12 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Church

12 Reasons I’m Thankful for My Church

This Lord’s Day starts the week of our annual Thanksgiving Day tradition. It’s commonplace to share or reflect on things for which we’re grateful. With that in mind, I’ve compiled several thoughts and comments enumerating twelve reasons I’m thankful for my church.

1. We do battle together.
As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. If we are to be sharpened we will sometimes hurt each other — but not in a way that destroys. In a way that builds up toward godliness. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. If such wounds build us up more into the image of Christ, then they can only be for our good. There are so many things I appreciate about the brothers and sisters at my church. I am grateful for their continual striving for righteousness and for their earnest pursuit of peace. We need that. Any church desperately needs such influence. A Christian does great service to the cause of Christ as he seeks truth and peace with all men. Even in time of conflict and when the discomfort of bereavement weighs heavy on our souls to the point of physical exhaustion, we must remember God is strong in our weakness. When we are weak, he is strong. He is faithful to complete every good work he begins, and we will reap a goodly reward if we are faithful and endure to the end.

2. Freedom to worship God in spirit and truth.
There are many new and contemporary church trends today. Yet we have the rare opportunity to follow God’s will when it comes to worshiping him in our assembly. When God chastises his people he scatters them abroad. When he blesses his people, he gathers them together for his worship. When men discover like-mindedness and singleness of purpose, to be able to pursue a specific area of ecclesiastical reform and see fruition of blessings, it is a remarkable sign of God’s grace. God has brought families together within our body who desired to be faithful to his commands — and we are grateful to the Lord for his mercy. While many churches are supremely concerned with losing members or paying off their debts, it is refreshing to see men and women who choose to take a stand on principle and worship God according to his Word.

3. We open the Scriptures.
We are blessed to be able to preach uncensored Biblical messages, messages that cover the entirety of Scriptural application to all of faith and practice in our lives. Several have remarked and been surprised that we open the Scriptures each week, read from the Word, and preach exegetically from it! I know without a doubt that much sacrifice goes into the preparations of such sermons by the elders who hold this responsibility. But there is no doubt that uncensored preaching is a privilege few churches enjoy, especially with those worried about their non-profit status.

4. We encourage men to be leaders.
This is a huge and significant battleground in our culture right now. Even among some of the most well-known evangelical leaders in our culture today. A frequently highlighted theme is women in leadership. Leaders of well-known organizations are afraid they will be sued if their female employees are not adequately represented in leadership and churches are afraid of getting sued for underpaying secretaries. As churches continue to embrace liberal theologies they advance the idea of putting women in positions of ministry leadership over men. Some go so far as to represent biblical, Old Testament patriarchy as a “rape culture”. This is in mainstream Christianity. Churches feel they need to have women in equal roles of church leadership and encourage their public leadership role in the church assembly. Our church has encouraged the equipping of men as leaders. We have drawn a line in the sand. People may not flock to our church when this is our outspoken stance. And yet we would gladly suffer for Christ’s sake for the privilege of obeying his word and keeping gender roles distinct where Scripture distinguishes.

5. We seek to be reverent in our musical worship.
While this is still a work in progress, we are able to worship the Lord in song and music without grieving our consciences by participating in irreverent, performance-driven, emotional highs. It is refreshing to stand amid the congregation and to hear one another’s voices as we praise the Lord among His saints. We’ve taken music and worship from a neo-evangelical theatrical production to a reformation-minded inclusion of blended voices in harmony.

6. We encourage parents to disciple their children and worship together before the Lord.
While a huge percentage of churches encourage parents to drop their kids off upon walking in the doors, we enable inter-generational relationships and parental discipleship. These principles are so important to the development of a biblical church and family culture. This is overlooked so much in our culture today. It is a joy to go to church on Sundays and focus our efforts on the Kingdom of God by encouraging our families in righteousness and faith.

7. We understand the doctrine of the antithesis.
Jesus told us the world would hate us because of Him, that we are in the world, but not of it, that our task is to reconcile the world to Him, to not be conformed to it, but to transform it with the love of Christ and the teaching of His law. At our church we have the liberty to not concern ourselves with the world’s approval. We seek to engage culture — but without compromise. Few churches understand the doctrine of the antithesis. And fewer still will embrace the total scope of the doctrine and live their life in light of what it means.

8. Sovereignty of God.
We preach that God governs over all the affairs of men, that He is ultimately in control. When man embraces this truth his life is changed. He knows his inability to save himself, his lack of any goodness in himself, that the only goodness he can hope to attain is the goodness of Christ in him. Few churches believe this doctrine, and if they do, they frequently conceal it. This is not to criticize other churches — every church has strengths and weaknesses. For me, I’m grateful we courageously communicate the sovereignty of God among our assembly and even to the countless individuals who do not covenant with us and view our conspicuous stand from a distance.

9. Our church is a culture thermometer.
So many people have told us that they are watching our church and it is motivating them to seek the Lord; to reform their churches; to dig into the Scriptures and find what he has commanded. While the world views our church as extreme and even many Christians are not willing to go to the lengths that we have in departing from the evangelical norm, there are many who are inspired by our feeble attempts to draw closer to God’s will. It challenges them to act consistent with a truly biblical worldview. This is no reflection on our own wisdom but simply that God has given us a remarkable opportunity to be faithful to him, as he gathers like-minded families to serve him together and be a light to those around us.

10. Always reforming according to the Word of God.
There are few times in a generation like ours when churches are able to reform their worship according to the Word of God. Most in our era would rather be relevant to culture than relevant to Scripture. We have been able to take the proverbial desert island challenge: if all we had were the Scriptures, what would our church look like? We’ve made a stand against the culture.

11. We fight hard and hold fast during conflict.
The New Testament records frequent disagreements and dissension between church factions and even church leadership. How men handle these matters shows their courage and unity. Discord that is later resolved becomes a testimony to the strength and character of the relationship. It is common for church members to disagree. The disagreement is not a problem when it is handled right. And when it is not handled right, we take a step back and reanalyze what we have done. We gain perspective from both the inexperienced and the seasoned counselor. We make mistakes, but we don’t throw away what we have worked so hard for. As we’ve held fast God has blessed us richly!

