I Flopped Preaching on the Holy Spirit

imageI recently attempted preaching on the Holy Spirit and did a terrible job of it. I fumbled my way through what seemed like an eternity. I however managed to dribble to a conclusion of sorts in utter helplessness. I felt so weak and powerless. I frankly don’t remember all that I said really – which is dreadful in itself. I was all over the map. But I do remember that towards the end of the sermon, I read the words of a well-known hymn written by Robert Jackson (1888), on the Holy Spirit – and that is the prayer of my heart even as I write this. Here it is:   Continue reading

When God Calls A Man or A Woman

“When God calls a man or woman His calling never leave that person where they found him.  If the calling God speaks to you and calls you and you try and stand still, you will not be standing still, you will be going backwards.  You will fall on you will either believe and obey or you will be making a forlorn attempt to stand still – you will discover that you are going in the opposite direction.” – Alistair Begg.

Listen to Alistair Begg speaking about this in his message entitled, Grace and Forgiveness.

I found this message from Alistair Begg very encouraging and true to God’s Word.  How wonderful it is to know that the LORD calls even those who are outcasts, despised and rejected and transforms them into holy vessels for the Master’s use.  Praise be to His holy Name!

Announcing RefNet: 24-hour Christian Internet Radio – New from Ligonier Ministries

We live in a time where there is a proliferation of edifying media available on the web for the Christian, but there isn’t a clear way to aggregate this media into a produced, filtered format. Simply putting everything on the web doesn’t mean everyone will find it. Yes, some people want an à la carte approach with choosing from a multiplicity of podcasts or searching through long lists and that works well for them. Yet others want an always-on streaming approach. As we see it, the Christian community has only just begun to tap the internet’s potential for spreading trustworthy biblical teaching to every nation, tribe, and language on this earth.

Continue reading

‘Why I want the right to die’ in Scotland

I was greatly shocked when my wife shared this article with me this afternoon.  Al Jazeera published this article on their website.  I encourage you to read it here.  Independent Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), Margo MacDonald has launched a fresh attempt to give terminally ill people in Scotland the right to choose when to die – which in my mind is outrageous and grossly immoral, cruel and careless.  It totally degrades the intrinsic value of human life as given by God the Almighty, who is our Creator (Genesis 1:27) and the Creator of heavens and earth!  This “End of Life Assistance” Bill sets out that anyone over the age of 16 could request assistance to die if that person was diagnosed as terminally ill and that he/she finds life unbearable.  Ms. MacDonald tried to get this bill passed in December 2010 but it was defeated.  According to the Huffington Post (UK), “A series of scrutiny sessions were held at the Scottish Parliament, taking in evidence from doctors in countries where forms of assisted suicide are permitted.”

I find Ms. MacDonald’s arguments flawed and unconvincing – but that’s not all that disturbs me.  The bill that she is pushing is in direct violation of the Sixth Commandment:  “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).  This bill seeks to give man the legal freedom to take one’s life or that of another with impunity.

Here are some quotes from the article:

Assisted Suicide (“Mercy Killing”) – currently banned by law in Scotland & the UK:

In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, it is currently a crime to help someone end his or her own life. A doctor who injects a patient with lethal drugs in order to kill them could be prosecuted for culpable homicide or even murder.

Margo MacDonald wants that legal ban repealed:

“If it came to the worst and I was faced with a very bitter and protracted end, I should have the right to ask for help to end my life earlier than nature intended,” Macdonald told Al Jazeera.

She added: “I would like the insurance policy of knowing that if it gets near, and I would like to shorten it, I would not be putting my family at risk. It is not about pain, it is about making sure you are still yourself.”

Margo wants autonomy not dignity – She has a warped view of “dignity” according to what she says here:

She told Al Jazeera that the same debate is going on all over the world and if her bill is passed: “Scotland would be seen as a place where humanity, above all, and individual autonomy is respected. This legislation is really about the right of a person to see their life through and keep their dignity to the very end.”

Some church leaders are fighting against this:

When this issue was last debated, the Archbishop of Glasgow, Mario Conti, told a special Mass for Healthcare workers: “Laws need to be objective in their statement of principle. It is wrong in principle for someone to take their own life; it is wrong in principle for someone to help them to do so.”

Peter Kearney, Director of the Scottish Catholic Media Office, told Al Jazeera: “Nothing has changed. Deliberate killing, even when assisting someone who is in a state of despair, is always wrong.”

