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Showing posts from April, 2012

What is Faith?

The Bible says 'by grace you have been saved through faith' (Eph. 2:8). But what is this faith? The Heidelberg Catechism provides us with a thorough definition of true faith, stating that:

True faith is not only a certain knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word;but also a hearty trust,which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.[1]
In fact, we find that there are two elements to true faith: (i) intellectual assent to the truth, and (ii) trust.

Regeneration: Who gives new life?

Regeneration is the fact of being born again or (as the Greek can also be translated) born from above, and according to Jesus, it's incredibly important. He told Nicodemus that ‘unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ (John 3:3). Regeneration makes one a ‘new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17) and so it must have results in one’s life.

Whose Work is Regeneration?

The fact that regeneration means being born from above points to the truth that regeneration requires an outside source above us. It isn't something that we produce in ourselves. The Bible teaches us that, since the Fall, all mankind are totally depraved, ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ (Eph. 2:1). Being dead, we couldn't produce life in ourselves; that life had to come from an outside source. It's because man is dead in sin that Jesus said ‘you must be born again’ (John 3:7). A dead man is incapable of resurrecting himself!

The same passage in Ephesians which tells us that the unsaved are dead i…

The Spirit Draws Us Into God's Love

'It is the Spirit who unites us to Christ. Like the oil flowing down the body of the high priest, he imparts the blessings of Christ the Head to his Body, the church. He takes what is Christ's and makes it our's (John 16:14) so that in the beloved Son we might be the beloved children of God. How great and lovely, then, is the work of the Spirit! He unites us to the Son so that the Father's love for the Son also encompasses us; he draws us to share the Father's own enjoyment of the Son; and he causes us to share the Son's delight in the Father. What could be more delicious than to keep in step with a Spirit whose purpose is that?' Michael Reeves, The Good God: Enjoying Father, Son and Spirit, pp. 75-76

Evangelism With Jesus

I love the last two verses of Mark's Gospel. They must be two of the most encouraging and liberating verses in the whole of Scripture, when it comes to us serving God.
'So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.' (Mark 16:19-20) Not only do these verses give us great assurance in reminding us that the Father has accepted Christ's sacrifice and that Jesus' atoning work is now complete, but they also give us great encouragement when it comes to evangelism.

The fact is, in evangelism we're not alone. Mark tells us that when those early disciples went out and evangelized, 'the Lord work[ed] with them'. In other words, they didn't go alone: Jesus went with them. And not only did Jesus accompany them, not only did they know His presence, but Jesus was at…

Meanwhile, Elsewhere (19/4)

You are not a Rock Star, and other nuggets for worship leaders - Clint Archer
'But when people talk about liking “the worship” they generally mean “the band.” One congregant who should avoid this is the worship leader. Here are four tips for the leader of a worship band... '
What’s Wrong with Theistic Evolution? - Kevin DeYoung
'And what’s wrong with this approach? Why can’t we say Adam was a real person and the first person to know God, but not the only human on the planet? Aren’t we still in the realm of historic orthodoxy even if Adam evolved from other beings and may not have been the physical father of all living persons? I am raising these questions not to suggest a single blog post and a few quotations obliterates evolution. The point rather is to examine whether full-blown evolution can be reconciled with complete allegiance to biblical authority.'
The Gospel is Insufficient - Carl Trueman
'For Paul, the gospel is not in itself sufficient to ensure the continu…

It Cannot Return to Him Void

'You must also believe in the power of that message to save people. You may have heard the story of one of our first students, who came to me, and said, "I have been preaching now for some months, and I do not think I have had a single conversion." I said to him, "And do you expect that the Lord is going to bless you and save souls every time you open your mouth?" "No, sir," he replied. "Well, then," I said, "that is why you do not get souls saved. If you had believed, the Lord would have given the blessing." I had caught him very nicely; but many others would have answered me in just the same way as he did. They tremblingly believe that it is possible, by some strange mysterious method, that once in a hundred sermons God might win a quarter of a soul. They have hardly enough faith to keep them standing upright in their boots; how can they expect God to bless them? I like to go to the pulpit feeling, "This is God's Word th…

The Hidden Dangers of Sounding 'Relevant': What do you need to 'have in your life'?

I was heading out in the car to do some visiting this morning, and as I was driving along I heard a bit of Fearne Cotton's show on Radio 1 (which is admittedly not what I normally listen to on the wireless). Fearne was interviewing Nelly Furtado about her new single, which she then played. And, being the year 2012, by the time the single was finished Fearne had got lots of texts and tweets from listeners in response.

And that's where it got interesting for me. Interesting because the same expression came back several times from either Fearne Cotton or a listener. But we'll come back to that in just a moment.

