Jun 082015

A bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench.

Isaiah 42:3 (ESV)

One of the great encouraging words from the prophet Isaiah comes in chapter 42. The prophet Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Spirit, presents Christ to us as the servant who will not break a bruised reed and will not quench a faintly burning wick. In Matthew’s account of the Gospel, he takes us back to this text to describe the ministry of our Savior in 12:18-21. The servant, chosen by God, is Jesus. The great love of God for His people is seen in the fact that He called His Son to save and serve the elect and the Son executes the offices of their Prophet, Priest and King.

Are you a bruised reed or a faintly burning wick today? Are you weak and tired? Do you feel like you are barely hanging on? Do you ever wonder how you will make it through another day and do you have difficulty believing that ‘God loves me like this?’ Does it seem that God has forgotten or that He doesn’t care?

The invitation of our Servant was spoken (as a prophet the greater Moses speaks) tenderly in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” And in Isaiah 55:1, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” In Isaiah 53 we read that the Servant, our Great High Priest, is wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.

We see in this verse the condition of those He came to rescue: weak reeds and faintly burning wicks. He came to rescue those who were not impressive in the eyes of the world. He came to rescue the broken and needy, the desperate and despised.

The Puritan Richard Sibbes wrote a masterpiece of a book entitled The Bruised Reed. The Puritans were so wise in giving care to one another’s souls. In his book he asks, “Who are the bruised reeds?”, to which he answers, they are those not only that are brought low by the burdens of life, but who by them are brought to see their sin, which bruises most of all (my paraphrase).

Yes, we go through God’s bruising, and in them our sin rises to the surface. That hurts! So it is this text above that encourages me. The bruised reed he will not break and the faintly burning wick he will not blow out. Listen to Sibbes here: “For our encouragement to a thorough work of bruising, and patience under God’s bruising of us, let us all know that none are fitted for comfort than those that think themselves furthest off.” Christ’s sheep are weak sheep. But He seeks them, calls them, is tender to them, feeds them, loves them, and heals their broken hearts. He is very familiar with souls bruised by sin and gently restores them. Look at Peter’s failures. He denied Christ three times and yet three times Christ said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Peter forsook Christ at the cross and Christ said following his resurrection, “Go your way, tell his disciples, and Peter.” Our Savior is so patient and kind and gentle. Let us praise God for the faithful ministry of his chosen Servant in the lives of his sheep.

Broken, yet healed in Christ,

Pastor Bill

Jun 082015

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

Acts 20:24

There are many myths and legends that have developed through the years as to the man St. Patrick. First of all, it is important to make clear that Patrick was not Irish, but he was a Romanized Englishman. I will give more details on that shortly. Secondly, there is a legend that St. Patrick banished all the snakes from Ireland. The reason that there are no snakes in Ireland today is that Patrick cast them all out! (I might want to move there now!) A third legend is that Patrick was a bishop sent by Rome to Ireland and there he taught the Irish about the Trinity using a shamrock. Lastly, “Kiss me, I’m Irish,” did not come from Patrick!

Now for the real St. Patrick: God raised up Patrick at a time when the church was in great decline as a result of Pope Leo. Tertullian, in the 3rd century, already speaks of merchants and soldiers bringing the teachings of Christianity to the British Isles. Patrick was born toward the end of the 4th century, about 389/390, a little before the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome had stretched its territory to the British Isles, into England, Wales and Scotland, but had not conquered Ireland. Most agree that Patrick, really Patricius, was born in southern England (some say northern England). His native language was Latin.

We learn these things from Patrick’s own autobiography which he called, like Augustine, Confession of St. Patrick. At the very beginning he declares that he is, “A sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many.” At age 16, England was raided by Irish pirates and Patrick along with thousands of Englishmen, was taken captive to the west coast of Ireland into slavery, where he would be for seven years. The reason he gives for Irish captivity is that the English have rejected God and have fallen into sin. The captivity is God’s judgment upon them. It was here that Patrick first learned of the sense of his own depravity and need of grace. He would be converted when he escaped from captivity and returned to England at age 23.

