Thursday, April 19, 2007

Loose Quotes and Thoughts

Michael A.G. Haykin has done the world a great favor with the Profiles in Reformed Spirituality series. It's a series of small books that provide an introduction to a pastor/theologian in the Reformed tradition, surfaces lesons for us from their person piety, and provides a series of short selections from their writings. I'm currently reading A Consuming Fire: The Piety of Alexander Whyte in my quiet times. Here is the short selection I read this morning:

Ashamed of the Gospel
There is an inwardness, and there is an absoluteness, and there is an abidingness, and there is an exclusiveness inn the cross of Christ, that is neither easily preached, nor easily believed, nor easily practised. To keep our own hearts shut up to the cross, and thatnot only at our first conversion, but to the end of our best sanctification, and to preach the cross always and to every one as the one and the alone ground of peace with God amid all the ups and downs of the spiritual life: that staggers many, and offends many, and it becomes, sometimes, a casue of shame and pain even to those who have succeeded Paul best in his revelation of Christ that God made to him, and who have also succeeded him best in his experience of all that....

Now, my brethren, you will go to so-called Christian churches, both in town and country, where you would never discover that Paul's Epistle to the Romans had ever been written, and where you will never be put to shame with such old-fashioned doctrines as the imputed righteousness of Christ of which Paul is full. Christ's suretyship, and his substitution, and his finished work are not known in those churches. The imputation of your sin to the Lamb of God, and the imputation of his righteousness to you; no such offensive things are ever uttered there. Speak for yourselves, my brethren: speak for yourselves and make your choice. As for me, the longer I live--the longer I really live--these things, and the things they represent, are becoming every day more and more necessary and more and more precious to me.

Last night's Bible study in Galatians 2:11-13 focused on Paul's correction of Peter for his hypocrisy. It was a good study with good reflections on the need to have in our lives and in the church people willing to lovingly confront us when we are wrong. We focused a little on Paul's statement that Peter "was clearly in the wrong," and emphasized our need to be certain of a person's wrong when confronting them the way Paul did and to have a standard against which to judge right and wrong, a standard more enduring, objective, and universal than our own opinions and perceptions, the Word of God.

It reminded me of the fact that the thing that most frees us in the local church and the Christian life is the Word of God. If our preferences and opinions and traditions and wisdom are our guide rather than the Word, then our preferences and opinions and traditions and wisdom will inevitably choke out someone's freedom in Christ and exalt reason above revelation. But if we would all be genuinely free, genuinely able to exercise our liberty in Christ and simultaneously able to restrain one another when in the wrong, we must chain ourselves to the Word of God as the authority for faith and conduct. Interestingly it's when we chain ourselves to the Word that we're set free--all of us.

Here's how Ligon Dunan expressed it in Give God Praise:
The biblical doctrine of Christian freedom is vital to our doctrine of worship and can be protected only by the regulative principle. The Westminster Confession makes the bold declaration that "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are in any thing contrary to his word, or beside it in matters of fairth or worship. So that to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience; and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also" (20.2). This manifesto of Christian freedom is based on Pauline principles found in Romans 14:1-4, Galatians 4:8-11, and Colossians 2:16-23. The regulative principle is designed to secure the believer's freedom from the dominion of human opinion in worship. But some people view the regulative principle as legalistic and constraining. They rightly note that it forbids a variety of activities and restrains others; but this is simply to say that it helps enforce biblical norms that are, upon reflection, freeing! Freedom from human opinions can be found only in the rule of God's good and graceious and wise law. If humans can dictate how we may worship, apart from the word or in addition to the word, then we are captive to their command. The only way we can really experience one of the key blessings of Christian freedom in the context of corporate worship--freedom from human doctrines and commandments--is if corporate worship is directed only according to the word of God, and that means following the regulative principle. Furthermore "God requires us to worship Him only as He has revealed. Therefore, to require a person in corporate worship, to do something that God has not required, forces the person to sin against his/her conscience, by making them do what they do not believe God has called them to do." (pp. 57-58).

And speaking of Lig', here's an interview with Lig on preparing to preach from Preaching Today.

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