Every so often in the church world I suddenly hear a new expression. And often, once it's been heard the first time, it keeps on coming back with increasing regularity. That's how language works in all situations, and it's just the same with how preachers speak. And just as words and expressions come into fashion, others go out of fashion. Lots of the Chri…

Moving for the Gospel

I was away at a wedding this weekend, so on Sunday found myself in a different church. As part of the service, one of the elders and his wife were explaining about their preparations for a church plant later in the year in a neighbouring country. They're going to be selling up and leaving behind their life in the UK in order to take the Gospel to people in the world's least evangelised English-speaking nation. And they're not going alone. Already there is a small core team ready to move, and they're still praying for more people to go too.

Then, after they had shared some ways people could pray for their move, the speaker came to preach. He was a guest speaker who had moved to the city to plant a church. One man was moving away from the city for the gospel; the other had moved to the city for the gospel.

I know some other people who haven't moved so far in distance, but have still made a big move for the sake of the gospel. Having been students here in Leeds, they…

Oh praise the One who paid my debt

'This debt was so great that, although no one ought to have paid it except man, no one could except God.' (Anselm of Canterbury, Cur Deus Homo)

People of the Book?: Some Reflections on Reading Scripture Publicly in Worship

Yes, that is a picture of the Pope, but, no, I'm not crossing the Tiber. When I'm sick is the one time I actually miss having a TV, for as I start to recover, but before I'm well enough to concentrate on reading, a bit of mindless TV watching is generally a decent distraction. Nowadays though, without a TV, I have to use iPlayer or some other internet based solution for my mindless viewing. (The problem is, that with such things you actually have to choose what to watch, which isn't quite so mindless, although it often means strange choices which haven't been given  much thought; how do you think I became addicted to the original Danish version of The Killing? Or how did I realise that the American remake wasn't worthy of the name? It's all down to random viewing choices while sick.) Well, this time, my random viewing choice was the Easter Vigil from the St Peter's Basilica (made extra random by the fact that I didn't watch until a few days after E…

Raised With Christ: A Book Review

I've had a copy of Adrian Warnock's book Raised with Christ sitting on my shelf for a few months. I knew that it was going to be a good book, so I don't know why I hadn't got round to reading it yet, but in the run up to Easter, I thought that reading a book about the Resurrection sounded like a good idea. And it was.

Not only is this the best book I've read about the Resurrection, but it also contains a chapter which is one of the best clear and concise explanations that I've come across on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, as well as a great (and prayer-encouraging) section on revival.

Warnock not only manages to transmit the truth, but also to write in a compelling way and to show how important the truth of the Resurrection is for us as Christians today. Raised with Christ starts off by looking at the historical facts of Jesus' Resurrection. Warnock looks at the Biblical evidence and deals with common objections. Standard fare so far. But then he goes on …

A Different Type of Easter Music: Bach's St Matthew Passion

Much of the great classical music of the past was in fact composed for worship. And Johann Sebastian Bach, one of the greatest composers in history worked as what we might (very, very anachronistically) today call a 'worship leader'. (As the Cantor in Leipzig, his role was to instruct students in singing and provide music for the city's main churches.)

Of course, Bach's worship music is a wee bit different from contemporary worship music. But one piece of Bach's music that's still rather well-known around the world today in a worship context is his harmonisation of the Passion Chorale (usually sung as O Sacred Head Once Wounded, Redemption Hymnal No. 162; Songs of Fellowship 446). (In fact, the melody of the Passion Chorale wasn't even written by Bach; he adapted an earlier melody and harmonised it to use in several of his works.) The Passion Chorale gets its names because it's used five times in the Saint Matthew Passion.

So, what is the St. Matthew P…

Risen: A Worship Album Review

I was sick over Easter, so I missed out on joining with God's people to rejoice in the Resurrection of Christ. Fortunately, I won't have to wait a whole year, as every Lord's Day is a little Easter, but I really did miss singing Christ the Lord is Risen Today with the saints in Leeds and around the world. So now that I'm beginning to feel a bit better, I've been listening to some Easter music. And that's what led to this review.

Last Easter Sovereign Grace Music released a new album entitled Risen. Now, I don't often buy albums (as can probably be attested to by anyone who's noticed how often I lead Worthy, O Worthy are You Lord© 1976 - long before I was born - in the Leeds assembly; although I am unrepentant about that and still insist that its one of the greatest choruses ever!), and really need to be convinced that its well worth whatever amount of sterling that iTunes/Amazon/Kingsway/whoever is asking me to part with before I'm willing to make …

The Resurrection Gospel

'We should never neglect to stress how Jesus died and bore the punishment for our sins. But without any declaration that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead and is now reigning, the biblical gospel has not been preached at all.' (Adrian Warnock, Raised With Chirst, p.115)

Good Friday Communion Tonight