Jan 262012
 

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs–heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:15-17

Last year, I spoke with a woman that held liberal views regarding abortion. She knew my stance as one devoted to the sanctity of human life. She had heard me speak on the issue before. It was her view that since many babies are unwanted and parents in many cases can not afford them, the children become a burden on society. Therefore, in her mind, it was better that the life of an unborn child be taken than for that child to be born and raised in poverty.

I was horrified. Is life only significant for the rich and healthy? Is it only for the privileged? Is it ethical to destroy life that God created (Psalm 139) simply because the child might be a “burden” on society? I say an emphatic “NO!”

Women need to know that there are alternatives to abortion. The unborn child is made in the image of God. God fashions the child so wondrously and quickly in the womb. By day 5, the child’s gender can already be determined, by day 18, the heart and eyes begin to form and by day 22 the heart begins to beat. By the time a woman realizes she is pregnant, the child’s heart is already beating. This child’s life does not have to end. There are alternatives. One such alternative is adoption. There are thousands of couples either considering or presently pursuing adoption.

In recent years, there has been a push, and I feel it is a very positive push, for evangelicals to make themselves available to adopt children. We say we desire this alternative to abortion, and refuse to avail ourselves of the opportunity to actually do it? I want to mention two great examples of evangelicals getting involved in this issue.

First, Focus on the Family, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Co., has made an initiative with the state to find homes for foster children. They called the initiative Wait No More, and in Colorado alone, Focus on the Family has moved about 500 of the 800 children in foster care into permanent homes in less than two years.[1] The effort has helped both infertile couples desperate for children and children needing homes. The families are now very often multi-racial and the children are varied in age. When these families come to church, the church then also becomes multi-racial. What a beautiful picture of the Gospel.

Secondly, Dr. Russell Moore, Academic Dean and Vice President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, has written a book to spur on evangelicals to adopt. It is called Adopted for Life. Dr. Moore and his wife Maria, have adopted children. Other professors and administrators of the seminary have done the same. It is a movement that has spread through Dr. Moore’s church, Highview Baptist. In the last 5 years, Highview has brought 140 adopted children into their congregation. Since I lived in Louisville, I know of many couples, directly or indirectly related to the seminary, who have adopted or are in the process of adopting.

Evangelicals understand that adoption pictures the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one is born a Christian! No one is born into the Kingdom of God by virtue of ethnicity or parents. We are all born sinners. We are all in Adam and hence we are outside of the family of God. But in the Gospel, God has predestined us for adoption as sons (Eph. 1:5). He has given us His Spirit of adoption. By being born again of the Spirit, we are now adopted into God’s family. Adoption is the only way in! By nature we are enemies of God and do not have fellowship with Him. Through Jesus Christ however, we have been brought near. We belong to Him. We are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.

As I write this, I must ask myself, “What about me and my family? Do we need to adopt? Will we make ourselves available to do this? Has God called us to participate?” Tough questions for sure! I do want to be available if God so desires. How about you?

For all those that believe in the sanctity of life and see adoption as a wonderful and necessary alternative to abortion, will we support this ministry? Will we pray for couples seeking to adopt? Remember, adoption is not only for infertile couples, but also for those with natural children. Can we welcome other children into our families and treat them as natural sons? That’s what God does for us, and it’s our only hope.

Pray for the children, both born and unborn. God bless.

– * –

[1] Wall Street Journal, “Adoption Season for Evangelicals”, September 24, 2010.

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Jan 242012
 

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

Judges 17:6 (ESV)

We live in a day of moral relativism. Our culture has defined morality based on what everyone sees as right in his own eyes, rather than upon the Word of God. Let me give you an example: in cases where a pregnant mother is killed and the baby is therefore killed, the person doing the killing is charged with double homicide. The unborn child is considered a person. But when the mother wants to “terminate” her pregnancy for any reason, it is legal to murder the unborn baby. The only difference is the will of the mother. This is how a post-modern world, awash in moral relativism, reasons.

