The Christian life is not about gaining more blessing, but entering more deeply into the reality of the blessing we already have, and living in the light of it. Paul’s response is thanksgiving and prayer. Thanksgiving for what God has done for us and prayer that we may have every greater knowledge of God.
This morning I was reading Ephesians 1 in my personal devotions. This is one of the most glorious passages in the Bible and my personal favourite. It is what I come back to time and again when I want assurance and encouragement.
It reminds us of the objective fact that we are blessed in Christ. Not just slightly blessed but fully blessed. We may not feel this, but the reason is because we tend to focus on present material comfort, or tangible ministry successes, as the sign of God’s blessing, whereas Ephesians reminds us our blessings are spiritual and heavenly. They are present but look ahead to our eschatological future.
Broadly there are 4 key blessings – each with an outcome.
We have been chosen from eternity. This results in our adoption as God’s sons. A secure status in him.
We have been redeemed. This results in being set free from sin – both forgiveness and release from its power.
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By Ruling Elder Kevin Miller TE George Sayour — 6 months ago
Overture 29: Passed Presbyteries 79-1. An Officer’s view of Indwelling Sin, Actual Sin, and Sanctification matter. This is the language that was approved to BCO 16.4: “Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America must be above reproach in their walk and Christlike in their character. While office bearers will see spiritual perfection only in glory, they will continue in this life to confess and to mortify remaining sins in light of God’s work of progressive sanctification. Therefore, to be qualified for office, they must affirm the sinfulness of fallen desires, the reality and hope of progressive sanctification, and be committed to the pursuit of Spirit-empowered victory over their sinful temptations, inclinations, and actions.”
The Presbyterian Church in America just completed its Jubilee Assembly in Memphis, TN! This 50th General Assembly on this 50th Anniversary year was a God-Glorifying, Christ-Exalting, Body-Edifying Time to say the least. It was a week full of the joy of the Lord in our worship and work. The week flew by as we reconnected with old friends and made new ones. We’d say that this GA was a statement on Transparency and Accountability as many of these items will show.
Here are the Top 20 Key Actions or Impressions of the 50th PCA GA (loosely in the order they came to the Assembly). Go here to read the same list again with all the details and links that are needed to understand and research the items.
1) TE Fred Greco was Nominated Moderator
Implication: Fred lived up to his reputation. He ran the Assembly with precision, wit, humor, and gravitas. The assembly ended earlier on Thursday than others in recent history. A motion was made to make Fred the Permanent
2) Abuse Victim Protection Provisions (last year’s Overture)
Passed Presbyteries: 77-3, Passed GA near unanimously
Implication: Victims of Abuse don’t have to testify in the presence of their abuser.
3) Qualifications for Church Office (last year’s Overture)
Passed Presbyteries 79-1, Passed GA near unanimously
Implication: An Officer’s view of Indwelling Sin, Actual Sin, and Sanctification matter
4) Ordination Requirements and Procedures (last year’s Overture)
Passed Presbyteries 77-3, Passed GA near unanimously
Implication: Candidates view of Indwelling Sin, Actual Sin, and Sanctification matter
5) Overture 7 – Improved Reporting Requirements for Agencies and Committees
Passed 1271-88, Goes into effect immediately
Effects MNA, MTW, RUF, Covenant College, Covenant Seminary, etc.
Implication: There will be more transparency and accountability for the PCA’s Agencies and Committees. This helps ensure they are operating according to the desires of the Assembly.
6) Metro NY Presbytery Referred to the SJC for allowing a Woman to Preach
This came out of the RPR Report
Implication: Our System Works. Women Preachers are not allowed at Worship Services.
7) NW Georgia Presbytery Referred to the SJC for Congregational Meeting Delinquencies
This came out of the RPR Report
Implication: Our System Works. Following the process of Congregational meetings matters.
8) RUF Affiliation Agreement was flagged because it was not approved by the Assembly
Reformed University Fellowship will need to rework the Contract for approval next year.
Implication: Agencies and Permanent Committees need GA Approval on Major Policy changes.
9) Nominating Committee Recommendations – All Were Approved by the Assembly
Great Men were added to the SJC, MNA, MTW, RUF, Covenant College and Covenant Seminary, and other Agency Boards and Permanent Committees.
Implication: PCA Agencies and Permanent Committees will have good guidance and oversight.
10) Overture 23 – Requiring Officers Conformity to Biblical Standards of Sexuality
Passed (1673-223). This must now pass 2/3 of the Presbyteries this year.
