Holiness: Growth

I’m reading the chapter on growth in J.C. Ryle’s classic ‘Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots‘ for discussion at Tim Challies blog. I’m kind of late to the discussion but I won’t let that stop me.

Ryle writes with zeal, passion and a sense of immediacy for his readers. He also pulls no punches in the vein of Piper or MacArthur in telling it how it is, something we can all appreciate, with a hearty 19th century panache.

Before taking us to task with The Reality of Religious Growth, he remarks…

It is an eminently practical subject, if any is in religion. It is intimately and inseparably connected with the whole question of sanctification. It is a leading mark of true saints that they grow. The spiritual health and prosperity, the spiritual happiness and comfort of every true–hearted and holy Christian, are intimately connected with the subject of spiritual growth.

In The Reality of Religious Growth, Ryle clarifies what he terms ‘growth in grace.’ He denies that a believers interest in Christ can grow, nor can we grow in safety, acceptance with God or security, nor can he be more justified, as we know, justification of every believer is complete in Christ (Col 2:10)

Growth in grace, as he describes is… I only mean increase in the degree, size, strength, vigor and power of the graces which the Holy Spirit plants in a believer’s heart.…that his sense of sin is becoming deeper, his faith stronger, his hope brighter, his love more extensive, his spiritual–mindedness more marked. He feels more of the power of godliness in his own heart. He manifests more of it in his life. He is going on from strength to strength, from faith to faith and from grace to grace.

As any classic of the true religion, we are given obligatory scripture reference following his thoughts. He also attests to his view of growth in grace on a ground ‘of fact and experience.’ Appealing to readers of the New Testament, asking if we see varying degrees of grace in lives of saints recorded. He refers to passages of ones with ‘weak faith’ or ‘strong faith’, new Christians as ‘newborn-babes,’ ‘little children,” young men and fathers.’ He also appeals to our own observational prowess in our own lives as well those of other saints.

He then emphasizes grace as ‘a thing of infinite importance to the soul.

a. Growth in grace is the best evidence of spiritual health and properity.
b. Growth in grace is one way to be happy in our religion.
c. Growth in grace is one secret of usefulness to others
d. Growth in grace pleases God

The Marks of Religious Growth

a. Increased humility
b. Increased faith and love towards our Lord Jesus Christ
c. Increased holiness of life and conversation
d. Increased spirituality of taste and mind
e. Increase in charity
f. Increase of zeal and diligence in doing good to souls (others).

The Means of Religious Growth

a. Diligence in the use of the private means of grace (ie. private prayer,Scripture reading, meditation.
b. Carefulness in the use of public means of grace
c. Watchfulness over our conduct in little matters
d. Caution in the company we keep
e. Habitual communion with Christ (sim. to a )

We must seek to have personal intimacy with the Lord Jesus and to deal with Him as a man deals with a loving friend. We must realize what it is to turn to Him first in every need, to talk to Him about every difficulty, to consult Him about every step, to spread before Him all our sorrows, to get Him to share in all our joys, to do all as in His sight, and to go through every day leaning on and looking to Him.

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Brethren in the Street

I sit at the bookstore, studying, night after night after night. Rarely if at all do I ever see anyone else engaged in reading of any Christian literature. Tonight was the exception to the rule. I’m reading the Minich article on the Federal Vision controversy and a scripture passage comes to mind that I can’t quite place, and I remembered I saw a guy with Stott, MacArthur and Boice books on the other side of the café when I came in. Bingo!

I went over to the condiment bar for some more water, I started to, as usual, try to talk myself out of an uncomfortable action, but then it’s as if my guard entirely dropped, I spun around, walked up and introduced myself. It was an instant comfortability with this guy. Turns out he’s an associate pastor at Cincinnati Primitive Baptist Church (first time I’ve heard of that denomination)

I was just surprised at how easily we hit it off. We talked a little, I asked him about the passage, he found it on his computer for me, shared our testimonys’ etc… I got his card, he got my contact info.

