New issue: George Whitefield at 300

Posted by on Jul 22, 2014 in Magazine-George Whitefield at 300 | No Comments
New issue: George Whitefield at 300

The new issue of Credo Magazine is now here: George Whitefield at 300. Here is the magazine, followed by a description of this issue and those who have contributed.


To view the Magazine as a PDF {Click Here}

Credo July 2014 CoverWe live in a day when those in the church want to have their ears tickled. We do not want a sermon, but a “talk.” “Don’t get preachy, preacher!” is the mantra of many church goers today. What is preferred is a casual, comfortable, and laid back chat with a cup of coffee and a couple of Bible verses to throw into the mix to make sure things get spiritual. One wonders whether Timothy would have been fired as a pastor today for heeding Paul’s advice: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul gives such a command to Timothy because he knew what was to come. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4). Has that day come? Are churches filled with “itching ears,” demanding “teachers to suit their own passions”? Have we turned “away from listening to the truth”?

In a day when ears itch and truth is shown the back door, what could be more needed than men who actually preach the Word? George Whitefield (1714-1770) was one of those men. He was a preacher who preached in plain language, so that even the most common man could understand God’s Word. Yet, his sermons were incredibly powerful, often leading men and women to tears as the Holy Spirit convicted their souls. Whitefield not only preached the truth, but he pleaded with his listeners to submit themselves body and soul to the truth. He preached God’s Word with passion because he understood that his listener stood between Heaven and Hell. His robust Calvinism, in other words, led to a zealous evangelism.

This year, 2014, marks the 300th anniversary of Whitefield’s birth. These articles are meant to drive us back to Whitefield’s day, that we might eat up his theology, and drink deeply his passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Contributors include: Thomas Kidd, Lee Gatiss, Michael A.G. Haykin, Thomas Nettles, Ian Hugh Clary, Mike McKinley, Mark Noll, Doug Sweeney, and many others.

Here are some of the Feature Articles to get you started:

Credo July 2014 Kidd Slider

Credo July 2014 Gatiss Slider

Credo July 2014 Haykin Slider

Credo July 2014 Nettles Slider

Credo July 2014 Clary Slider

Credo July 2014 Whitefield Slider

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Sunday’s Sermon (Schreiner, Barrett, Zaspel)

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Sunday's Sermon | No Comments
Sunday’s Sermon (Schreiner, Barrett, Zaspel)

Three of Credo Magazine’s main contributors include Thomas Schreiner, Fred Zaspel, and Matthew Barrett. Each of them are professors, but they are also pastors. So each Monday morning we will be highlighting their “Sunday’s Sermon” on the blog to provide you with encouragement throughout the week and an opportunity to study God’s Word.

 

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Watch Over Your Own Heart

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Jeremy Kimble | One Comment
Watch Over Your Own Heart

Ministers of the gospel are told to “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in these things, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16). This verse could just as easily apply to any Christian, especially the phrase “keep a close watch on yourself.” Knowing that our hearts are prone to wander after idols and worldly ambitions, we must guard our hearts with all diligence. William Wilberforce, well known Christian abolitionist in Britain, notes that we must be aware of our own depravity, which will mark us with a humility and conscience that will keep us continually fleeing from sin and pursuing righteousness. May we be a circumspect people who continually preach the gospel to ourselves as we pursue repentance and righteousness in all things.

“Let him then, who would be indeed a Christian, watch over his ways and over his heart with unceasing circumspection. Let him endeavour to learn, both from men and books, particularly from the lives of eminent Christians, what methods have been actually found most effectual for the conquest of every particular vice, and for improvement in every branch of holiness. Thus studying his own character, and observing the most secret workings of his own mind, and of our common nature; the knowledge which he will acquire of the human heart in general, and especially of his own, will be of the highest utility, in enabling him to avoid or to guard against the occasions of evil: and it will also tend, above all things, to the growth of humility, and to the maintenance of that sobriety of spirit and tenderness of conscience, which are eminently characteristic of the true Christian.”

Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan.

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Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 2)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Interviews | One Comment
Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 2)

We are glad to be back with the second half of our two part  interview with Jack Klumpenhower, author of Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. Today he answers a few more questions for us, and reminds us of the great privilege we have in being entrusted with the gospel.

show_them_jesus_thumbnail__26699.1404693685.451.416Though definitely not the norm, with the ever increasing abundance of gospel-centered books and curriculum geared towards teaching kids to see Jesus in all of scripture, why is it not enough to simply read/teach from these resources verbatim as if from a script? Doesn’t this approach ensure the message won’t be obscured?