Notice the relativism in their arguments:

1. We must protect every woman’s right to control her own body. The right to privacy, and ultimately, the right to abortion is necessary for “equality” in reproductive freedom.

2. Every child has a right to be wanted and loved. It is therefore wrong to force a woman to bear a child that she is not ready/willing/able to care for, especially in cases of rape, incest, a deformed baby, poverty, or threat to the mother’s life.

3. It is wrong to force a woman to have a child and give it up for adoption because this adds the pain of giving up a child to the difficulty of carrying/bearing a child, not even considering possible additional difficulties surrounding the conception (rape/incest, etc.).

4. Since abortions will occur anyway, abortion should be made safe, legal and rare. Legalized abortion may be seen as the lesser of two evils.

5. Personhood: the fetus is not a person in the early stages. In later stages, the fetus’ claim to personhood is not as strong as the mother’s claim or “rights.”

I want to give you an example of what moral relativism is doing to the African-Americans in New York City. These statistics tell the story (scroll down to pages 84-88 in the linked document).

Six out of every ten abortions in New York City is an African-American baby. Our moral relativism is destroying an entire race of people. Yesterday, I watched the March for Life Rally in Washington, D.C. on CSPAN for about 30 minutes. It was very moving. The media, as usual, hardly even mentioned it. I finally heard an African-American preacher speaking about the atrocities that are occurring in New York City to his own people. I don’t know his name, but he spoke truth. Who will defend the unborn and speak against this sordid practice that is destroying African-Americans? Of course, we know that abortion is affecting all races, but this is appalling.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we must fight this battle. We must, as Proverbs 31:8 commands, open our mouths for those who cannot speak for themselves.

What does the Bible say to counter-act the relativistic arguments above?

1. Human life begins at conception, and should be protected and treated with dignity and sanctity. The unborn are human beings that must be protected, especially since they are weak and vulnerable (Psalm 82:3-4, Proverbs 24:11-12, 31:8-9). Abortion violates a basic sense of justice: the weak, innocent and defenseless are singled out for destruction simply because they are unloved, unwanted (as in Nazism – Hitler killed over 5,000 of Germany’s needy and weak children to make room in hospitals for soldiers), or abnormal.

2. The Bible reveals that God is the giver of life (Psalm 127:3-5, Genesis 1-2, Acts 17:25). Abortion is a rejection and refusal of life given by God and an assault upon God’s little ones.

3. God forbids the taking of innocent human life (Exodus 20:13, 21:22-25, Amos 1:11, Micah 3:1-4). Only God has the right to intervene to take life.

4. The greatest of all commandments are those which teach us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

5. The fetus is a human being made in God’s image, and abortion is thus an affront against God (Genesis 1:27, 5:1-3, 9:6).

There are many other arguments against the relativist position. Randy Alcorn has written a great book called Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Arguments. This is a great resource for believers. Let us remember: a fetus is a person! He or she does not have to be outside the womb to be a person. I leave you today with this quote from Gilbert Meilaender from his book, Bioethics (pages 31-32): “At one or two weeks after conception, a person does not yet look much like us, but he/she looks very much like we did when we were that age.” To go further, from the moment of conception, we all looked the same!

Will you pray for the unborn today? Will you pray that the lies of the enemy would be shattered, and that our culture would turn from relativism to the truth found in God’s Word?

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Jan 102012
 

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (emphasis mine)

Westminster Confession of Faith, Article 1 Section 6.

The sum total of God’s revelation concerning all things essential to his own glory, and to the salvation and faith and life of men, is either explicitly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture. Nothing, whether a supposed revelation of the Spirit or man’s traditions, is ever to be added to Scripture. (emphasis mine)

Second London Baptist Confession of 1689, Article 1 Section 6.

Both Reformed credo-Baptists and paedo-Baptists claim to adhere to the regulative principle of worship. The WCF and the LBC (1689) describe the Regulative Principle as follows:

…the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by Himself; and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to imaginations, and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way, not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.

