Thursday, March 24, 2016

Resurrection: The Ground of our Hope

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,  1 Peter 1:3

The following excerpt is from the Puritan, Jeremiah Burroughs, on hope and the resurrection. However, the hope of which Burroughs writes is for more than just Easter Sunday. It is very practical and applicable 24/7. These are perilous times both near and far, and we need a hope that goes beyond this life. (1 Cor. 15:19) We also need a hope that will give us confidence for the day of judgment. (1 John 4: 17) And may God help us to be ready and eager to share this hope that the world so desperately needs. (1 Pet. 3:15)

Question: "How does the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead come to be a means of giving hope?"
Answer: The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the cause of true lively hope in the hearts of the saints. By the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, God has declared that He is fully satisfied for the sins of man, and that the work of redemption is fully wrought out; otherwise Christ must have been held in the prison of the grave forever. But when Jesus Christ is let out of the prison of the grave, and the bonds of death are taken from him, this declares to men and angels that the work of redemption is perfect; it holds this out to the soul upon which faith is grounded and hope is raised. So there is an efficacy in this to work hope in the soul...
I am as vile and wretched as you can make me, but it is not presumption for me to hope because that which I make the ground and bottom of my hope is not in myself but on the doctrine of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. The Lord Jesus Christ has come and taken my nature upon Himself, and being in the form of a servant has had the sins of the people of God laid to His charge. He has stood before the Father clad with their sins. He has satisfied the justice of God the Father and has wrought a perfect work of reconciliation and redemption. The Father has discharged Him, and He is raised now to the Heavens and sits at the right hand of God the Father, there making intercession for sinners - upon this I ground my hope. I am begotten to a lively hope through what Jesus Christ has done, and therefore, though I am never so poor, vile, and sinful, yet I have enough to raise a lively hope that I shall one day attain to such things are are written in the Book of God. Indeed the things that are written there appear to me sometimes as if they were too good to be true!

Hope by Jeremiah Burroughs, Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2005, pp. 26-27. This book was originally published in 1654 as The Tenth Book of Mr. Jeremiah Burroughs, Being a Treatise of Hope.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Oh....that Fosdick!"

