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In a Scrolling World, Are We Numb to the Resurrection’s Shock?

Easter is an annual remembrance of a historical event that’s still being celebrated, arguably on a greater scale than ever, nearly 2,000 years later. That’s because it’s the biggest news story of your life, or any life—even of those who shrug it off or scroll right past it.

Can you remember any top world news headlines from April 9, 2023? What about headlines from April 17, 2022, or April 4, 2021? Probably 2020 was the only Easter in recent memory when you might reme`mber what was happening in the world—but even that will fade from memory sooner than we expect.
What we can remember about Easter last year, and every year going back nearly two millennia, is that scores of Christians across the world confessed, sang about, and celebrated their belief in the deity of a human who actually walked and talked on this earth for a time.
This man is named Jesus. On Easter Sunday every year, people from nearly every nation and language, every class and ethnicity, worship him as Lord. They confess he suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead, and buried in first-century Jerusalem; and supernaturally rose from the dead three days later.
Consider how absurd this sounds. Consider how shocking it’d be as a headline if it were reported by some time-traveling newswire service to people in any BC kingdom or culture. We’re talking about the most outrageous headline of the year, and it happens every year: On Easter, a third of the planet’s population honors the day in history when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
It’s an insane headline because it speaks to the fact that, even today—in our modern scientific age—more people than ever believe in a supernatural event that science says cannot happen. The headline’s enduring repetition, year after year for centuries, proves the legitimacy of the event at its center (the resurrection) or highlights a mass delusion of unprecedented scale. Either way, it’s utterly newsworthy.
And yet on this year’s Easter Sunday, any number of soon-to-be-forgotten occurrences will claim “lead story” status in newspapers and newscasts worldwide. Instead of what 2.4 billion Christians claim and celebrate, “Breaking News!” alerts will compel millions to click on infinitely less newsworthy items. More people will probably click on articles about Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce on Easter Sunday than will read a Gospel account of Jesus’s resurrection. For American college basketball fans, the big news of the day will be which teams made the Final Four.
Why are we numb to the resurrection’s shock and seemingly bored by history’s biggest event? Why does the headline “Billions worship a man who rose from the dead and ascended to heaven” seem like old news that barely registers as a trending topic? Here are a few theories.
1. It’s old in a world obsessed with new.
Part of why the resurrection feels like “old news” is that it is old news, especially in a culture of increasingly short-term memory. Few of us can remember what was newsworthy a week ago, let alone a year or a century or two millennia ago. The digital age has eroded cultural memory and our capacity to think beyond the “now.”
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After the Resurrection

“He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Ponder the powerful effect that these proofs and teachings would have had on the disciples. What a unique and precious period of their earthly lives to have such encounters with the risen Christ during that forty-day period. 

So, the tomb is empty. Just as he said he would, Jesus rose from the dead in victory. What happened in the days that followed? The ascension wasn’t immediately after the day of resurrection. Forty days stood between the resurrection and ascension. And those days mattered for the disciples and for many others.
In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul gives us a list of bodily appearances: “he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles” (1 Cor. 15:4–7).
There were bodily appearances of Jesus to his disciples on the day of his resurrection. Generally speaking, these appearances countered the fear in the disciples. He said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). The appearances also confirmed his bodily risen state, for he showed them his hands and side (20:20). And his appearances involved instruction for the days to come (20:21–23).
Some of the instruction Jesus gave during the forty days was about the Old Testament. He taught his disciples how to interpret this prior revelation in light of what he had accomplished. “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’” (Luke 24:45–48).
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Waiting in an Age of Instant Gratification

Written by Aaron L. Garriott |
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
As Christians living in an age of instant gratification, we will no doubt succumb to the pleasures of Egypt from time to time. But more importantly, the Christian knows that nothing in this age can bring ultimate gratification. For that, we seek the city that is to come (Hebrews 13:14).