(WCF 21:1; LBC 22:1)

This means that the Scriptures not only tell us to worship God, but they regulate how to worship God. If you could ask Nadab and Abihu (see Leviticus 10) if it matters how we worship God, I think you would hear them say that God takes worship seriously. It is not a game. Human beings are not at liberty to create worship patterns and practices in their own wisdom.

I will be very clear: one of the huge reasons that I am a Baptist and not a paedo-baptist is that I see paedo-baptism as a violation of the regulative principle of worship. Baptists, certainly, and even paedo-Baptists, agree that there is no New Testament example of the practice of baptizing infants. John the Baptist did not do it. Jesus did not do it and neither do the apostles practice it nor tell us to practice it. John Murray is probably one of the foremost adherents and defenders of the paedo-Baptist position. Murray readily admits that there is no New Testament evidence. So, how do paedo-Baptists, that also claim to adhere to the Regulative Principle of worship, defend the practice? They do so using the phrase I emphasized in the WCF at the top of this page, claiming that infant baptism falls under the category of good and necessary consequence. Listen to Murray here:

What by good and necessary inference can be deduced from Scripture is of authority in the church of God as well as what is expressly set down. The evidence for infant baptism falls into the category of good and necessary inference, and it is therefore indefensible to demand that the evidence required must be in the category of express command or explicit instance. In other words, the assumption upon which this objection rests is a false assumption and one which cannot be adopted as the norm in determining what Christian doctrine or Christian institution is. (emphasis mine)

So Murray makes clear that infant baptism is not expressly set down in Scripture. This absence forces him to argue from good and necessary consequence. Then Murray claims that arguing against infant baptism is indefensible because of its foundation upon good and necessary consequence. Really? Indefensible? Why cannot we demand evidence when we are dealing with an ordinance instituted by the Lord and Master of the Church? Fred Malone calls this understanding to account when he says, “Good and necessary consequence can be valid only when deduced from written revelation and not contrary to other written revelation, i.e., the analogy of faith.”[1] The argument of “Good and necessary consequence” cannot be used if it violates standard hermeneutical principles or the regulative principle of worship, and because Scripture does not contradict itself.

In Part 1, I argued that the word baptizo always means to dip or immerse. It cannot mean anything else if we properly understand the nature and regular historical use of the word. So baptism is by immersion, and the Scriptures clearly and explicitly set down the subjects of baptism as disciples, or those who have made a profession of faith. We are never taught to baptize the unregenerate. Baptists, historically, have held to a regenerate church membership. This stems from our understanding of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31. The New Covenant is NOT like the old. It is not a renewed Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant had with it physical blessings and spiritual blessings. In the Abrahamic covenant, believing and unbelieving males were circumcised, making it a mixed community. But the New Covenant community is not a mixed community. He will put his laws within the hearts of his people. His Spirit will be given to His people alone and because of this they will obey Him and love Him. He will be their God and they will be His people. They will ALL know Him and He will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more. In the New Covenant, there is no such thing as a mixed community. Now, there certainly will be false professors in the church, and church discipline is designed to handle that eventuality (1 John 2:19), but the church should not knowingly baptize those who have not trusted in Jesus Christ.

Baptism is not the new circumcision. Circumcision did not ultimately point to entrance in the covenant community but rather to the circumcision (or uncircumcision) of the heart. “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). Romans 9:8 reinforces the point: “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” The children of the promise are those that are unity to Christ through faith alone. Entrance into the community has always been by faith, not an external mark. It is a matter of the heart. The old covenant pointed to the new and finds its fulfillment in the new. God, by His Spirit, gives us a circumcised heart. The New Testament testimony of this inward work of God’s grace is baptism. It clearly pictures the Gospel, that we have been buried with him in baptism and raised to newness of life.