12. We are a covenantal church.
We live in a disposable society. Men throw away their wives, their friends, their families, their churches. In contrast, God makes covenants. He promises to be with us always, to draw us back again and again from wherever we wander. If he does not give up on us, how much less should we give up on one another. Yes, it can be wearisome. We sin against each other and wear each other down. But love is long-suffering. We have everything to gain by endurance and faithfulness and everything to lose by growing weary and giving up. We must remember God promises; in due time we will reap a reward. Each member has been invaluable in the health of our church. God has worked among us in great ways!

Madeira Wine

Madeira Wine

The quintessential American wine is not so well known anymore but it’s history and our nation’s heritage go hand in hand. For over 200 years Madeira was the American wine. With it men like Washington, Jefferson and Adams marked great milestones in the building of an infant nation like the signing of the Declaration of Independence and Washington’s Farewell Address. With a flavor as rich and beautiful as it’s illustrious past, one shouldn’t miss the opportunity to try it this Independence Day!

Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. (Leviticus 25:10)

God have mercy on our nation and restore the true liberty we have forgotten.

A Short Catechism about Baptism

A Short Catechism about Baptism

By John Tombes, B.D., 1659
Edited by Kurtis Amundson

To the Christian Reader,
Many are the things at this day charged on antipaedobaptists in their doctrine and practice, which have been proved to be unjustly imputed to them, by many large treatises extant in print. For a more facile understanding of the truth than by reading larger tracts, is this compendium, in a manner of a catechism composed and published in this time, in which others of different judgment, have thought fit to declare their way to the world. This is done, not because the disagreement in other things is either small or of particular persons (whose cause is to be severed from that which is commonly held) and therefore requires not a distinct confession or declaration from that which is by others published.

This I have thought necessary to be done because of the importance of restoring right baptism, the doctrine of which is one article of the foundation of Christianity (Heb. 6:2), whereby we put on Christ (Gal. 6:27), united to his Members (Eph. 4:5), conformed to Christ (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3–5), required with faith to salvation (Mark 16:26), with repentance to remission of sins (Acts 2:38), with express profession of the baptized’s faith required (Acts 8:37), upon manifestation of conversion (Acts 10:47; Acts 11:17), as the duty of the baptized, and not a mere privilege (Acts 22:16), most solemnly administered in the primitive times, with strict examination and greatest engagement of persons baptized, accounted the chief evidence of Christianity, of as much or more significance than the Lord’s Supper; insomuch that some conceived from Heb. 6:4 that falling away after it irreparable.

But the pretended baptism of infants, as now used slightly and profanely done, quite different from Christ’s institution and the apostles’ is practice by ministers and people in so wholly and carnal manner. It is with gross untruths and perverting of holy Scripture imposed on unwary souls with a pretence of a baptismal vow, which is a mere fiction, and so many ill consequents both in Christian conversation and communion and church-constitution and government, that were men sensible to their evil as they should be, they would tremble at such mockery of God and abuse of so holy an ordinance of God’s worship and men’s souls by it, and with such arrogant presumption in avowing such a manifest invention of men as God’s precept.

And to speak truth, if the history of this corruption were fully cleared, it would be found that the undue ministration of this ordinance was the inlet to the antichristian darkness and tyranny which overspread and oppressed the Christian churches. The aim of the composer of this catechism is the manifestation of the truth, wherein he does rejoice, and desires you may rejoice with him. His motion is that of the Apostle:

“As many of us be perfect let us be thus minded, and if ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereunto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Phil. 3:15,16)


A Short Catechism about Baptism

1. Is baptism with water an ordinance of Christ, to be continued by his disciples until the end of the world?

Baptism with water is an ordinance of Christ, which is to be continued by his disciples until the end of the world; as appears by his command (Mat. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16). It is to be joined with preaching of the gospel and making disciples, by preaching and teaching them to observe all that Christ commands; and so to be continued while these are to continue, which is proved to be until the end of the world, by Christ’s promise of his being with them until then, which were vain, if the things appointed were not to be done so long.

2. Is not the end of the world, as much as the end of the age?

It appears that Matthew means by the end of the world, the last time, or day, in which there will be a separation of good and bad, the one to be burned with fire, and the other to shine as the sun. In those places where Matthew uses the same form of speech (viz. Mat. 13:39,40,49; Mat. 24:3) he cannot be understood to mean another.

3. May not the baptizing in Mat. 28:19 and Mark 16:16 be understood of some other baptism than that of water?

The baptism there must necessarily be understood of baptism by water, since wherever “baptizing” is performed by John the Baptist or the Disciples (which they did or were to do) is intended of baptizing with water—as John 4:1,2 and in many other places it appears. And the Apostles by their practice and command (Acts 2:38,41; Acts 10:47,48), show that this is how they understood Christ’s appointment (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:16).

4. May it not be meant of baptizing by the Spirit, or afflictions?

It cannot be understood this way since baptizing with the Spirit is nowhere ascribed to any other than Christ (Mat 3:11; Luke 3:16). Neither is baptism with the Spirit a duty for us to do, but a free gift of Christ. And to appoint them the baptizing by affliction would have been to make the Apostles persecutors.

5. Why did Paul then say, Christ sent him not to baptize (1 Cor. 1:16)?

Not because he was not appointed at all to baptize (for if so, he would not have baptized those he did baptize [1 Cor. 1:14,16, etc.]), but because it was not the chief thing he was to do: as, when the washing of water is said not to save (1 Pet. 3:21), because it is not the only, or principal means of saving.

6. What is the baptizing appointed by Jesus Christ?

The baptizing appointed by Jesus Christ, is the dipping of the whole body in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as is manifest from the term baptizing, and the use of going into and coming up out of water (Mat. 3:16; Acts 8:38,39), the use of much water (John 3:23), the resembling, by the baptism used, the burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), and the testimonies of the ancients of the first ages.