Following his conversion, God gave this Englishman a love in his heart for the pagans of Ireland. The Druids were of great influence there and promoted not even a hint of peaceful religion. The Druids were involved in all kinds of wickedness, even the sacrificing of their own children. It would not be until 430/431 that Patrick would return to Ireland to bring the gospel to them, never to return to England.

This came about in three main instances: The first was a vision that God had given to Patrick, much like that of the apostle Paul in Acts 16, when he saw the Macedonians say to him, “Come over here and help us!” Patrick claims to have had a similar experience of the Irish pleading for him to return to bring the gospel. Secondly, he felt compelled of God to go. He says, “I cannot keep silent, nor would it be proper, so many favors and graces has the Lord deigned to bestow on me in the land of my captivity. For after chastisement from God, and recognizing him, our way to repay him is to exalt him and confess his wonders before every nation under heaven.” Then lastly, Patrick understood that through the preaching of the gospel, God would call Abraham’s sons to himself according to his promise. So Patrick says, “We should fish well and diligently…It behooves us to spread our nets, that a vast multitude and throng might be caught for God.”

God granted Patrick great success in the northern half of Ireland. He spent his final 30 years preaching the gospel there until his death in 461. St. Patrick should be kissed, not because he was Irish, for he was not, but because God led him to return the land of his captivity and brought the gospel to them.

So during the month when Patrick’s life is celebrated, let us remember the real St. Patrick, and let us have a heart for the perishing like he had.

“Greet one another with a holy kiss.” (2 Corinthians 13:12)

Kiss me I’m…a Christian!

Pastor Bill

Jun 082015

By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.

Job 37:10

I love the ice! Not the kind of ice that ruins travel on roads or the ice the weighs heavily on power lines, blowing out transformers and making power lines fall to the ground, causing power outages. But I love the ice on a frozen pond or at an ice rink. Actually, I love to play hockey! I learned to skate at age 5. Our pond in Cincinnati, Ohio, would freeze over in the winter. So me, my brothers, my cousin, and neighborhood friends played hockey. Every winter from age 5 to 18, I played as much as possible. One of our chief inspirations for playing was the 1980 Winter Olympics, when the US Men’s hockey team, a huge underdog, defeated the Olympic favorite, the USSR. Right at the height of the Cold War, the victory of the US men stunned the world. It has been called the “Miracle on ice.” We relived that game on ice countless times. I was 9 years old and remember the game like it was yesterday.

The Russians had beaten Team USA just two weeks before in an exhibition game 10-3! No one would have picked Team USA beat the Russians now in the semi-final match. After the first period of the game on February 22, 1980, the score was tied 2-2. The Soviets scored another goal in the second period, making the score now 3-2 going into the 3rd. Mark Johnson of team USA scored a goal with 11:21 left in the game. Just 1 minute and 21 seconds later, team USA’s Mike Eruzione, got free with the puck and shot it passed the Soviet goalie giving the USA a 4-3 lead! And yes, Team USA held the Soviets without scoring in the final 10 minutes to win the match. I have never seen such a sports celebration before or since in my life. It truly was the “Miracle on Ice.” Beating the USSR placed Team USA in the gold medal game and the US beat Finland to take the gold.

But enough of hockey! Let’s look to the Miracle of Ice! Where does it come from? How does it form in the sky? Who really controls the weather? Does man? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Only God does! That is what the Word of God tells us. Here in Job, ice is given by the breath of God and by His breath the broad waters are frozen fast. In Job 38:29, the Lord asks Job, “From whose womb did the ice come forth, and who has given birth to the frost of heaven?” Following a long string of God’s questions to Job, He can only reply, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:4-5) Job realizes that only a sovereign God controls all the weather, and the water in all its forms. Not one drop of rain, or mist, or frozen precipitation, falls apart from the sovereign will of God.

