Tuesday 29 April 2014

My journey to the Reformed Faith ("The kingdom of heaven is like leaven ...")

The Lord Jesus Christ taught a parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (Matthew 13:33).

Once the five points of Calvinism were set in place in my heart and mind, along with an exposure to the panorama of biblical doctrines, then the truths of God began to work through every area of my thinking. This is where the fun starts, though it is painful as well. Your view of marriage, the church, worship, preaching, the connection between the church and state, the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, the doctrines of justification and so much more begin to impact every area of your thinking.

Many opinions that I thought were right would become challenged and then my response was to carefully search the Scriptures and also church history to determine whether these things were so. 1 John 4:1 "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God" and 1 Thessalonians 5:21 "But test everything; hold fast what is good" had been guiding principles for some years. One of the main things that I began to discover was this; Holding to the five points of Calvinism is not enough to claim to be reformed. The Scripture needs to reform our view of everything, we need to submit to the Lord in order to be conformed to the doctrine of God (Romans 12:1-2) and then this has to become a living reality through one's whole life. We are not to become fossilised in our reformed understanding, neither are we to be shifting our opinions constantly once we have arrived at settled biblical conclusions.

Here is my last comment on this blog. Three things are required for those who are on a reformed pilgrimage and who are currently discovering reformed doctrines.

1). Teachability. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said "make disciples ... teach". To be a disciple requires personal teachability. Are you teachable?
2). Humility is needed. It is humbling having to recognise that you have held ideas that are wrong or defective. Humility is required by all Christians through our lives. 1 Peter 5:5 "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble".
3). Patience. Once you discover many exciting truths, it can mean that you want to know everything all at once. However, spiritual growth takes time and people need to realise that putting these things into practice is not simply about reading books. Reading reformed books can be an easy form of Christianity or even a retreat for some from the "rough and tumble" of church life and the great commission.

Isaiah 61:3 "That they shall be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified". Oaks only grow by one ring per year, but each year they grow, therefore be patient to put into practice what you may be learning.

Wednesday 23 April 2014

O. Palmer Robertson at the Banner of Truth Ministers Conference

I have just returned from the UK Banner of Truth ministers conference in Leicester. A highlight for me, apart from meeting people, was a talk by O. Palmer Robertson (apparently the "O" stands for Owen) which was on the structure of the book of Psalms. It was very helpful and it is the beginnings of a book that he hopes to be published by him at some stage.

He outlined the structure of the five books of the Psalms and why they are arranged in the way they are. He explained that there is a deliberate arrangement in all the five books in the psalter in the way flowers are arranged for a wedding. They are not just randomly arranged or selected. He expounded briefly Psalm 67 and what a rich Psalm this is.


1  May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
2  that your way may be known on earth,
your saving power among all nations.
3  Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

4  Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you judge the peoples with equity
and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
5  Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you!

6  The earth has yielded its increase;
God, our God, shall bless us.
7  God shall bless us;
let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Palmer Robertson has a number of other books such as " The Christ of the Covenants" and some other titles. He has a new book out also called something like Christ in the Prophets. He is an engaging speaker with passion and he has excellent content to his presentation as well.

Monday 21 April 2014

A great new meeting place for Sheffield Presbyterian Church!

We have just enjoyed our fourth Sunday in the new meeting place for Sheffield Presbyterian Church. Hill Top Chapel is indeed a blessing. We had a deacons meeting recently and we have many things to work on, but we have a great new facility. To find out where it is, here is our website: www.sheffieldpres.org.uk

Two weeks ago we ordained our second deacon and yesterday we baptised a 74 year old man who has professed faith in Jesus Christ recently. We of course did baptism and communicants classes with him and what a delight it is, to see him growing in the Lord. You are most welcome to come and join us to worship God together in our services at 11.00am or 5.00pm on Sundays. We have our midweek meeting at 7.30pm on Wednesday nights in the chapel also.

Saturday 19 April 2014

Reading good books nourishes our faith

We are all different but ever since my conversion I have had an insatiable thirst for knowledge, especially Christian knowledge. I know and appreciate that Christianity is not simply reading books but what a joy to read an excellent Christian book. We all have different seasons when sometimes there can be book after book which nourishes your soul and then times, well, what can I say? It is as if the books in your hand are a little dry and they do not have the same penetrating grip upon you.