Next to my Mother, the two most influential women in my life growing up were my Grandmother and my Great Aunt Laura.    They were born in the late 1800's and I adored them both,  but they mixed about as well as oil and water.   I didn’t realize until many years later that the friction was partly due to the war that had been raging in the Evangelical church since  the  1920’s over  the inspiration and  inerrancy of Scripture.
Aunt Laura was a Presbyterian and Grandma belonged to an IFCA (Independent Fundamental Churches of America) Bible Church .   I still remember my grandmother fuming—“Oh…that Fosdick!”,   upon hearing that Aunt Laura’s church had  invited  him to speak.   This was in the 1950’s and  being  only  6 or 7 years old years old,  I had no idea whatsoever  who this  dreadful  man was that she spoke of.
After becoming a Christian and learning a bit of church history,  I understood why Grandma had been so upset with this Fosdick guy.   Harry Emerson Fosdick  (1878-1969)  was a key figure  in the  Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy   during the 1920’s and 30’s  which caused many denominational splits over liberal theology.    Modernism had been increasing ever since the Age of Reason/Enlightenment (1685-1815) when the whole ambitious realm of science and invention exploded.    The church was completely blindsided by this force and theologians like Friedrich Schleiermacher  (1768-1884) known as  “The Father of Modern Liberal Theology"  became casualties in the war between naturalism and supernaturalism.     Scientific discoveries beguiled some theologians into rejecting a literal hermeneutic and denying anything of a supernatural nature in the Scriptures, including the virgin birth and the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
By the early part of the 20th century conservative theologians in every denomination began revolting.    Leading the charge among the Presbyterians were men like  J. Gresham Machen,  a professor at Princeton from  1906 to 1929.      Machen  broke away to help found  Westminster  Theological  Seminary  in  Pennsylvania in 1929 and  in 1936 the conservative  Orthodox Presbyterian Church of America (the OPC) was born,  returning  a segment of  Presbyterians to their  roots.
Elsewhere, other theologians were also responding to liberalism and were leaving their denominations to form alliances.   In the early 1900’s numerous Bible Conferences were held in the eastern United States and out of these discussions the Fundamentalist movement came into being.   
Today most Evangelicals have a negative and narrow view of what “Fundamentalism” was,  thinking only in terms of  its  legalistic prohibitions on drinking, smoking, card playing, and movies.    And though the movement fell apart for a number of other reasons as well,  many Christians don’t realize  how  deeply indebted  we are to those who stood against the assault on the authority of Scripture brought about by higher criticism.    
 Rev. Glen Lehman (1907-2006), IFCA Executive Director 1959-1972:
The Bible Conferences provided an ongoing platform for preachers to respond to the unbiblical teaching that was spreading among denominational leaders, seminary professors, and pastors.  Then from 1910-1915,  a twelve-volume doctrinal response to Modernism sequentially came off the presses. Entitled The Fundamentals,  these twelve paperbacks ultimately contained ninety articles written by sixty-four authors from every denomination.   Financed by Milton and Lyman Stewart, the wealthy founders of Union Oil Company, The Fundamentals were distributed free of charge to over 300,000 Protestant ministers, teachers, missionaries, theological professors, and Christian workers.
There were several results.   First, orthodox theology was presented and defended.   Second, apostasy was exposed.    Third, Bible-believing Christians were galvanized into a more cohesive force.   And fourth, those who opposed “Modernist Christians” were given a new name as Bible-believers: “Fundamentalists.”  1
Mr. Lehman was one of Robert’s professors and we were privileged to know him at the church we attended together.    Though we later fellowshipped in more Calvinistic circles  we are grateful to have begun our Christian journey understanding the importance of separation from apostasy and the need to view popular trends with discernment.  
But lest we think we our “Bible believing” churches haven’t  been influenced by liberalism,   we should observe  how many Evangelical churches are enticing great numbers of people  by addressing  temporal and superficial needs rather than expositing the whole counsel of God.
In his article “The Urgency of Preaching”,   Al Mohler describes how this downward  spiral has made its way into our pulpits today.  He contrasts puritan Richard Baxter’s urgent burden to preach “the promise of heaven and the horrors of hell”  with Harry Emerson Fosdick’s “kindly counselor offering helpful advice and encouragement”  man  centered methodology.
“Focusing on so-called "perceived needs" and allowing these needs to set the preaching agenda inevitably leads to a loss of biblical authority and biblical content in the sermon.   Yet, this pattern is increasingly the norm in many evangelical pulpits.   Fosdick must be smiling from the grave.  Earlier evangelicals recognized Fosdick's approach as a rejection of biblical preaching [emphasis mine].    An out-of-the-closet theological liberal, Fosdick paraded his rejection of biblical inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility--and rejected other doctrines central to the Christian faith. Enamored with trends in psychological theory,  Fosdick became liberal Protestantism's happy pulpit therapist.” 2
I doubt my beloved Grandmother and Great Aunt ever considered that their theological tiffs were so colorfully illustrating for me an issue that has continued to be of vital importance today.

 For further reading or listening:
The Decline of Fundamentalism by John MacArthur 
Holding the Line by D.G. Hart - Ligonier; Tabletalk Magazine - 2006 
J. Gresham Machen's Response to Modernism - sermon by John Piper 1993  (worth listening)


2  The Urgency of Preaching by Al Mohler

Friday, March 18, 2016

Book Review: The Great Exchange

The Great Exchange:
My Sin for His Righteousness
My Sin for His Righteousness by Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington

In The Great Exchange, Jerry Bridges and Bob Bevington examine the apostles’ teaching about Christ's work. Using George Smeaton’s nineteenth century classic study The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement as a pattern, they investigate what the New Testament authors taught about the accomplishments of Christ's righteous life and sin-bearing death. The first section of The Great Exchange sums up the teaching of the apostles on the atonement and places it in historical context. The second section, the bulk of the book, examines specific apostolic texts on the atonement, moving from Acts through Revelation.

