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Pastoral Confessions (1) – Introduction

March 19, 2010

This morning I was struck by the words in Revelation 2 verse 5 with the word “repent”, and that of me, in my calling as the pastor of Christ’s sheep.

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. – Revelation 2:5

Oh, being prepared to repent of pastoral and personal sins, is the most searching thing.  It strips me of all things.  It makes me feel very vulnerable, but praise God it is before Jesus my Lord.  The Lord Jesus tells me graciously, “except thou repent”, “except thou repent, my friend, my servant, my under-shepherd, my younger brother – repent my child for your own good and the good of my lambs, and I will receive you”. 

My emptiness and coldness and lifelessness and poverty of soul and spirit is this lack of prayer of repentance, the few pastoral confessions.  There is so much filth and rubbish to throw out before the Lord.  Oh, the self-raised hindrances – Lord save me from myself.  Oh, the old habits, and the new ones.

The Lord has spoken, “except thou repent” – Except  I repent, I will remain barren, dry, cold, empty, poor, naked, miserable, fruitless, without spiritual children, no power in or out of the pulpit, and Christ will come in His quick time and remove the candle stick from the church that I pastor.  I am not the only one affected, but it will affect others too.  What a disgrace, what a shame? All for the want of continual attitude of repentance.

I aim to ponder over matters that need to be repented of, and list them for my benefit, to be a reminder – to be there before me continually.  Oh Lord, help thou me.

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Spurgeon on Baptists

March 9, 2010

It was a blessing to read the minutes of a meeting held on April 2nd of 1861 entitled, “Public Meeting of Our London Baptist Brethren” in the 7th Volume of New Park Street Pulpit, p. 225.  There Spurgeon was exhorting and encouraging his brethren on various issues.  Then he began to emphasise the distinction between the historic believer’s baptists, and the Reformers who came out of the Reformation: pointing out that the Baptists have always been distinct from Rome.  Here are some extracts,

We believe that the Baptists are the original Christians. We did not commence our existence at the Reformation, we were Reformers before Luther or Calvin were born; we never came from the Church of Rome, for we were never in it, but we have an unbroken line up to the apostles themselves. We have always existed from the very days of Christ, and our principles, sometimes veiled and forgotten, like a river which may travel underground for a little season, have always had honest and holy adherents. Persecuted alike by Romanists and Protestants of almost every sect, yet there has never existed a Government holding Baptist principles which persecuted others; nor I believe any body of Baptists ever held it to be right to put the consciences of others under the control of man. We have ever been ready to suffer, as our martyrologies will prove, but we are not ready to accept any help from the State, to prostitute the purity of the Bride of Christ to any alliance with the government, and we will never make the Church, although the Queen, the despot over the consciences of men.

It must be pointed out that there was also a wonderful ingathering of Baptists coming from the Puritan stock, who gave us the revision of the Westminster Confession in the form of the 2nd London Baptist Confession, and the many volumes of commentaries and books which concur with much of the teachings of the Reformed brethren.  We shall never forget men such as John Tombe, and Benjamine Keach, Hansard Knolly, John Bunnyan, John Gill, et al.

Government School Teachers Are the Agents of the State

February 25, 2010

School-teacher

As the British government becomes increasingly controlling of the public schools, it leaves very little room for creativity, or freedom by the local schools, the school governors or the teachers.  This very much affects the Christian teachers in the public schools who lovingly had tried to be a Christian witness and example in their classes.  However, now it is impossible to imply or instruct the children in issues of morality, for the State rules.  Only what is prescribed by the State in its ever-changing, and ever anti-Christian curriculum is to be taught or promoted, or the teachers face great penalties, even the loss of job.  RLDabney

This reminds me of a relevant statement of Robert Lewis Dabney, the great American Theologian of Union Seminary,

The State school teacher is her [i.e. the State’s] official and teaches by her authority. All school officials derive their authority from State laws, hence all their functions are as truly State actions as those of the sheriffs in hanging, or the judge in sentencing a murderer.

(On Secular Education, Robert L. Dabney)

Affirmation 2010

February 11, 2010

New Publication :: Affirmation 2010

 Pillar (blog)

As evangelical and reformed believers, we share core beliefs and convictions, which are at the heart of our fellowship and co-operation. Many of these are being challenged and rejected in these apostate days.

For the last two years, the Trustees of the Bible League have been working on a document that seeks to state and define the biblical doctrines and practices particularly under attack at the present time. Originally the vision of  Malcolm Watts who produced the initial draft, others have contributed various suggestions for the final form of this Affirmation. Consultation was also made with brethren in various church bodies and constituencies, whose suggestions have strengthened the document and ensured the widest possible agreement among us.

