Wednesday 23 February 2011

The Church and the Law of God

A brand new book has just passed through my hands by Philip Ross, From the Finger of God: The Biblical and Theological Basis for the Threefold Division of the Law. It is rather a lengthy title and it is a book that is quite academic but it's argument is very important. It is this. The law of God manifests a threefold division; the moral, ceremonial and civil aspects of the law. While our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all aspects of the law in his perfect life of obedience and his atoning death, the moral law does forever bind all, as the Westminster Confession rightly explains.

Does this affect you? Definitely! It is because we see many churches abandoning the role of the law for Christians and churches and the consequences are disastrous. Let me ask you; can you recite the Ten Commandments? Do not feel guilty, but your answer reveals the neglect that the moral law of God has undergone. Of course we are not saved by the law but by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:21-5) but the law of God frames our way of worship and our way of life.

When the moral law of God is side-lined by the church, there are two immediate consequences. Firstly, worship will be taken over by man-made methods. Why? Because the first four of the Ten Commandments teach us that Scripture regulates how we are to worship God. By abandoning the law of God, indirectly the consequence is, that we now need to decide how to worship God instead of Scripture. Often an obsession with evangelism, rather than the purity of God-centred worship, then begins to drive the agenda.

Secondly, the power of gospel preaching is weakened because an understanding of sin is weakened. Why?
'Through the law comes the knowledge of sin, Romans 3:20'.

Here is some homework for you.

1. Read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1-17.
2. Read Romans Chapter 7 to hear Paul's positive view of the role of the law in the life of the church.
3. Read Chapter 19 of the Westminster Confession 'Of the Law of God'.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Lloyd-Jones and his Book "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount"

In an age where many people like to lay claim to the title 'reformed' but then they sometimes sadly feed on books which do not engage in solid biblical exposition, I would like to recommend a book that John Stott calls 'a spiritual classic'. This is 'Studies in the Sermon on the Mount' by Martyn Lloyd-Jones (IVP). Lloyd-Jones is of course no longer with us but his rich explanation of the beatitudes and the Lord's teachings on the Sermon on the Mount can still help many hungry and thristy pilgrims today!

This book really helped me in a time when I was searching for answers and I found little comfort from many. Sadly, I would observe much preaching and worship services where there was a manifest famine of preaching that was simply 'out of the Scripture'. This book unfolds the Scripture, it takes the biblical text seriously and this is what is needed for truly contemporary ministry. Sometimes, men from good traditions think that they can reinvent the wheel and they think that we need to be contemporary to win a lost world by singing contemporary songs and using contemporary approaches to evangelism. "This is what we need", they say. Sadly this philosophy is at best missing the point, and at worst it creates a form of Christianity alien to what our Lord presented as the pattern for ministry.

This book helpfully expounds man's need in every generation; searching, well prepared sermons that stick close to the Bible. May we have less internet illustrations, less internet jokes and less internet cliches in the pulpit and more solid, faithful, exegetical sermons.

Thus says the LORD:
“Stand by the roads, and look,
and ask for the ancient paths,
where the good way is; and walk in it,
and find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Je 6:16). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Monday 7 February 2011

The Work of the Pastor

Some spare time over Christmas gave me the opportunity to read a range of books simply, ones that were for my personal benefit and not directly for ministerial work. I generally keep a shelf of books set aside for times such as these, and I eagerly devour my collection of personal books, when time permits. One such book that I could not put down was The Work of the Pastor by William Still. It is lively, invigorating, incisive, confirming and encouraging. William Still teaches on the work of the pastor and its great need for the church in every generation. It would be very helpful, not only for ministers and elders but also for congregations, because it helps us all to know what we should be praying for, and that is for faithful pastors.

Here are a few excerpts:

'The pastor is to called to feed the sheep, even if the sheep do not want to be fed. He is certainly not to become an entertainer of goats. Let goats entertain goats, and let them do it in goatland. You will certainly not turn goats into sheep by pandering to their goatishness (23)'.

'We are suffering from an evangelistic complex, an obsession with evangelism, which at its best is too fruitless (81)'.

'Too many ministers find other things to do, either because they do not like the pastoral ministry, and find it too hard, or because it creates too many problems working with people, or because they have gone cold and dead on it and it doesn't cut much ice, and they are discouraged (86)'.

Even if you do not read this book, may we all lay hold of the promise in Jeremiah 3:15, in prayer:

And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.