Many doctors are concerned:

Many doctors are also concerned that legalizing assisted suicide could lead to frail or elderly people being coerced into taking their lives.

My Thoughts:

I hope that this bill is defeated once again in the Scottish Parliament.  I also hope and pray that Christians in Scotland and around the world will continue to speak out against this and similar violations of God’s law and order for His people.  From a human stand-point, Ms. MacDonald seems “unstoppable.”  She probably thinks so.  She is quoted as saying:

Since the defeat of my original proposal in December 2010, the volume of correspondence I’ve received on the matter, coupled with the continuing public interest, stimulated in part by some high-profile statements in favour of the general principle of assisted suicide, indicates to me a consistent level of support for individuals suffering a terminal illness or condition, for whom life becomes intolerable, to have the legal right to request help to end their life before nature decrees.

But those of us who believe in the Sovereign LORD who rules over the universe, know that the LORD is ultimately in control and that He has the power to stop this and all ills that have plagued Scotland and the world (see Proverbs 21:1).

Why Am I So Concerned for Scotland?

Just for the same reasons that I would be concerned if this was happening in any other country primarily because it goes against the will – it goes against the Law of God clearly stated in Scripture.  That’s the main reason why this disturbs me.  But there is more:

As one who has not in the least sense benefited from what the Lord has done through Scotland over the years, I cringe when I read this kind of stuff about Scotland or coming out of Scotland.  I feel a special affinity to Scotland for various reasons.  Let me mention three:

1.  The first missionary to bring the gospel to my home country (Malawi) was Scottish.  His name was Dr. David Livingstone.  Malawi is replete with monuments in honor of Dr. Livingstone and his work there – not the least of which is Blantyre, Malawi’s commercial capital which was named after Blantyre, Lanarkshire, Scotland where Dr. Livingstone was born.  I had the privilege of visiting Blantyre (Scotland) a few years ago and saw the house in which Dr. Livingstone was born and raised.  This house is now the home of the David Livingstone Center.

2.  As a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian and church minister, I owe a lot of that to what the Lord has done through Scottish men like John KnoxSamuel RutherfordRobert Murray McCheyne, Professor John Murray, from centuries gone by (just to name a few) – but also from contemporary theologians and preachers like Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Dr. Alistair Begg, etc.

3.  I am now a gospel minister with a denomination that is rooted in Scotland, the Associated Presbyterians Church (APC) – and I feel for so many of my dear brothers and sisters in Scotland as I consider all the challenges and the spiritual battles that they face in their pursuit of Christ, His will and purposes.  I am concerned and this moves me to pray more fervently for the work of the gospel across Scotland and the UK.

Let’s Pray for Scotland, the UK and the World

Prayer is ultimately the answer – and our sure hope.  “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).

Please join me in praying that God’s will may triumph over evil and that Scotland may be turned back to the Lord.  He has done it before, He can do it again.  Even though it seems like a dark cloud is hanging over Scotland and much of the western world, the LORD God can change that.  May the Light of Christ once again shine in Scotland even from the “farthest” corners of the world (like Malawi and such places where the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is now flourishing).  Perhaps it’s time to send missionaries back to Scotland!  Our God is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we can ever ask or imagine according to His power which is at work in us (see Ephesians 3:20-21).

NEEDED! DEAD OR ALIVE: FAITHFUL PREACHERS!!

As a minister of the gospel, there is no subject that interests me more than the preaching.  I am not just interested in a “fanciful” manner, but I am captivated by this subject because it sums up God’s call upon my life this side of heaven.  But it’s not just preaching in general that interests me.  Rather it is Christ who is to be the Grand Theme and Subject of all faithful preaching!  I am not only called to preach.  I am called to “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).  “…We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” 2 Cor. 4:5).  All true preaching is Christ-centered, and all Christ-centered preaching is true preaching.  There are no two ways about it!  Those who are committed to the faithful exposition of Scripture will necessarily preach Christ because all of the Scriptures testify about Him (Luke 24:25-27,44-48; John 5:39).

Sadly, there is a dearth of preaching in our day.  Many are the pulpits which have been severely afflicted and inflicted by this terminal disease.  We do not lack “preachers” capable of giving interesting talks, moral advice or motivational speeches.  There are plenty of those around – everywhere you turn!  But faithful, Christ-centered preachers!  Oh, no!  Those are scarce!  Only a few of them are still standing!  I think the sign below needs to be hang on just about every church door today.