Discipleship is personal. Good material can help greatly, and I certainly recommend that teachers make use of lessons that help them teach the gospel. But in the end, the old maxim that students learn more from what we do than from what we say is true. Students also tend to remember those things their teacher is most excited about, and teachers get excited about truths they’ve studied and discovered for themselves. For these reasons, it’s at least as important to have gospel-saturated teachers as it is to have gospel-centered curricula.

You’ve included many practical helps for parents to implement at home in teaching their children the gospel, some of which are variations of the same tools you give that can be utilized in the classroom. It seems however that there can often be a disconnect between what kids are being taught at church in their youth classes, and what parents are (or are not) reinforcing at home. In chapter eight you layout a helpful framework for having good-news discussions that can help serve to bridge this gap. What other suggestions would you offer both parents and youth workers towards this end?

The gap exists because both parents and teachers easily get lazy, so that parents don’t bother to find out what’s happening in class and teachers don’t take the time to tell parents. It happens to me all the time, and the best solution I know is to make a habit of regular communication. When I teach I need to distribute lesson summaries to parents every week, even if most parents seem uninterested. As a parent I must ask about class even if the teacher seems too busy to be bothered.

Habitual communication not only builds relationships and keeps parents informed, it also encourages teachers to do their jobs well. I take more care with my lessons when I know I’m going to give a summary to parents.

Another good practice is to make classrooms and youth groups places where parents are encouraged to visit anytime. If it works with a church’s child protection policies, that kind of open classroom goes a long way to creating the feel of a group effort. Holding whole-family classes where parents are not just invited but expected to attend with their kids helps as well, as does bringing parents in on a rotating basis to help lead prayer time or contribute to class in some other way.

You write, “One test of any kids-ministry gimmick is to ask what we’d think if adult ministries used the same technique.” What do you mean by this statement? Shouldn’t we contextualize the gospel differently for adults and youth in a way that is age-appropriate?

I do many things differently when I teach kids rather than adults. I use age-appropriate language and concepts. I teach shorter lessons with more repetition. I’m careful to incorporate a variety of learning styles (visual, auditory, hands-on). I also use examples that fit kids’ lives. This is effective teaching that keeps the students in mind.

Gimmicks are different. A gimmick is something contrived to get kids involved for reasons that have little do with Christ: memorize verses to win a toy; bring a friend to earn a candy bar; come to Sunday school because we have a cool space station theme; attend youth group because the music absolutely rocks.

We must be careful with gimmicks. The subtle message in many gimmicks is that the toy, candy bar, space station, music, or whatnot is better and more interesting than Jesus. If Jesus were better, wouldn’t he be our motivation? And if you think about it, if someone suggested offering prizes to adults who brought friends to church we’d probably object that doing so not only is childish but also violates the spirit of why we ought to invite people. That Christ-first spirit is violated when we use the technique with kids, too.

That said, I’m all for having fun. Christians should be joyful people, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with fun activities or great music or little celebrations of achievement. We just need to include such things carefully so that Jesus remains our focus and our chief attraction.

In teaching children and in the context of youth ministry, why do you think there is a common tendency to want to teach a safe, sanitized version of the Bible, and not the scandalous message of redemption as narrated through the scriptures? Along those same lines; just as in your book you described teaching the story of Achan from the book of Joshua, how we can teach the “scary” parts of scripture to kids as opposed to skipping over them in the name of “playing it safe”?

I find that many teachers are uncomfortable talking about sin and the cross. I know I used to be. Even though I believed the cross was central to Christian faith and I had no theological problem with it, it felt weird to talk about it much—like venturing into somber territory that always increased the stress level in class.

Beyond that, practicing faith in the God who saves can feel uncomfortable too. Healthy faith begins with tons of prayer. It’s accompanied by things like confession of sin and accountability in repentance. None of this comes naturally to proud, self-sufficient people like us. So this too makes it more comfortable to skirt the gospel when teaching Bible lessons.

However, when we dare to embrace the gospel it actually ends up bringing great comfort. It allows both students and teachers to stop hiding behind appearances and instead rest openly in Christ. Once we get over the initial hump and start talking about the gospel regularly, it starts to feel more natural and becomes a delight rather than a source of unease. Studying Jesus in depth also helps. Jesus spoke directly and challengingly about the issues that feel uncomfortable to us, yet he also has compassion for struggling sinners. Getting to know him gives us the courage to talk about deep things too; sin, atonement, repentance, God as Father, death and eternal life—all the grand themes of the gospel.

