Tuesday, July 22, 2014

THE CHURCH & GOD'S LAW (Part 1)


THE CHURCH & GOD’S LAW (Part 1)

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18.

Introduction
We live in an age of rapid change. Technological devices are changed every couple of months it would seem. Buy a computer today and you may need to change its program (are parts thereof) in a year or so just to keep up! People’s philosophies and world-views are also in a state of flux. I was just getting a handle on what “Modernism” was all about, when they changed it! We no longer live in a “modernist” age. Now we have gone “post-modernist”!

Then there is the institution of marriage. As we have seen above, it is also in a state of melt-down as the Post-modernist attempt to redefine it. No longer is it “my husband” or “my wife,” rather it is now “my partner.” More and more marriage Celebrants are going on the dole as people see less use for marriage in a Postmodernist society.

And what about banks? It used to be banks that got robbed by people. But all of that seems to have changed. Now the people feel as if they are being robbed by banks!

Even in the churches there are cries for “change!” Not too many years ago I was at a conference and all I heard for a week was “Change! Change!” I am still waiting on an answer to my question at that time, “Change from what into what?” It seems that some people just want change to keep up with the times! They do not want the world to leave them behind. They want to be relevant! Back in the 60s the singer/songwriter Bob Dylan was right when he sang, “O the times they are a-changin.’”

We could go on and on listing things that are changing round about us. But we should note that not all change is bad. Sometimes things can change for the better just as much as they can take a turn for the worse. But, regardless of whether in your opinion things are changing for the better or for the worse, or whether you hate change or love change, or are not bothered either way, regardless of all of that, look at what Jesus is saying, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Do you get the distinct impression that Jesus is telling us that no matter whether the change is for the better or for the worse, it is not going to stop Him fulfilling the law? In other words, Jesus Christ is going to keep on fulfilling the Old Testament Scriptures, for that is what He meant by the law. Therefore the law equals the Old Testament Scriptures and everything revealed therein. And the Word of God will never change.

In the following we shall look at two things in particular. We shall see that the Law is Permanent and that the law is Perfect.

God’s Law is Permanent
Jesus is saying that God’s Word, “the law,” i.e., the Scriptures will remain forever. That’s what Jesus means by the words “the law” here. “The Law” refers to all the Old Testament Scriptures, Genesis to Malachi. He is saying that every jot and tittle, every dot above every “i” and every stroke across every “t” of these Scriptures, will remain until the end of time as we know it.

He is saying that heaven and earth will change before God’s Word will ever change, which is never! For some two hundred years “modernists” have been in the churches trying to change God’s Word. These people categorized the Old Testament Scriptures into “J” documents “E” documents, “P” and “D” documents. In order to deny that the Bible is God’s revelation to fallen man and make it fit with their own view that it is man’s letter to God they had to invent all kinds of theories about Bible “redactors” and “interpolators.” These would need to be dishonest men if part of their job was to rewrite Scripture to make it look as if certain verses, for example, had predicted significant historical events.

These people who concoct these fanciful ideas, these Modernists, these Theological Liberals, these Higher Critics, as they are also known, have ruined many a good Denomination over the last two hundred years, many of them Presbyterian and Reformed. They have shipwrecked the faith of many people. However, the Word of God still stands as it was written! As the Prophet Isaiah puts it, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8.

Everything God has said will come to pass WILL come to pass, i.e., the Word of God stands forever. Not one jot or tittle will be left unfulfilled or unaccomplished. Robert Burns in his poem “My Love is Like a Red Red Rose” wrote, Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear, / And the rocks melt wi’ the sun: / And I will love thee still, my dear, / While the sands o’ life shall run. Burn’s was talking about his love for his wife, or maybe she was just his “partner!” But Jesus here is talking about His love for God and for His neighbor. And He is saying that even though the seas may dry up or the rocks may melt away, not one jot or tittle will melt away from God’s Word! To quote my old college professor the Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee, “For even when heaven and earth will temporarily ‘melt away’ especially at the time of their final re-NEW-al, God’s Word shall NEVER ‘melt away’!”

The Law, the Word of God is Permanent. It goes on to perpetuity. Even in a rapidly changing society God’s Word, the law, is changeless! It is absolute. It is a stable point of reference throughout all ages. But, does this mean that nothing in the law, i.e., the Old Testament has been fulfilled? The Old Testament is full of, promises, predictions, prophesies and prefigurations. However, with the coming of Christ much of these things had been fulfilled.

a)      The birth of Jesus had been promised.
b)     The place of His birth had been predicted.
c)      The work He was going to do had been prefigured. And,
d)     The extent of His kingdom had been prophesied – all in the law.

The following are some very brief examples: E.g., both Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14 promise His birth: Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore, the LORD Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” So we see then that the One whose birth was promised was going to bruise, even crush His enemy’s head.

And, not only that, the Old Testament also predicted the place where He was to be born of the woman.  E.g., Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephratha, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” This small insignificant little town was going to produce the One who would be ruler. The One “whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting,” i.e., “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Bethlehem was predicted as the place where the Seed of the Woman would be born.