Researching the beliefs of his denomination has me wondering about the baptism issue. Again. Baptism. Pray for understanding.

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Paper Thin

I stumbled across Christopher Hitchens wrath worthy book ‘God is Not Great’ at Barnes and Noble Sunday evening. I usually avoid secular hate propaganda, but my faith has been rock solid as of late. I flipped open to a random page , to my surprise, was the topic of the mornings sermon on Mark 7:24-30:

Jesus got up and went away from there to the region of Tyre. And when He had entered a house, He wanted no one to know of it; yet He could not escape notice.
But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet.
Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter.
And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”
But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.”
And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”
And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.

What was interesting, that Christ’s ‘harsh’ initial rejection of the Syrophoenecian woman, was chalked up by Hitchens, to racism, because she was a Gentile, simple as that, cut and dry. Here we see how easy it is for secular crusaders to employ contextomy to build arguments that hold water with unbelievers. While I’d like to think so called intellectuals do ‘research’, I believe in this case research would have refuted his case.

When we look at the same account in Matthew 15, Christ had withdrawn, that is, he went to rest. As Pastor Miessler pointed out, he was constantly hounded by miracle seekers. While he IS God, in his humbled state, he was still man and needed physical restoration.

We dare not say Christ a racist, for we read in Matthew 15:24 a statement of purpose.

But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Christ’s central focus to his ministry was to Israel. In fact, in John 4, prior to the feeding of the 5000, also mentioned in Mark, Christ most compassionately dialogues with the woman at the well:

You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

We see here, ‘salvation is from the Jews’, yet she was a gentile and did minister to her.

It’s people Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins who are, at least on the literary front, spearheading the ‘intellectual’ attack on religion. Dawkins claims his attacks are relegated to only ‘pen and paper’ as an attempt to disguise his hatred.

We all know, Mr. Dawkins, that the pen is mightier than the sword.

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On the Character of Christ

I’m reading, among other things, John Stott’s Basic Christianity. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this small volume, I came to find out it could very well serve as tool for evangelistic training, if not just handing out copies. I would reserve handing out copies only after personal evangelism, as it is small, but dense.

Part One: Christ’s Person – is the first third of the book, wherein lies my topic. Stott draws, if not drives a wedge between the earthly ministry of Christ and His teaching, and all other ‘great’ teachers, prophets, eastern religious figures &c. This distinction is, in the plainest terms, His self-centered teaching. It’s interesting when I first read those words, I did a double take. I knew his ministry was not the all-inclusive hippyfest some would like us to believe, but some pop-culture greeting card view of Christ floating around in my cranium reared its irreverent head. I crushed that quick, needless to say.

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Reflection on a Psalm

The LORD looks from heaven;
He sees all the sons of men;
From His dwelling place He looks out
On all the inhabitants of the earth,
He who fashions the hearts of them all,
He who understands all their works.
The king is not saved by a mighty army;
A warrior is not delivered by great strength.
A horse is a false hope for victory;
Nor does it deliver anyone by its great strength.

-Psalm 33:13-17

I find this passage sobering. On my knees as one in utter helplessness. If Kings and Warriors stand powerless, who am I? He sees ALL the sons of men. HE fashions their hearts. Even here we are confronted with the sovereignty of our Lord, his righteous rule and choice of his children.

Yet I do know who I am. I am a child of the Promise, and I will sacrifice even my life for Him.


Try Pansy!

Leadership Training: Elders & Deacons

Tonight was the introductory lesson for Leadership Training: Elders & Deacons. Pastor Miessler gave us a rundown of the confessions of the faith : Westminster, Larger & Shorter Catechism. the Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort, which are in the Dutch Reformed tradition. These are what Grace BPC endorse as statements of belief.

He also briefly outlined some subordinate writings to the Westminster Confession, such as the Directory of Private or Family Worship. That topic is somewhat familiar, as I was first introduced to the concept in Puritan Papers vol.1. E. Braund in his essay titled Daily Life Among the Puritans gives an overview what many a godly head of household practiced in day to day living, practicing servant headship, leading his family in morning worship before the intrusion of worldly business, singing a psalm, with emphasis always on prayer. The evening gathering was similar, with maybe more time spent in exposition of scripture, and questioning members of the family on what they remember from earlier in the day.