As for Bible passages that are disturbing due to violence, it’s fine to shield the youngest kids from a few things they aren’t ready for yet. But in general, it’s good for kids to see that God is at work even in the most horrific and appalling events of life. The gospel comes to us in the context of such sin and misery, and there it gives us hope and life. We can’t sanitize the Bible without also reducing our wonder at the gospel.

Jack Klumpenhower, author of the new book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world, including Serge conferences. He is currently working on his next publication, a middle-school gospel discipleship curriculum titled What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are. He lives with his wife and two children in Durango, Colorado. Check out Jackklumpenhower.com for more of Jack’s writing as well as resources from his latest book.

David Livernois is married to Nicole, the love of his life, and they have three amazing children, Riley, Sarai and Abigail. They live in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina where they are active members of Missio Dei Asheville.

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Credo’s Cache

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Credo's cache | No Comments
Credo’s Cache

Each week we will be highlighting important resources. Check back each Friday to see what we have dug up for you. From this week’s cache:

1. Calvinism and DeterminismBy James Anderson - Anderson says: “If you’re a Calvinist, the next time a fellow Christian accuses you of being a ‘determinist’ (as though that were a dirty word) you can reply, ‘Sure, I’m a determinist — and there’s a good chance you are too.’”

2. The Worship of Men: An Old ProblemBy Jeremy Walker - Walker notes: “It makes you wonder what the blogosphere, to mention just one arena, might sound like if – for one week at least – every true Christian undertook to give themselves less to assaults on or defences of particular men and their teachings, and more to the exaltation of the great Giver of every such gift to the church.”

3. Help Your Kids Say ‘No’ to PornBy Jen Wilkin - Wilkin says: “Be the first voice your child hears about sex and sexuality, and about fleeing porn exposure. Don’t let fear cause you to delay beginning this conversation. And don’t let fear cause you to have the conversation in a way that scares your child or casts sexuality in a negative light.”

4. What’s All This ‘Gospel-Centered’ Talk About?By Dane Ortlund – Ortlund says: “We will be broken, messy sinners until Jesus comes again and gives us final cleansing. Till then, true shalom and fruitfulness can only be found through waking up each day, shoving back the clamoring anxieties, and defibrillating our hearts with a love that comes only to those — but to all of those — who open themselves up to it.”

5. President Bartlet Doesn’t ExistBy Richard Clark- Clark notes:  ”President Bartlet doesn’t exist. That fact may be obvious, but for many of us, it’s also heartbreaking. Fans of The West Wing have long appreciated the fair-minded, selfless, Democratic President (in spite of the ways they may have disagreed with his policy decisions) primarily because of the manner in which he wields his power. Bartlet is the essence of humility, constantly aware of the effect of his decisions on others. The unwavering loyalty of his staff only reinforces for him the seriousness of the opportunities in his presidency.”

Matt Manry is the Director of Discipleship at Life Bible Church in Canton, Georgia. He is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Religion at Reformed Theological Seminary and a Masters of Arts in Christian and Classical Studies from Knox Theological Seminary. He blogs regularly at gospelglory.net.

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Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 1)

Posted by on Jul 17, 2014 in Interviews | No Comments
Show Them Jesus: An Interview with Jack Klumpenhower (part 1)

 As the subtitle suggests, Jack Klumpenhower’s new book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, is about teaching the gospel to kids. Much more than a “how-to” however, this book not only delivers what it promises, but far exceeds it; one cannot read it and not see the immense beauty of the gospel explicitly woven throughout every chapter, making it an excellent read for anyone, not just parents and teachers. In a word, this book not only shows us how to show kids Jesus, it shows us Jesus.

With that said, we are pleased to welcome Jack Klumpenhower here for the first time on Credo, as recently we had the privilege of him answering a few questions for us based on his new book and more than thirty years of experience as a Bible teacher.

show_them_jesus_thumbnail__26699.1404693685.451.416At one point in your book you mention that we essentially have two options when presenting the gospel: either offend people with the gospel, or offend the gospel itself. What exactly do you mean by this?

The gospel is such a grand display of justice and mercy that it tends to offend the sensibilities of sin-damaged people like ourselves. Some people are bothered by the justice side of the gospel; they think it’s barbaric to believe that atonement for sin required the death of God’s Son. Others are bothered by mercy; they secretly like comparing themselves to others, and talk of absolutely free grace sounds dangerously permissive to them. Still others bristle at the suggestion that a God of such justice and mercy has the right to require them to repent daily and live exclusively for him.