7. May not the sprinkling or pouring water on the face be the baptism of Christ?

Neither the Scripture, nor any other ancient author call sprinkling, or pouring water on the face, baptism, nor any use of it in the primitive times does countenance it, and therefore such sprinkling or pouring water is not the baptism which Christ appointed.

8. What is it to baptize into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

It is not to baptize only with the naming of those persons, but into the profession of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as our master or teacher, as appears by the words of Paul (1 Cor. 1:13). Which show that if the Corinthians had been baptized into the name of Paul, they had professed him to be their master.

9. Are they rightly baptized, who are baptized into the name of Jesus Christ, though no other person be named?

They are: it being all one to baptize into the name of Jesus Christ, and to baptize into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as appears by the precept (Acts 2:38) and practice (Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5). Though the expression of each person is convenient.

10. Are the persons to be baptized altogether passive in their baptism?

No: For baptism is their duty required of them as well as the baptizer (Acts 2:38), and Paul is commanded to arise and be baptized and wash away his sins calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).

11. Who are appointed to baptize?

They who are appointed to preach the gospel (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:15,16).

12. Whom are they appointed to baptize?

Those who repent of sin, believe in Christ Jesus, and are his disciples (Mat. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 8:37).

13. Were not infants baptized when whole households were baptized (Acts 16:15,33)?

No: For it does not appear there were any infants in the houses, and the texts show they were not baptized, since the word was spoken to all in the house (ver. 32) and all the house rejoiced believing God (ver 34) and elsewhere the whole house is said to do that which infants could not do (Acts 18:8; Acts 10:2; 1 Cor. 16:15; compared with 1 Cor. 1:16; John 4:53).

14. Is not Christ’s speech and action to little children (Mat. 19:14,15; Mark 10:14,15,16; Luke 18:16,17) a warrant to baptize infants?

No: but an argument against it, since Christ did neither baptize nor appoint those little children to be baptized.

15. Why should not Infants be baptized, since they were circumcised?

The reason why male infants were to be circumcised, was a particular command of God to Abraham’s house for special ends belonging to the time before Christ, which baptism has not, nor is there any command to use baptism according to the rule of circumcision.

Did not baptism come in the room of circumcision (Col. 2:11,12) and so to be used as it was?

The Apostle’s words do not mean that our baptism came in the room of the Jews circumcision. For there is no mention of any bodily circumcision but Christ’s, which our baptism cannot be said to succeed to (it is there made the cause of spiritual circumcision) without appropriating to it that which belongs to Christ alone. And baptism is mentioned with faith as the means whereby we are in Christ and complete in him.

16. May we be said to be complete as the Jews without infant baptism?

Our completeness is not that we have ordinances as the Jews had, but we are complete in that we have all in Christ without them (Col. 2:8–10).

17. Have not our children then less privilege than the Jews had?

No: For circumcision was a privilege only for a time, and comparatively to the estate of the gentiles who knew not God; but of itself was a heavy yoke (Acts 15:10; Gal. 5:1–3).

18. Why did the Jews then so much contend for it (Acts 15:1,5)?

Because they too much esteemed the Law and knew not their liberty by the Gospel.

19. Had it not been a discomfort to the believing Jews to have their children unbaptized, and out of the covenant?

The want of baptism to infants was never any grievance to believers in the New Testament, nor were they thereby put out of the covenant of grace.

20. Was not the proper reason of circumcising the infants of the Jews the interest which they had in the covenant to Abraham (Gen. 17:7) to be a God to him and to his seed?

The end of circumcision was indeed to be a token of the whole covenant made with Abraham (Gen. 17:4–8). Not only the promise (ver. 7), but the formal proper distinguishing reason why some were to be circumcised and others not, was God’s command alone, not the interest in the covenant; since Ishmael who was not a child of promise (Gen. 17:20–21; Rom. 9:6–9) and those who were in Abraham’s house, though not of his seed, were circumcised, but no females, or males under eight days old.

21. Was not the covenant with Abraham (Gen. 17) the covenant of grace?

It was, according to the hidden meaning of the Holy Spirit, the evangelical covenant (Gal. 3:16). But according to the open sense of the words, a covenant of special benefits to Abraham’s inheriting natural posterity, and therefore not a pure gospel covenant.

22. Are not believers’ children comprehended under the promise, to be a God to Abraham and his seed (Gen. 17:7)?

No: unless they become Abraham’s seed according to the election of grace by faith.

23. Did circumcision seal the gospel covenant (Rom. 4:11)?

That text speaks not of any one’s circumcision but Abraham’s, which sealed the righteousness of faith he had before circumcision, and assured thereby righteousness to all (though uncircumcised) who should believe as he did.

24. Are not the sacraments of the Christian Church in their nature seals of the covenant of grace?

The Scripture does nowhere so call them, nor does it mention this as their end and use.

25. Does not Peter (Acts 2:38,39) exhort the Jews to baptize themselves and their children because the promise of grace is to believers and their children?

Those he then spoke to were not then believers; and therefore, the words (Acts 2:39) cannot be understood of a promise to believers and their children as such, but the promise is to all, fathers and children as called of God; nor are any exhorted to baptism without foregoing repentance: nor is the promise alleged as conferring right to baptism, but as a motive to encourage them and hope for pardon, though they wished Christ’s blood to be on them and their children (Mat. 27:25) in like sort as Joseph did (Gen. 50:19–21).

26. Are not the children of believers holy with covenant-holiness, and so to be baptized (1 Cor. 7:14)?

There is nothing there ascribed to the faith of the believer, but to the marriage relation (which was the only reason of their lawful living together) and of which alone it is true that all the children of those parents, whereof one is sanctified to the other, are holy, the rest unclean, that is, illegitimate.

27. Are not the gentile believer’s children to be engrafted by baptism with their parents, as the Jews children were by circumcision (Rom. 11:16–17)?

The engrafting there is by giving faith according to election, and therefore not meant of parents and children by an outward ordinance into the visible Church.

