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Avoiding All Lies and Deceit (3): Avoiding this Evil in the Church

Avoiding All Lies and Deceit (3): Avoiding this Evil in the Church

Backbiting, slandering, rash judging, and falsifying a man’s words are the atmosphere in which bitterness against the office-bearers—the pastor because his sermons are not “up to snuff,” and the elders because they do not do anything about it—grows. And children who are present soak in that bitterness so that they, too, despise the pastor and the elders, which has a devastating effect upon their ability to receive the catechism instruction from their pastor. 

God is not glorified in that no matter how zealous for the truth the group appears to be. If the pastor has weaknesses and infirmities, the members must bear patiently with him. If they are serious weaknesses, the elders must address them in a proper way. Raising sects and mutiny in the church under the guise of defending the truth is never justified in a faithful Christian, but is the sinful way of schism.

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Avoiding All Lies and Deceit (2): Receive No Evil

Avoiding All Lies and Deceit (2): Receive No Evil
We transgress this commandment when we speak lies, especially lies against others, by backbiting, slandering, twisting men’s words, and bearing false witness against them. We transgress this commandment when we receive lies about others, believing evil about others when we find it convenient to do so. We also transgress this commandment when we do nothing. We hear an evil report, and perhaps we do not give much credence to it, but we do not rebuke the bringer of the evil report. We do not put a stop to the gossip, backbiter, or slanderer, but we allow him to continue to spread his lies. We do nothing to protect the good name of our brother or sister, but allow his name to be trampled into the mud. Read More

Avoiding All Lies and Deceit (1): Speak No Evil

Avoiding All Lies and Deceit (1): Speak No Evil

Jesus' enemies deliberately changed the meaning of the Lord’s words to suit their own wicked purposes, which was to secure condemnation against Jesus or to curry favor with the religious leaders of Israel. It is also possible to falsify a man’s words, even if you quote him verbatim. You omit from your quote a qualifying statement that further explains the intention of the neighbor. The result is that you deliberately make him seem to say something that he did not actually mean. To falsify a man’s words is wicked, because a man himself must determine his own meaning. We may not impose a foreign meaning on our neighbor’s words. If a man is unclear, then in charity we must seek to determine the meaning of his words either by asking him or, if that is not possible, by reading his words carefully in their context.

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The Reformed Confessions on the regenerated, but imperfect, Christian

The Reformed Confessions on the regenerated, but imperfect, Christian

Collected by Martyn McGeown. Emphases are added. _________ Let us take a step back and drink in the wisdom of our Reformed forefathers, who set forth beautifully the truth of our salvation, including our spiritual renewal by the grace of God, in the Reformed Confessions. We may comment on some of these passages from our creeds in future blog posts. Zacharias Ursinus: “Deliverance from sin includes the pardon of sin, that it may not be imputed unto us, and an abolishing of...

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The Creeds, Assurance, and Good Works (3): Canons 1:16 (c)

The Creeds, Assurance, and Good Works (3): Canons 1:16 (c)

What, then, shall the impenitent sinner be terrified by the doctrine of reprobation? Yes, say the Canons: “this doctrine is justly terrible [terrifying]” to impenitent sinners (Canons 1:16). They should tremble before the God who ordains sinners to everlasting destruction in the way of their sins. However, no man living should say, “I am irrevocably reprobate” and then, using reprobation as an excuse, continue in his sins. Instead, he must, as all sinners must, repent and believe the gospel, not prying into the secret things of God. The gospel is clear: Whoever believes in Jesus, even if he fears to be a great reprobate, shall be saved. The one who is damned is the one who refuses to believe in Jesus Christ and repent.

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“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (2)

“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (2)

Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, “Nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Christ is the source of Paul’s life; Christ dwells in Paul by the Holy Spirit; Christ gives Paul the grace to live, to fight sin, to follow after holiness, to bring forth good works of obedience, and to endure affliction. Yet Christ does not fight sin—Paul does by the power of Christ; Christ does not follow after holiness—Paul does by the power of Christ; Christ does not obey—Paul does by the power of Christ; Christ does not endure affliction—Paul does by the power of Christ.

Do not fall into mysticism by confusing your person with Christ. Do not imagine that you are assimilated into Christ so that you no longer do anything. Do not sit idly and expect without any effort on your part to walk in God’s commandments and serve him. That is not how it works—and that is not what Paul means.

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“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (1)

“Crucified with Christ, I Live” (1)

But did Paul’s relationship to the law change? Did the law change? Did the law change its demands? Did the law say to Paul, “Do your best, and I will cut you some slack”? Did the law say to Paul, “Do not worry—God grades on a curve”? Did the law say to Paul, “You are better than others and God appreciates your sincere efforts to keep me”? No, the law does not change and it cannot change. The law is the unchanging standard of God’s righteousness. There is nothing wrong with the law, but there was everything wrong with Paul; there is everything wrong with us.

Did the law die, then? Was the law abolished or abrogated? Did God say, “I see that you cannot keep my commandments; therefore, I will no longer require it”? Did God cancel his requirements and then accept something less than perfect obedience instead? The answer is no! The law is still in force and all sinners who are under the law must perish, therefore.