Last week, following the snow storm in the Southeast, the Governor of NC, Pat McCrory, was chided by a CBS reporter because McCrory dared to say that the climate is ultimately controlled by God and not man. The Governor of North Carolina is absolutely right. No where does Scripture say that man causes weather or climatic changes. No! Only God does that. Just ask the Russian ship that recently went to the Antarctica with scores of scientists to study global warming and got stuck in the ice! It took efforts from 3 nations to rescue them! If we read the Bible, we will learn that God controls the weather. Read Job 37. At His voice come thunders and lightning. At his command it rains or snows. At his bidding we feel the wind. By His will He loads the clouds with moisture. He spreads out the skies and balances everything with wisdom. When I saw the ice last week, I thought, “O how mighty, and wise and glorious is our Triune God. How powerful is He!” The miracle on ice is nothing compared to the miracle of ice! Let us praise Him today for His power and sovereignty and love! To Him be the glory forever, Amen! I love you all!

Pastor Bill

Feb 242015

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)

What occurs every four years and is just as popular, if not more so, than the Olympics? You guessed it: the World Cup. The World Cup is an international soccer tournament with 32 countries participating. Nations compete over a long period of time to qualify for this soccer (football) tournament, years of work culminating in a 64-game tournament watched by the world. In 2010, it was estimated that 3.2 billion people watched at least one minute of the World Cup. Over 1 billion people watched the final match between Spain and the Netherlands in 2010. The event with the largest viewership in history was the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The sport of soccer has been a big part of my life since the age of 8. I played in high school and college and have even played on teams as an adult. I have coached teams for many years and I am presently the new middle school girls coach for Union County.

The objective of a soccer game is really simple: score more goals than the other team! Playing it, however, takes years of practice, coordination, skill, touch, and yes, endurance and speed. A team will not finish very well if they lack endurance. During a soccer match, a player runs anywhere from 4-7 miles, depending on his/her position. A soccer player runs virtually non-stop for 90 minutes. When I played, I happened to have one of those positions that ran about the 7 mile mark. Why would anyone put themselves through that much torture, you might ask? Score one goal for your team and you’ll understand why! There is something amazingly addicting about putting the ball in the back of the net. You want to do it over and over again. The training becomes a joy and not drudgery. One wants to get better and better so that one can score more often.

In the text above, the writer to the Hebrews exhorted these believers to remember the days in their early Christian experience when they faced many trials. They endured hard struggles with suffering (v. 32), publicly humiliated and afflicted. Some were treated as criminals and were thrown in prison. Christian brothers and sisters risked the plundering of their property to provide for and care for those in prison. You must remember that the Romans didn’t provide 3 meals a day, showers, weight benches, TV’s, and air conditioning. Any meals these believers received came from caring brothers and sisters in Christ.

These early believers endured these hardships since they knew they had a better possession and an abiding one: They were looking to the real goal – heaven! This is why the writer to the Hebrews tells them in verse 35-36, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. You have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God (that is, lived your life of faithfulness to God until the end), you may receive what is promised (the completion of their salvation in heaven).

Do you need endurance today? I do. For one, I can’t run like I did 25 years ago in a soccer match; but secondly, I have many struggles that are difficult to fight. Sometimes I simply want to throw in the towel. So I need this word from Hebrews because I need endurance too. Holy Father, please help us to keep our eyes on the only goal that matters. Grant to us enduring grace. I am so thankful that your people are not of those that shrink back and are destroyed (v. 39). You preserve and keep your own in your mighty hand. Amen.

Watch a World Cup match, even if you care nothing about soccer, and notice the endurance of the players. It really is amazing how they run. Let us fix our eyes on the prize and run with endurance the race set before us.

Running for the GOOOAAAALLLLLLLL! (That’s how the announcers of a soccer match say “goal” – they just stretch it out a little more!)

Pastor Bill

Feb 172015

“Our God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come. Our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.”
“Under the shadow of your throne your saints have dwelt secure. Sufficient is your arm alone, and our defense is sure.”
Our God Our Help in Ages Past – from Isaac Watts’ setting of Psalm 90, 1719.

Back in the late 1990’s, a great Reformation began in the mountains of Georgia. In an area where Arminianism and Revivalistic teaching abounds, God began to unveil the eyes of many to the shallowness and man-centeredness of those doctrines and God was causing them to see the glories of the Doctrines of Grace. Who would have ever thought it? Can you believe that a church like Redeemer came into being in an area where virtually no one knew of the Doctrines of Grace (i.e. Calvinism)?