And what Jesus was going to do was prefigured. E.g., Exodus 20:2, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” And also 1 Sam. 17:49-50, “Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in David’s hand.” The One who was going to crush the serpent’s head, was prefigured in David crushing the giant’s head with a stone. David had no sword in his hand when he delivered his people. He bruised his enemy’s head with a stone. Jesus had no sword in His hand when He delivered His people. He bruised His enemy’s head, i.e., the head of the serpent, with a stone. Not with one of the stones the Devil tempted Him to turn into bread in the wilderness. But rather the stone that was supposed to seal His dead body in a tomb. That was the stone that figuratively struck the Devil in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth! In this Jesus brought us out of the house of bondage, i.e., the bondage of the house of death! And, as David proceeded to cut the head of the giant with Goliath’s own sword, so Jesus after His resurrection began to cut the Devil’s head off. Thus the Serpent’s head is crushed! And of course, all of this is prefigured in the Old Testament.

And the extent of His kingdom was prophesied: E.g., Isaiah 9:7, “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” The prophesied extent of Christ’s kingdom is that it will encompass all of heaven and all of the earth. It will be without end.

We need to move on, but I hope you can see that many of the Old Testament promises, predictions, prophecies and prefigurations have already been fulfilled. But they will keep on being fulfilled by Jesus Christ “Till heaven and earth pass away.” Thus Old Testament speaks of the conception of Jesus, the birth, the life, death and resurrection. It speaks of His ascension, the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost and His Second Coming. And this is not to mention the New Heaven and New Earth. Or should we say the RE-newed heaven and the RE-newed earth? – the one that will be there after heaven and earth temporarily “melt away.”

Does this mean that we are to throw away those portions of the Old Testament that speak of the things Jesus has already fulfilled? God forbid! For how on earth will we be able to understand who Jesus is and what He came to do without the Old Testament? You cannot understand the New Testament without the Old Testament. The two Testaments must always stay together. There is an Augustine jingle that comes in various forms. The following is a couple, “The New Testament is latent in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is patent in the New Testament.” Or, “What is in the Old concealed is in the New revealed”

Everything Jesus taught comes out of the Old Testament. Everything His disciples taught comes out of the Old Testament. Therefore, it is impossible to understand the New Testament without the Old Testament! “Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Will this ever change? Never! Why? Because, as we have just seen, God’s Law is Permanent.

Monday, July 21, 2014

THE CHURCH & PREACHING THE GOSPEL (Part 2)

The Church & Preaching the Gospel (Part 2)

The Harvesters
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Why are the workers, the labourers, the harvesters so few? Well, who exactly is Jesus talking about when He speaks of labourers or workers? The common understanding is that Jesus here is talking about all Christians. To be sure, all Christians have a role to play in gathering in the Lord’s harvest. But, note the immediate context of what is happening here.

Jesus is about to send out the “Twelve” – as in His twelve Disciples. In the very next chapter after this, i.e., Matthew 10, the Twelve are named. Then Jesus sends them out. Therefore the ones who were to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest were the ones who answered their own prayers! In other words, the Lord answered their request by sending them. Therefore, be careful what you pray for, as you might have to answer your own request. (I speak from personal experience!)

It was after hearing a preacher of the gospel of the kingdom, (whose preaching laid my heart bare before God), that I set my heart to prayer for workers. My constant prayer was to the effect, “Lord, raise up preachers like this man, men who will clearly expound what Your Word says and then fearlessly apply it to the people.” I put it to you that the workers Jesus is speaking of here are men called to the ministry of the Word This is a prayer for ministers, as in preachers of the gospel of the kingdom. This is not a call to all and sundry to declare themselves as evangelists!

Think about it, Jesus taught His disciples the Word for three years. These men spent three years at the Master’s feet in His theological seminary! They did not just ask to be zapped by the Holy Spirit and then call themselves Apostles or Evangelists! For, as it says in Hebrews 5:4, “And no man takes this honour to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”

Did not Jesus “call” the Twelve Disciples? We do not have the space to go into what constitutes a “call” to the ministry. However, just keep an eye on the context of what Jesus is saying here and you will not go too far wrong. He is saying, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” Do you want to know why the workers are so few? Opposition!

There are essentially two sorts of opposition for the harvester. First there is the opposition in the worker’s own heart. And secondly there is the opposition of the people in the synagogues or, in our case, churches. Jesus had His Disciples ask the Lord of the Harvest so that they would count the cost. If you are going to build a tower then you need to count the cost. Well, likewise if you are going to become a harvester you count the cost. You will have to put others first before your own comforts. It will take a toll on you and your family. You will have to make sacrifices. You will have to give up things, such as personal freedom and time. You will have to be dedicated to what you do.

Being a worker in the Lord’s Harvest is not just putting Gospel leaflets in people’s mail boxes. That is an important work, as is any work in communicating the Gospel to others in the community. But that is not exactly what Jesus is talking about here. No, He is talking about those who labour in the Word and doctrine, those who will need to spend long hours in study, those who will need to learn to accurately divide God’s Word, those who will need to learn to be unashamed workers.