28. Are not infants of believers, made disciples by their parents’ faith, to be baptized (Mat. 28:19; Acts. 15:10)?

No: For the disciples there are only such as are made by preaching the gospel to them, nor are any termed disciples, but those who have heard and learned: and the putting the yoke (Acts 15:10) was by teaching brethren (ver. 1) and therefore the disciples (ver. 10), not infants.

29. Are not the infants of believers visible members of the Christian Church, by a law and ordinance, by God’s promise, to be God to them and their seed, and precept to dedicate them to God, unrepealed?

There is no such ordinance or law extant in Scripture, or deducible from the law of nature, nor are infants anywhere reckoned as visible members of the Christian Church in the New Testament.

30. Has God not promised (Gen. 22:16–18) to make every believer a blessing, so as to cast ordinarily elect children on elect parents, and thereby warrant infant baptism?

The promise does not pertain to any believer’s seed but Abraham’s, who are (Heb. 6:12–14; Gal. 3:8,9; Acts 3.25) expounded to be Christ and true believers only, who are to be baptized, not their infants, until they themselves believe in their own persons.

31. Did not Christ appoint (Mat. 28:19) the disciples to baptize children with parents, as the Jews did proselytes?

If the Jewish baptism had been the pattern for Christians, the Apostles would have so practiced, but their not so doing shows they did not understand it to be Christ’s intention.

32. Is not the infant baptism sufficient if it is affirmed at age?

It is not a sufficient discharge of their obedience to Christ’s command, which requires each person to be baptized after his own repentance and believing in Christ (Mark 16:16; Mat. 28:19; Acts 2:38; Eph. 4:5).

33. What is the chief end of baptism?

To testify the repentance, faith, hope, love, and resolution of the baptized to follow Christ (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Cor. 15:29), calling upon the name of the Lord (Acts 22.16).

34. How came infant baptism to be common in the Christian churches?

As infant communion came from a mistake of John 6:53. So infant baptism began about the third century of the Christian church, from a mistake of John 3:5, the opinion of its giving grace, and the necessity of it to save the dying infant from perishing, and after Augustine’s time became common, which before was not so frequent.

35. Is there any evil in it?

Infant baptism tends much to harden people in presumption, as if they were Christians before they know Christ, and hinders much the reformation of Christian churches, by filling them with ignorant and scandalous members, besides the great sin of profaning God’s ordinance.

35. Have not all opposers of infant baptism, been wicked in the end?

Blessed be God, experience proves the contrary, though some previously proved seditious and entertained great errors.

36. Is there any good by baptizing persons at age, which otherwise might not be, if infant baptism was continued?

Yes, for thereby they would be solemnly engaged to adhere to Christ, which is a strong tie on the consciences, when it is done by a person understandingly, according to Christ’s mind, besides the assurance thereby of union and conformity to Christ, and righteousness and life by him (Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 3:21).

37. What are Christians to do when they are baptized?

To associate together in church-communion, and to walk according to their engagement, in obedience to them who are over them in the Lord.

38. Are persons so joined to separate from those they have joined to upon deficit in outward order and ordinances, or variation from the rule therein by pastors or people?

No, unless the evil is such in faith, worship, or discipline, as is not consistent with Christianity, or the estate of a visible church, or is intolerable oppression, maintained with obstinacy, after endeavors to cure them, to which end each member should keep and act in his station.


Copyright © 2016 Kurtis Amundson.
Artwork: The baptism of the Eunuch, Aelbert Cuyp, c. 1653

Tahiti: 200 Years of Christian Culture

Tahiti: 200 Years of Christian Culture

Two hundred years ago, in 1815, the recently converted Christian king of Tahiti, Pomare II, was attending worship on the Sabbath day. Suddenly, his enemies under the leadership of the Prophet of Oro furiously attacked the assembly, having been promised an easy victory by their Prophet. The missionaries, however had warned the king of such a possibility and the christian natives brought their weapons with them to church.

As the battle ensued the Christian natives among the king’s party took the front lines of battle to protect those among their party that had not converted to the new faith. As the conflict continued the Christians would fall to their knees and cry to God for mercy and protection against their foes. When Upufara, one of the attacking chiefs was killed, the pagan natives fell into disarray and the king’s party obtained complete victory.

Rather than following the traditional practices of their islands to slaughter their enemies, mistreat the women and children and burn the corpses, Pomare gave strict orders that the captives should be treated with loving-kindness and mercifully forgiven. Their property was not plundered and their dead were buried respectfully. This kindness shown by the Christians to their enemies had such an effect on the heathen population that they unanimously declared they would turn from their gods who had sought their ruin and embrace the true religion “distinguished by its mildness, goodness, and forbearance.”

King Pomare II sent throughout the nations to inform his chiefs and subjects that a day of solemnity would be set aside to praise the Lord God for their recent deliverance at the Battle of Fe’i Pi. The day was to be filled with prayer, worship, and thanksgiving with services held at sunrise, noon, and afternoon.

Dec[ember] 15th was observed by the miss[ionaries] and the different parties of natives as a day of prayer and thankgiving [sic] for their late deliverance, and the unexpected and favourable turn that affairs had taken at Tahiti.1The History of the Tahitian Mission 1799–1830, The Hakluyt Society, p. 195

The following years saw a great cultural reformation in the islands of Tahiti. The king removed the idols from the land, buried the bones of his ancestors, and promoted the instruction in reading and writing to his citizens. He also set in place a code of laws including those to prohibit nudity, immodest dancing, tattoos, and infanticide. Moral instruction was given through sermons and catechism.

The transformation of the islanders’ morality was commented on by an observer in 1823:

Idolatry no longer exists among them, and they generally profess the Christian religion. The women no longer come aboard the vessel, and even when we meet them on land they are extremely reserved. … The bloody wars that these people used to carry out and human sacrifices have no longer taken place since 1816.2Etienne Taillemite (1999), Fayard, p. 498

Such a legacy has continued in this island nation. Christianity is the majority religion in Tahiti and more than 50% of the population belong to the Maói Protestant Church. Let us pray that they continue to have a pure profession of faith and trust in God.


Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The History of the Tahitian Mission 1799–1830, The Hakluyt Society, p. 195
2. Etienne Taillemite (1999), Fayard, p. 498
Reviving Tithing & Feasting

Reviving Tithing & Feasting

Harvest has been upon us for some little time. The rich hues of autumn creep slowly into the vivid lush greens of summer about now and fill our senses. Almost unconsciously our expectation builds. The gathering in, the long waited for culmination, the final reaping.

Even the pagans of antiquity recognized this in their confused way. Most of them tragically counted up the works of their own hands and built altars of their own imaginations to the gods of their own depraved minds.

Even more tragically, though, most of us have lost the Christian cultural heritage; the brilliant tie between the Word of God and his nature; self evident in creation. This is the time for feasting and thanksgiving and tithing. Our fathers knew it, and so should we. But thanksgiving to them was not a non-descript emotion; the vague impression of fullness or satisfaction one feels watching an abundant field ripen or sitting before a groaning table of food. In all the symbology, we, their children, may have lost the heart of the matter. Yes, it is the time of thanksgiving and tithing, the time when we gather in and prepare; but we haven’t the first idea of what thanksgiving or tithing look like. Every generation is responsible. We are responsible to look back and look forward. And we are responsible to obey.

Our family is a new one, a frail little bark in the sea of our culture. The following thoughts on feasting and tithing are the results of our searching and clinging to the life line every man has in God’s Word. We know we are commanded to do more than survive. We are commanded to build. So here’s to the rebuilding of the Christian notion of habitual feasting and tithing.

As we gather for a feast, Scripture commands us to do so, first, in the spirit of joy, thanksgiving, and remembrance of the Lord’s provision to us as respective families. For the Christian today, unlike our old covenant fathers,this gathering is not by a special decree or precept but out of conviction that the gathering of believers in the New Testament for a communal meal testifies to a principle of feasting that is common and basic to the Scriptural depiction of Christian fellowship, community, and covenant. Examples of feasting are replete throughout Scripture as familial celebrations, ecclesiastical mandates, and civil/national obligations. The concept of feasting is basic to the Christian life.

Our gathering is in no way an implementation of particular feasts found in the Commonwealth of Israel. There are various mandated feasts in the Old Testament: the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Booths, etc. All of these feasts pointed to, and have their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. No Christian is under any obligation to maintain or perpetuate these feasts as they are set forth in Scripture. I would argue that to practice these feasts would be a denial of their specific fulfillments in Christ, and thus a denial of the sufficiency of his work.

Nevertheless, because the Scripture is profitable for training in righteousness, these Old Testament feasts do prove helpful in understanding how we ought to consider our feastings in the New Covenant. Leviticus 23:1-3 establish the Sabbath as the basic and most common feast:

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the LORD that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the LORD in all your dwelling places.
—Leviticus 23:1-3

We affirm that the Lord’s day and many other days ought to be remembered regularly as a day of feasting to the best of our abilities in the spirit of thanksgiving we are commanded to have in both covenants. Basic to feasting is an offering of food as set forth in Deuteronomy 16:10, 16-17:

… the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, … [you] shall give as the LORD your god blesses you.

“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.

The unassailable conclusion of the aforementioned feasts is as follows: “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.” The amount and quantity of the feast is set forth as an economic statement. 1Gary North, Inheritance and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, 2nd ed. (Dallas, Georgia, Point Five Press, 2012), pg. 462 First, the word “tribute” means “sufficient” or “a proportionate offering.” According to C. H. Waller, this means “a free will offering, proportioned to a man’s means and prosperity.” 2C. H. Waller, M.A., The Fifth Book of Moses, Called Deuteronomy (Cassell & Company, 1885) pg. 97-98 Second, God blesses individuals with more or less, and stipulates that empty hands from those who have been blessed are unacceptable. The head of the family is responsible to apportion as he is able for the provision of the feast. It is an issue of self-government that the man must give what he can, and he is prohibited from appearing empty handed.

It must be recognized that the “blessing of the Lord” is the determiner of the quantity of the offering. This is key to understanding the command in the Feast of Weeks that “you shall rejoice before the Lord your God” (Deut 16:11). Rejoicing is a necessary and required element of this feast as Rushdoony recognizes:

“…Although the feast of weeks was celebrated on the fiftieth day after Passover, it was to be a time of joy throughout. Instead of any concern or wailing over the lightness of the harvest, there was to be joy that there was a harvest. Anxiety was to give way to gratitude.

“It must be stressed that gratitude should not be confused with self-satisfaction.” 3R.J. Rushdoony, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy , (Vallecito, California: Chalcedon / Ross House Books, 2008) pg. 243

Man’s position before the Lord is paramount, regardless to the quantity of his offering. Man is to feast because God has blessed him. Man must declare the praise and glory of his maker and exult the work that he has done in bringing forth a harvest. The fact that there is a harvest is reason alone to celebrate the blessing and provision of God.

To view feasts in light of the ingredients themselves is to raise the works or satisfaction of the man over the purpose of the feast. The word feast can be wrongly understood to imply a certain amount or quality of food. Again, while this may be looked for in the light of God’s gracious blessings to his people when they are faithful, it is neither the point of feasting before the Lord, nor should it be expected, and certainly not mandated. R. J. Rushdoony observes:

“… tithing meant proportionate giving. The tenth of a poor man is as pleasing to God as the tenth of the rich. The principle of the tithe is stated clearly in the law: “Every man shall give as he is able” (Deut. 16:17). This same principle is restated by St. Paul in II Corinthians 8:12 as the essence of Christian giving. St. Paul wrote with respect to the collection for the poor, and he cited the principle of the tithe to collect the poor tithe from Christians. By means of proportionate giving, no undue burden was placed on anyone: the rich were not expected to do all the giving, nor was the burden left to the willing. 4R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, (Vallecito, California: Chalcedon / Ross House Books, 1973) pg. 54

Here the wisdom of Scripture protects the man who can give no more from the man who is not willing to give. All covenanting men are required to participate without exception. Also, provision is made for the sojourner, widow, fatherless, levite, and poor (Deut 14:29). By the participation of covenanting men, those of lesser stature are able to participate and partake in the feasts of God. Here we see the very principle asserted by the Apostle Paul; namely that our lot is fixed by God alone:

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? —1 Corinthians 4:7 (NKJV)

In conclusion we believe that feasting is more than something we do for fun or because it is the thing done. We propose that it is the habit of the Christian home, the expression of the Christian heart. The food which every man brings to the feast is governed by God alone, and it is inextricably linked to freewill giving and the tithe. The principle that heads of households must bring as they are able must be affirmed, and seen as sufficient for God’s blessing upon them.

