A vehicle for venting on philosophy, religion, and the general state of things. Proprietor: C. W. Powell

Thursday, February 09, 2012

 Faith and Works

Pr 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Pr 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
This means that love is rooted in faith, not the other way around.  Dead works cannot be made alive in order to make faith living; the cure for dead works is to abandon dead Gods for the Living God in Jesus Christ.  Faith is not rooted in love; love is rooted in faith. 

Paul said that, being justified by faith we have peace with God, for it is by faith that we have access into God's grace [Rom. 5].  The Holy Spirit is graciously given to us so we can will and do of His good pleasure.  By the Spirit, love is shed abroad in our hearts, the result of faith.

Hence, the human act is rooted in the divine act, not the other way around, for faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, and it is rooted in the attributes of God, not our affections toward men.  Love for God is the First and Great commandment, and takes precedence over the Second Great Commandment which requires love for the image of God.  Without this work of God in the heart by faith, man is left only with the painted face and caricature of a "love" that has no foundation, used only to snare the foolish. Proverbs 5:3-5.

Fools despise wisdom and instruction.  You must be godly before you can do godly. The tree is an apple tree before it bears apples.

Isa 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men....

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

How Ministers Break the Sabbath.  Huh?

A few years ago, someone was curious as to how, with my view of the Sabbath, what anyone could do to break the 4th commandment.  I wondered for a minute why he wanted to know, unless he was making a list, checking it twice, to feed his own transgression of Colossians 2:16, 17, not seeing the Fourth Commandment ceremonies are no more binding on Christians than bloody sacrifices were.  The body is Christ.

Seeing as it is never the weak who are offended by how someone keeps or doesn’t keep the Sabbath, I decided that it would be good to address the consciences of those strong Christians who are very super careful lest the weak be turned out of the way and stop at McDonalds on their way home from church, I thought of the many, many ways that Sabbath breakers disrupt the peace of the Lord’s Day.  Because I think that worship trumps physical rest on the Sabbath [for we rest to worship, not worship to rest], I thought that the sin of corrupting worship would be worse than those who disturbed somebody’s sleep.

I thought I would start with preachers, for they can do very much to set the tone.   Because the Heidelberg Catechism is very clear that the purpose for our Sabbath gatherings concerns the ministry of the word of God:

Q103:  What does God require in the fourth Commandment?
 A103:  In the first place, God wills that the ministry of the Gospel and schools be maintained,[1] and that I, especially on the day of rest, diligently attend church [2] to learn the Word of God,[3] to use the holy sacraments,[4] to call publicly upon the Lord,[5] and to give Christian alms.[6] In the second place, that all the days of my life I rest from my evil works, allow the Lord to work in me by His Spirit, and thus begin in this life the everlasting sabbath.[7]

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the foundation of the rest that God has given to His people   Hence, the day of worship is the day of rest because it is there that we learn of our rest and learn how to know the Lord who calls us to come to Him and He will give us rest.  Hence, the minister must be very careful not to disrupt the message of Gospel of Christ, lest the people of God be turned aside to ceremonies and fleshly things that cannot give rest.

It is very important that the church and the ministry provide a rich opportunity for people to learn the word of God, that children be catechized, and the families gather to worship the Lord.  This must always be the focus of the Fourth Commandment.  The peace and rest that the soul finds in Christ must remain for all ages, even when the Commandment is stripped of Jewish ceremonies.

Hence, I would suggest that any minister guilty of any of the following practices is in violation of the Fourth Commandment and guilty of profaning the Rest of the Lord.   There may be a book end to this article, indicated those sins that are common to the people of God with respect to the Fourth Commandment.

This is the short list.  You may expand it as your conscience tweaks you:

By loafing all week, not visiting the flock, not doing careful study and being boring in the pulpit, delivering up dead homilies on gnats.

By not weeping with those that weep nor rejoicing with those that rejoice. Unconcern and   indifference to the real needs of the flock. Worrying more about your legacy and reputation than the good of the church. Bullying the weak.

By seeking first of all to preserve your station. Selling the gospel for salary, security, and position. By ancestor worship rather than the Lord Jesus. By tribal attitudes that downgrade other ethnic groups.   [See my article on Tribal Christianity] By Bible whipping those who don't agree with you.  By preaching yourselves and your own wisdom; By showing off;

By preaching to advance a private agenda.  Using the Bible to support your own ambition and desires.  By Bible-whipping those who disagree with you.

By cruelty to the poor and needy and weak in the faith;   By  thinking that laying down the law will reform the life; By binding the church to your own private interpretations of Scripture.

By incessant meddling in other peoples' affairs.

By adding to the Scriptures;  By taking away from the Scriptures.  By preaching the dreams of your own heart.

By misinterpretation of Scripture to fit your preconceived conclusions.  By indulging private sins and lusts; by covetousness; by agitation of soul.

By drunkenness anytime. By prayerlessness. By not praying for the Holy Spirit. By trusting in your  own wisdom, experience, reason.

