God IS God

god-creates“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” is the most radical statement ever made. Clearly it means there is a God. God confronts face to face, challenges, dares and threatens people with his existence. Even more drastic, it means that you and I cannot escape God. “You are all around me-in front of me and in back of me. You lay your hand on me.” (Psalm 139:5GW). If you don’t want him around-he’s there anyway. If you want him around he’s not going anywhere. He is always there and always will be there for all our lives and when we are dead and gone. God will always be God. You are eventually going to have to confront the whole “God” issue, now or later.

 

Genesis teaches that it’s all about God. Is your life really theocentric-centered around God? Is it Christocentric or Christ centered? Or are you serving God for all the benefits that come with being a “Christian?” What is the message that we are giving the world? Do you trust God enough to serve him no matter what trials come or do you exchange him at a religious store for another kind of God? Life cannot be life; love cannot be love without God and his only begotten Son Jesus Christ.

 

John Piper says, “The crucial question for our generation-and for every generation-is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you have ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked and all the leisure activities you have ever enjoyed and the all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you have ever tasted and no human conflict or any natural disasters could you be satisfied with heaven if Christ were not there?”[i]


[i] John Piper, God is the Gospel, from the chap. What the World Needs Most-the Gospel’s Greatest Gift, God. pg 15 © Desiring God Foundation. Published by Crossway Books Wheaton, Illinois.

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Good Friday According to the Confessions of the Church

XIR16014THE 1563 HEIDELBERG CATECHISM ASKS AND ANSWERS:  What dost thou understand by the words, “He suffered”?  That he, all the time that he lived on earth, but especially at the end of his life, sustained in body and soul, the wrath of God against the sins of all mankind: that so by his passion, as the only propitiatory sacrifice,  he might redeem our body and soul from everlasting damnation, and obtain for us the favour of God, righteousness and eternal life.

THE 1619 BELGIC CONFESSION STATES: We believe that God– who is perfectly merciful and also very just– sent his Son to assume the nature in which the disobedience had been committed, in order to bear in it the punishment of sin by his most bitter passion and death. So God made known his justice toward his Son, who was charged with our sin, and he poured out his goodness and mercy on us, who are guilty and worthy of damnation, giving to us his Son to die, by a most perfect love, and raising him to life for our justification, in order that by him we might have immortality and eternal life.

THE 1646 WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which, that he might discharge, he was made under the law, and perfectly fulfilled it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sits at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels, at the end of the world. The Lord Jesus, by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he through the eternal Spirit once offered up unto God, has fully satisfied the justice of his Father; and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto him. 

THE 1560 SCOTS CONFESSION: [So we confess, and most undoubtedly believe] That our Lord Jesus Christ offered himself a voluntary sacrifice unto his Father for us, that he suffered contradiction of sinners, that he was wounded and plagued for our transgressions, that he, the clean innocent Lamb of God, was condemned in the presence of an earthly judge, that we should be absolved before the judgment seat of our God; that he suffered not only the cruel death of the cross, which was accursed by the sentence of God, but also that he suffered for a season the wrath of his Father, which sinners had deserved. But yet we avow that he remained the only, well beloved, and blessed Son of his Father even in the midst of his anguish and torment which he suffered in body and soul to make full atonement for the sins of the people. From this we confess and avow that there remains no other sacrifice for sin; if any affirm so, we do not hesitate to say that they are blasphemers against Christ’s death and the everlasting atonement thereby purchased for us.

THE 1742 PHILADELPHIA CONFESSION OF FAITH SAYS: This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake, which that he might discharge he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have borne and suffered, being made sin and a curse for us; enduring most grievous sorrows in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption: on the third day he arose from the dead with the same body in which he suffered, with which he also ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father making intercession, and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.

Unity Through Truth

rated-rWhat is a creed? It is a testimony of the faith in God and the scriptures that defines “those things which are most surely believed among us.” as Christians. (Luke 1:1). It is simply says, “We believe” or, “I believe.” The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the Word of God and are the all-sufficient rule of faith and practice (2 Tim 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It is the only criterion of doctrine that has any power to insist people to believe and obey what it teaches. All other standards that a person subscribes to are of value or authority only as they teach what the Scriptures teach.

 

R.C. Sproul said that “creeds are distinguished from the Scripture in that Scripture is norma normans (“the rule that rules”) while the creeds are norma normata (“a rule that is ruled”).[i]  The wonderfully practical thing about creeds is that they summarize and give clarity to what we believe as Christians and they are important for the harmony of God’s people because they help us to unite around important issues. It is hard to have unity with others when you do not know what they believe. Creeds were intended to bring unity not division despite the fact that creedally challenged people today seem to think that they are divisive.  But men who made creeds and confessions studied the scriptures and considered it their duty to intellectually and logically construct a system of faith out of the materials presented in scriptures. When you can be specific and clear on what you and the church believe, unity becomes more cherished and unity must be based on truth, not the lowest common denominator. 