And did not Jesus say as He was sending out His Twelve workers or harvesters, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves”? Matthew 10:16. Do you think those that preach the Gospel are met with open arms everywhere they are sent? To be sure, the Devil hates faithful preachers of the Gospel more than anything. The faithful preaching of the Gospel is the demolition of Satan’s domain. The faithful preaching of the Gospel is the tearing down of kingdom of Satan, and it is the raising of the kingdom of heaven in its place! So, do you not think there might be some opposition from the wolves, even in the church where you find the wolves dressed up in sheep’s clothing? The Twelve Disciples have been with Jesus for a while now. They have seen the constant conflict that Jesus has had to endure as He battled against the scribes and Pharisees. Conflict will come from the most religious types!

So then, we see that the harvesters are few on account of the conflict within. Who would want to put themselves through the gruelling pace and discipline of theological studies? Who would want to put themselves and their families through the stress and strain of the training? There is a cost therefore that needs to be counted before becoming a harvester.

And secondly, we have seen that going out into the Lord’s harvest field is not playing with rubber duckies down the shallow end of the pool! No, going out into the harvest is being sent down the deep end where there are man-eating sharks, and Portuguese men-o’-war! The Devil has his stinging tentacles hiding under every rock that needs to be overturned! Again, as Jesus puts in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.” Jesus needs to be the One who sends you.  Otherwise you might be more of a hindrance than a help to the Lord’s harvest!

God is the Lord of the Harvest. For Jesus says in John 15:1, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.” And in the words of the inspired Psalmist, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labour in vain who build it.” Psalm 127:1a.

As we begin to tie up the sheaves we have seen that the Harvest is the lost, i.e., those under the oppression of false teaching, whether it be the false teaching of Rome, Islam, Evolutionism, Secular Humanism or whatever. And we have already mentioned that there many who are oppressed by false teaching even in Protestant churches.

And we have seen that the Harvesters are those only who are called and sent by the Lord. The Lord is the Lord of the Harvest. Therefore He knows who He wants to send into His harvest. So, having understood all of that, you will be wondering about now where you (the church-attender) fit in. Well, in a word, you are part of the Lord’s plentiful harvest. In other words, it is you who are being harvested by the Lord.

We all tend to think of ourselves as the Harvesters and not the Harvested. Think about it, if everyone in the Church is supposed to be a harvester, then why would Jesus say that the harvest is plentiful and the workers are few? If we are part of the harvest and the harvest is plentiful, then you have a massive contradiction going on if you think the workers are few! However, we have already seen that the workers are those few who the Lord has selected to work in His plentiful harvest.

So, what happens then if you are simply part of the Lord’s harvest? Does this mean that there is nothing much involved? Well, read again the following words, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”

Arguably, the modern equivalent of the synagogues of Jesus’ day are the churches in our day. So, if you change that word synagogue to church you will see where you fit in. Jesus is in all the cities and villages of Scotland, Canada, Australia and America etc., teaching in their churches. Does He not say elsewhere, “Where two or three are gathered in My name I am in the midst of them”? Well, what do you think Jesus is doing in the churches in these towns and villages? We have noted already that He is teaching. Teaching what? He is teaching us things about His kingdom!

And what kinds of things belong to His kingdom? The things of Heaven belong to His kingdom, such as peace, joy, righteousness, and rest from labour. That is why Jesus has the Gospel preached in the churches, the towns and the villages.

The Gospel is the proclamation that God has made peace with all believers by Christ’s cross. It is the Good News that we are not the workers but rather God is! How many Christians feel guilty for not being evangelistic enough? I once was asked at a minister’s conference how many converts I had made. I answered honestly when I said, “None!” It is God who harvests His harvest. Therefore it is God alone who converts people! So, how many of the Lord’s people have become weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd on account of the burdens placed on them by false teaching?

Are we saying that you (the church-attender) are not to tell anyone about Christ, His kingdom, and what He has done for you? How can any Christian keep quiet about our wonderful Saviour, His kingdom and what He has done for you? You would as easy stop a speeding locomotive with a butterfly net, than stop a Christian talking about Jesus! However, do not be feeling guilty if you have not “witnessed” to someone before you go to bed at night. Have a good sleep at night knowing that you are part of His plentiful harvest. He is the One who says in Matthew 11:28, “Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Jesus is talking to people who had been receiving wrong teaching. He was talking to people who were labouring for the kingdom instead of resting in the Lord.

There are Church Growth programs by the million in the churches today. And they are all about labouring in the Lord’s harvest. They are all about making new converts and growing the Lord’s church. However, we have seen above that the Lord is the Lord of the Harvest. Therefore it is the Lord Himself who chooses the Harvesters He will send into His harvest.

And we have seen, that by God’s grace, we Christians are part of His plentiful harvest. “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest field.” Pray that He will raise up and train men to minister His Word in the cities and villages of the nations.