The inbetween times, biographies reveal a people concerned with living as if in the sight of God.

Idleness, vain conversation, and unnecessary visits were all avoided, and when in company with Christians, people took seriously there duty of edifying and exhorting one another…p160

I shan’t expound further, as there is too much to quote. I highly recommend, even as someone without a family his own, this Puritan Papers volume, in regards to learning from a lost culture who strove to live righteously before God. We among the elect would be wise to model our homes in this biblical fashion, for none of the world’s offerings provide us even a sliver of this sanctifying living.

Back on topic, we also defined the word Presbyterian (i.e. in how it runs, via presbyters) and also received full definition of ‘Church.’

The universal/visible church is the umbrella for all those throughout history to have claimed the name of Christ, and the invisible church consists of individuals that truly are saved. (Matt. 24)

The course texts include John Stotts’ Basic Christianity, Joseph Pipa Jr’s The Westminster Confession of Faith Study Book, Alexander Strauch’s Minister of Mercy: The New Testament Deacon and David Dickson’s The Elder and His Work.

I am in no position to be an elder or deacon, but hope to glean wisdom from the Word and apply the pattern of church leadership to my own walk. Check out my Recommended Reading in the sidebar for the Puritan Papers vol.1.

Staged Palestinian “War Footage”

Poor poor abused palestinians. This is a news story on Pallywood. Islamist Propaganda films created to stir the bleeding hearts of American liberals.

Mother Teresa: Without the Spirit?

Here is an story which was initially brought to my attention by a Community Press article by Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Lou Guntzelman entitled Mother Teresa, what is this we hear of you?

Mother Teresa’s Crisis of Faith

In the Community Press article, Guntzelman relates her spiritual vacuum to St. John of the Cross’ term ‘dark night of the soul’ which refers to a brief (usually) time of spiritual detachment from God.

As my title implies, which I almost hesitate to write… How can a true Christian feel separate from God for 50 years? Half a century!

Guntzelman states:

Even Paul speaks of some unknown painful affliction of his. He decided it existed to keep him from being puffed up with pride, and wrote, “Three times I begged the Lord about this that it might leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ So I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Cor. 12:8-9)

Now, we can be fairly certain Paul was not apart from God for fifty years, given his ministry and output. I believe in the context of this article the scripture passage served no meaningful purpose. True, trials and tribulations serve to strengthen our faith in Christ and Trust in God, but once regenerate the Holy Spirit indwells us, reforming our hearts and minds and frees us from the fear of death (Satan) and the fear of our own inadequacy before a Holy and Just Creator.

Unfinished/w Script. Ref’s to Come

Genesis in Space and Time

I’m 2/3 of the way through this fabulous find at the used bookstore. Francis Schaeffer, known best for A Christian Manifesto and How Should We Then Live?, expounds on the Creation story ( Genesis 1-11) as literal and… shows how the first eleven chapters of Genesis stand as a solid space-time basis for answering the tough questions posed by modern man. from BP.

Chapter 6 titled The Two Humanities draws attention to a messianic foreshadowing in Genesis 3:15.

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel. (NASB)

Having read this passage a few times and it did seem cryptic or vague, Schaeffer points out that in patriarchal cultures such as that of the Jews (as well as most other), when seed is spoken of, it is always in reference to offspring by the male head of the family (because he has the seed). The offspring here is also referenced as he.

Of course, the parallel here is the virgin birth of Christ, with conception void of the male seed, Christ’s lineage traced back though Mary’s bloodline. He also, among too much to write here, in reference to the last 3 lines of this verse draws a parallel to Hebrews 2:14:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, (NASB)

This passage shows us that in Christs’ bruising, the crucifixion, the devil’s power over death was destroyed for the elect …

and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Hebrews 2:15 (NASB)