Under different circumstances, God was working in the hearts of many and a vision for a Reformed Baptist church in the mountains was born. God did this! My friend Jeff Robinson came to see the Doctrines of Grace through Tom Nettles’ book, By His Grace and for His Glory. God moved Daryl and Rachel Allison to Dahlonega where they attended a church that taught the Doctrines of Grace. Both Rachel and Daryl and Jeff Robinson helped lead me to solid biblical teachers that helped me understand Calvinism. My wife then soon followed. For several years then I began to teach the Doctrines of Grace in the context of an Arminian church.

There were others becoming reformed. They were: Doug and Rebecca Collins, Jeremy Smith, Jim and Melissa Smith, Jim and Ginny Smith. While I was away in seminary, the core group of RBC was being formed. Long story short, RBC has met every Lord’s Day since late August of 2009 (except for a few snow days!).

Early in 2010, the Lord brought Wally and Jeanne Roderick and Michael and Jen Roderick to us. God used Grace Redeemer Fellowship to connect many people to Redeemer Baptist. Michael was hired shortly thereafter to lead music for us. All along the way the Lord continued to grow us. Several began to come from Cherokee County, Towns County, and Fannin County. To date, we have 31 members and 8 regular attenders!

Planting a reformed Baptist church has not been an easy task but God has blessed us in so many ways. And God has done great things through us in five years. Let me just mention a few: God used us to build an addition to Jim and Melissa’s home for their son. We also were able to purchase a van for them. We have participated financially in many mission trips as well as contributed to the Lottie Moon fund. We are reaching many through WeCare, our caregiver ministry. Our connection with the Notla River Association has opened many doors for us to minister in the community. RBC is known as a faithful contributor and participant in our local association. We have consistently supported the Gideon ministry. We presently support Pastor Greg Matthei in South Africa. It has also been wonderful to see children being born to us, both physically and spiritually. God provided miraculously for us through Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville in July of 2012. Yes, God has been our help in ages past and I know He will be our help for years to come!

I am so thankful to witness our harmony and love one for another. I am so thankful for the hunger that RBC has for the Word of God. I love to see your hospitality in having people over to your homes and in preparing meals for those that need them. If I have neglected to mention anything or anyone from the early stages, please forgive me. You are all special to me. Let us continue in fervent prayer and let us not give up the fight for our desire to see a reformed Baptist church flourish in this area. God is not done with us yet!

Praising our faithful God,
Pastor Bill

Feb 112014

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:37-38 (ESV)

You may or may not know that I am the son of a German immigrant. My father came to this country (legally!) in 1956. President Eisenhower opened the way for 100,000 European refugees to come to America and work. My father was one of them. In 1944, my father (at age 7), his two sisters, his aunt and his grandmother, escaped their village by night as it was surround by Russian soldiers. Others in the town escaped also, but very few survived. My father ended up in a refugee camp in Denmark, and was there until Christmas of 1946, already a year and a half after the war. The stories he tells about his life before and after the war are simply amazing. Right now, I have the privilege of editing his autobiography entitled A Home to Call My Own. It is getting closer to completion and, Lord willing, will be published by the end of this year.

In the book, my dad tells a story that reminded me of the verses above. We cannot “half-way” come to Christ, can we? He is either first in our lives or He is not. There is no middle ground for a disciple of Jesus. To illustrate this, my dad tells of the moment he received a letter from his aunt, who came to America after World War I and would open her home to take in my dad and his sister in Cincinnati, Ohio. Working with the American consulate in Frankfurt, the visas were approved and my dad had a choice to make: do I leave my father and mother, two brothers, and my entire homeland – do I leave it all and come to America? My dad talks about how difficult it was to make this decision. But he knew that this was his only opportunity to escape war-torn Germany and pursue a better life.