And, just one last thing, and we are done with this section. Notice that Jesus was teaching and preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. Ask yourself what you know about the kingdom of heaven. Do you know what the kingdom of heaven looks like? Well, Jesus gives us a cameo picture of what it looks like. For, we are told that Jesus was healing every sickness and every disease among the people. What do sickness and disease have to do with the kingdom of heaven? Well, that is the point, is it not? Sickness and disease have absolutely nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is the place where there is absolutely no sickness or disease!

Conclusion
The kingdom of heaven is the place where the wounded and weary find rest. The kingdom of heaven is where God wipes away every tear from their eyes, where there is no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, where there is no more pain. The kingdom of heaven is the place where the former things have passed away.

This is what Jesus was teaching the people. This is what He was preaching about. And that is what the healing of every sickness and every disease was all about. This is what the Lord of the Harvest is harvesting. Thank the Lord that you have been included in His harvest. May His Kingdom come!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

THE CHURCH & PREACHING THE GOSPEL (Part 1)


THE CHURCH & PREACHING THE GOSPEL (Part 1)

“Then [Jesus] said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” Matthew 9:37-38.

Introduction
Nowadays we see churches embark on all kinds of schemes, plans, and programs designed to bring more people into the church. There are all kinds of books on the market telling you the best way to “market” your church. To be sure most, if not all, of these books promoting Church-growth programs are well-meaning. What Christian in their right mind does not want Christ’s Church to grow?

Now, having said that, we need to keep in mind that the Lord’s Church on earth is not a department store. In other words, the Lord’s Church is not a market. Nor is the Lord’s Church one of many stalls set up in the middle of a market. Therefore, the Lord’s Church on earth is not driven or guided by market forces. Rather, it is the Lord Himself who empties or fills His churches! His is the “invisible hand” that controls the ebb and flow of the Church.

With this in mind, and before we get into the thick of it, let us draw our attention to a couple of obvious things in the above text. Notice in these verses that Jesus is telling His disciples to pray. The Twelve Disciples were to pray to the Lord of the harvest. So we see that the disciples were to do something. It was their responsibility to pray. But who exactly were they to pray to? And what exactly were they to pray for?

They were to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send out workers into His harvest. Jesus was just about to send these disciples of His out into whose harvest? Notice that they were to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send out labourers into His harvest. We labour the point! But we see then, that God, whose Son is Jesus Christ, is the Lord of the Harvest. And, we see that not only is He Lord of the harvest, but He also owns the harvest. In other words, the Lord does not just oversee or supervise the Harvest. The harvest belongs to the Lord. The Lord owns the crop. The harvest is His!

So, with these things in mind, we shall look at a couple of important things in our text. First we shall consider the Harvest – then we shall study the Harvesters. (The author thought better of calling our two headings the Crop and the Croppers for who wants to become a cropper!

The Harvest

Jesus says, “The harvest is plentiful.” Plentiful, plenteous, white! What is Jesus talking about? Was He looking at a field, a paddock full of corn when He said this? No – He was looking at people!

Now, who were the people Jesus was talking about? Well, in the verses just before He said these words we are told that Jesus went all about their cities and villages. We are told that Jesus was doing three things among them, viz., teaching, preaching and healing.

Jesus was teaching, preaching and healing in their synagogues. A synagogue was and in some ways still is a Jewish place of worship. Apparently anywhere there were at least ten families grouped together you could start your own synagogue.

Luke 4:16 says of Jesus, “And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” We see then that Jesus was in the habit of frequenting these Jewish places of worship on the day of worship. Jesus therefore was teaching, preaching and healing even in the synagogues. Who were these people He was teaching, preaching to, and healing? These people belonged to the House of Israel – the Hebrew people. They were Jews, (which is not to say that non-Jews could not become Jews).

Now then, does this mean that because these people were Jews that there is no application in this passage for us today? Well, we see that this passage applies to our day if we take note that these people were as lost as any non-Jews at the time were lost. Even though they had their synagogues and their teachers, their teachers taught them much error! That is what Jesus is on about where He calls them sheep without a shepherd. Sheep without a shepherd are lost sheep! And, when you think about it, only a small remnant of Israel (as it was at that time) actually was saved at Christ’s cross. Therefore, Jesus was moved with compassion, not just for the lost elect, but the lost period!

To be sure Jesus came to save His people from their sins, but here we see Him moved with compassion for these people in particular! It is as if He is standing on a piece of high ground looking at the multitudes of people, and, as He sees them milling around, He considers how they are harassed and helpless. The New King James Version here says that they were “weary and scattered.” The word weary here can mean flayed or skinned or fleeced as sheep are fleeced. And the word scattered can mean hurled or thrown down or cast down – downcast! So, the picture is that these people were like mistreated sheep. They were fatigued, worn out and, like malnourished sheep, they were lying down in an utterly helpless condition!

As Jesus looked at them all it was as if His heart was being slowly ripped in two! “He had compassion on them,” i.e., He was moved with compassion. That “moving” is a tearing deep down in your gut – heart rending. That is how Jesus felt about the lost. Preaching and teaching was not just an intellectual exercise for Christ. No, it was a physically emotional experience for the Saviour to see these lost souls, sheep without a shepherd! He cared for them, not just emotionally, but He also healed every sickness and disease among this people.