Time seemed to move at half-speed while I was sitting in the hospital waiting room. My wife’s surgery to remove her cancer was scheduled to be one hour. Three, four, five hours went by. The surgeon came to assure me that although the cancer was worse than the biopsy had shown, he was still actively working on removing all that he could. So I waited.
Friends and family sent text messages from hours away that were delivered instantly. In between my prayers, I ordered a burger on my phone for prompt delivery. I searched on Google for “complications with cancer surgery” and immediately had thousands of answers at my fingertips. On the one hand, I was in control of a lot. I could have a burger prepared and delivered to me within the hour. I could have an Amazon package on my doorstep the next day. I could speak to friends hundreds of miles away in live time. I could FaceTime my children. Yet I was in control of so little. I was at the mercy of the surgeon’s skilled hand. I was waiting to see my beloved wife and waiting for the doctor to report whether the cancer would take her. I was waiting on the Lord and, perhaps more importantly, with the Lord. Finally, eight hours in, the surgeon came to tell me that she was successfully out of surgery.
That lengthy day demonstrated my aversion to waiting and the plethora of gadgets and apps I had that could help curb that aversion. We’ve been conditioned to assume that waiting is something to be avoided at all costs. We are the generation of Disney FastPasses, direct flights, eBay bidding, television streaming, quick bites, and free two-day shipping. Certain occasions in life, however, remind us that we have no choice but to wait. We might be able to gratify certain desires here and now, such as ordering dinner, but the ultimate things in life require waiting, and often for lengthy periods. Because we’ve been accustomed to having answers to our inquiries with the simple click of a button or tap on a screen, we can fall victim to the illusion of control. In short, modern technology has habituated us to expect to get what we want, how and when we want it. And we want it now.
One may wonder whether our aversion to waiting is any greater than that of previous generations. It’s a fair question, for God’s people have always faced difficulties in waiting on the Lord and in not growing impatient as they expect Him to intervene for their good and His glory. The iPhone didn’t create impatience, but it has profoundly reshaped and conditioned our expectations. In particular, the modern era of digital technology has strengthened our expectations for instant gratification of our desires and, conversely, instant relief of our pain and suffering. If I’m hungry, I can order a cheeseburger. If my back hurts, I can order relief meds. Sinful patterns are often born out of inordinate desires and quick fixes, such as that of the young man who, rather than actively waiting for a godly spouse, finds a cheap imitation on a screen. But not all time-saving conveniences are inherently bad. Modern technology can enhance efficiency, save lives, enrich fellowship, and more. Yet if we’re not careful, digital technologies can infect the soil of our minds in such a way that stunts the growth of godly patience. We can become like Esau, who considered his birthright worthless compared to the immediate need to satiate his hunger (Gen. 25:32: “What use is a birthright to me?”). Whether the “technology” is a bowl of stew or an iPad, the “Buy It Now” option in all of life may give us the illusion of control and rob us of the opportunity to wait in fellowship with God and with His people.
For me, as a waiting-averse person dwelling in an age of instant gratification, is there any hope? Cultivating a spirit of waiting (Rom. 8:23) in an age of immediacy is an upstream voyage. Nonetheless, the Spirit of sanctification who indwells us (v. 9) is not inhibited by our tech-induced hyperactivity. Let’s consider three ways to better pursue faith-waiting in an age that considers waiting an impediment.
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Carl Trueman on Trump vs Biden

My confidence is not so much that most evangelicals will make the correct choice (though I believe they will), but that they will be fully persuaded over who they believe to be the correct choice. Again, when have we been offered two more polarizing candidates with glaringly antithetical agendas? And why have so little confidence in the ability of the brethren to develop individual and strong convictions by November?