By bullying. By striving. By railing. By insult and name-calling. By self-indulgence and self-vindication. By making excuses for your own profanation of the sabbath in any of these things by your own carelessness in the Gospel

By playing fast and loose with the constitutions and creeds of the church, which are foundational for the peace of rest of the church.   By claiming legitimacy for de facto and self-affirmed positions which have never been legally adopting as part of the creeds or constitutions, thus attacking the foundations of the peace of the church.
By seeking your own. By not suffering long. By not being kind.  By railing [did I already say that?]. By having no mercy.  By mistreating your wives or children. By failure in any of the nine other commandments, but pretending otherwise, then whipping people with the law.

By being a  workaholic, not spending time for games and recreation with your family,   By not taking your responsibility as a husband and establishing the peace of Christ in your home.  By being a truant and not dealing with bullies and strife in the church to the destruction of your wife and family and permanent damage to their view of the Gospel and the church as a battleground rather than a place of rest in Christ.

By putting people to sleep because you haven't prepared a new sermon since the first five years after seminary. By choosing where you will minister because of personal desire rather than the  need of the church; or because of the salary; or because you have family there; or because the weather is nice; or because there are rich people there; or a thousand other unworthy motives.

By pretending you believe the Bible, but have reservations and do not tend to your own personal devotions and prayer. By mental and spiritual and physical laziness and the internal unrest that comes with it.

By being bigoted and incessantly critical of other denominations and ministers. By coddling the
rich and arrogant.  Holding grudges and slandering other ministers.

By not defending slandered ministers. By not squelching slander, the very work of the devil, and the chief reason for strife and unrest in churches.

By indulging your children. By indulging your wife and relatives. By forming or abetting factions in the church or denomination. By not praying for enemies. For not turning the other cheek.   For showing partiality to your friends and supporters and turning your back on those who dare to disagree with you.

By not preaching Christ crucified or people will accuse you of pietism.  By not preaching and practicing faith, hope, and charity, lest people think you are a mystic.

By bring arid, dry, intellectual sermons that suck the sap out of the soul lest people think you are a Pentecostal, or worse, a Baptist.  By making much ado about candles lest people think you are a Lutheran, or worse, a Catholic.

By preaching against those who do not keep the day as you deem proper, in direct violation of Colossians 2:16,17 which makes it a matter of liberty.

By not telling the people that a man must be born again to see the kingdom of God; that they are secure if ceremonies have been performed, rituals observed, and creeds affirmed even though nothing is known of their content or life, lest people think you are “puritan,” or worse, an enthusiast or Methodist.

By not preaching that people should live holy lives, lest people think you are a perfectionist.

By bringing your gift to the altar knowing that you are estranged from a brother.

By bringing your gift to the altar knowing you have done wrong to a brother.

By holding grudges.

By these things and a thousand others like them, the peace of the church--the true sabbath day is destroyed and the worship is profaned.

The hands of the minister that should be raised in blessing become raised in cursing according to    Malachi:

"And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to  heart.  Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces."

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Of Course You Cannot See It.
The Doesn't Mean It Isn't So!

Kisses from Brother

The man with his eyes closed and thinking only of his own thinking will find no evidence for the sun shining.  So those who find no evidence for infant baptism.  Of course you don't see it; you are not looking.  Here is a start: 

Menu for sermons and short articles on Infant Baptism

Sermons on Sermanaudio for infant baptism: C. W. Powell

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Blind Leading the Blind

It was over one hundred years ago.  Professor Emil Heinrich Du Bois-Reymond, founder of the science of electrophysiology, addressed the Berlin Academy of Sciences.  He said there were seven riddles that neither science nor philosophy will ever explain.  They are:
  1. the ultimate nature of matter and force,
  2. the origin of motion,
  3. the origin of life,
  4. the "apparently teleological arrangements of nature," not an "absolutely transcendent riddle,"
  5. the origin of simple sensations, "a quite transcendent" question,
  6. the origin of intelligent thought and language, which might be known if the origin of sensations could be known, and
  7. the question of freewill.
I suspect that science and philosophy are no further along in "solving" these riddles than they were in 1880.  I also suspect that these seven "riddles" are of great importance if man is to see the meaning of his own existence, the nature and effects of religion, and the purpose for intelligent thought and language.

Under the rules of engagement that science and philosophy have so fruitlessly bound themselves, the "solution" to even one of the riddles seems to get farther and farther away against the far horizon.  Under total materialist assumptions of physical cause and effect, how can there be a solution to the manufactured riddles mentioned above?  They are riddles only to those who do not like to regain God in their knowledge.

Maybe the words of Jesus Christ need to be given some respect:  "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit."  [John 3]  How can life and spirit arise from dead matter?  Is the very presence of life an indication that there must be more than atoms, force, energy, gravity, chemical bonds and such?

What is the definition from chemistry or physics that can define why a joke is funny, or a story is sad, or why Billy has hope for Christmas? or America's constitution guarantees freedom for her citizens?

How can you talk about liberty, science, and progress if you know nothing about morality, religion, the human heart and conscience?  What is the chemical formula for conscience? or what do we give God, when we give Him our heart?  Many a kindergarten girl knows more of these things than the materialistic scientist or philosopher with many prestigious degrees.