The Christian man recognizes feasting and thanksgiving, not as a result of the harvest, but because God gave a harvest. He sees all things as the work of the Lord: The harvest comes in for God has worked. We bring our offerings to the table for God has worked. We rejoice in the provision that we have for God has worked. We set aside our time to rest and fellowship for God has worked. We rest our souls in the work of Jesus Christ our Savior for God has worked. God has worked in our fields, in our homes, at our tables, and in our hearts. The beauty of holiness, the glory in thanksgiving, the rejoicing in tithing, these are the things we cannot provide or create for ourselves. Let the mortal man turn to the hands that made him and bless the Lord.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Gary North, Inheritance and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, 2nd ed. (Dallas, Georgia, Point Five Press, 2012), pg. 462
2. C. H. Waller, M.A., The Fifth Book of Moses, Called Deuteronomy (Cassell & Company, 1885) pg. 97-98
3. R.J. Rushdoony, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Deuteronomy , (Vallecito, California: Chalcedon / Ross House Books, 2008) pg. 243
4. R.J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, (Vallecito, California: Chalcedon / Ross House Books, 1973) pg. 54

“Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so adverse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them to resurrection.”

– George Sayles Bishop, ‘Grace In Galatians’ –

For centuries the Church has stood solidly against worldly entertainment, recognizing it for what it was: a device for wasting time … a scheme to divert attention from moral accountability. … But of late she has become tired of the abuse, and has given up the struggle. … The average church member lives a life so worldly and careless, that it is difficult to distinguish him from the unconverted man!

– A.W. Tozer –
Holiness & Reverence

Holiness & Reverence

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
—Exodus 20:7

In the understanding of this text, the modern Christian often takes the words amiss. The command is commonly regarded as a simple prohibition regarding the misuse of God’s name. It is generally applied to the usage of the name of God and Christ in reprehensible or undesirable situations. Modern translations render the commandment as :

“You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God” —NIV

“Never use the name of the LORD your God carelessly.” —GOD’S WORD®

“No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter” —MSG

Some paraphrase the command as simplistically as “No Bad Words”.

However, while there is truth in understanding that certain usages of God’s name are forbidden, at least three broader and more comprehensive  conclusions are imperative to recognize. First, it must be asserted that the reference to God’s “name” does not merely refer to the formal titles of God, but it is inclusive of the various titles, attributes, ordinances, word and works.1Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 54 Second, the inverse of what is forbidden is thereby required. Namely that man must revere the name of the Lord. Third, this command does not only restrict cursing and vulgar language, but requires that the man of God swear by God’s name in faith.

In understanding and defining “name” the Christian must look to scripture.  In Psalm 29 and Matthew 6, man is called to ascribe glory to the name of the Lord.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
—Psalm 29:2

Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
—Matthew 6:9

The Christian specifically is required to ascribe this glory as an act of worshiping the Lord. Nothing less than full credit, complete recognition and total praise are fitting for the glory that is due to God’s name. He is the great “I AM.” Because of this man must humble himself and hallow the very name of God.

The common titles and attributes of God throughout the Scriptures are those pertaining to his authority and sovereignty.

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
“Great and amazing are your deeds,
O Lord God the Almighty!
Just and true are your ways,
O King of the nations!
Who will not fear, O Lord,
and glorify your name?
For you alone are holy.
All nations will come
and worship you,
for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
—Revelation 15:3-4

The very title of Lord is one that affirms  that God is the highest authority, absolute ruler and ultimate potentate. Yet while his character is continually compared to weapons of warfare and dominion, God does not domineer over his creation as the common and base human despot or a tyrant. God is characterized by titles and attributes pertaining to salvation and redemption. Christ indeed is the Lamb of Glory, a title of humility that has been conferred upon Christ the King of Kings. Herein we witness the nature of God’s character, at once humanly incomprehensible and comprehensively  simple.

In Malachi  the law of God is set forth authoritatively and viewed in relation to the Great King and Lord of hosts.

Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
—Malachi 1:14

As the manifest declaration of his nature, the statutes, rules and ordinances of God that must be spoken of  with respect and kept in fear with  reverence and holiness. The law of God ought always to be exalted just as David lauded it, proclaiming in Psalm 119:97 “Oh how I love your law!” The law of God should never be denigrated as though it were backward, barbaric or contemptible by the lawless, let alone the Christian. James calls this law the “perfect law, the law of liberty.” The Law, which is one of God’s manifold demonstrations of grace to redeemed man, should be considered in no less manner than any of his other works.

The Word of God is the very expression of God’s character and will. It relates to man who God is, and it teaches man what is pleasing to God.

I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
—Psalm 138:2

The Word of God is the all sufficient rule of faith and practice. It sets forth what man is to believe about God, and it sets forth how man must act in terms of that belief. Hence man must approach the Word of God with reverence and humility. He must recognize that without the work of redemption and the power of the Spirit of God, he is incapable of  true knowledge.

God has commanded that his works are to be made known to all men. Psalm 107 reflects this well:

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!
—Psalm 107:21-22

This presupposes that all of God’s works are holy and wonderous. Thus it is the duty of all men to recount these deeds and works of God to future generations. These works must be proclaimed with thanksgiving and in songs of joy to all men and all nations at all times.