Whether portraying spiritual closeness with Roman Catholic clergymen, or painting a picture of our need for a fresh polemic to refute them(!), Carl Trueman’s brush is often broad and his hues blurred.
Trueman’s latest masterpiece contrasts what he calls “Trumpite ‘evangelicalism’” with “Biden’s brand of ‘devout’ Catholicism.” He asks his readers to consider, “Which is more threatening” to the Christian? Trueman predicts “it will be a truly difficult {question} to answer with any great conviction when entering the voting booth.” I can’t but wonder, with whom does Trueman believe he shares his predictive undecidedness?
Assuming Trump and Biden are still on the ballot in seven months, I find no reason to doubt the voting convictions of my liberal and conservative friends, or that in November Christians will vote one way or another without much hesitation. After all, when have we been offered two more polarizing candidates with glaringly antithetical agendas?
A party whose leader confuses the biblical canon with the writings of Jefferson or a party that is legislating the very abolition of man and gloats about that in its election campaign?Trueman
Let’s run with that. Trueman is outraged by Trump promoting a Bible containing reprints of several of America’s documents, believing that Trump does not distinguish the canon from Thomas Jefferson’s writings. Whereas Biden “spits” on the sacred.
For what do we have? A candidate for the presidency who treats Christians as nothing more than promising marks for his hucksterism and an incumbent who spits on all they hold sacred.Trueman
By Trueman’s calculations, one party’s candidate is a huckster who hides behind a false religiosity, while another overtly desecrates all that Christians hold sacred. In passing we might note that an attack on the sacred is something that can be assessed objectively, whereas one’s private-intention to deceive to the level of huckster* is not so easily discerned.
Since we cannot discern motive, why not make it easier on ourselves and judge what can (and may) be judged? Rather than trying to discern which candidate has the blackest heart, what if we just assume that the light of nature has grown equally dim among the leading two candidates? As a clarifying exercise, let’s assume one candidate overtly seeks to destroy Christian and American values from a purely secular perspective, and the other candidate is toying covertly with Christians to advance his own MAGA agenda. With those sorts of cancelling-out variables off the table, is there anything left to evaluate that might keep us from flipping a coin on November 5?
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Why Do You Do What You Do (and Not Something Else)?

When I ask others why they do what they do, I’m often blessed to hear them describe their love for things I’ve never considered lovable….He is good to allow our enthusiasm about these things to be transferable and contagious.

One of my favorite questions for times of small talk is “Why do you do what you do instead of doing something else?” Or sometimes a variation: “Why do you love what you do?” I ask this when I’m in the barber’s chair, on the x-ray table, or trying to articulate words as the dentist rummages around in my mouth—just about anywhere a person has devoted themselves to a particular vocation. My favorite answer so far has been from a dermatologist: “I work dentist hours but make doctor money.” Clever!
Of course, not everyone has the privilege of doing what they love and that comes out in conversation as well. I have met Uber drivers who immigrated to Canada and, as they did so, lost their engineering credentials. I have met people who were forced by their parents to pursue a field they didn’t care for and people who, through the vicissitudes of life, ended up doing something that engaged little of their passion and few of their skills.
My dad devoted the best of his life to landscaping. And while he loved the design aspect of the job, he also loved the actual work. In most of my memories of him, I picture him digging deep holes to plant trees, lugging huge rocks to build walls, laying bricks and stones to build pathways. He was rarely happier than when he was straining and sweating, combining artistry and brute strength to design something beautiful.
But his path to landscaping was not an easy one. Dad grew up a son of privilege and received little affirmation from his family when it came to his love for the natural world. I never met my grandfather so do not know whether he made dad feel that landscaping was beneath a Challies or whether he had just a bit of a complex about it and assumed his father’s disfavor. Either way, he ended up dedicating most of his life to doing what he loved, but I’m not convinced he always did it with a lot of confidence. I think he often felt the judgment of other people, whether real or imagined. That’s kind of tragic now that I think about it.
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How Church History Helps—Part 2

Church history will help you live the Christian life and be faithful to Christ. It will provide you with clarity in an era of confusion. It will help you be consistent while many others waver. The faithful examples and arguments of giants from the past gives you credibility when other people doubt you. The courage displayed by other soldiers of Christ exhorts us to not be ashamed of the Gospel.