The Affirmation has been signed by twenty-five brethren, the majority of them ministers from Baptist, Congregational, Independent, and Presbyterian churches. Three major conferences in the UK have also identified with this document. It is therefore inclusive in the best sense, but also exclusive, because it also states what we do not believe, and what we deplore as departures from Holy Scripture.

It is now published in the form of a booklet of 30 pages and is available to interested friends. We strongly commend this Affirmation and urge them to obtain a copy and unite with us around this statement of belief and practice.

In addition, on its web site there is a facility to sign up to the Affirmation and thus identify with its aims. If you find yourselves in full agreement with the Affirmation, please sign up by clicking on the word "Signatories".  This will show your support for the document and it will also be an encouragement to other believers.

The times demand that we state exactly where we stand on matters of faith and conduct that are everywhere under attack. Uniting on these verities will strengthen our hand in God, and encourage others to join us in making a response to the desperate decline and departure that is gathering speed in our day.

The words of Martin Luther give the spirit of the Affirmation 2010:

martin-luther If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are attacking at that moment, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all battlefields besides, is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.

Words ascribed to Martin Luther, the German Reformer

Here is the Preface to the Affirmation, which further explains its purpose and calls us to stand for God and Truth in our generation.

In view of the present violent opposition from the adversary of God and man, and the evident confusion and grave departure from Biblical Truth in the professing Church, we believe it was laid upon us to make solemn affirmation of the doctrine we seek firmly to believe and strenuously to maintain.

It is understood that this Affirmation does not cover every tenet of the Faith once delivered to us, but statement is herein made, and emphasis given, to the doctrine particularly assailed at the present time.

Aware, as we certainly are, of our own great weakness, and depending as always upon the support and strength of our faithful God, we unitedly make solemn and public testimony to vitally important truth, while at the same time firmly rejecting the errors and novelties which are contrary to them. We call upon all who love the Truth to join with us in making this formal affirmation of Faith, and we pray God to use it to the overthrow of false doctrine and practice.

“When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19

Web site: www.affirmation-2010.org

C. H. Spurgeon – Too Rigid?

December 31, 2009

spurgeon young

WE HAVE GREAT reason to bless God for the rich mercies we have enjoyed as a church and people for many years, in the unity of the brotherhood, the zeal of the workers, the number of conversions, the success of all our enterprises, and the growth of the whole body.

It is on my heart to say a word upon another subject—a subject which presses heavily upon my heart. I beseech you, by the mercies of God, and by the love of Christ Jesus your Lord, that as members of this church you do nothing which would grieve the Spirit of God, and cause Him to depart from among us.

Remember how Israel suffered defeat because of Achan. One man only, and one family only, had broken the Divine rule, but that sufficed to trouble the whole camp. Achan had taken of the accursed thing and hidden it in his tent, and so all Israel had to suffer defeat. Churches, too, will suffer if sin becomes general among them and is allowed to go unrebuked. At this time many a church is suffering grievously from the sin of its own members—sin in its ranks.

As I look abroad, I am grieved and have great heaviness of spirit at what I see among professing Christians. A very serious matter concerns the amusements engaged in by professing Christians. I see it publicly stated, by some who call themselves Christians, that it is good for Christians to attend the theatre, so that the tone and character of the productions may be improved. The suggestion is about as sensible as if we were bidden to pour a bottle of lavender water into the main sewer to improve its aroma.

"Touch not…!"

If the church is now supposed to raise the tone of the world by imitating it, things have strangely altered since the day when our Lord said, "Come out from among them…and touch not the unclean thing." Is Heaven to descend to the infernal lake to raise its tone? Such has been the moral condition of the theatre for many a year that it has become too bad for mending. And even if it were mended it would soon become corrupt again. Pass by it with averted gaze, for the house of the strange woman is there.

It has not been my lot ever to enter a theatre during the performance of a play, but I have seen enough when I have come home from journeys at night, while riding past the theatres, to make me pray that our sons and daughters may never go within their doors. It must be a strange school for virtue which attracts the harlot and the debauchee. It is no place for a Christian if it is best appreciated by the irreligious and worldly.

Theater

A step to degeneration

If our church members fall into the habit of frequenting the theatre, we shall soon have them going much further in the direction of vice, and they will lose all relish for the ways of God. If theatre-going became general among professing Christians, it would be the death of piety. Yet one finds the taste for such things increasing on every hand.