I have been a little dry season in recent months regarding extra personal reading and nothing has been really gripping me. However, two books that are currently blessing my soul are Greg Beale's book called "The Temple and the Church's Mission" and another book by Richard Gaffin, "Resurrection and Redemption".

I remember reading a book about the life of an 18th Century preacher called William Grimshaw and he said: "Read the best books, keep the best company and hear the best men". What books do you read, what company do you keep and who are you listening to?

1 Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals”.

Thursday 17 April 2014

From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, editors David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson

This book is a landmark contribution to settle the issues surrounding particular redemption. Ever since the Arminian and Synod of Dort firestorm of debate concerning the extent and intent of the atonement of Christ Jesus, discussion has rumbled on. And rightly so in many respects, because every new generation needs to understand the truths of Scripture for themselves.

A foreword by J. I. Packer sets the “ball rolling” and twenty three chapters and 703 pages follow (including indices). It is fitting that Packer writes the foreword because he also wrote the contemporary foreword for the seventeenth century classic on the same subject by John Owen, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ”. This new book is written to engage in all the debates that have ensued since Owen’s thesis was let loose on the theological world several centuries ago.

The editors have involved erudite reformed scholars and the list of contributors is indeed impressive. Men such as Carl Trueman, J. Alec Motyer, Sinclair Ferguson and John Piper. Motyer’s chapter is perhaps my favorite and it is a comprehensive exposition of the Servant Song in Isaiah 52-53 entitled “Stricken for the Transgression of my People”; he anchors definite atonement in the biblical text in a way that is refreshing.

There are some common threads throughout this book, one which is arranged around four loci: Definite Atonement in Church History; Definite Atonement in the Bible; Definite Atonement in Theological Perspective; and Definite Atonement in Pastoral Practice. The common approach includes a preference for the term definite atonement instead of limited atonement or particular redemption. Additionally, most contributors are writing as academic theologians, and their style maybe such, that it may be too dense for many to have the time or background knowledge to comprehend. There is a strong polemic in each chapter and most contributors appear to knock down a specific opponent to definite atonement.

From my perspective, it is written with clarity, acumen, and boldness. For example, Piper exposes the flawed understanding of the atonement that is propounded by Mark Driscoll of the Mars Hill Church, Seattle. It never ceases to amaze me that British evangelicals can be captivated by popular speakers such as Driscoll, even when his theology carries such unreformed and unorthodox strands.

I am persuaded that this book will stand the test of time and buttress the church to stand firm on the historic truths concerning the atonement. After reading these many pages, I sought refuge in the distilled sentences of the Westminster Confession concerning this subject: “To all those for whom Christ has purchased redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same ... revealing unto them, in and by the Word, the mysteries of salvation ... 8:8”.

Monday 14 April 2014

My journey to the Reformed Faith (the five points of Calvinism)

At some point on a doctrinal pilgrimage, it is impossible to avoid wrestling with the five points of Calvinism. These five points relate to the doctrine of salvation and they are derived from the Synod of Dort (1818-19) when they responded to the disciples of Jacobus Arminius in The Netherlands. Though the series on Romans that I had read had been a life-changing experience, with the doctrinal wisdom that emanated from these books of sermons on Romans, yet MLJ never explicitly spelled out the five points of Calvinism. So, what helped me at this point?

Two books arrested my attention and gave me serious answers. These were "Revival and Revivalism" by Iain Murray and "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination" by Lorraine Boettner. The latter book cleared up the five points of Calvinism. Providentially at the time I also came across a man called Ian Mortimer (he is now a member of Sheffield Presbyterian Church) who had in the years before me worked through the same issues of doctrine. He was at that time an enormous help, especially as I sought to get my mind around particular redemption; this is the doctrine that Jesus purchased the salvation of the elect upon the cross.

The power of literature is wonderful and it is amazing how the Lord will bring the right people across our path at the right time to help us. However, as I began to explain these truths and to defend them against false conceptions of the gospel, I began to face increased opposition and misunderstanding. I remember being in a room with ministers and the issue of salvation arose. It had become clear in my mind that there are only two alternatives regarding the final answer to salvation: either man's will has the primary say or God's will. As I expounded that it is the will of God and the glory of God that decides whether someone is saved, I was amazed how deep the traditions of Arminianism were. Arminianism is the teaching of "free-willers" and it is the mainstream evangelical position today in the West, even though it contradicts the plain teaching of the Bible.