Implication: Church officers must communicate their sin struggle according to the Biblical standard for chastity and sexual purity.
11) Overture 26 – Titles for Officers must Not be Used for Unordained People
Passed (1427-481). This must now pass 2/3 of the Presbyteries this year.
Implication: This clarifies how terms for our church offices are used and restricts them to only those who have been ordained according to Scripture as described in our Standards.
12) Overture 12 – Condemning Practice of Surgical & Medical Gender Reassignment Statement
Passed (1089-793). This takes effect immediately. Will be mailed to Federal & State Governments.
Implication: This will put the PCA on public record as taking a stance against transgender reassignment surgeries. Having a denominational stance on this issue can potentially benefit Christians in the public sphere when they may be required to take a stance against this evil.
13) Overture 28 – Reaffirm the “Message to All Churches” from 1973
Passed (1158-143), takes effect immediately
Implication: This statemen reaffirms the PCA’s 1973 so-called Declaration of Independence, showing our resolve to be faithful to our foundational principle and call our mother denomination, the PC(USA), to repentance.
14) Overture 14 –Attempt that will Hinder PCA Members who are Lawyers from Aiding in PCA Courts
Voted down by the Assembly (unanimous as part of larger vote)
Implication: This preserves that professional lawyers can participate in the church courts without undue restrictions. The language of the proposal would have severely restricted the ability of those members and elders in the legal profession from aiding members in Church Discipline cases. Language in BCO already prohibits paid counsel.
15) Overture 13 – Attempt to Allow atheists to testify in the Church courts
Voted down by the Assembly (1091-751)
Implication: This maintains the current BCO language which requires a belief in “the existence God or a future state of rewards and punishments” in order to testify in the Church courts
16) Overture 15 – Attempt to Codify that Women Cannot Preach to Assembled Christians in the PCA
Voted by the Assembly to refer back to the Overture’s authors (1725-139)
Implication: The decision to “refer back’ indicates the Assembly’s desire to address the subject of women preaching, but they would like the authors to refine and clarify the language before resubmitting the overture.
17) Wonderful Worship Services, Sermons, and Exhortations for our 50th Year
Ligon Duncan’s Call to “Stand Strong in the Lord or You will Fear Man” During His Sermon
O. Palmer Robertson’s Call to Be Ministers who Stand on and Preach the Word of God from the Bible and to Present Christ’s Bride Sanctified before Christ.
18) The Gospel Reformation Network Luncheon & its Honoring of the Late Dr. Harry Reeder
Over 700 people were present. This represents approx. 1/3 of the whole Assembly.
Shows a Commitment to the GRN Vision “To Cultivate Healthy Reformed Churches in the Presbyterian Church in America.”
19) The Administrative Committee and Host Committee Did a Wonderful Job!
Thank you to all involved in making PCA GA 50 a Christ-honoring success in Memphis, TN!
20) All indications lead us to believe that the PCA is heading in the right direction.
The last 3 General Assemblies have shown that Transparency, Accountability, and Faithfulness are increasing.
Our Membership, Pastors, RUF Chapters, Church Plants, and Missionaries are all growing in #.
May we remain Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, and Obedient to the Great Commission.
GO HERE TO READ THE SUPPORTING DETAILS ON EACH OF THE ABOVE # ITEMS
By Joel Ellis — 2 years ago
We live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we live in obedience to God’s holy law, and we do whatever we do to his honor and glory by giving thanks for all things in Christ’s Name. We have not been called to sadness, but to gladness. We have not been called to dourness but delight. We have not been called to fearfulness or fretting, but to faith and feasting, now and forevermore.
After discussing lawsuits (vv.1-8) and issues of licentiousness (9-11), Paul now turns to matters of Christian liberty (12-14) in transitioning to a discussion of sexual immorality (15-20). There are a number of principles to unpack in the second half of this chapter: Christian liberty and its abuse, how eschatology informs our daily life and behavior, the way in which sexuality is to be understood and expressed in relation to union with Christ, and how Christ’s Lordship directs our view of the body and its use in the present world. Each of these topics are rich opportunities for contemplation. The second half of chapter six is densely theological and abundantly practical.