The authors put the message of the cross where it belongs—at the center of Christianity. “The message of the cross—the historical gospel of the God-man, Jesus Christ, who personally visited the earth, which was created through him, with the mission of redeeming his own people with his own infinitely precious, bloody, substitutionary death," they write, "has been and must remain the solitary basis and the singular foundation of the Christian faith and worldview” [page 15]. They use texts from the New Testament to demonstrate that the apostles saw Christ’s death is an exchange—the Great Exchange. It is “a twofold substitution: the charging of the believer’s sin to Christ [resulting] in God’s forgiveness, and the crediting of Christ’s righteousness to the believer [resulting] in his justification. More than being declared not guilty, in Christ believers are actually declared righteous. Redeemed sinners and the Christ have traded places” [page 41].

If you want to better understand and appreciate the great exchange, this book is a good place to start. It’s deep theology of the cross coupled with writing anyone can understand, and a wonderful tool for expanding your understanding of Christ’s work and increasing your love for him. And what better way to honour Jerry Bridges, who passed away on March 6, than to focus on the atonement of Christ by reading The Great Exchange during the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter?

Jerry Bridges was a longtime staff member of the Navigators. He had an international speaking ministry, and authored several books, including 

Monday, March 14, 2016

Love God & Love Others - Part I

My first quarter of reading well is coming to a close. As it does, I find myself wondering why it never occurred to me to read in this manner before. I can't tell you the benefits I have reaped by slow, concentrated reading on a chosen topic and including my Bible study in the plan. I've been able to make connections between my reading and Scripture, and learned more than I thought possible. I'm still working out some kinks, but overall this method of reading has proven to be a great success.

For the past three months, I've been reading about loving others and gospel living. I've come to the conclusion that it all comes down to this:

Jesus himself tells us the same in Matthew 22:36-40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Too simplistic? Not really. While the thought is simple, the practice is anything but easy. Over and over again these past months, I've seen that loving others well requires that we first love God. But, to summarize D.A. Carson, the hardest place to love God is in our hearts. He writes,
Here is our first duty, our fundamental privilege, our basic worship: to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves. In the midst of suffering, persecution, disability, disappointment, infirmity, tiredness, duty, discipline, work, witness, discernment - in short, in the midst of everything - that love remains our first duty, our fundamental privilege, our basic worship still. When we grown old and calamitously weak, we must love God still; when we look after the chronically ill and think that our horizons are shriveling up, we must love God still; when we are bereaved, we must love God still; when we study and work and build and witness, we must love God still; when we exercise theological discernment, we must love God still.
As I've been reading 1 John, I can't help but feeling that it's been an exposition of Matthew 22:26-40. John demonstrates that the strands of loving God and loving others must be carefully woven together in order to create a faith that is evident to the world. He repeatedly calls his audience to examine their love of God - their theology - and their love for others. The two are inextricably linked.

Again from Carson:
So far as the greatest command is concerned, we are not simply to love, to love in the abstract, but to love God. Nor does this mean that we are to love any god or the god of our choosing, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To love this God means, among many other things, that we will be hungry to get to know him better; conversely, in learning his words and ways, his attributes and glory, what he loves and what he hates, we will find that our understanding of what it means to love God, what it means to love enemies, what it means to love brothers and sisters in Christ, will all be progressively modified and enriched...we will be firmly led to think robustly about what he is like, how he views evil, what rights and responsibilities he gives to the state in a fallen world, his role both in making peace and in judgment, and, above all, his commitment to own glory as God. (author's emphasis)
We cannot love God unless we rightly know him. John encourages us not only that the Gospel is true, but that we must stick to the true Gospel by abiding in it so that we will be equipped to discern theological error. As Richard Yarbrough states, John "writes to commend a higher road: liberation from the compulsion to believe, behave, and love in ways that fall short of God's glorious and transforming light. he writes to commend a full, satisfying and efficacious knowledge of God." (source)

Part of that transformed behavior is loving others Biblically. More on that next time...

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Need to Know

Unknowns are fine in mathematics, but I don't like them in real life. I feel much more secure knowing where my car keys are and what is going to happen today, tomorrow, and the day after that. Mentally keeping tabs on as much as possible gives me a sense of control, which is a comforting feeling even if it doesn't last very long. But in reality, there are too many factors outside of my control for me to be in control, and I don't like it.

Recently I was fretting over a very minor incident in the grand scheme of things. I was replaying the situation over and over in my mind and praying that I would stop worrying, when I asked myself,

"Is it enough that God knows even if I don't?