But how come they had no shepherd? Were they not being taught in their synagogues that dotted their cities and villages? Well, Matthew 4:23 says, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” We believe that the verses we are looking at are at the completion of this crusade. Therefore if you were to read the things that took place between Matthew 4:23 and Matthew 9:35-38 you would see that the scribes and Pharisees had enslaved the people. They were the false prophets, the false teachers, the false shepherds. To be sure some of them became converts of Christ, (Nicodemus and Paul, for example).

The Pharisees were the ones who taught and preached in the synagogues. All you have to do is read through the Sermon on the Mount to find out some of the non-biblical nonsense they taught the people! The Sermon on the Mount was preached, of course, by Jesus as He went about the cities and villages on this journey.

Jesus says of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:4, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.” These poor people’s legs were buckling under the false teaching of the scribes and Pharisees! They were spiritually starved and were emotionally emaciated! If you want to see an example of this then look no further than Roman Catholicism! The Gospel of the kingdom is not preached in their synagogues, is it? To be sure there is a lot more Bible reading going on among Roman Catholics now than there ever was – but sadly, you will not hear the true Gospel preached in their buildings! It is a works-righteousness (i.e., grace plus works as opposed to grace alone) that Rome proclaims to her people! And is that not the same message that was taught by the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus disputed with? As Jesus says of them, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

There are people out there buckling under heavy burdens! And you find that these heavy burdens are being laid on men’s shoulders even in some Protestant churches! There are ministers who lord it over their people! They tell them who to marry and who not to associate with. They are told what to eat and drink and what to wear!

And even outside the churches there are people with heavy burdens to bear. The kids go through twelve years of State-schooling being taught by the philosophy of Evolutionism that they are naked apes! They are taught that they are just a product of time and chance and therefore are not made by God in His own image and likeness. They are taught that it is okay to sleep with each other outside of marriage just so long as they do it safely! They are taught that same sex sexual relations is simply an alternate to opposite sex sexual relations.

We could go on and on listing the things that burden our society – things that are causing people to buckle under the heavy load! We have not even mentioned the influence of Islam in the West including Australia which is growing stronger and stronger being ably assisted by the Political Correctness Movement. But all you have to do is look out the window of this church to see that the people are weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd! I hope as you see these multitudes that you are moved to compassion for them, as was our Lord! “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

Monday, July 14, 2014

THE CHURCH & THE (SCOTTISH) NATION (REVISITED)

(Apologies for the length of the following. It's part of a book with the working title "On the Church.")

THE CHURCH & THE NATION

“The leaves from the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Revelation 22:22b.

Introduction
As the author reflects back over his life he has spent eighteen years in Scotland, fifteen in Canada and (at the time of writing) some twenty four plus years in Australia. It has been his observation that it is not difficult to see how much Christianity has influenced each of these three nations, viz., Scotland, Canada and Australia. Indeed, the whole of the West is shot through with the teachings of the Bible. To be sure, there is a Militant Atheistic element of every Western society that tries very hard to deny this as they try to stamp out every last vestige of Christian influence on society!

The Bible records Christ’s “Great Commission” to His Church on earth to go into all nations. Part of which says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all things I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20a. I would like to focus attention on two things from these verses: 1. The Trinity, and, 2. The Nations.

The Nations
Taking the second point first, notice that it is “the nations” that Christ wants baptized. How many Christians read this verse as if it were saying “baptize individuals”? They think in terms of making Christian individuals rather than Christian nations! What is a Christian nation? It is a nation that has been taught to obey all things Christ has commanded it, i.e., as per the “Great Commission.”

The Scriptures are full of allusions to the nations. Indeed, after God had told Abram (Abraham) that He would make him a great nation He said, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” Genesis 12:3. If we keep in mind that Abraham is the father of all who will believe and that, as the Apostle Paul under inspiration of the Holy Spirit says, “only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” and “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law … that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles [i.e., Ethnoi, families, nations] in Christ Jesus…” Galatians 3:13-14a, then we will begin to understand what the Bible means by nations.

Nations are political entities. Jesus Christ wants His teachings, i.e., the teachings of the Bible, to permeate these political entities, these nations, so much so that “They beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4. This is part of the blessing of Abraham because “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34.