What a vast, complex, and fascinating world is hidden from those who only know what they learn from their five physical senses!  They have eyes to see, but cannot see; ears to hear, but cannot hear.  They are dead to God, shut up in their narrow, cold, and miserable cocoon.

God in His mercy and kindness, has brought the modern world to a crisis.  We face problems of a spiritual, religious, and moral nature, with real choices before us.  The problems in the Middle East, in Europe, in the Far East, and at home will not be solved by materialistic science, for that science cannot even know what the questions are.  "Why don't the other children like me?" cannot be answered by gifts of lolly-pops.   Questions concerning racism, sexism, abortion, involve deep spiritual issues that the modern man and women are ill-equipped to face, let alone understand. Even deeper questions like "How much of a person's earnings is it moral for him to keep?" have no mathematical solution.  The different philosophical questions concerning wealth held by the widow who gave her mite and Ananias who kept back half his fortune have no mathematical definition.

These questions are pale beside the major question of all: what is the importance of living at all?  Why is living better than being dead?

Dead men, with dead faith, worshiping dead gods, with dead works and ceremonies will not bring life to the world.  Someone who has life in Himself and can give life and come forth from the dead can do so.  But leaving Him outside the door of church, family, state, and experience will not secure the future.

Pr 21:16 "The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead."

    Sunday, February 05, 2012

    Nothing of His Own

    Ho 2:8 "For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal."

    Satan comes as an angel of light, and his ministers as ministers of "righteousness."  2Corinthians 11:14,15. To use Christ's expression, "as wolves in sheep's clothing."

    There is no question that the sincere Christian desires to set high standards for himself and longs to be without sin.  That is a given, for he came to Christ as a sinner and  believes the promise that in Christ is everlasting righteousness.   Thus the snare of idolatry, which is trusting the gifts of God and being caught in the "deceitfulness of sin." Heb. 3:13.  The deceitfulness of sin snares people on both sides of the path of righteousness.  Eph. 4:14.  On one side, Satan would snare us into contentment and ease, perverting faith and turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, committing wickedness, thinking that they are "delivered to so such abominations" Jeremiah 7:9.  On the other side, Satan would snare us into a different kind of ease and contentment, deceiving us into thinking that we have already obtained sinlessness and that the struggle against our sin is over, perverting faith in a different way, thinking that God makes us righteous in ourselves, turning our eyes away from the garments of  Christ's perfect righteousness, and we wrap the filthy garments of our own righteousness around us.

    The effect of both errors is the destruction of the soul, for both seek the gifts of God rather than God Himself.  Ge 15:1 "After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward."  Not the land of Canaan, not a multitude of nations, not wealth and plenty, not even integrity of heart and mind--no gift of God can take the place of God, Himself, who is found in Christ alone.  The Pharisee stood and prayed within Himself and boasted of the gifts of God,  Lu 18:11,12 "I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."

    He was a Pharisee precisely because He thought he was righteous because of God's righteous gifts, trusting that he was righteous in himself. The publican was justified because he looked to the mercy and grace of God alone.  As Paul put it, Romans 5;"6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

    "7  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8  But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9  Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him".

    The righteousness that justifies is not found within the sinner, but is alien to him, the perfection of Christ alone.

    Christ died for the ungodly! while we were yet sinners! "This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD." Is. 54:17  This is the imputation of a righteousness other than my own, the righteousness of Jesus Christ, secured by the Mediator for all His people.  Romans 3:"20  Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; 22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God..."

    Because the sinner has been justified by faith, counted righteous because of Christ--not because of his own works, but because of the free gift of God--he is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit, who begins to work in the sinner the fruit of the Spirit, "love, joy...etc.," which are described in Gal. 5.   But this does not destroy the flesh, which has its own fruit, "wrath, strife, etc." also described in Gal.5 as warring with the Spirit in the soul of the believer. 

    We are not in heaven yet, and every Christian wars against the sin of Adam's nature, from which he is not free until the resurrection.   Hope is a necessary ingredient of faith, as Paul also says, "We are saved by hope," Romans 8:24 and context.  Justification is a one time declaration of God that sins are not imputed to the sinner, but salvation includes more than justification; it also includes adoption, sanctification, resurrection, glorification.  These are all promised and guaranteed by the blood of Christ, but we do not see them yet in their perfection [except justification], Pr 4:18 "But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

    But ought we not to strive for perfection?  Of course, for we must never be content with our sins.  As Paul says again, "We groan within ourselves waiting for the redemption of our body."   But our joy is in the perfection of Christ and our joy is in Him and we look to Him.  We trust in Him, not his gifts.

    Phil. 3: "8  Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9   And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith...." [context].

    This matter is a very old issue in the church and there was a very important difference between the Reformers and Rome.  "Are we justified according to the measure of our sanctification, being justified because God has made us good?" as Rome said.  Or "Are we justified by the perfection of Christ imputed to us, and then given the gift of the Holy Spirit to take us by the hand and lead us through adoption, sanctification, resurrection, glorification, to perfection in glory, fully conformed to the image of Christ, to which we are predestined."  The Reformed, following the Bible, confessed the latter, hating the former as a snare to the soul.

    Do you trust the creation, more than the Creator?


    Blog Archive