I can quickly rattle off the names of God's "omni" attributes. My pastor just finished preaching a series on the doctrine of God, but here I was denying with my mind what I would quickly affirm with my lips. I was denying God's omniscience because I pretty much assumed that if I didn't know what was going on, then He didn't either. If I was flustered, He was flustered, too. In short, I was breaking the 2nd commandment because I was imagining God to be something He was not, and I was convicted.

While it is good to be responsible and use wisdom and common sense, all the mental tracking in the world cannot protect me and my loved ones from the unknowns that are lurking ahead. But rather than expending my energies on a futile exercise, there is something or rather Someone I can know. By God's saving grace, through His Word, and the continuing work of the Holy Spirit, I am able to know the One who knows the end from the beginning and everything in between. God's unchanging attributes can steady me when worry would confuse and cloud my mind. Letting these truths sink deep in my soul will also transform my thinking, so when an unknown strikes, I will remember who He is rather than imagine who He is not.

So it is enough that God knows even if I don't, but it doesn't end there. I can know Him.

“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old for I am God, and there is no other I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:8-10

The infinite knowledge of God should fill us with amazement. How far exalted above the wisest man is the Lord! None of us knows what a day may bring forth, but all futurity is open to His omniscient gaze. The infinite knowledge of God ought to fill us with holy awe. Nothing we do, say, or even think, escapes the cognizance of Him with whom we have to do: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good" (Prov. 15:3). What a curb this would be unto us, did we but meditate upon it more frequently! Instead of acting recklessly, we should say with Hagar, "Thou God seest me" (Gen. 16:13). The apprehension of God’s infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to His view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed His heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before Him!
The Attributes of God, A.W. Pink, Baker Book House, 1975, pp. 20-21. An online version is available here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Mrs.Vera Pink - the Editor’s Wife

"I like those words,  ‘Our life is like the weaver’s web’ for it is so true to life.    We only see the wrong side of the fabric now,  for the Weaver has not finished his work.   But in the Day to come, where we shall see it from his side, then we shall behold the beauty of his work and not the knots and ends which our sins and failures have caused.”   -Vera E. Pink in a letter to a friend  1

It's been said   “Behind every great man there stands a great woman”  and this was certainly true  of  the humble and dedicated writer  Arthur W. Pink.    This unique man was theologically out of sync with most of  his contemporaries and lived most of his life in obscurity.    He embraced the writings of the  long forgotten Puritans and the  Doctrines of Grace in an era when most  Evangelical churches were  Arminian,  if not liberal.   Though he has been criticized for his isolationism and lack of formal education,  Pink's writings were appreciated and  highly recommended by such men as Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  

Pink was born in 1886 in  Nottingham, England,  and later  came  to America to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.   His stint at   college  lasted just  6 weeks  before he felt he was wasting his time and decided to  enter the ministry.    His first charge was in Colorado and  from there he  preached  in California and  England and pastored churches  in  South Carolina, rural Kentucky,  and later in Australia.    It was during his brief pastorate in Kentucky in 1916  that  God answered his prayer  for “a godly and spiritual wife”2   by giving him  Vera E. Russell,  “a slightly-built, vivacious Christian, who spoke with a rich Kentucky drawl.”3   

 The  inspirational  biography  “The Life of Arthur W. Pink”  by  Iain Murray tells us,  “Next to his own conversion Vera was to be the greatest blessing in Arthur Pink’s life.”      And that she was!    Vera  became accustomed to  frequent moves as  Mr. Pink  never settled  into a long term pastorate.      Though  he  preached throughout the US,  Canada, Australia, and the UK,   his  ministry was  primarily  through his  writings  of the  Studies in the Scriptures.    This was a monthly periodical  Vera  helped produce  that was  mailed out to  a relatively small number of  subscribers around the world from 1922-1953.      

The Pinks  moved to Hove, England in  1936  and after giving up  hope of any future public speaking ministries  they  continued the Studies,  never missing even one month’s publication.    When WWII broke out   they stayed as long as they could in Hove but continual air raids and bombings forced them to move to the quiet  seaside village of Stornoway, Scotland  where they continued  their  work and peacefully  lived out the rest of their days.