 

How can you fellowship with someone when you do not know what they believe? How can you ignore the teachings of the scripture for the sake of unity? Today the great sickness in the thought process of people is pluralism-the belief that all religious paths lead to acceptance with God. This is anti-Christ thinking and will only lead to religious slavery and eventually societal breakdown. Unity today is at best the setting aside of your beliefs for the “greater good” of soceity. But the Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ and Christianity are the true religion and this cannot be compromised.

 

Many ministers egotistically teach that we have no creed but Christ. But the Bible asks, “What? Came the word of God out from you? Or came it unto you only?” (1 Cor 14:34). The men of God who hammered out and forged the creeds of the church should not be ignored or set aside by those who question their teaching just because it is seen in a creed. This erroneous attitude of non-creedalists is nothing new. It goes back to the time where the church in Corinth was having terrible disunity, “Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12). I that group who do you think was the most problematic? Was it Paul’s group? Was it Peter’s denomination? I think not. It was that elitist congregation those who claimed that they exclusively belonged to Christ above their brethren that were the most dangerous.

 

I read somewhere that the real question is not about accepting the word of God over the creeds of men or placing the Creeds above the holy Scriptures but the issue is the tried and tested faith of the collective body of God’s people, versus the private opinion of the person or groups who object to creeds to make up or reinvent the church and their own beliefs. Creeds are an expression of beliefs that line up with scripture (orthodoxy) and are detailed in their phraseology to avoid beliefs that deviate from scripture (heresy).

 

The Article Seven of the Belgic Confession states this adamantly concerning scriptures and any other human writing, “For since it is forbidden to add to or subtract from the Word of God, this plainly demonstrates that the teaching is perfect and complete in all respects. Therefore we must not consider human writings– no matter how holy their authors may have been– equal to the divine writings; nor may we put custom, nor the majority, nor age, nor the passage of time or persons, nor councils, decrees, or official decisions above the truth of God, for truth is above everything else.

 

Creeds demonstrated how the church developed and became more sophisticated in their interpreting Scripture. It also serves to help discern pure doctrine and defend it from the distortion of heretics and the assault of unbelievers, and creates a unity of faith through teaching.  They also give us a syllabus in training our children and other Christians. They should manifest a convincing competent knowledge of the fundamental teachings of the Christian faith and live a life that glorifies and serves God.

 

Many people will say that they do not agree with the Greek and Roman forms of the church and that is why they do not accept Creeds. That is why we must test the Creeds in light of the scripture. I think the Second Helvetic Confession says it beautifully, “Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to, the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.”

 

[i]Norma Normata A Rule that is Ruled Right Now Counts Forever By R.C. Sproul © 2008 Tabletalk Magazine

They Live What They Preach

saint-paul-preaching-in-athens-3511-midIn a fellowship I attend called The Young Lions of the Reformation,  one of the brother’s named Joe brought up a name that is not familiar to many Christians today, a man named Aristedes.

It is a part of a defense of  Christians and Christianity from Marcianus Aristedes the Philosopher of Athens written around 125 A.D.  to Caesar Titus Hadrianus Antoninus.

During of time of the unjust persecution it is a powerful testimony of the lives of Christians who obeyed the Word.  He desired those that accused the Christians falsely that accused the Christians to be silent and let the Christians speak the truth and worship the one true God, Jesus the Messiah who was going to bring awful judgment upon the human race. He said says concerning their beliefs, prayers and worship,  ”Whatever is spoken in the mouth of the Christians is of God; and their doctrine is the gateway of light..and to me there is no doubt but that the earth abides through the supplication of the Christians…and assuredly the race of the Christians is more blessed than all the men who are upon the face of the earth and verily, this is a new people, and there is something divine… in the midst of them.”

Why does he says these things with such confidence?

He states to Caesar: “Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly…Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God… And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them.”

…Such, O King, is the commandment of the law of the Christians, and such is their manner of life. As men who know God, they ask from Him petitions which are fitting for Him to grant and for them to receive. And thus they employ their whole lifetime. And since they know the loving-kindnesses of God toward them, behold! for their sake the glorious things which are in the world flow forth to view. And verily, they are those who found the truth when they went about and made search for it; and from what we considered, we learned that they alone come near to a knowledge of the truth. And they do not proclaim in the ears of the multitude the kind deeds they do, but are careful that no one should notice them; and they conceal their giving just as he who finds a treasure and conceals it… Now the Greeks, O King, as they follow base practises in intercourse with males, and a mother and a sister and a daughter, impute their monstrous impurity in turn to the Christians. But the Christians are just and good, and the truth is set before their eyes, and their spirit is long-suffering; and, therefore, though they know the error of these (the Greeks), and are persecuted by them, they bear and endure it; and for the most part they have compassion on them, as men who are destitute of knowledge.

J.G. pointed out that Aristedes made clear that such “is the commandment of the law of the Christians, and such is their manner of life.”  Not only were their beliefs correct but they lived what they preached. It is wonderful testimony of the grace of God that this man places before Caesar. May it be what people can say of us in this day of hypocrisy and double standards.

Translation of the apology of Aristedes was done by D.M. Kay B.Sc., B.D., assistant to the professor of the semitic langauges of the university of Edinburgh.