What do I recommend for further reading for those who are interested in exploring reformed doctrine. These are my reading suggestions:
Ephesians 1:3-14
John 6:22-70
Romans 9
Acts 13:48

John 6:37 "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out".

Monday 7 April 2014

My Journey to the Reformed Faith (part 4 and the Book of Romans)

It is with fond memories that I write this particular blog post. I had figured out in my reformed pilgrimage, that if I wanted to understand the gospel, that I needed to understand the Book of Romans. Having become familiar with Martyn Lloyd-Jones already, I had discovered that his magnum opus was his Romans series. So, I decided to read his whole series on Romans, books which are on my book shelves now, just an arms length from my computer as I type. This was a series of expositions on Romans that he delivered in Westminster Chapel in London from 1955-1968. The books comprise 14 volumes, covering from Romans 1:1-14:17.

As I began to grasp the gospel doctrines in Romans, my world view changed, with that my understanding of salvation. However, what I remember as I write this blog post is that I was thrilled with knowledge of the gospel, as I learned about the righteousness of God, the wrath of God, propitiation, justification by faith, adoption, the perseverance of the saints, imputed righteousness, and God's sovereignty in Romans chapter 9. The words of holy Scripture acted like a "plough in my soul" breaking up wrong thinking, but it was the thrill of the discovery of these doctrines that I remember so vividly. I perhaps read these volumes over more than a year and I began to preach on the book of Romans at that time at every opportunity I had.

It would be fair to say that the Book of Romans was my "meat and drink" for around five years, When we served in overseas missions as a family, I was asked to lead a voluntary Bible study and we decided to study Romans. Many young people were similarly gripped with the Book of Romans as I was, as we studied this book for around a year. The Reformed faith is nothing less than a thrilling discovery of the doctrines of the Bible.

This leaves us to ask some searching questions. Are you thrilled with the gospel? Do you understand all the doctrines that are connected to the gospel? Do you desire to grow in your knowledge of the Book of Romans? The reformed faith is the sixteenth century recovery of doctrines which go back to the time of the apostles', the same historic truths which fallen man tries to bury in every generation. Psalm 100:5 stands true: "For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations" (NASB).

(This series by Martyn Lloyd-Jones on Romans is published by the Banner of Truth)

Thursday 3 April 2014

A Book Review on "Antinomianism" by Mark Jones

Antinomianism - Reformed Theology's unwelcome guest?
Mark Jones
P&R publishing

This book is timely, incisive, warm and well researched. My initial impression in reading through these nine chapters is that my was soul refreshed. Reading this book was like a “breath of fresh air” spiritually speaking. There can be many currents of contemporary teaching, some of which are sometimes hard to pin down and one of these today is antinomianism. Mark Jones does well to expound its multi-faceted tentacles in the first chapter “Lessons from History”. Jones is careful to ensure that his readers understand that this unwelcome guest in the evangelical and reformed world has a number of different faces. It is not simply a teaching which is “against the law” which is what antinomian means etymologically, but something much broader.

The impetus for this book was perhaps, the author’s discovery that antinomianism was such a threat during the time of the Westminster assembly. In fact three other doctrinal threats in seventeenth–century England were Roman Catholicism, Arminianism and Socinianism (a defective view of the person of Christ and therefore the Trinity): Has anything really changed? (xiv). Surely, Solomon was right when he wrote “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9).

The author handles the popular “law-gospel” slogan and he rejects the idea that the law is the antithesis of the gospel. He makes plain, in line with the Westminster Confession (19:7), that the “moral law does ‘sweetly comply’ with the grace of the gospel” (53). He also mentions that it is not enough to simply hold to a threefold division of the law in the chapter titled “The Law and the Gospel”. He succinctly sums up his case that the “issue is not so much whether one holds to a threefold use of the law, but which use is primary” (55).

The moral law is a friend of the Christian and of the church and yet this message has been muted in many quarters of evangelicalism today. It may be asked “why?”. One cannot be sure as to how to answer that question. However, I unreservedly commend this book to as wide readership as possible to stem the current unwelcome antinomian tide.