We cannot even enter places once dedicated to science and art without finding ourselves in the presence of something like a theatrical performance. Such gimmickry, though in itself harmless enough, has helped foster the taste which leads ultimately to the theatre and its surroundings.

Who can suppose amusements surrounded with the seductions of vice to be fit recreation for a pure mind? Who could draw near to God after sitting to admire the performances of the debauched (and I am told that some who have dazzled London society are such)?

When behaviour is growing every day more lax and licentious, shall believers lower the standard of their lives? If they do so their spiritual power will depart, and their reason for existence will be over. If there ever could be a time when Christians might relax their rigidity, it surely is not now when the very air is tainted with pollution, and when our streets ring with the newsboys’ cries vending filthy papers.

It is profoundly saddening to hear how people talk about acts of sin nowadays; how young men and women without blushing talk of deeds which deprave and destroy, as though they were trifles, or themes for joking. It is a great pity that the ends of justice should require the publishing of unsavoury details. As for those who not only commit lewdness, but who take pleasure in those who do it—"O my soul, come not thou into their secret." My heart often cries, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest."

It will certainly be disastrous for the church of God if her members should become impure. In these days we must be doubly strict, lest any looseness of conduct should come in among us. Actual sin must be repressed with a strong hand, but even the appearance of evil must be avoided.

My dear brethren and sisters, whatever your deficiencies, be pure in heart and lip and life. Never indulge an evil imagination, or speak about things which are unclean. Let them not once be named among you, as becometh saints. A lascivious glance, a doubtful word, a questionable act must be strenuously avoided. Anything and everything that verges upon the unchaste must be rejected.

Only the pure in heart shall see God. We are all subject to human passions, and this wretched flesh of ours is too easily fascinated by those who would pander to its indulgences. In seconds the soul may be led into captivity. Watch unto prayer, especially in these evil days. Cry, "Lead us not into temptation," and if the prayer is sincere, you will also keep far from doubtful places. Make a covenant with your eyes that you will not look upon that which pollutes, and stop your ears from hearing about it. Watch your lips lest they spread corruption when speaking of sin. I am not afraid that you will step directly into gross sin, but that you may take a very small step on the road that leads to it. Then it will only be a matter of time.

Seduced

Augustine tells a story of a young friend of his who had the greatest horror of everything connected with the Roman amphitheatre. A heathen friend tried to persuade him to enter the Colosseum, and as he was very hard pressed and was under some obligation to that friend, he agreed to go just once, but determined to keep his eyes and ears closed all the time. It would seem to be a very small risk to sit there as one who was blind and deaf, but in the middle of the sports the people so loudly applauded a certain gladiator who had pleased them that he opened his eyes and ears to discover what it was all about. From that moment he was spellbound; he looked on, and enjoyed the sight, and though before he could not bear the very mention of it, he came at last to be a regular frequenter of the cruel sports, and a defender of them, and after a short time he abandoned his profession of Christianity.

Beware of the leaven of worldly pleasure, for its working is silent but sure, and a little of it will leaven the whole lump. Keep up the distinction between a Christian and an unbeliever and make it clearer every day.

Have you heard of the minister who complained to the devil for running off with one of his church members? The fiend replied, "I found him on my premises, and therefore I claimed him." I, also, may say, "Stop!" to the arch-deceiver, but it will be of no use if he finds you on his territory. Every fowler claims the bird which he finds in his own net. This is the argument: "I caught him in my net, and therefore he is mine." We shall in vain try to dispute this right of property with the arch-enemy, for possession is nine points of the law.

Too rigid?

Avoid the appearance of evil. "But we must not be too rigid," says one. There is no fear of that in these days. You will never go too far in holiness, nor become too like your Lord Jesus. If anybody accuses you of being too strict and precise, do not grieve but try to deserve the charge. I cannot suppose that at the last great day our Lord Jesus Christ will say to anyone, "You were not worldly enough. You were too jealous over your conduct, and did not sufficiently conform to the world." No, my brethren, such a wrong is impossible. He Who said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," has set before you a standard beyond which you can never go.

"Well, but," says one, "are we to have no enjoyments?" My dear friend, the enjoyments which are prepared for Christians are many and great, but they never include sin and folly. Do you call vice and folly amusements?

When I go down into the country, I see farmers carrying out great pails of hogwash for the swine, and I never grudge them their dainty meal. I do not protest against their having a full trough twice over. But do I partake with them? Certainly not! I have no taste for that. Do I therefore deny myself? Certainly not! It never struck me that there was anything desirable in their rich mixture. I have no doubt that it has a fine flavour to the creatures for whom it is prepared. It certainly seems to be appreciated.

