March 2006

We live in an age where Christians are encouraged to get angry with God and to tell God all the ways that they disappointed with Him. We are told to lay out all of our “fault-finding” to the God who is sovereign and holds the ability to prevent harm and to improve the way that we live. Job is the Bible’s book of pastoral counsel. There is no other book in all of Scripture that deals with the deep and painful hurts that children of God go through at times. Here is God’s response to Job when he became a “fault-finder” towards the sovereign God who reigns over all to the point where not a hair can fall from our head outside of His Will and Counsel.
Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said,
“Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge?
“Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me!
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? Since you know. Or who stretched the line on it?
“On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
“Or who enclosed the sea with doors When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop’?
“Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it?
“It is changed like clay under the seal; And they stand forth like a garment.
“From the wicked their light is withheld, And the uplifted arm is broken.
“Have you entered into the springs of the sea Or walked in the recesses of the deep?
“Have the gates of death been revealed to you, Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness?
“Have you understood the expanse of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this.
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place,
That you may take it to its territory And that you may discern the paths to its home?
“You know, for you were born then, And the number of your days is great!
“Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail,
Which I have reserved for the time of distress, For the day of war and battle?
“Where is the way that the light is divided, Or the east wind scattered on the earth?
“Who has cleft a channel for the flood, Or a way for the thunderbolt,
To bring rain on a land without people, On a desert without a man in it,
To satisfy the waste and desolate land And to make the seeds of grass to sprout?
“Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew?
“From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?
“Water becomes hard like stone, And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.
“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion?
“Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites?
“Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth?
“Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, So that an abundance of water will cover you?
“Can you send forth lightnings that they may go And say to you, ‘Here we are’?
“Who has put wisdom in the innermost being Or given understanding to the mind?
“Who can count the clouds by wisdom, Or tip the water jars of the heavens,
When the dust hardens into a mass And the clods stick together?
“Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions,
When they crouch in their dens And lie in wait in their lair?
“Who prepares for the raven its nourishment When its young cry to God And wander about without food?
“Do you know the time the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the deer?
“Can you count the months they fulfill, Or do you know the time they give birth?
“They kneel down, they bring forth their young, They get rid of their labor pains.
“Their offspring become strong, they grow up in the open field; They leave and do not return to them.
“Who sent out the wild donkey free? And who loosed the bonds of the swift donkey,
To whom I gave the wilderness for a home And the salt land for his dwelling place?
“He scorns the tumult of the city, The shoutings of the driver he does not hear.
“He explores the mountains for his pasture And searches after every green thing.
“Will the wild ox consent to serve you, Or will he spend the night at your manger?
“Can you bind the wild ox in a furrow with ropes, Or will he harrow the valleys after you?
“Will you trust him because his strength is great And leave your labor to him?
“Will you have faith in him that he will return your grain And gather {it from} your threshing floor?
“The ostriches’ wings flap joyously With the pinion and plumage of love,
For she abandons her eggs to the earth And warms them in the dust,
And she forgets that a foot may crush them, Or that a wild beast may trample them.
“She treats her young cruelly, as if they were not hers; Though her labor be in vain, she is unconcerned;
Because God has made her forget wisdom, And has not given her a share of understanding.
“When she lifts herself on high, She laughs at the horse and his rider.
“Do you give the horse his might? Do you clothe his neck with a mane?
“Do you make him leap like the locust? His majestic snorting is terrible.
“He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength; He goes out to meet the weapons.
“He laughs at fear and is not dismayed; And he does not turn back from the sword.
“The quiver rattles against him, The flashing spear and javelin.
“With shaking and rage he races over the ground, And he does not stand still at the voice of the trumpet.
“As often as the trumpet sounds he says, ‘Aha!’ And he scents the battle from afar, And the thunder of the captains and the war cry.
“Is it by your understanding that the hawk soars, Stretching his wings toward the south?
“Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up And makes his nest on high? “On the cliff he dwells and lodges, Upon the rocky crag, an inaccessible place.
“From there he spies out food; His eyes see it from afar.
“His young ones also suck up blood; And where the slain are, there is he.”
Then the LORD said to Job,
“Will the faultfinder contend with the Almighty? Let him who reproves God answer it.”
-Job 38.1-40.2


When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. ~Mark 2.17

Thank God that we have a Spiritual Physician who has diagnosed us as spiritually dead, yet did not leave us to pay eternally for our diagnosis. Christ has been our diagnostician as well as the one who has made us take the remedy in the application of the redemption of the cross. Let us live our lives as men and women who are thankful for that redemption which has been accomplished and applied for us through Christ.

Christ is the most cheap physician, he takes no fee. He desires us to bring nothing to him but broken hearts; and when he has cured us he desires us to bestow nothing on him but our love.
~Thomas Watson

True Distinguishing Marks of the Church

The primary and most eminent distinguishing mark is purity of doctrine–doctrine consistent with the Word of God. We are not now dealing with those who deny fundamental principles, but rather with those denominated as Christians who acknowledge God’s Word to be the infallible truth. We must therefore consider how God’s Word defines the distinguishing marks of the true church. Let him depart who does not wish to conduct himself according to God’s Word. However, he who wishes to esteem the Word of God as the only rule of life and doctrine will be able to perceive from this Word that only that church is the true church which has the true doctrine, consistent with the Word (II: 30).