At the conclusion of his epistle, the author of Hebrews exhorts us, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith” (Heb 13:7). The author calls Christians to remember what they heard in the past from faithful leaders. Leaders with proven faithfulness give us examples worthy of emulation. Many of us can look back to the examples of faithful pastors and Christians who have discipled us and shaped our theology.
This corresponds with Hebrews 13:7: “Obey your leaders and submit to them.” The command here calls for obedience to present leaders. So, based on these passages, leaders from our past should continue to direct us as well as those presently leading us in the church. We remember and imitate past leaders and obey present leaders.
Learning from the past benefits our Christian life. In the reading and study of church history, we remember the teachings and deeds of faithful Christians and leaders. Church history helps us in a myriad of ways to follow Jesus our Lord. In a previous post I shared some ways church history helps us live a life of godliness. This post offers more ways church history aids us in having clarity, consistency, credibility, and courage.
Church History Helps Us Have Clarity
Church history presents a rogue gallery of false teachers and heretics who have threatened the church. From Arius to Joseph Smith to the modern prosperity preachers, many wolves have stalked Christ’s sheep. Faithful Christians have responded to their heresies with clear articulations of Biblical teaching.
The creeds of the ancient church clarify such important doctrines as the trinity and the humanity of Jesus Christ. The confessions which emerged after the Reformation provide churches and Christians with articulate summaries of Biblical doctrine. These creeds and confessions contain very careful wording to help us understand and explain the teachings of the Bible. Numerous Christian leaders labored together in the study and discussion of God’s Word to produce these helpful documents. Use the creeds from church history as tools to know the truth and contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Referring to the Second London Confession of 1689, Spurgeon wrote, “This little volume is not issued as an authoritative rule, or code of faith, whereby you are to be fettered, but as an assistance to you in controversy, a confirmation in faith, and a means of edification in righteousness. Here the younger members of our church will have a body of divinity in small compass, and by means of Scriptural proofs, will be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them.”
Church History Helps Us Have Consistency
We need to be cautious when others suggest new interpretations of Scripture. Especially if these seek to alter commonly accepted/held doctrines. If no one else has ever held a new interpretation, it may be right, but it’s probably wrong. Church history shows us we’re not the only people who have read, studied, and interpreted the Bible. It provides helpful guardrails to keep us from veering far afield from the original meaning/teaching of Scripture.
The Reformed interpretation of election and predestination was held by Augustine, then Luther and Calvin, then many of the Puritans. Many different Christians codified these doctrines in confessions like The Belgic Confession (1567), The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646), The London Baptist Confessions of 1644 and 1689. These consistent statements on specific doctrines help us remain on a steady and faithful course in our teaching, preaching, and discipleship.
Church history provides us with a legion of Bible commentaries written throughout the centuries. Here we can read and consider the interpretations and applications of Christian leaders from the past. In a lecture to his students, Charles Spurgeon says, “In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition.” Notice he calls those who have written about God’s Word “a glorious army” that will lead to your “delight and profit.” Spurgeon also rebukes those who think themselves wise enough to handle the Scriptures without aid.
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Church as Blueprint

Written by T.M. Suffield |
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Getting worship right really matters. Of course I’m fully aware that plenty will agree with me but their vision of “right” will not cohere with mine. It’s a challenge we have to work through. But, even so, it does mean that if we want to reform our communities we start by reforming the worship of the church.

We see this in the way it’s structured; it’s built as a copy of the Garden of Eden: a mountaintop land with trees. The Temple is on the apex of a mountain, it’s full of trees (the lampstands and the decorations), and it’s decorated with fruit (all those pomegranates, notice the connection between the Song of Songs and the Temple).
It’s also a model of the world, with layers. We find the ‘sea’ on the outside (the large replacement for the tabernacle’s laver), then an outer court with the altar, then inside the temple, and then into the holiest place with the Ark.
The Temple moves from the chaos of the sea, to the courtyard where sacrifice is made representing the land, into the heavens and then the third heaven in the holiest place. It’s a microcosm of the whole world.
More than that, it’s a microcosm of the whole of reality as it’s supposed to be. It’s a copy of the new creation, or the old creation before it fell at least.
The Church works the same way, except it actually is the new creation (2 Corinthians 5). Not the New Heavens and the New Earth, not yet, but the in-breaking of the New into the Old because Christians are new creation and the Church is the new society. The local church is supposed to be a mirror of true reality, a blueprint for the Kingdom; she’s a microcosm, a miniature cosmos.
As an aside, if the church has deeply hurt you, this sounds like nonsense. Believe me, I understand. We aren’t good at being a mirror, but that means we’ve been terrible mirrors not that we don’t reflect the new creation. I think this concept intensifies how bad it is when churches get things terribly wrong.
This is why Paul is so concerned about ‘order’ in worship (1 Corinthians 12-14), he’s concerned that worship appropriately reflect the reality of the world. It’s as we encounter true reality in Christian worship each Sunday that we start to be reordered—or as I would say ‘restoried’—into people who live like the new creation and then restory/reorder their own worlds (households, initially) into the image of the kingdom.
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About “Close” Confessional Communion

Those convinced of the confessional Presbyterian & Reformed view of close/confessional communion might find themselves conscience-bound by the Word of God to abstain from participation in an improperly administered sacrament. 