If any Western nation (or any other nation) is to be blessed it must remember that it is one nation under God. Each of the three main spheres of the nation is subject to God and His Law as it applies to each sovereign sphere of authority today. The State is no less the realm of God than the Church! Speaking of Scotland John Ross says,

The Establishment Principle is founded on Christ’s headship, as taught in places such as Ephesians 1:2 and expounded in Chapter 23 of The Westminster Confession of Faith, and also in The Form of Church Government. In essence the doctrine teaches that Church and State are both institutions of God, both alike answerable to Christ, and each owes to the other due recognition, support and respect.[1]

National blessing from God comes through national obedience to God through Christ. In other words, the three main sovereign spheres that comprise any Nation, viz., Family, Church and State, need to seek to honour God in their respective sphere of authority. Says Kenneth Gentry,

Regarding the family, we must remember that if we “train up the child in the way he should go” then “even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Regarding the church, we must recall that “It is time for judgment to begin with the household of God” (1 Pet. 4:17a).
Regarding the State, we must recognize that “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
In all of this we must bow before Him Who has “all authority in heaven and on earth.” We do so by obeying His commands to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” In so doing we may always rejoice in the confident hope “lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” and as we engage the task we may confidently declare “Amen” (Heb. ‘so be it). For this is the greatness of the Great Commission found in Matthew 28:18-20.[2]

The State must remember that it is not the Church or the Family. The Church must remember that it is not the State or the Family. And the Family must remember that it is not the Church or the State. However, each sovereign sphere ought to seek to apply God’s Law to its own area of jurisdiction. But let us not at this point get tied up in the minutiae of which of God’s laws apply to which sphere. Suffice to say that each sphere strives to love God and its neighbour as itself.

A Family not feuding with families makes for good neighbours. Good neighbours are those which seek to assist each other. It is the same with churches. A Church that gets along with other churches and seeks a common God-glorifying goal is a good neighbour. A Nation that seeks the wellbeing of other nations is a Nation that loves its neighbour as itself. Of course, that is exactly what the West has been built upon. To be sure, there are corrupting influences that sweep through Western nations from time to time. Some are outwardly and are therefore more obviously evil while other influences (such as the different forms of Socialism) are harder to detect. Nations are to be taught to obey the teachings of Jesus Christ not Karl Marx! Marx was an Atheist. His teachings are Atheistic. The State has no right to interfere in the Family or the Church. Socialism, by its social engineering, substitutes the State for God. As Peter and the other Apostles said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29. Socialism is the handmaid of Communism. And Communism is the antithesis of Calvinism. Whereas Communism centres on Man without God Calvinism seeks to honour God at the centre of all things, including the Family, the Church and the State, i.e. the collective Nation. Says Rousas John Rushdoony,

Every kind of law rests on a presupposition, so that Biblical law and humanistic law, while perhaps agreeing on a specific law, i.e., “Thou shalt not kill,” means different things thereby. In Biblical law, the premise is that God, the Creator and Governor over all life, can alone decide when and where the taking of life is permissible. In humanistic law, murder may be forbidden where man decides that something should be protected. The protected life may be that of a rattlesnake, or of a mountain lion: what is protected is decided by the state in terms of environmental considerations. Where human life is concerned, God’s law has a different presupposition than does the state’s law. God, as the Creator, holds that He alone can govern the taking of life, whereas the state determines what is a tenable killing in terms of its interests.[3]

If the State has been influenced for the worst by Karl Marx then the Church has been influenced for the worst by Jacobus Arminius. Whereas Socialism is a bad influence on the State so Arminianism is detrimental to the Church. The Church has widely adopted an Arminian Gospel whereby salvation has everything to do with the individual and nothing to do with the salvation of the Nation. Indeed, Arminianism, like Communism, by denying God His sovereignty in the wellbeing of Man (and as does Socialism/Communism) puts Man (whether it be the State or the Church) on the Nation’s throne. In other words, Arminianism, like Socialism/Communism, is man-centred. Says the great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon,

The late lamented Mr. Denham has put, at the foot of his portrait, a most admirable text, “Salvation is of the Lord.” That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.” What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.[4]

The Trinity
Only Calvinism, whether in the Family, the Church, the State or the whole Nation, is God-centred because only Calvinism is grounded in the Triune God, i.e., Trinitarianism.

When it comes to nations each nation must be sovereign in its own right. Otherwise it is not a true nation. The nations are to reflect the Triune God. Each Person in the Godhead is distinct and different from the Others. The One is not absorbed by the Many nor is the Many absorbed by the One. Thus the One and the many are an equal ultimacy.

If, by way of an example, we were to look at the United Kingdom we can see how a nation can lose its sovereignty when the sovereignty distinctions are blurred. The many are absorbed by the one. A union of nations does not reflect the Triune God and as such any nation that unites with another is destined to disappear and will remain only in the history books! The nation, i.e., the kingdom of Scotland has all but been absorbed by the United Kingdom. Notice that it is “united kingdom” (singular) and not “united kingdoms” (plural). It is a union (rather than a confederation as is the Godhead.)

Says Francis Nigel Lee,

The Holy Trinity is a harmonious and holy Confederation of three distinctly‑different Persons. For the Trinity is not a union. Indeed, only Unitarians deny both the Trinity and confederation. And only pantheists speak of man's union (rather than of his confederation) with God.[5]

Thus, viewed theologically, the United Kingdom appears to be an heretical, i.e., an un-Biblical, union of nations! This, of course, can be remedied by becoming a harmonious confederation of distinct nations in the likeness of God. In the Nation,

1.      The Rod of Discipline resides with the Family,
2.      The Keys of the Kingdom reside with the Church, and
3.      The Sword of Justice resides with the State.