Well, on December 20, 1956, at 1:10 PM, my dad set foot on Pier 86 in New York City, welcomed by the Lady of Freedom (Statute of Liberty). It was not long after, when they arrived in Cincinnati, that my dad heard the Gospel at a German youth group meeting in Cincinnati. God saved him on that night and his life really changed forever! Jesus took first place, and I was blessed to watch this man live as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

The cost of discipleship is great, but there is no better life in the world. When we evangelize, one thing we don’t always make clear is that Christ is to be received by faith – not as a “pain in the neck” or to “cramp our style” – to be received, rather, as our greatest treasure! He is the Great Reward. My dad came to America because he knew there was no better nation on earth. We should call people to come to Christ because He is the greatest treasure! Being a disciple of Christ is not a “pain in the neck”, but is the greatest joy in the universe. It reminds me of the chorus, “Knowing you, Jesus, knowing you. There is no greater thing. You’re my all, you’re my rest, you’re my joy, my righteousness, and I love you, Lord!”

So let us remember to call the lost to forsake all and follow Jesus, knowing that He is greatest treasure of all! When you have the greatest treasure, you will have no regrets that you left the world behind!

Happy in Jesus,

Bill Schakat

Feb 112014

Thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.

Genesis 3:18 (ESV)

When Adam listened to his wife and ate of the tree of which God commanded him not eat, God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you… By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.” (Genesis 3:17-19) As I was working at the tree farm last week, these verses came to my mind. Why? Because there are several fields that have not been tended over the last two years, hence large thorns and brier bushes have grown in between the trees. I have had the pleasure (NOT!) of working in these fields to remove the thorns and briers so that these trees can be ready to be trimmed in March. Let me tell you, fighting thorns and briers is hard work. This task has reminded me again of the curse of Adam’s sin and my union with him by nature.

By grace, I am now united to Christ, and He is my new Lord and Master. Yet, I still fight sin in my heart, and let me tell you, it is a hard fight, especially if I do not tend or give care to my spiritual condition. To leave the trees unattended means thorns and thistles. By leaving my heart unattended means the same.

This quote from John Owen that I mentioned a few months ago, “Kill a sin or part of a sin every day… Be killing sin or sin will be killing you,” has been going through my mind as I chop through these fierce opponents to lovely Christmas trees. Justification, or the declaration of my right standing with the Father, occurs in a moment of time. Sanctification, however, is a process, beginning at regeneration and continuing on until I return “to the ground”. I am not passive in my sanctification, but I am actively called to mortify the flesh, to work out my salvation, to make my calling and election sure. Of course I know that God the Spirit is working, but true faith is evidenced by works, by a growing in holiness and Christ-likeness. For my heart to flourish, like the trees, I must be pulling weeds, or rooting out those things that hinder growth and productivity. Like the thorns in the fields, they are not hard to spot. Sometimes the sin in our hearts might be hard to spot, but I think we all know many of the things that cause us to struggle.

As I have been chopping down these thorns and briers, very often those long twigs stick to my clothes and I just can’t seem to shake them off. It takes great effort. But I have noticed, in the five hours I have dedicated so far to this task at the farm, I actually have made great progress. I have already finished two fields! This gives me hope in my fight against indwelling sin.

It causes me to look to Christ. When you read through the Scriptures, thorns and briers and thistles are always associated with God’s judgment. Nowhere is a thorn and thistle a good thing. What is the Christ connection? When our Savior was crucified, the soldiers weaved together a crown of thorns and placed it on His head and mocked His kingship. It was a symbol of God’s judgment upon sin and the great humiliation which our Savior endured for the sake of His people. On the ground of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, and by virtue of His intercessory ministry to His people, the power of sin is crushed and the grace to fight and remove the thorns is granted.

One last thought: I have learned that January is a great month to be removing the brier bushes. The weather is cool and the branches are brittle. They can get chopped up much quicker this time of year. You know, right now, as we are still in the first part of the year, it’s a great time to give careful attention to our hearts. Let us pray for each other and encourage one another as we press on in this fight. Our fight with sin will soon be over, but let us fight until we return to the dust or Jesus returns.

Blessings in Jesus,

Pastor Bill

Feb 112014

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

God has once again shown Himself faithful to us. He has graciously given us another year and we look forward with hope for what lies ahead. The New Year often brings thoughts of personal change in the coming year. Have certain resolutions entered your mind, whether you intend to try them or not?

