Tuesday 31 October 2017

The Book of Titus: A fitting Tribute to the 500th Year of the Reformation

What is the day today? "It is not ground-hogday". Nor should we want it to be, that is in reference to the 31st October 2017. This day marks 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg. Under God, this became the fuel for the long awaited work of church reformation. Bringing the church back to its biblical foundation and a biblical pattern.

There is no book of the Bible more fitting, in my view, to recommend, than Paul's letter to Titus which he was to take on his mission to Crete to set things in order among the groups of believers (1:5). This is needed in every generation. Paul wrote to Titus, an experienced co-labourer: "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine (2:1)". He taught sound doctrine in terms of salvation, church government, order in the family and in discriminating between those who had a genuine profession of faith and those who did not.

There is so much more in this gem of a Bible book.

Furthermore, there is a book published by the Banner of Truth recently called John Calvin's Sermon on Titus. This includes seventeen sermons by Calvin on this book. As Paul wrote Titus towards the end of his life, so Calvin preached on the Book of Titus toward the end of his life. Both give insights into mature Christian thought. I commend them both.

How about reading the Book of Titus either today or this week? How about praying for the help of the Holy Spirit to understand the truths in that book and how they need recovering again in our generation. We look backwards to church history but we also look forwards in expectant prayer for a further work of reformation and revival around the world.

Monday 23 October 2017

Humility, first, second, third, and always!

John Calvin wrote in his second book, two of four, in “The Institutes of Christian Religion” about "The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ". In Book 2:2:11 he expounded concerning true humility that gives God alone the honour and he wrote:

“A saying of Chrysostum has always pleased me very much, that the foundation of our philosophy is humility. But that of Augustine pleases me even more: ‘When a certain rhetorician was asked what was the chief rule in eloquence, he replied, ‘Delivery, delivery, delivery’; so if you ask me concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, first, second, third and always I would answer ‘Humility’ ”.

1.Humility (at home)

We need to display humility in the home and among our family.
Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them”.
Loving our wives as Christ loved the church requires humility, first, second and third in the home. A man who is willing to admit he is wrong and says sorry is indeed to be respected. 1 Corinthians 13:4 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant”. Pray for humility in your life at home.

2. Humility (in the congregation)

We need to learn to practice humility in the congregation where we are planted. Nothing is more dis-tasteful than pride. The proud person is often the last person to see their own pride, because their personal pride blinds that individual's discernment to their own problems. Have you ever heard a proud Christian saying that my problem is my own spiritual pride? No, because their pride cannot stoop so low, because such an individual wants to project something of grandeur and apparent spiritual success, instead of giving the Covenant LORD the honour and glory.

James 4:6 “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Philippians 2:8 “he [Jesus] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross".
Our Christian lives should reflect the humility of the crucified Christ in our receiving the preached Word, in our prayer lives and in living as part of the flock with other Christians.

3. Humility (with the elders)

Humility needs to be displayed in the way we relate to elders in the church. The Scripture requires humility by elders and humility and godly submission by church members as well.

Acts 20:18-19 “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me”.

We need to pray to walk in all humility before your elders and with fellow Christians, but most of all before the LORD. Humility needs to be a lifelong pursuit.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Remembering the Reformation in its 500th Anniversary Year

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,
so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; Psalm 78:1-7

It is remarkable how silent the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are this year, regarding the anniversary of the 500th year of the Reformation. That is, since Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Saxony. There are five principles of the early Reformation which are called the five Solas meaning "alone" in Latin. There are that salvation is:

Scripture Alone
Faith Alone
Grace Alone
Christ Alone
To the Glory of God Alone

However, the further work of the Reformation in the succeeding generation was far more than that. John Calvin and others sought to work out the early implications of the Reformation, which then led to the church's worship, doctrine and church government being subjected to the scrutiny of the Word of God. Psalm 78 as cited above, exhorts us to pass on the history of the church as revealed in the Bible, to future generations. This also includes the history of the church from the last 2000 years.

One of the momentous events that was guided by the Holy Spirit, occurred 500 years ago. This Reformation has not led to the perfection of the church to bring in her into a perfect state in this world; that will have to wait until heaven. But, the gospel has been liberated and taken out of the hands of the Roman Catholic Church. Everyone who professes Jesus Christ, then needs to be guided by "Scripture Alone", and not simply holding a bunch of private interpretations. This was the purpose of the Westminster assembly, in order to pen down precise statements of doctrine, for the church to subscribe to uniform doctrine.

For those who may be interested, there are some very helpful talks/lectures on the Reformation from a recent UK based conference called Ref500. Here is the link to them: http://presbyterianseminary.org.uk/resources/reformation-500-lectures/

Tuesday 3 October 2017

The Bible is One Book!

It is amazing how a single page inserted by publishers has had a significant impact. It is the page between the so called Old Testament and the New Testament. In my Bible it is a single page entitled "The New Testament". However, we must remember that the Bible is one book and there are two covenants; The covenant of works before the Fall of Adam and the covenant of grace unfolded thereafter. Yes that covenant of grace varies in its administration and it is consummated finally by Christ and his shed blood, but it is the same covenant of grace.

When we think of the Scripture as being one book it begins to change our perspective upon many things. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-17:

"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work".

The Scriptures that Timothy learned from were Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Micah and Malachi. In thinking of the prophet Malachi, it is amazing how Mark's Gospel just continues where Malachi leaves off.

Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I send my messenger [John the Baptist], 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 [The Lord Jesus Christ] in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts".

Mark 1:1-4 "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins".

I would encourage all of us to reconsider and meditate upon the reality that the Bible is one book. This should enhance our appreciation of all the Books of the Bible and then to seek to understand all of them and to ask how each fits into the Lord's plan of redemption so that the church can grow in her knowledge of all Scripture.