Paul uses almost exactly the same expression twice in this letter: All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any (cf. 10:23). Many modern commentators assume Paul is quoting a saying common among the Corinthians and responding to it. Perhaps it was from Greek philosophy. Perhaps it was a rationalization offered by the more licentious Christians in the church. Some Bible versions will even bracket the first line in each phrase with quotation marks to indicate that Paul is quoting (cf. ESV). But there are no quotation marks in the actual text of 1 Corinthians. This is simply a choice by the editors; it is an interpretation, perhaps a valid one, but certainly not a feature that should be regarded as very important in deciding how the passage is to be understood. Maybe Paul is quoting a saying the Corinthians knew and used, or maybe he is quoting himself. Preachers sometimes use specific phrases and will repeat them periodically in their teaching. The source of the phrase isn’t really important. What’s important is how Paul discusses and applies it.
Even though vv.12-14 are closely connected to the verses that follow, we will spend one lesson looking at the principles found here. This will lay a foundation for the rest of the passage.
All Things are Lawful, Except What Is Not
Paul is speaking of things that are lawful in themselves. Clearly some things are not. He just listed the kinds of people who will not inherit the kingdom of God, so obviously fornication, idolatry, sodomy, and drunkeness are not among those things the apostle describes as lawful. But that isn’t what Paul is saying. He’s not justifying the behavior he just denounced. He is speaking within a different category. He is saying: “Among those things that are lawful….”
The fact that we are forgiven of all things by which we have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory does not mean all these things are, therefore, lawful. Forgivable and lawful are not synonyms. I can be forgiven for murdering my neighbor, but it would not be lawful for me to do so. Similarly, there are many ways in which we may (and do) fall short on a regular basis and be forgiven, but the fact that we are not cut off from divine communion for these things does not mean they are good, right, or lawful pursuits.
There has always been a strain of antinomianism in the Church against which we must be on guard. That does not mean legalism is not also a problem. Of course, it is. But Protestant and Reformed Christians are so aware of the dangers of legalism that we may be less sensitive to and perceptive of the equal, opposite danger of antinomianism. The term means against the law and it refers to a sort of “Christian lawlessness,” the notion that Christ has delivered us from the binding, moral authority of God’s law. Nothing could be further from the truth. Christ delivered us from the condemnation of the law, from our guilt and misery and judgment. He delivered us from the vain attempt to be justified by our works, from trying to be accepted on the basis of our obedience. That is what Christ saved us from. He did not save us from the law’s authority to obligate us.
Some Christians will say, “All things are lawful!” Kind of, sort of, not exactly. Yes, within the category of lawful things, we have tremendous freedom. But that does not mean nothing is outside of the law or God’s permission. We were set free to obey God’s law, not to disregard it.
Some Things are Lawful But Not Helpful
Within the realm of lawful behavior, there is always a danger of making good things into ultimate things or being preoccupied with what is acceptable rather than pursuing what is excellent. A thing may be lawful in itself and yet not helpful. It may be morally permissible but mostly a waste of time. That is the principle at work in these verses.
The question is not merely, “What is wrong with this or that?” The question ought to be, “What is right?” There may not be a prohibition against something, but are we merely seeking what is minimally acceptable or what is spiritual and exceptional? There is nothing unlawful about watching or reading the news, so it should be fine for me to spend all of my time doing that to the neglect of Scripture reading, prayer, and productive labor, right? Many Christians justify wasting time or cherishing heart idols by insisting the Bible does not forbid whatever they are doing.
Scripture commands us to redeem the time, making the most of every opportunity (Eph. 5:16). Legalists will twist and abuse this, condemning and scorning the way other believers spend their time. But the fact the principle can be abused does not mean it does not appear in the Bible. We are to be concerned not only with what is lawful but what is helpful, what edifies (10:23b). That does not mean every moment must be spent in Bible reading or prayer. It does not mean you should feel ashamed to read a novel or watch sports. It does mean that whatever you do, you are to do it in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17) and to the glory of God (10:31).
So what is helpful? The word is a Greek compound whose parts mean to bear with. That is what a helper is, someone or something that comes alongside and helps you carry a burden. Many lawful things can help us bear the burdens of this present life, but they need to be helping us lift and travel in the direction we want to go. Something that helps us travel to hell is not helpful.
Lawful Servants But Unlawful Masters
Lawful things may be wonderful servants in a life which honors God, but they are terrible masters. Good things must not be made ultimate things. Yet we see this all the time. It is treated as an honorable or commendable thing, especially in sports. You can buy a t-shirt that says Train, Eat, Sleep, Repeat for every imaginable sport or discipline. By itself there is nothing wrong with this. But many of us have seen people who have made their career or hobby into their religion.
