Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Works of Sanctification...

We should keep in mind that we no more “do” sanctification that we “do” justification or glorification. Good works are a result or outworking of our sanctification.
Q. 35. What is sanctification? 
A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
I do think that definition needs unpacking but it does indicate that it is sanctification which enables a practical walk in a godly direction, i.e. mortifying sin and living unto righteousness – not our good works which enable sanctification.  And...
CHAPTER 14
Of Saving Faith
1. The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts, and is ordinarily wrought by the ministry of the Word, by which also, and by the administration of the sacraments, and prayer, it is increased and strengthened.
2. By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.
3. This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.
When in doubt, read what the confessional standards say.  No one chapter in the WCF or Q&A in the larger or shorter catechisms should be read in isolation.
sanctification,

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"And he that loveth me will be loved by my Father."

"And he that loveth me will be loved by my Father." Christ speaks as if men loved God before he loved them; which is absurd, for,
"when we were enemies, he reconciled us to him," (Romans 5:10;) - and the words of John are well known - "Not that we first loved him, but he first loved us," (1 John 4:10.) 
But there is no debate here about cause or effect; and therefore there is no ground for the inference, that the love with which we love Christ comes in sequence before the love which God has toward us; for Christ meant only, that all who love him will be happy, because they will also be loved by him and by the Father; not that God then begins to love them, but because they have a testimony of his love to them, as a Father, engraven on their hearts.

John Calvin. Commentary on John 14: 21

Monday, May 19, 2014

Have mercy upon us miserable sinners...

O GOD the Father, of heaven : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O God the Father, of heaven : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son: have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us miserable sinners.
   Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.
       Spare us, good Lord.
   From all evil and mischief; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation, 
       Good Lord, deliver us.
   From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness,
       Good Lord, deliver us.

- From the Litany, 1662 Book of Common Prayer

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Obedience By Faith Alone?

Upon believing in Christ does the standard of the Law change? Is the acceptable standard of obedience before the Law still and only perfection? On what basis then are the "good works" of believers acceptable as such before God?
Neonomians allege, that though we cannot fulfil that perfect obedience which the law of works demanded, yet God has been graciously pleased, for Christ’s sake, to give us a new law, according to which, sincere obedience, or faith, repentance, and sincere obedience, are accepted as our justifying righteousness. It may be here remarked, that the Scripture nowhere gives the slightest intimation that a near and milder law has been substituted in place of the law of works originally given to man. Christ came "not to destroy the law, but to fulfil it." The gospel was never designed to teach sinners that God will now accept of a sincere instead of a perfect obedience, but to direct them to Jesus Christ as "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." The idea of a new law, adapted to the present condition of human nature, reflects the greatest dishonour both upon the law and the Lawgiver; for it assumes that the Lawgiver is mutable, and that the law first given to man demanded too much.
IX. Of Justification - Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (1845)
So, on what basis are the believer's "good works of sanctification" then deemed acceptable by God?
In short, I affirm, that not by our own merit but by faith alone, are both our persons and works justified; and that the justification of works depends on the justification of the person, as the effect on the cause. (John Calvin, Acts of the Council of Trent with the Antidote)
Yes, believers seek to obey, seek to be faithful, and seek to walk in a manner worthy of their Lord.  Yet the biblical truth is that their Obedience/Sanctification, indeed their entire Salvation, is accomplished only by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone (Eph. 2: 8-9) that no man may boast.
whereas Christ saith plainly - When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, 'We are unprofitable servants' (39 Articles, WCF, Luke 17:10).

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. - Brother in Christ

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (November 30, 1918 – May 2, 2014)

After moving back to Santa Barbara in 2003, having been on the Canterbury trail for a while, my wife and I visited the Anglican Church of Our Savior at which time met for worship at the Emanuel Lutheran Church in the afternoon on Sundays. After the reading of the Ten Commandments with the congregational responses, a gentlemen in a black gown took to the pulpit and began reading the Epistle lesson. As I listened, somewhere in the back of my mind I was thinking that this elderly man seemed familiar. That voice... But who was he? 

I grew up in the 1950s and 60s. Like many others, two of the shows I watched every week on TV were 77 Sunset Strip and The F.B.I. Well, after the service we had the pleasure of meeting Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. My wife and I became members at that church, remaining there for several years before continuing our journey towards a more Reformed Christianity that brought us to El Camino Orthodox Presbyterian Church.

Efrem was a devout Christian, someone worth emulating. He was a humble man who treated others as more important than himself. What I heard about him from others gave witness to my own experience. What I mean is, that though I only knew Efrem in the context of our church worship and fellowship, he always showed a genuine interest and care and made you feel that you were one of his friends. Although when I first met him I thought of him in terms of the TV characters he played. Since then and especially today I think of him in his real life role - that of a brother in Christ.

Below is a video from 2010 at the Bishop Diego High School chapel. It is Efrem reading from John 1 during the Lessons and Carols service:



Monday, May 12, 2014

Law/Gospel Distinction According to Cranmer: Law & Mercy

In the mid-16th century, reformer Thomas Cranmer struck the right note regarding the attitude and disposition the believer is to bring to the hearing of God's Holy Law and his thankful response of obedience.  That note?  When contemplating obedience to God's law never let the word 'Mercy' - found only in the Gospel - be far from one's lips... 
GOD spake these words, and said; I am the Lord thy God: Thou shalt have none other gods but me.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, and visit the sins of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shew mercy unto thousands in them that love me, and keep my commandments.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless, that taketh his Name in vain.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all that thou hast to do; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. In it thou shalt do no manner of work, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, thy man-servant, and thy maid-servant, thy cattle, and the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and ail that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Honour thy father and thy mother; that thy days may be long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Thou shalt do no murder.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Thou shalt not commit adultery.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Thou shalt not steal.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.    
 Minister. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.     
Minister. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his servant, nor his maid, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is his.     
People. Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Sterling, Sin, Self-Righteousness, and Mercy...

I more or less agree with the NBA commissioner's decision. One could certainly say this is Sterling's just desserts. He had a long track record as a racist. Interestingly, the NAACP was willing to ignore that horrid record for years by taking his [payoff?] money and bestowing top honors on him a number of times. Is the NAACP complicit in Sterling's sins? 

But what if Sterling were to repent? What if he were to seek forgiveness? Would it be there for him? - 
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.…(Matt. 18:21-22).
During the time of Jesus' ministry there was no lower low-life than a publican. A publican was a Jew who worked as a tax-gatherer for the Roman's. He was a traitor of sorts, worse than extortioners or adulterers. The Jews understandably distained these individuals. They looked down on them as the worst of sinners: 
And he spake also this parable unto certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: "Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank thee, that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote his breast, saying, 'God, be thou merciful to me a sinner!'" I say unto you, This man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled; but he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14) 
So then, which sin keeps one from receiving forgiveness: being a low-life publican or the self-righteousness of the Pharisees? He who sees himself as healthy apparently has no need of a physician. But forgiveness for sin and justification from God comes to us only via faith in God's mercy offered to sinners in Christ, leading to repentance - not from our own works of "goodness."
Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them. But the righteousness of faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;  for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:1-13)
* Inspired by Scott Clark's Heidelblog post Outraged America