William Still in his book entitled, The Work of The Pastor writes:  “…If the hope of the world is Christ, it is Christ in all the Scriptures, and that hope can only be fulfilled by men pouring out the riches of Christ’s saving grace upon the Lord’s people through the Scriptures” (p. 93)

Why then is there such a dearth of faithful, Christ-centered preaching in our day?  Well, that’s a very good question.  Many reasons can be given as to why this is the case.  But one thing is for certain, there has been a great lost of confidence in Scriptures among both preachers and hearers as Alistair Begg points out in his book, Preaching for God’s Glory (pages 18-19):

The absence of expository preaching is directly related to an erosion of confidence in the authority of and sufficiency of Scripture.  At the beginning of the nineteenth the battle lines were drawn against the forces of liberalism.  Liberals were challenging the miraculous, questioning the divine, and opposing the historicity of the New Testament documents.  Evangelicals weathered that storm, and empty liberal churches testify to the futility of the liberal quest for a demythologized Christ.  But today the battle is more subtle.  The Scriptures are neglected and debased and are used only as a springboard for all kinds of “talks” that are far removed from genuine biblical exposition…There is little, if any, sense of either the preacher or the congregation bowing under the majestic authority of God’s written Word.

I couldn’t agree more!  Let me end this post by asking you to do three things in light of what I have shared here:

First, pray with me that the Lord will raise up a new generation of preachers who will not be afraid or ashamed to preach the “whole counsel of God” and point people to the Lord Jesus Christ in every sermon.

Secondly, pray for your pastors that by God’s grace and the working of God’s Holy Spirit they may be kept faithful and true to their calling. In my view, that is the best way to keep your ministers accountable before God and their congregations.

Secondly, pray for me also that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…that I may proclaim it clearly and boldly, as I should (see Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3-4).  Thank you!

For more on this, please click on this link:  Contending for the Faith in America.

I also recommend the following additional resources:

Essays:  Is Christ-Centered Preaching a Biblical Mandate? by Fred A. Malone;  A Listener’s Guide to the Pulpit by Todd Wilken; Preaching Christ, by Charles McIlvaine (1799-1873)

Books:  Preaching Christ in All Scripture, by Edmund Clowney; Him We Proclaim, by Dennis Johnson, Christ-Centered Preaching, by Bryan Chapell

What Constitutes Saving Faith? Part 2

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:1 & 6).

Faith by its very nature has to do with unseen realities.  Realities that are outside of us and beyond us.  Nowhere else is this more true than in the matter of our salvation through the gospel.  The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ calls us to receive and rest in a salvation that has been worked out outside of us, apart from us and in spite of us.  I find the F.A.I.T.H. acronym below is helpful in this regard:

Forsaking

All

I

Take

Him

This is essentially what happens or what needs to happen for the sinner to receive eternal life and forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Everything must be forsaken!  The sinner must turn away from his sins and his supposed righteousness and embrace Christ alone for salvation.  He must rest in Christ’s perfect righteousness and atoning sacrifice for sin on the cross.  That is what is meant by saving faith!  Remember our definition from Q & A 86 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:  “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel.”  But we must also note that this faith is given to us as a gift from our gracious God and Savior.  What saves us is not our faith (our act of believing), but God who gives us that faith and offers us eternal life in Jesus’ Name.  Thus faith is only but the hand (or channel) by which we receive God’s salvation.  I like what Alistair Begg once said in his sermon on Titus 3:3-7.  He said:

This is one of the reasons that people hate the gospel.  The average person if you tell them that they can go to heaven based on philanthropy or based on their endeavors in some way, they might actually step up for that.  But if you tell them that the message of the Bible is that we are entirely dependent upon God’s grace and upon His goodness and that we contribute nothing to our salvation save the sin from which we need to be forgiven, they say, ‘Uuh, I don’t really like the sound of that.’

Our salvation is not based upon our act of believing, but rather on God’s mercy and grace through Jesus Christ.  We look away from ourselves to the perfect righteousness of Christ and His atoning death as the only sure basis for our salvation.  As Begg further says, it’s “all of grace, all in Christ, all of faith, all of God.”

The 16th Century Reformers employed the following three Latin words to define and describe saving faith:  Notitia, Assensus, Fiducia.  I am not a Latin scholar and I am not trying to be one.  So I will try to explain these terms in a layman’s language.