The Pinks never  fit in with the Gaelic speaking churches at Stornoway  so  they  kept to themselves most of the time  and observed the Sabbath at home.    They were  what we would call today  minimalists,  living  humbly and  free from the trappings of materialism.     They never owned a car and  usually rented  small apartments that were  often  no more than two rooms.     Arthur  put in long hours  at his writing desk while Vera,  in addition to helping her husband,   grew  gardens,  did her own canning and baking and  was so  frugal that she  never wasted so much as a “turnip top”.   
Vera rarely spoke of her contribution to  her husband’s  ministry  but wrote in a letter to a friend,   
“No one realizes the hours and hours of hard brain work entailed in composing and going over and over the ground to make sure no error is printed to lead some sheep astray from the green pastures.   Then the proof reading—one man’s job—apart from the composing.   Last but not least, the correspondence to care for.  So you see Mr. Pink does really three men’s work.   For that reason I do all I can in the way of book-keeping, typing and addressing the envelopes to help him”5
Mrs. Pink's  part in  the  ministry was no small  task because  by 1946  her husband  had written  more than 7,000  pages  of studies  and   20,000 letters of correspondence to his subscribers!     These many letters of care for his subscriber's spiritual well being  are evidence of the pastoral heart this man had,  despite his rather unorthodox approach to ministry.   But Pink freely admitted that without Vera he would have been overwhelmed and probably would not have accomplished all that he did with his writing ministry.    

 Together,  Arthur and Vera  faithfully produced  the  Studies  right up  until the  end of his life.   Mr. Pink  suffered  with  a form of painful anemia causing his death and  entered into the joy of his Master  on  July 15, 1952 at the age of 66.    Vera told the sad news to his subscribers,   who  affectionately knew him as  The Editor,  in the September issue  article entitled  “The Late Editor’s Last Days”. 
“...One night in May he had a seizure which lasted several minutes.  After it passed he said, ‘I shall soon be home in glory, I cannot go soon enough.   “Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name”.  I am so happy, I feel like singing through that psalm’.   He observed I was weeping and asked, ‘My dear, why do you weep?   You should be rejoicing that I shall be soon be home.’   I told him I was weeping for myself at being left behind.   I knew it was good for  him but I dreaded the separation.   He gently said, ‘The Lord has been so wondrously good to us all these years and brought us safely through until now.    He will not desert you in your hour of greatest need.  Only trust him with all your heart.   He will not fail you.’”.6   
Vera  tells of  her beloved husband’s last words which were,
“‘The Scriptures explain themselves’,  showing us what his mind was on.  So having finished his course, and completed his work, he has gone to be with him whom he loved and served for so many years. “Oh magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together’”
Though her deep bereavement caused  her to become ill for a time Vera  never ceased praising the Lord for His goodness to her.     She suffered a stroke while working on  the remaining issues  Mr. Pink  had completed before his death but with the help of friends she was able to publish them.     Vera  lived ten years beyond her husband and was a joy and blessing to all who knew her in Stornoway.    On  July 17,1962 at the age of 69 Vera E. Pink went home to be with her Lord.

Arthur Pink  had often been  discouraged by the relatively little interest in his published works  yet they  pressed on,  praying  that God would enlarge their borders  and that He would do so even after they were gone from this earth.     In their final years the Pinks   began to see a greater interest in their work from pastors,  which greatly encouraged their hearts.   

  It is wonderful to see how God has answered  their prayers as the fruit of  their labor continues to multiply in this generation.    The Weaver has indeed woven  a beautiful tapestry from the lives of these two  faithful  servants of Christ.    Vera Pink's life stands as  an example for women today of   what the Lord  had in mind when He said,

“It is not good that the man should be alone;
 I will make him a helper fit for him.” 
 Genesis 2:18

 1) The Life of Arthur W. Pink by Iain H.  Murray Revised and Enlarged Edition;  Banner of Truth Trust;  2004; pg. 237
2) ibid p g 34
3) ibid, pg 35
4) ibid 37
5) ibid pg 241
6) ibid 273
7) ibid 276

*An earlier edition of this article  is  available in Portuguese as an eBook  courtesy of  O Estandarte de Cristo Vera Pink, a eEposa do Editor, por Diane Bucknell