As we begin the New Year, I would ask that we consider the verse above: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Notice first that Paul is writing this admonition to Christians. Yes, Christians can grieve God’s Holy Spirit. We do this in many ways. In the immediate context, when believers speak in ungodly ways, it grieves the Spirit. When we speak insults and slander, and use our tongues to tear down rather than build up, we grieve the Spirit. When we harbor bitterness and anger and resentment, we grieve the Spirit. The closeness and intimacy of the Spirit begins to wane when our hearts are hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. This is why Paul tells us in verse 32 to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”

Another way we grieve the Spirit is a lack of love and dependence upon Him. The things of this world grip our heart and we seek so little of the Spirit’s influence. We care not that we do not call upon Him or desire His power. Things of a heavenly nature do not consume our thoughts and longings. We are too comfortable and self-reliant. The Spirit is grieved by our lack-luster love.

God’s Spirit is also grieved by our unbelief. Unbelief shows itself in hearts that are not thankful. Complaining is another fruit of unbelief. Unbelief manifests itself in a lack of contentment. We grieve the Spirit when we do not grab a hold of God’s promises and when we do not fight the good fight of faith. Unbelief drives us to seek our joy in things that can never satisfy, and this grieves the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person. He thinks, feels, loves, and in this text, grieves. God has made man His dwelling place by the Holy Spirit. Grief and love go together. You grieve over things you love or things that hurt. When a loved one passes away, we grieve. Why do we sorrow? We loved that person. When someone close to us is hurting, we hurt. Why? Because we love them and it grieves us that someone so close to us is hurting.

The sin of believers grieves the Spirit. You see, He loves God’s children. It is by Him that His children were sealed for the day of redemption. It’s no wonder that He grieves when our hearts are not right with him. He has sealed us forever, yet so often we want so little of his influence.

Individuals can grieve the Spirit, and churches can grieve the Spirit. I do not want this to be true of RBC. My prayer for 2014 is that RBC will seek the Spirit and desire His influence and power. We need the Spirit’s power and anointing. We need the Spirit’s blessing. I do not want our hearts to be hardened to his voice as God speaks through the Spirit-inspired Word. Let us pray for a great working of the Spirit in the coming year.

Praying for the Spirit’s peace and power,

Pastor Bill

May 302013

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.

1 Peter 1:1-2 (ESV)

Recently, I was watching a documentary on Georgia Public Television called The Appalachians. The subject of the section I watched was about the religious practices of Appalachia. The writers stated that the settlers that first came to the South were Calvinistic and that they believed in a harsh and stern God, who had His chosen people. Then, the documentary stated (and I’m paraphrasing), John Wesley came and preached a God of love, a God that accepted everyone, and this message was accepted by the people of Appalachia, and Calvinism was rejected. (The truth is John Wesley did not have a good reputation when He came to America in 1736 in Savannah, GA. He testifies that he had come to convert the Indians and realized that he himself was not converted. Wesley was not converted until 1738 back in England at a Moravian mission. George Whitefield the Calvinist had a far greater impact and reputation in his preaching in America, and Whitefield was called a Methodist first! That’s right: the first Methodists were Calvinists!)

The documentary got one thing right: Over a period of time, Calvinism was primarily rejected (and we are paying the price the fruit of Arminianism has caused). But it got one thing very wrong: The God of Calvinism is not like an old grumpy grandpa who really doesn’t love anybody. The biblical truth is that it is amazing that He would set His affection on any of us, rebels such as we are.