Notitia (Knowledge):  This refers to the intellectual aspect of saving faith.  Faith is not the antithesis of fact.  Faith is based on historical, accurate and reliable information.  Saving faith is not a blind leap into the dark as the Danish philosopher/theologian, Søren Kierkegaard said.  One does not have to lose his mind to win God as Kierkegaard suggested.  True, saving faith is founded on facts.  True, saving faith is rational.  B. B. Warfield, the old Princeton theologian was right when he said, “We do not believe even though it is irrational, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because it is the most rational thing that we can do.”  God, through His Word, has provided everything that we need to know in order to make a credible profession of faith in Him.  Some of these facts include:  the virgin birth of Christ; His sinless perfection; His duo nature (God & Man at the same time); His death; His resurrection; His ascent into heaven; His Second Coming, etc.  For those of you who would like to explore this further, I recommend Tim Keller’s book, A Reason for God.  In that book, Keller writes about the intellectual credibility of the Christian faith.  Among other things, he gives examples of former atheists who are now Christians because they examined the facts about the Christian Faith and found that it is credible and rational.  C.S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity is also helpful in this regard.  But one could have the right knowledge about Christ or the Christian faith and still not be saved.  The second element (assensus) is necessary and it builds on the first (notitia):

Assensus (Assent):  This refers to the emotional aspect of saving faith.  At this stage, one is caught up in the facts of Christianity and personally acknowledges them to be true concerning himself.  It’s like walking into a room and you see a box sitting in the corner of the room.  The box contains a gift for you, but you don’t know that yet.  You notice the box, you analyze it, but you have no personal attachment to it.  It’s just another box.  But when the owner of the house takes that box and gives it to you and says, “This is for you,” everything changes!  You are now all of a sudden personally involved with the box.  The gift remains impersonal until it has been given to you.  You are not personally involved with it until it has been declared yours.  So you take the facts about Christ and make them personal.  You come to a point of saying:  Christ’s virgin birth was for me; He lived a sinless life for me; He is God and became Man for me; He died for me, He rose again from the dead for me; He ascended into heaven for me; He is coming again for me; etc.  It’s like the Psalmist saying in Psalm 56:9, “…This I know, that God is for me;” or Thomas saying to Christ in John 20:28, “My Lord and My God.”  The Apostle Paul expresses this very clearly in Galatians 2:20 where he writes, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  Archibald Alexander (first principal and professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary) said of his conversion, that as he read more and more, his heart was hardened.  Then he says, “I had a vision of the Crucified One as has never been paralleled in my experience.  The grace of God came to me as clear as day and I understood, God accepted me.”  He had personally come to believe that these things were true for him.  But, a personal belief in all the right facts about Christ or Christianity is not enough to save anyone.  The third aspect (fiducia) is also necessary and builds on the first two (notitia and assensus).

Fiducia (Trust):  This refers to the volitional aspect of saving faith.  Trust is a required, personal response to the truth claims of Christ and of Christianity.  It’s an act of the will.  Without it, everything that you believe remains outside of you.  Until you trust in Christ, you are not born again, you are not going to heaven and you are not saved.  Trust says, “I accept Jesus Christ; I give myself to Christ; I look to Him alone for my salvation; I accept God’s forgiveness and invite Him into my life.”  If Christ is not living in you today, you are not a Christian.  I have a friend who is so afraid to fly.  The funny thing about him is that he works for Boeing.  He actually has worked in the department that manufactures and services the parts of a plane.  He knows how all the parts of a plane fit together so that it can go up in the air and be safe.  But the problem is that he can’t trust any of the planes to fly him!  Saving faith in Christ requires us to put our whole weight on Christ and trust that He will carry us through this life into a joyful eternity with God our Creator.  It is faith, faith and faith from beginning to end!  Without this third aspect of faith (trust), salvation is absolutely impossible.  The rich young ruler (in Mark 10:17-22), knew the facts about Jesus Christ and the Christian Faith.  He was even personally involved at some superficial level.  But he stumbled and failed at this third and very important step.  He could not get himself to “trust” the Lord Jesus Christ and forsake all that he had.  His wealth was too precious to him.  Christ was right there before Him.  In Christ, was his only hope for salvation!  Yet he missed it!  At Christ’s words, his face fell and “he went away sad because he had great wealth.”  May the Lord grant us the grace to trust Him alone for our salvation that we might truly “receive and rest in Christ alone as He is offered to us in the gospel.”

Forsaking       All          I       Take             Him

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7