Notice that the rod, the keys and the sword are symbols not physical objects. They symbolize God’s authority in each of these three sovereign spheres of the Nation. As with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit each is sovereign in its own sphere, as with each Person in the Triune Godhead, each owns private property. However, as with the Trinity, each is obedient to God’s Law as it applies to their sphere of jurisdiction. Thus, the State, as under Socialism/Communism, has no authority from God to plunder the Family or the Church to fund its Atheistic, i.e., ungodly, social-engineering programs.

However, because each sovereign sphere (Family, Church and State) is to obey the teaching of Christ, i.e., is to love God and its neighbour as itself, then the Godly Nation (i.e., the Family, Church and State) can depend on the Nation’s government to promote good and restrain evil whether it be in business, commerce, education, taxation etc. In other words, the Nation’s government operates as a referee rather than a player in the Nation.

Having been permeated by the teachings of Christianity, and, in particular, Calvinism (through the likes of George Whitfield), the colonies that became America got off to a really good start. Says Stephen McDowell,

Not only does the Declaration of Independence reflect our Founders' faith in God, but this document only came into being as a result of Biblical ideas that had been sown in the hearts of the colonists for over one hundred and fifty years. The American Revolution was a revolution of ideas long before it was a revolution of war. As the clergy and other leaders taught the colonists their God-given rights as men, Christians, and subjects, the inevitable result was a nation birthed in liberty.[6]

            In the American Declaration of Independence (1776) we find the following words,

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, – That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, – That among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, – That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government ...
The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny of these States…

            Likewise, the Scots were having trouble, much worse trouble, with the King of England when they penned their Declaration of Arbroath (1320) from the midst of their wars of independence. The Scots’ “Declaration of Independence” includes the following,

The deeds of cruelty, massacre, violence, pillage, arson, imprisoning prelates, burning down monasteries, robbing and killing monks and nuns, and yet other outrages without number which he committed against our people, sparing neither  age nor sex, religion nor rank, no one could describe nor fully imagine unless he had seen it with his own eyes.
But from these countless evils we have been set free, by the help of Him Who though He afflicts yet heals and restores, by our most tireless prince, King and lord, the Lord Robert [the Bruce].

            A nation’s declaration of independence is a declaration of its own national sovereignty, i.e., its right to govern itself as it chooses without external interference, to be in control of its own destiny as a nation. That is what America chose. Says Dinesh D’Souza,

The American Revolution inaugurated the first government in the world that was based on the principle that sovereignty and rights are in the people and not in the king or the ruling class … Consider Jefferson’s famous proclamation, in the Declaration, that “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Notice that Jefferson – who was a man of the Enlightenment, and by no means an orthodox Christian – nevertheless locates the source of equality and rights in a single source: the Creator. … What Jefferson means is that all people are equal in having a shared human nature. Being human, they are of equal moral value in the eyes of their Creator. And it is because of this equality that legitimate government derives its authority to rule from the consent of the governed … In the American case … God sanctions a system in which sovereignty or ultimate authority derives not from the king but from the people. Royal sovereignty under God gives way to common sovereignty under God. America establishes the first government in history that is based on “We the people.” …
This is a momentous change. Instead of rights and privileges flowing “down” from the king to the people, they now flow “up” from the people to the government.[7]

It is clear that the Scots envisioned this freedom four and a half centuries prior to Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers of America, for the much earlier
Declaration of Arbroath goes on to say,

He [i.e., King Robert the Bruce], that his people and his heritage might be delivered out of the hands of our enemies, met toil and fatigue, hunger and peril, like another Macabaeus or Joshua and bore them cheerfully. Him, too, divine providence, his right of succession according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain unto death, and the due consent and assent of us all have made our Prince and King. To him, as to the man by whom salvation has been wrought unto our people, we are bound both by law and by his merits that our freedom may be still maintained, and by him, come what may, we mean to stand. Yet if he should give up what he has begun, and agree to make us or our kingdom subject to the King of England or the English, we should exert ourselves at once to drive him out as our enemy and a subverter of his own rights and ours, and make some other man who is able to defend us our King; for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that were fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

After getting off to such a good and noble start how did the Scots manage to lose or give up their national sovereignty, i.e., their blood-bought freedom? Was it though some democratic process whereby the people “consented and assented” (as they did in the case of declaring Robert the Bruce their lawful king – as per The Declaration of Arbroath)? To be sure, some Scots today believe that Scotland’s loss of independence by the Union of Parliaments (1707) was a good thing.

However, the Scottish bard, Robert Burns, through verse in 1791 describes how the Scots lost their sovereignty as a people, their nationhood. He wrote in Lowland Scots (which it is similar enough to English for the average English reader to understand) the following which is the last two of three verses,

            What force or guile could not subdue,
            Thro’ many warlike ages,
            Is wrought now by a coward few,
            For hireling traitor’s wages.
            The English steel we could distain,
            Secure in valour’s station;
            But English gold has been our bane –
            Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!