A proper understanding of the prohibition of the third commandment will yield a recognition of its implied requirements.  In this knowledge, the Christian will  embrace and observe all the right uses of God’s name, and consequently the comprehensive facets of his character. This observance is of necessity rendered in a true spirit of humility with an attitude of holiness and reverence that works itself out in the faith and life of the believer. Holiness and reverence both define and emphasize  the importance of righteous character that results in righteous action.

Holiness is the attitude that recognizes the exalted nature of God, rightly viewing God as distinct from his creation, not a part of it. Holiness also affirms God’s perfect standard of justice. Holiness in the saint causes him to recognize that justice proceeds from God’s decrees and he consequently see God as the source of law.  Holiness, which also has an aesthetic character,  produces in the righteous a delight in, and affection for that law and justice, perceiving its beauty as it manifests the character of its Author.

R. J. Rushdoony aptly describes holiness in the following excerpt from a recorded lecture:

Holiness has to do with our everyday life. Leviticus, which most stresses holiness, gives us laws concerning sexuality and marriage, debt, diet, weights and measures and much, much, more. Too many protestants have a medieval view of holiness as a withdrawal from the world into a convent or a monastic establishment. And they really have turned the churches into monasteries and convents. And they separate themselves from the world and don’t want to be involved in bringing everything into captivity to Christ. … Holiness is not retreat but the application of God’s law word of every area of life and thought. … Holiness is a very wonderful and very practical thing. It is life in faithfulness to the lord Jesus Christ. And to the law word of God.2http://www.pocketcollege.com/beta/index.php?title=We_live_in_troubled_times_-_RR190A1

Thus holiness is not an abstract existential spirituality detached from the physical world. God created a complete world, comprised of both spiritual and physical elements. It is a heretical, gnostic, and Platonistic view of the world that sees a dichotomy between spiritual and physical. Instead holiness is the very spiritually practical act of obedience to God’s law. Holiness is the heart of obedience in man  made evident by real works of righteousness prepared for him to walk in by faith.

In reverence, as with holiness, man is seen as the inferior to God, so  by an attitude of reverence man willingly submits himself to God’s rule and standard of justice. Man sees God for the true Almighty Lord and King. Because the Christian has been redeemed from sin he stands before the Lord with “joyous song.” It is improper to view reverence as simply a stern faced sobriety. While sobriety is one aspect of the virtue, it is tempered with the oil of gladness by the command of God. The people of God, because of the work of God’s grace, act reverentially in thanksgiving with joy and exuberant praise.

Man must apply these attitudes of holiness and reverence in every area of life and thought. He cannot relegate the reverence and holiness of God to the narrow confines of his own dim imaginings or his  rituals or ceremonies which in themselves are lifeless. Instead, man is required to demonstrate practical humility and a reverential attitude toward all of God’s names,  and all they represent  through the daily conforming of every thought and action into the image of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The third commandment is stated as a prohibitive command. It has set a limiting factor that restricts how man must regard the name of the LORD. The full implication of this commandment has been established by recognizing that the inverse of what is forbidden is thereby required. Namely that the third commandment sets forth a solemn injunction as to how man must regard God’s name with holiness and reverence.

Even further than this, the Christian man is required to take god’s name without vanity. That is, he must take upon himself and bear the name of God in faith. He must take or swear by God’s name. Deuteronomy 6:13 declares the right manner of swearing by God’s name:

It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.
—Deuteronomy 6:13

This is an injunction from the Lord himself  to swear by his name.  This is because the very foundation of society and every aspect of life is fundamentally religious. Dr. Joel McDurmon writes:

“ … at the bottom of every way of life, of every religion and every society, stands an ultimate oath. You have to serve somebody. Somebody is your god and you have sworn allegiance to him (or her) already whether you know it or not. You cannot escape worship, authority, or oaths. If you zip-your-lips, and lock the door and swallow the key, and refuse to take any oath whatsoever, you just took one. The question is not “oath or no oath.” The question is Whose name did you take it under? Here we must follow the example of God Himself, “For when God made the promise to Abraham, since he could swear by no one greater, He swore by himself” (Heb. 6:13). No wonder He commands us to swear by that name, too.”3 http://americanvision.org/1849/blasphemy-freedom/

It is clearly evident that the third commandment requires that man comprehensively  live in terms of his faith. The apostle Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4 when he says “the righteous shall live by faith” (Rom 1:17).  Our Lord Jesus Christ echoed the words of Moses from Deuteronomy 8:3 when he declared that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” As the very Word of God, the expression of his Father’s name, Christ perfectly demonstrated for us the keeping of this commandment. Ephesians clearly sets forth the manner of life that identifies Christ, and those who are taught in him:

But that is not the way you learned Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
—Ephesians 4:20-24

The implications of the third commandment are far reaching—far more than the sunday school bible told us when it said “No Bad Words.” God’s Word, being one with his nature, never returns to him void. It effectually conquers and commands dominion over every element of his created universe, including the territory of the mind and heart of man. The Christian man, called out of his own darkness into the light of God by the wonderful grace of this law, must live antithetically to his former self, i.e. fallen man. Being a new creation, he thus takes upon himself the creed of Christ and is re-created after the likeness of God. This likeness is one of righteousness and holiness. It is a moral imperative that the Christian man swears by God and is thereby bound to fulfill what he swears. As God’s nature is constancy itself, so the Christian life must be a life of constancy in faith wherein redeemed man is held to the standard of God’s righteousness by the Spirit and so lives faithfully in thought and deed. As the true standard of obedience to the third commandment, this kind of universal holiness and reverence for the name of God is paramount to the advance of Christendom.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 54
2. http://www.pocketcollege.com/beta/index.php?title=We_live_in_troubled_times_-_RR190A1
3. http://americanvision.org/1849/blasphemy-freedom/
The Forbidden Manner of Worship

The Forbidden Manner of Worship

Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. —Deuteronomy 4:15-19

The larger context of Deuteronomy chapter 4 outlines the careful diligence that must be shown in the keeping of God’s law, especially charging parents to teach God’s acts of providence in history to subsequent generations. Parents are commanded to “[M]ake them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deut 4:9).

