her overall discontent. Amid problems of various kind, she was mostly dissatisfied with herself, a feeling that didn’t find relief in the Christianity she tried to live out in church attendance and charitable acts. What she lacked was a clear understanding of the gospel of grace.
From an early age, when the sight of a child in an open casket impressed on her the nearness of death, Selina had tried to live a godly life, but had felt increasingly inadequate. It was only in 1739 that her sister-in-law Margaret explained how she had finally found peace and assurance by simply believing that Christ had won the battle she had tried so hard to fight. Margaret directed Selina to some young pastors who were known by the disparaging name of Methodists. Selina thrived under their preaching.
Developments in Selina’s Theology
The countess’s sudden turn to Methodism was seen with disapproval by many of her relatives, who considered these preachers fanatic. Seven years later, her daughter Elizabeth, then 15, complained that her mother had become “righteous overmuch.”
But Selina persisted. John and Charles Wesley became some of her closest friends and she supported their ministry. It was around this time that she encouraged John Wesley to preach to the miners near her home. To his objection, “Have they no churches and ministers already?” she replied, “They have churches, but they never go to them! And ministers, but they seldom or never hear them! Perhaps they might hear you.”
John followed her advice in 1742, beginning a ministry that revolutionized his views and methods of preaching.
Eventually, Selina turned away from some of John Wesley’s teachings, particularly his belief that Christians can reach and must strive for perfection in this life. This doctrine, she felt, was driving her away from the assurance she had found in the simple message of salvation by faith alone. Because of this, she developed closer ties George Whitefield, who had also diverged from John Wesley on other issues, such as predestination. She appointed Whitefield as her chaplain in 1748.
This change in her theology followed a difficult time of her life, when two of her children died of smallpox and, three years later, her husband died of a stroke. More than ever, she needed to hear the good news of the gospel, free from any condition.
But her trials didn’t stop. In 1758, her son Henry died of a mysterious illness which had deprived him of his sight. In 1763, her daughter Selina died of a violent fever. Throughout this trying time, she found much comfort in the words of preachers who had become her close friends, such as Howell Harris, John Berridge, John Fletcher, and William Romaine.