Secondly, one would be in much greater danger of error if one were to depend on the mere testimony of an assembly, since false churches also claim be to the true church. Consequently one must have an infallible and dependable distinguishing mark which is free of error and cannot cause one to err. This is only true for the Word of God. If one therefore hears a church make claim of being the true church, and one examines doctrine and life by this Word and finds them to be in harmony with it, one can say with the believing Samaritans, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). It thus remains certain that the Word is the true distinguishing mark by which it is ascertained which church is true (II: 34).

If holiness is a distinguishing mark of the church, we will be able to identify the church by the same, and thus a church where true holiness is absent is not the true church. Other churches also boast of holiness, but all that is called holiness is not holiness. Therefore we must first determine from God’s Word what true holiness is (II: 35).

True holiness springs forth from true faith. Where true faith is absent, true holiness will likewise be absent. Faith receives Christ as Surety unto justification and sanctification (John 1:12). By faith the soul is truly united with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17). By faith Christ, who is their life, dwells in their hearts (Eph. 3:17). Faith purifies the heart (Acts 15:9). Faith worketh by love (Gal. 5:6), and faith causes them to bring forth good works (James 2:18) [II: 35].

We hold the third distinguishing mark of the true church to be the proper administration of the Sacraments. Again this must be determined from the Word of God, and thus not be viewed independently but rather in conjunction with the other distinguishing marks. Wherever the first distinguishing mark is to be found, the others will be found likewise (II: 36).

These keys must not be used independently, however, but in conjunction with all the other distinguishing marks; their correct use must be determined by the Word of God. If those who err in doctrine and lead offensive lives are excluded, whereas those who are orthodox in doctrine and godly in their walk are included, the keys are used correctly; and by this one will be able to identify the true church. If anyone is included, however, regardless of what their doctrine and life may be, or if those are excommunicated who are orthodox in doctrine, while including in the fellowship of the church those who err, then such a practice is very evidently a mark of the false church. As imperfection is to be observed everywhere, and since this accompanying imperfection does not nullify the matter itself, there is also imperfection in the use of these keys. Although in one particular church these keys are used more consistently than in another church, one will find the proper use of the keys in the church (II: 36, 37).

Credenda Agenda has written a critique of Brian McLaren’s A New Kind of Christian. They have a lot to say to us Reformed people. We need to listen to this movement and hold onto that which is good.

For all his flaws, though, let’s face it—we have guys like McLaren leading a sizeable heap of Christians because we Reformed types consider the Great Commission something of a spectator sport. We consider intramural arguments among postmillenialists more important than feeding the poor in Africa. We haven’t the slightest idea how to get our finely-tuned engine into a car, let alone out on the road. We take our talents, bury them, and call our riskless life “good stewardship.” The Kingdom of God is much more than the baptistic evangelical altar call. It is much more than the simpering religious bricolage of Emergent. It is also much more than our own myopic infighting. We know for a fact that the Kingdom, the church, is a conquering, holy nation of kings and priests living in the world that God has promised to liberate and has liberated in Jesus. We know and assent to this—and without needing postmodernism to tell us so—but we won’t feel it in our bones until we go out to the highways to bring in the poor and the lame and the maimed and the blind.

Tulip Girl has shown us via Douglas Wilson that even us Reformed and Presbyterian Christians can speak in tongues. The problem is that some choose to do so at the expense of letting the unconverted, who need to hear the evengelion, understand the epistemological foundations of the divine syllabus thus making our missiological vocatsio of no effect out of acting antithetically to the revealed characterological nature of God which is the speak in condescension and in anthropomorphic terminology.

Today’s Christians often err on either side of extremes concerning the law and the Christian. On the one hand, Christians who fear being legalistic disregard the law and say that it has no use to the Christian life- this is called Antinomianism. The other extreme is that people are justified by doing the law- they believe that they are saved through the keeping of the law. This is called Legalism.

The historic Protestant position is that the Christ justifies the sinner by grace, based on NOTHING OTHER THAN GRACE. When one is justified he then begins to keep the law out of gratitude and love for Jesus Christ. Jesus said, If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

1 John 2:3-4 And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

But there is no one who in everything keeps them; there would thus be no knowledge of God in the world. To this I answer, that the Apostle is by no means inconsistent with himself; since he has before shewed that all are guilty before God, he does not understand that those who keep his commandments wholly satisfy the law (no such example can be found in the world;) but that they are such as strive, according to the capacity of human infirmity, to form their life in conformity to the will of God. For whenever Scripture speaks of the righteousness of the faithful, it does not exclude the remission of sins, but on the contrary, begins with it.
But we are not hence to conclude that faith recumbs on works; for though every one receives a testimony to his faith from his works, yet it does not follow that it is founded on them, since they are added as an evidence. Then the certainty of faith depends on the grace of Christ alone; but piety and holiness of life distinguish true faith from theft knowledge of God which is fictitious and dead; for the truth is, that those who are in Christ, as Paul says, have put off the old man. -Calvin Commentaries

Is your faith genuine enough to die for it? Ask yourself whether your relationship with Christ is worth your own life.

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