The answer is that Paul changed. The law did not die, but Paul died. “I am dead to the law” or “I died to the law” (v. 19). Paul’s relationship to the law changed because he died; when Paul died, the law lost its power over Paul. The law, says Paul, cannot condemn me; it cannot curse me; it cannot damn me; and it cannot hold me captive.

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The Creeds, Assurance, and Good Works (3): Canons 1:16 (b)

The Creeds, Assurance, and Good Works (3): Canons 1:16 (b)
We would break the bruised reed: we would trample it underfoot as something worthless; yet, our merciful God has promised never to do that. Instead, gently, kindly, in great compassion he preserves the bruised reed, and even heals it by the power of his grace. We would quench the smoking flax: we would snuff it out as something that irritates more than illumines; yet, our merciful God has promised never to do that. Instead, he gently blows on the dying embers so that we shine more brightly to his glory. Read More

"Hard to put the book down" – A review of 'Through Many Dangers'

"Hard to put the book down" – A review of 'Through Many Dangers'

A review by Annemarieke Ryskamp of Through Many Dangers, as it appeared in The Outlook, Vol. 71, Issue 6. Photo by Gene Braaksma. _________ The book Through Many Dangers by P. M. Kuiper is written for boys and girls of middle- and high-school age, but my two sons, who are in their twenties, and I, their mother, enjoyed it very much. This is the mark of a really good book. The author states in his Afterword: "Historical fiction presents a number of challenges, one of which is...

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The Creeds, Assurance, and Good Works (3): Canons 1:16 (a)

The Creeds, Assurance, and Good Works (3): Canons 1:16 (a)
One who has imperfect faith, one who sorrows over and flees from sin, one who has a small beginning of the new obedience, such a person must not view himself as reprobate. Why not? Because his holy longings after Christ, his holy hatred for sin, and his holy desires to obey God, as languid as they may be, are sure indications that God is at work in him by his grace. Let him continue to use the means of grace. Let him lay aside “all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” and let him “receive the engrafted word which is able to save [his soul” (James 1:21). Let him, as a newborn babe, “desire the sincere milk of the word that [he] may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2). Let him not say, “Woe is me, for God has rejected me!” Read More

"Chief characteristic of the pilgrim is hope"

"Chief characteristic of the pilgrim is hope"
The chief characteristic of the pilgrim is hope. His heart is set not on the things of this earth, but upon his heavenly and eternal inheritance. Hope pulls the Christian pilgrim toward the future with a certain implied dissatisfaction with life as it is, and with an impatience for the journey to be over. So much is hope dominant in the epistle that Peter has rightly been called “the apostle of hope.” Read More

Samson Forfeits his Office (2): A Foolish Game

Samson Forfeits his Office (2): A Foolish Game

Samson’s game has a fatal flaw built into it: it does not take into account the enslaving power of sin or the holiness of God. If we sin once, we sin again; sin becomes a habit, a pattern. The sinner tells himself that he can stop whenever he wants, that he will not go too far in sin, and that sin has no effect upon him. He tells himself that he can stop sinning when he feels that the time is right to retreat. But sin is deceitful: it draws us into its web until we are hopelessly trapped. That was Samson’s experience: first, he married a Philistine; then he slept with a harlot; and now, he is in the bedroom of Delilah playing a dangerous game. With every question he gets closer to losing. 

We must flee from Samson’s game. We do not ask, “How many sins can I get away with?” but “How can I best glorify God?” We want to be as far away from sin as possible, not as close to sin as we dare.

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Government and Providence

Government and Providence

This providential rule by God must be believed, for what we see does not always appear to be under God’s wise rule. Instead of order we see disorder in creation and society; instead of justice we see injustice, chaos, and apparent disarray in history and creation. Faith nevertheless believes and confesses that God is in control, that nothing happens by chance, and that by God’s grace all is for good. Faith holds that all things must work for the good of God’s people, and that they must work together for that good, to those who love God.

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Samson Forfeits his Office (1): A Wicked Plot

Samson Forfeits his Office (1): A Wicked Plot

The enemy asks, “Tell me how your witness as a Christian might be utterly ruined, so that you make yourself utterly ineffective as a Christian, and even come under church discipline. Tell me how Canons 5:5 might become true of you. How might you very highly offend God, incur a deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, very grievously wound your conscience, and sometimes lose the sense of God’s favor for a time?” “Tell me how hypothetically such a thing might happen.” 

The Christian must not say, “Well, you could tempt me to commit a terrible sin, and you could drive me on in my impenitence until I am hardened in my sin, so that I refuse to listen to the admonitions of my fellow church members, my family and friends, and the elders. That would accomplish your goal.”

The Christian must flee from such a question, he must flee from the Delilah who would ask such a question, and he must flee to Jesus Christ. “Lord, help me; sin tempts me; I feel its allure, its attraction. Strengthen me by the power of thy Holy Spirit given in the cross.” 

 

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