The usual standard for admission to the Lord’s Supper in Orthodox Presbyterian Church congregations (and in congregations of other NAPARC denominations) is that the would-be communicant have a credible profession of faith in the gospel, live penitently, and be a baptized member of a gospel-believing church. The confessional Presbyterian & Reformed view of close communion or confessional communion is not widely known or understood today.  Below, this close/confessional view is described in contrast to usual OPC practice, and some Scriptural and doctrinal support for it is presented.
The OPC BD 2.B.2. states “The session shall examine the candidate for [communicant] membership to assure itself so far as possible that he [or she] possesses the knowledge requisite for active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, relies for salvation on the work of Christ alone, is trusting Christ for salvation, and is determined by the grace of God to lead a Christian life.”
The OPC DPW 3.C.3. states “The minister shall then declare who may come to, and who are excluded from, the Lord’s Table according to the Word of God…. to invite all who are right with God and his church, through faith in the Lord Jesus, to come to the Lord’s Table. If you have received Christ and are resting upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to you in the gospel, if you are a baptized and professing communicant member in good standing in a church that professes the gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ, and if you live penitently and seek to walk in godliness before the Lord, then this Supper is for you, and I invite you in Christ’s name to eat the bread and drink the cup.”
The OPC DPW 4.A.1. states “Only those may be admitted to full [Supper] communion in the church who have been baptized and have made public profession of faith in Jesus Christ.”
The OPC DPW 4.B.2. states “The minister shall then require the person to profess publicly his Christian faith by giving assent to these or equivalent questions:

Do you believe the Bible, consisting of the Old and New Testaments, to be the Word of God, and its doctrine of salvation to be the perfect and only true doctrine of salvation?
Do you believe in one living and true God, in whom eternally there are three distinct persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—who are the same in being and equal in power and glory, and that Jesus Christ is God the Son, come in the flesh?
Do you confess that because of your sinfulness you abhor and humble yourself before God, that you repent of your sin, and that you trust for salvation not in yourself but in Jesus Christ alone?
Do you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your sovereign Lord, and do you promise that, in reliance on the grace of God, you will serve him with all that is in you, forsake the world, resist the devil, put to death your sinful deeds and desires, and lead a godly life?
Do you promise to participate faithfully in this church’s worship and service, to submit in the Lord to its government, and to heed its discipline, even in case you should be found delinquent in doctrine or life?”

According to the above sections of the OPC BCO, as I understand it, and as is my experience of usual practice in OPC congregations, would-be participants are generally admitted to the Lord’s Supper on the basis of meeting several requirements:

Having received Christian baptism.
Having made a [credible] public profession of faith in Jesus Christ.
Living penitently [ie, not in unrepentant sin], seeking to live in a godly way.
Being a communicant member in good standing [ie, not under censure] of any church that “professes the gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ.”

Specifically, the public profession of faith in Jesus Christ required of those who would be communicant members of the OPC includes several distinct affirmations:

Belief in the whole Bible as God’s Word.
Belief in the Bible’s teaching of salvation to be perfect and the exclusively-true teaching of salvation.
Belief in the Trinity and Jesus Christ’s identity as God the Son incarnate.
Confession of one’s sinfulness, self-abhorrence, humbling before God, and repentance of one’s sins.
Confession of one’s trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
Acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as one’s Lord.
Promise to serve Jesus Christ entirely, to forsake the world, to resist Satan, to mortify sin, and to live in a godly way.
Promise to faithfully participate in the church’s worship and service.
Promise to submit to the church’s government and to heed its discipline in doctrine and life.

In addition to these things required of those admitted to the Supper in OPC congregations (as explained above), Scripture requires that those admitted to the Supper express affirmation (according to their ability) of the doctrinal standards of the church, not holding any principled objections to or disagreements with its teachings.
This includes a requirement that those admitted to the Supper express an understanding of the meaning and nature of the Supper (for example, as explained in OPC DW 3.C.2 and WCF 29.1, 7; WLC 168, 170), particularly Christ’s real, spiritual presence to those who participate in a worthy manner by faith, so that they are really spiritually nourished and strengthened by Him in the Supper. It may be the practice of some OPC congregations to require this, but it is not explicitly required in the OPC BCO (as far as I can tell).
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