By P. Jesse Rine — 2 weeks ago
Written by P. Jesse Rine |
Thursday, November 30, 2023
This is the diversity we need: Christian colleges and universities that are unafraid to pursue their distinctive missions regardless of the spirit of the age. When acting in accordance with its trademark commitment to curricular intentionality, faith integration, and programmatic integrity, Christian higher education offers something different in the marketplace than the vast majority of educational options available to prospective students. Professional handwringers may lament the lack of conformity to regnant ideologies, but the rest of us should applaud principled independence as a buttress to academic freedom, religious autonomy, and freedom of association. In an age of capitulation, American higher education—and the public it serves—are better for it.
Have you heard? Writers for The Chronicle of Higher Education are concerned. Very concerned.
It turns out that not all colleges and universities are exercising their academic freedom in the same way. In fact, some have even proposed alternative approaches to engaging diversity contra the antiracism of Robin DiAngelo and Ibram X. Kendi.
Now, you may be thinking this sounds exactly like what academic freedom should entail—different people approaching important issues from their own considered perspectives. But don’t worry, the higher education commentariat will set you straight.
You see, the only way for colleges and universities to foster success for all students is to implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives grounded in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Gender Ideology. It’s just a fact. People who question this fact are dangerous to democracy.
One such person is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Keith E. Whittington declares that DeSantis has unleashed a “terrifying plot against higher education” via his Stop WOKE Act, which threatens majors in Gender Studies and CRT. Presumably the threat to democracy also includes the 6 in 10 state lawmakers who voted for the bill, as well as the 6 in 10 Floridians who returned DeSantis to the governor’s mansion for a second term after the bill became law.
Lest you conclude that the problem could be limited to just one state, Megan Zahneis is here to alert you to the insidious consequences of anti-woke activity. She reports that the spread of anti-DEI legislation “is having a chilling effect on the recruitment of faculty members and administrators in Florida and Texas.” Even more worrisome is the totally real threat of brain drain from these states—plus Georgia and North Carolina—where a staggering one-third of faculty “said they were actively considering employment in another state.”
Conditions are so dire that colleges have begun building a modern-day underground railroad for beleaguered students. Amita Chatterjee profiles Colorado College’s Healing and Affirming Village and Empowerment Network (HAVEN), a program targeting students from the anti-DEI states of Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. This altruistic initiative aims to give refuge to as many as 10 transfer students, each of whom will receive credit for previous coursework, guaranteed campus housing, and full consideration for financial aid.
A clear picture emerges from these stories. Threats to democracy have so damaged American universities that faculty and students alike must seek shelter in the remaining academic enclaves that still know how to properly honor diversity. The situation is bleak, or so we are told.
By this point, you may have developed the sneaking suspicion that a certain political agenda is directing the reporting of one of our nation’s leading trade publications for higher education. Unfortunately, the next story will do little to disabuse you of that notion.
Helen Huiskes, herself a senior at Wheaton College (IL), reports that the woke wars have claimed another casualty—the integrity of Christian higher education. It seems many Christian colleges are reacting to the DEI controversy in ways both cynical and craven. Some are policing the content professors teach in class. Others are writing statements on CRT to attract more applicants. Few will host Jemar Tisby on campus anymore, and one can only assume that Tisby’s former boss, the aforementioned Kendi, won’t be receiving many more speaking invitations either.
In Huiskes’ telling, these developments point to Christian higher education’s willingness to abandon racial justice in pursuit of stronger enrollment. Hers is a shopworn progressive framing: “Don’t subscribe to critical theory’s worldview of power, privilege, and intersectionality? You must care more about the bottom line than about loving your minoritized neighbors.” Against the backdrop of recent trends in American higher education, however, the institutional behaviors she describes should be viewed as praiseworthy acts of courage and conviction, not recalcitrant avoidance of the real issues surrounding race in America.
For decades, leftist ideology steadily advanced through key American institutions, laying the groundwork for the cultural revolution that erupted in the summer of 2020. Colleges and universities were central sites for this advance, the activist spirit of which became more aggressive and transparent after the election of President Donald Trump. The trajectory of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE), a national organization of scholars of postsecondary institutions, is illustrative.
The 2016 ASHE Annual Conference commenced the day after Trump’s election, which sent shockwaves through the left-leaning association. The following year, ASHE President Shaun Harper described American higher education as an enterprise conceived in racism and declared that scholars must fight the abuses of white power in the academy. The 2018 ASHE conference theme, “Envisioning the Woke Academy,” was promoted by an eight-minute video of scholars declaring that “current higher education research is in an awakening process.” The ultimate goal? To cultivate a critical consciousness that recognizes existing forms of systemic oppression, such as inequality and microaggressions, and brings about institutional “transformation for justice.”