“In love He predestined us.” Eph. 1:5

“But God, being rich in mercy (rebels deserved condemnation but needed mercy), because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved.” Eph. 2:4-5

Calvinists most certainly believe the truth of God’s perfections and that He is to be feared. But Calvinists do not believe that He is a joyless God and saves a joyless people. It is actually the other way around. He is the happy God, the blessed God of 1 Timothy 1:11. He is in no way stingy with His love and grace. As a matter of fact, “Heaven will not be thinly populated. The living seed of Abraham will be as numerous as the sand on the seashores and the stars in the heavens (Gen. 15:5). Election declares the expansive generosity of God, not his stinginess.”[1] The Father’s house of John 14 is actually a large house, and millions of believers, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation will be there. What a diverse family God’s elect become! The fact that the elect come from all over the world and from different periods of time, shows them the amazing bond they will have with those so different; and yet they have one thing in common: The Father who chose them before the foundation of the world, the Son who achieved their righteousness and died for them, and the Spirit who made the Gospel effectual in their hearts – elected by sovereign grace!

Believers should be the happiest people on earth! Peter says in verse 8 that we love the God we do not see and that this God has filled us with joy unspeakable and full of glory. It does not mean that we love to go through trials, but that even through trials there is an enduring hope and peace, a rest in God’s promises, a joy that gives strength. Believers are joyful because of God’s love and work in their lives (James 1:2-3). The elect exiles rejoice that this life is temporary and that God is producing in them a great weight of glory in their home to come.

So don’t believe the lie of those who misrepresent the God of Calvinism as a joyless, dull, loveless, graceless and gloomy God. The elect will one day enter into the joy of their Master! Believers experience God’s joy now and will in the future. May grace and peace be multiplied to you!

In Christ’s Joy,

Pastor Bill

– * –

[1] Beeke, Joel. Living for God’s Glory: An Introduction to Calvinism. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008, Pg. 67.

Mar 062013

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Luke 24:27 (ESV)

Last month in Minneapolis, I was blessed to hear an address by Dr. Joel Beeke, President of the Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. (I also was blessed to meet him afterwards!) He spoke on the subject of what Puritan pastors would say to modern pastors. It was very enlightening indeed. Dr. Beeke, along with Dr. Mark Jones, has written a wonderful new work entitled A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life. It is a Puritan systematic theology. It is a very well written, hard to put down kind of book. It stands at 971 pages! That seems a little overwhelming, but with some discipline and focused attention, I want to get through it. I thought that the best way I could stay focused in working through the book is to write some theological tidbits that I am learning from the book. Ultimately we learn theology, not only to gain knowledge of the Word, but to live lives that are glorifying to God. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy must go hand in hand.

So it is with Puritan hermeneutics (Bible interpretation). In the Puritan view, correct interpretation of the Scriptures was not only a matter of employing the right interpretive tools, but also of having and using the right spiritual tools, such as prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit for illumination. Likewise, interpretation without proper application was an idea utterly foreign to the Puritans. (And it should be to us!)

The Puritans brought many interpretive advances for the edification and growth of the Church. I want to take a moment and focus on one of them: the Christological focus of the Scriptures. It is very clear from the text above that Jesus Himself taught the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to view the Scriptures in light of Him. What a Bible lesson that must have been! Beginning with Moses (first five books of the Bible) and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. The Puritans were committed to interpret all of Scripture in the light of Christ. All of Scripture is Christian Scripture.

John Owen said, “The revelation and doctrine of the person of Christ and his office is the foundation whereupon all the other instructions of the prophets and apostles for the edification of the church are built, and whereinto they are resolved… There are, therefore, such revelations of the person and glory of Christ treasured up in the Scripture, from the beginning unto the end of it, as may exercise the faith and contemplation of believers in this world, and shall never, during this life, be fully discovered or understood.” Christ is not merely found here and there in Scripture, but on every page. Thomas Adams remarked that, “Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line… Christ is the main, the center whither all these are referred.” Richard Sibbes said, “Take away Christ, what remains?”

Believers should realize that even before Christ came to earth, the Scriptures held Him up in ceremonies, rites, figures, types, promises and covenants. There is a definite goal the Christian should have in reading the Bible: “To perceive the ever-increasing revelation of Jesus Christ found on every page of Scripture.”

Let us strive to see the “glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” in His Word. As we read, we should ask ourselves, “How does this text point me to Christ? How is God working redemptively through history to show us the glory and majesty of His Son? How am I to live in the light of this revelation?” As we see Him, let us trust Him and love Him and embrace Him and treasure Him. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2)!