If one argues good and necessary consequence, it can only be valid if it is not contrary to Scripture. Baptism is an ordinance given to the church by Christ. It’s a serious matter. We cannot say that it’s no big deal. I love John Calvin, but I am not bound by Calvin, but by Scripture. Calvin held to infant baptism. Based on Scripture, I cannot agree with him. I love Jonathan Edwards. I think if Edwards had lived longer he would have renounced infant baptism. His changing views of the Lord’s Supper and his rejection of the Half-way Covenant give evidence of this. Our heroes of the faith are all fallible.

The early Baptists took the Reformation all the way. They broke completely with Rome and their tradition of baptizing babies. Their understanding was based on the covenants, but it was, as far as I can see, a proper understanding of those covenants.

These are the convictions that drive me. Others I know feel differently and I would never ask anyone to worship against his conscience. But these convictions are very serious to me. My conscience cannot escape them. I want to follow Jesus with all my heart. I want His Gospel to shine and I pray that you do as well.

– * –

[1] Fred Malone. Baptism of Disciples Alone. (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2007), p. 21.

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Jan 022012
 

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV)

Happy New Year! By grace God has once again brought us through another year. I try often to think of what I am doing with my life for the glory of Christ, but the end of the year seems always to heighten my introspection. And that is a good thing, for me and for you. Our time on earth really is short. Life is a vapor that soon vanishes. Paul directs us to be careful how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of our time, because the days are evil. The wise will seek to make the most of the time. The unwise will let precious seconds waste as they live for themselves. Life is a gift of grace. God owes me nothing, yet he has graciously given us another day.

What are you doing with your time? Every year I am driven to the 70 resolutions Jonathan Edwards developed when he was 19 years old. This was one year after he became a Christian. He went through Divinity School at Yale, entering when he was 13 and graduating as Valedictorian at 17 and giving the Valedictory address in Latin. Going to Yale and knowing Latin did not make him a Christian. As a matter of fact, he despised the Doctrines of Grace. It was not until a Divine and Supernatural Light was immediately imparted to his soul (regeneration of the Spirit) that his whole perspective on life changed. If you are a Christian, your whole perspective of life should be radically altered. My chief aim should be to know Him and to make Him known. “For me to live is Christ,” Paul said. “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phil 3:8)

Is Jesus Christ your everything? Does your daily schedule prove that?

In this blog, I am not asking you to make promises that you cannot keep. But I am asking myself and you, “What have you resolved to do with your time?” Jonathan Edwards began his resolutions by acknowledging, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake.”

“For Edwards, resolutions were neither pious hopes, romantic dreams, nor legalistic rules. They were instructions for life, maxims to be followed in all respects.”[1] The Resolutions were Edwards’ guidelines for self-examination. Individuals and congregations were exhorted to practice introspection as a duty of great consequence.

As you enter 2012, I do not want you to make pious hopes, romantic dreams or legalistic rules. I want you to examine your life and lay down instructions for your life so that you will live carefully and wisely in this world and so that you will live for the glory of God.

Of Edwards’ 70 resolutions, 13 are given to instruct him in the use of his time. I want to list a few:

Resolution 5 – “Resolved never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.”

Resolution 17 – “Resolved that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.”

Resolution 37 – “Resolved to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.”

Resolution 41 – “Resolved to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.”

Life is serious. Your time is a precious gift. By God’s grace, let us not waste it. Let us not fritter it away as if it really doesn’t matter.

By God’s grace, how have you resolved to live? What are you praying for God to accomplish in you and in our church?

Let us also, as Edwards resolved to do, resolve “to live with all my might while I do live.” (Resolution 6)

I pray that in 2012, as we resolve to live wholeheartedly for Him, that we will be more like Christ and more aware of His power and presence.

– * –

[1] Introduction to the Resolutions excerpted from George Claghorn’s Introduction to Edwards’ Personal Writings, vol. 16 of the Yale Edition of the Works of Jonathan Edwards.

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