O would, ere I had seen the day
That treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak this declaration,
We’re bought and sold for English gold –
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation![8]

To be sure, political, economic and religious activities and social turmoil no doubt played their part in the lives of the so-called “parcel of rogues” in order for this minority of Scots to sell-out the whole Nation of Scotland at that time. However, as we have seen, in terms of the Declaration of Arbroath, they had no right to do so because the people had not given them the authority to act on their behalf!

Thus, (as it is in the Triune Godhead where the One acts in accordance with the Many individuals and the Many individuals act in accordance with the One), sovereignty or freedom comes to a nation when the many individuals who comprise the nation act in accordance with the nation’s “laws and customs” and the nation acts in accordance with the many individuals.

In terms of her Declaration of Arbroath, Scotland lost her sovereignty as a nation because a minority group, “a parcel of rogues,” acted as sovereign, which is to say that it behaved in a manner that was not “according to our laws and customs which we shall maintain unto death.”

America is one nation under God, the Trinity. She had her Civil War or War Between the States. Perhaps this could be viewed as a war between the One and the Many (i.e., the view of one nation versus the view many states). Scotland has had her inner turmoil, especially ever since the Union of the Parliaments (1707). The Battle of Culloden (1746) and other battles were expressions of her inner-conflict, her Civil War.

All wars, including civil wars, cease when every sovereign nation’s God is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In the Godhead there is perfect harmony between the One and the Many, the unity and diversity, the general and the particular.

Conclusion
In the same month as my 58th birthday Scotland was given opportunity to regain its sovereignty as a nation (otherwise known as independence or freedom). Not through bloodshed but through placing ink on a piece of paper. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword! By the sovereign grace of God Scotland has already beat its sword into a plowshare and its spear into a pruning hook! Its nation is not rising up against England. Scotland is merely seeking to be a Nation once more.

Jesus Christ is THE Tree of Life whose leaves are for the healing of the nations. May the leaves of His tree heal the nation of Scotland. And may the Triune God bless her and baptize her and may she be taught to obey all things Christ has commanded.


[2] Kenneth L. Gentry, The Greatness of the Great Commission, p. 163
 
[3] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 3, Ross House Books, 1999, p. 141.
[4] Charles Haddon Spurgeon
[5] Francis Nigel Lee, Stephens & The C.S.A.
[6] Stephen McDowell, Nordskog Publishing Inc., Publisher’s Corner, Monday, June 30, 2014,
[7] Dinesh D’ouza, America: Imagine a world with her. 2014.
[8] Robert Burns, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation, 1791.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

FRIENDS


Friends

Nowadays it is so easy to keep in touch (almost instantaneously!) with friends all over the world. Gone perhaps are the “Nights in white satin / never reaching the end. Letters I’ve written / never meaning to send. (Moody Blues). Few take the time to put pen to paper anymore. Now it is finger to keyboard or touch-screen to “like” or to “share” as you dialogue with friends. And it only takes the press of a button to “unfriend” someone you have gone off! Old acquaintances from schools and hometowns are being renewed. Like never before people are catching up the missing years and decades via the Internet. It is all so easy to reunite with long-lost friends.

I can relate to Joseph M Scriven sending letters from Canada to his mother. In one letter he wrote some words that were to become the well-known hymn, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” Scriven, for his mother’s comfort, penned the words of that hymn. But how many nowadays refuse to have Jesus as a friend, or witnessing little or zero activity or interaction from Him in their lives “unfriend” Him?

I still get teary whenever I think of the pain I caused my own (now deceased) mother. I found out many decades later that she spent three days in heart-broken sobs in her room after she had farewelled me to Canada. Alas! and she never got to see her grandchildren growing up. Now a grandparent myself I can see how much my spirit of wanderlust deprived her of that honour and joy! Oh that I could have written such comforting words to mother as in “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

God called Abraham and Moses “friends” and God-with-us calls His disciples “friends.” He never “unfriends” us. Once reconciled to God by Jesus Christ His friends are His friends forever. Never will He leave us or forsake us. He is with us always. If I could have only one friend I would make sure that friend was Jesus.

As the pre-incarnate Christ He went with Abraham on his travels and even sat down to a meal with him. He spoke to Moses from a burning bush and met with Him on the mountain speaking to him face to face. He travelled with them in the pillar of fire and of cloud.

Friends, true friends displaying true friendship, are but faint pictures of Jesus and those for whom He shed His blood. He died for His friends. Nay, He died for His enemies so that He could make them His friends! Yet He invites all of us to be His friends. We can confirm or decline His “friend request.” Who is Jesus to you? Is He just some religious guy you were briefly introduced to as a child at church, school or Sunday school? Was He just an acquaintance of your parents perhaps?

With Jesus as a friend you are in touch with God instantaneously! As a friend He will not judge your every move. For your comfort as a friend He has sent you the letters He has written. In them He shows you how much He loves you as a friend. If you are His friend you have everlasting life and will be raised bodily on the Last Day to dwell with Him and the rest of His friends forever on the New Earth.

Yes, what a friend we have in Jesus!