If worldlings enjoy the pleasures of the world and sin, let them have them, poor souls. They have nothing else to enjoy. They have no paradise for the everlasting future. They have no Christ and Saviour to lean their heads upon. Let them have that which makes them happy while they can be happy. But when I am talking to the children of God I adopt another tone, since for you these things have no charms if you have truly tasted the high delights of fellowship with God.

"But," you say, "I would greatly enjoy a little of the pleasures of sin." Judge yourselves, then, to be falsely called children of God. "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin," by which is not meant that he does not fall into sin through weakness, but that it is not his desire or plan or delight to commit sin. It is not his way, because he is a new creature, and he finds his joy and pleasure in living as near to God as possible.

"How far may we go in conformity to the world?" is a question that is frequently asked. Have you never heard the story of a lady who wanted a coachman? Two or three called to see her about the post, and, in answer to her enquiries, the first applicant said, "Yes, madam, you could not have a better coachman than myself." She replied, "How near do you think you could drive to danger without an accident?" "Madam, I could go within a yard of it, and yet you would be perfectly safe." "Very well," she said, "you will not suit me."

coach driver

Care or confidence?

The second applicant had heard the question upon which the other had been rejected, and therefore he was ready with his answer, "Danger! Madam, why I could drive within a hair’s breadth, and yet be perfectly safe." "Then you will not suit me at all." When number three came in, he was asked, "Are you a good driver?" "Well," he replied, "I am careful and have never met with an accident." "But how near do you think you could drive to danger?" "Madam," he said, "that is a thing I never tried; I always drive as far away from danger as ever I can." The lady at once replied, "You are the kind of coachman I want, and I will engage you at once."

Get such a coachman as that yourself to guide your own heart and lead your own character. Do not see how near you can go to sin, but see how far you can keep away from it. If you do not take that advice, and if the Spirit of God does not produce in you purity of life, by and by the church will have to hold up its hands and say, "Who would have thought it? These were the nice young people of whom so much was expected; these were the good people who used to say, ‘You must not be too strict,’ and where are they now?" To avoid the worst keep clear of the bad.

As for your Lord’s work, be bound to the altar of Christ and be united for ever to Him, and I am sure you will not find that you are losers by giving up worldly pleasures. The Lord’s ways are ways of pleasantness, and all His paths are peace. There is a safe and sweet pleasantness in holy living, and the pleasantness lies very much in the fact that an abounding peace springs from it. God grant us grace to keep in these peaceful paths, even though others should call us Puritans and ridicule our holy fear of sin.

Better Position To Be In – On the Side of Scripture

December 23, 2009

 puritans2

Our object should not be to have scripture on our side but to be on the side of scripture; and however dear any sentiment may have become by being long entertained, so soon as it is seen to be contrary to the Bible, we must be prepared to abandon it without hesitation.

William Symington

Tozer on Modern Unbiblical Views of Faith

November 2, 2009

 aw_tozer

“My fear is that the modern conception of faith is not the biblical one, that when the teachers of our day use the word they do not mean what the Bible writers meant when they used it. The causes of my uneasiness are these:

1. The lack of spiritual fruit in the lives of so many who claim to have faith.

2. The rarity of a radical change in the conduct and general outlook of persons professing their new faith in Christ as their personal Savior.

3. The failure of our teachers to define or even describe the thing to which the word ‘faith’ is supposed to refer.

4. The heartbreaking failure of multitudes of seekers, be they ever so earnest, to make anything out of the doctrine [of faith] or to receive any satisfying experience through it.

5. The real danger that a doctrine that is parroted so widely and received so uncritically by so many is false as understood by them.

6. I have seen faith put forward as a substitute for obedience, an escape from reality, a refuge from the necessity of hard thinking, a hiding place for weak character. I have known people to miscall by the name of faith high animal spirits, natural optimism, emotional thrills and nervous tics.

7. Plain horse sense ought to tell us that anything that makes no change in the man who professes it makes no difference to God either, and it is an easily observable fact that for countless numbers of persons the change from no-faith to faith makes no actual difference in the life.”

A. W. Tozer, “Faith: The Misunderstood Doctrine,” in Man the Dwelling Place of God, pages 30-31.
Please note that we do not endorse all the teaching of Dr. Tozer, but highly value the discernment of this godly man from a bygone generation.