The passage  sets forth two principles to be considered and obeyed. First there is the responsibility of self-government. Verse 15 of Deuteronomy chapter 4 clearly establishes that man must live in the fear of God, mindful of his actions in light of God’s righteous standard. The Christian is only able to judge what is right or wrong by the authority of God’s Word in the power of the Spirit and so be conformed to the image of Christ.  Self-government is basic to biblical law.

The second principle to recognize is that man is responsible to communicate the truth about God to others. There is an emphasis put upon family discipleship because the family is the basic social unit. Through the family, subsequent generations are discipled in the faith.  But discipleship is not prescribed for the family alone. The family is equipped by the shepherds and teachers of the church “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ.” So as members of the body of Christ, we as Christians are to keep watch over ourselves and admonish one another in the faith.

Immediately following the charge to “watch yourselves very carefully” (Deut 4:15) the passage  gives examples of ways in which we might act corruptly or err in the practice of right and holy worship. Man is warned to check himself, guarding against his propensity to form a view of God that is not found in his all sufficient testimony about himself, the Scriptures. The charge, “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it” (Deut 4:2), was uttered in the immediately preceding verses, and is followed by the command, “take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life” (Deut 4:9).

We must remember first that God is spirit and has “no form” (Deut 4:15). If we ascribe any form of our invention to God, or identify God “in the form of any figure” (Deut 4:15) we have “exchanged the truth about God for a lie” (Rom 1:25), and created a false representation of Almighty God. “[H]e is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col 1:17). Christ alone is “the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3), being the second person of the triune Godhead.

As the first warning identified man’s presumptuous nature and his tendency to create a god after his own image, so the second warning concerns man’s tenacious rebellion in rendering worship to something other than God himself. The basic faith of so many who identify themselves with Christianity is actually the tragic doctrine of humanism. Humanism as a belief system is one which can captivate any Christian who seeks to distance himself from the full implications of this commandment. A Christian is properly identified as a humanist when, while he denies that he is party to any form of external physical idolatry, he yet refuses to yield his mind on even the smallest issue of life to the law of God. This was aptly noted by R. J. Rushdoony when he wrote: “Humanism is the second oldest religion known to man. It goes back to the Garden of Eden and to the tempter’s creed as set forth in Genesis 3:1-5.”1

The basic duty of the Christian faith is to live obediently in terms of God’s Word by faith in Jesus Christ. Habakkuk 2:4 declares that “the righteous [man] shall live by his faith.” To live in terms of any other faith than that faith which professes and performs obedience to Christ’s commandments is to live in opposition to God, and to embrace the very oldest of lies; that man can “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). This is something that each one of us does in self-deceit. We make excuses, identify something as unfair, or harbor notions of self-justification for our lawless actions in order to relieve the guilt of our conscience. The Christian must of necessity abhor the vileness of sin. He must wage war with the false concept of peace with any other faith, and he must discharge his obligation to advance Christ’s everlasting Kingdom.

As with all issues of life, the comprehensive sufficiency of scripture must by necessity be assumed in order to consistently apply these principles of worship.  God’s Word alone is the final measure by which any and all forms of worship must be examined and applied.  The eminent importance of this issue cannot be overemphasized.  Deuteronomy 12:31-32 demonstrates this:

When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it. —Deuteronomy 12:31-32

Two themes in this passage are crucial to recognize. First there is the antithesis of the Christian faith and the humanistic faith. The humanistic faith was the faith of those nations which served other gods and disobeyed the commandments of the one true God.  They were to be deposed and destroyed by Israel, the saints of God. This was a concrete enactment of the proverb that says “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil” (Prov 8:13). By consequence of regeneration, “the law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2) has set the mind of the Christian “on the things of the Spirit” (Rom 8:5) “in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled” (Rom 8:4).  The redeemed man who has been converted by the Spirit of God unto saving faith in Christ cannot dwell peaceably with evil, either in the world or within himself. The natural man runs towards humanism. The Christian must be at war with him.

What the natural man perceives as good and right worship can never be faithfully performed toward God and it is imperative that the Christian submit himself to the command of God who declares: “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way” (Deut 12:31). The Christian is forbidden to worship God in a manner that is derived from man’s mind. It was by the mind of man that “every abominable thing that the LORD hates” (Deut 12:31) was “done for their gods” (Deut 12:31).  History is replete with the detestable horrors fallen man has stooped to in worshiping his gods, such as what is recorded here; “for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deut 12:31).

The governing authority of God’s Word over the manner that we worship God is stated thus: “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it” (Deut 12:32). Here is the ultimate standard that we as Christians must adhere to; namely that God himself has prescribed the manner of worship that is pleasing to him, and we are thereby forbidden from worshipping God in any manner other than he has revealed to us in his Word.

The Word of God is set forth as the only infallible source of God’s revealed will to man. If man turns to any other source to determine how he ought to worship God, whether through the examples of other religions, personal experience, or witty invention and the cleverness of his own mind, his worship will be regarded by God as abominable. It will have no merit whatsoever, and will incur the judgement and wrath of God, instead of his blessing and favor. May God give us grace that we might abstain from all things that are forbidden in the second commandment.

Behold, Your King

Behold, Your King

For 2,000 years the historic Christian church has remembered the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in human flesh. This event celebrated around the world declares the advance of Christ’s Kingdom; of the increase of His government there shall be no end! No expression of man has described this work of our Messiah so well as Handel’s oratorio. His is a singular work that vividly sets to song the prophecies and fulfillment of the advent, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, kingdom advance, final victory, and accomplished salvation of our Lord. I’ve used his masterpiece as a springboard for an outline of Scriptural texts that proclaim the promise and fulfillment of the gospel of the kingdom.

His Promise

Decreed from the foundations of the world and foretold immediately after the Fall, God promised salvation through the seed of the woman in the person of Jesus Christ. The following verses reveal the promise of our Messiah, Emmanuel, God with us.

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

(Isaiah 40:1–5)

For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.

(Haggai 2:6–7)

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.

(Malachi 3:1–3)

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

(Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23)

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