Because of this, we can expect that a no-holds-barred explanation of the gospel will often bother some people—even in church! They will suggest we tone it down. They will ask us to back off a bit on one point or another to make it all sound more palatable.

If we do this, though, we are bound to make God sound less holy, or less loving, or less sovereign than he actually is. We will also make the saving work Jesus accomplished sound less necessary, less complete, or less transforming than it is. If you think about it, you’ll see that this is offensive to Christ and to the gospel.

This doesn’t mean we ourselves should be offensive. We must be humble people. But if our gospel teaching never causes anyone to complain that we’re too radical about either justice or mercy, we have to wonder if we’ve been too timid.

In chapter two you reference what has become known as “moralistic therapeutic deism” and then allude to this in several other chapters as well. For those of us who may be unfamiliar with this term, can you explain what this phenomenon is, and what can be done to combat and correct it?

The term “moralistic therapeutic deism” comes from a study of American teenagers. The study found that our teens, even many of those in church, really aren’t Christians as the Bible defines this. Instead of faith in Jesus Christ as the Prophet, Priest, and King who’s their ever-present Savior, they have a vague sense of a largely detached God (deism) who wants them to be basically good (moralism) and can be used to help cope with life’s occasional struggles (therapy).

The scary thing is that if this is what young people believe, they learned it from us. They got it from watered-down teaching that avoided talk about sin or atonement or salvation, sidestepped the cross and empty tomb, and was content to tell kids to behave and to go to church and pray if they want to feel better. Moralistic therapeutic deism isn’t so much an alternative religion. Rather, it’s what Christians are naturally left with when they downplay the gospel.

The antidote is simple: teach the gospel. Be relentless about showing kids Jesus—both the wondrous person he is and his work to save us from sin. Most teaching in most American churches, even those that affirm sin and salvation in Christ alone, barely touches on the full richness of the gospel. I talk to teenagers who’ve spent their whole lives in evangelical churches but can only think of two or three benefits of faith in Jesus. They have trouble describing his character too, and have virtually no personal engagement with him through private prayer. No one has taught them.

In your introduction you touch on the fact that in many churches there never seem to be enough volunteers to work with children’s programs. Tell us more about why the “it’s easy, anyone can teach kids” recruitment approach for volunteers is more harmful than helpful, and the disservice we do to our youth and our churches at large by going about finding teachers this way. Based off experience, can you offer a suggestion or two on how a church might gain volunteers in a healthy manner?

It’s easy to take an approach that says, “This person is really good with kids, so let’s recruit her to teach Sunday school.” Now, it does help for a teacher to be comfortable around kids. But an even better approach is to think, “This person loves Jesus and spends time in prayer and really knows the Bible, so let’s train her to work with kids.” Good programs use volunteers with many different skills, but having several who fit that second description makes a huge difference.

Faith matters more than ministry skills. Our children and youth are the most impressionable, ready-to-learn people in the church. They need our most faith-filled teachers. Many of those kids will decide by the time they finish high school whether or not to follow Jesus for the rest of their lives, and those who quit often say it’s because they found no spiritual depth in the church. We need to make sure that before they get to that point they’ve had a chance to learn from the godliest men and women we can find.

Such people can be hard to recruit. They want to know that the work is meaningful and spiritual. If you pitch the job as an easy one anybody could handle, you’ll be devaluing teachers and you’ll make them uninterested.

When I’ve been involved in recruitment I’ve preferred to personally approach people I know are mature believers rather than making announcements to the whole church asking for volunteers. I get better teachers that way and they feel more called to a spiritual task. If they’re uncomfortable with kids, I let them assist an experienced teacher first. They can learn how to teach. That is fairly easy compared to learning to walk with Jesus.

I also like to get a few elders (or whatever church leaders are in charge of the overall spiritual shepherding) involved in Sunday school recruitment. The people who’ll be best at shepherding our children often respond well when the church’s spiritual leaders challenge them to take on that task.

Let’s say you have two kids in your weekly children’s class, one comes on a regular basis and has even made a credible profession of faith, the other comes every now and then and demonstrates little if any evidence they are saved. You indicate that your approach to teaching both these students would be largely the same. How come?

Unbelievers need to repent and turn to God in faith, so they need to hear the gospel and be challenged to believe it. Believers grow by continuing to repent and practice faith in God, so they too need to hear the gospel and be challenged to believe it more fully. Unbelief is at the root of all sin (for example, a greedy kid is not believing that Christ is all he needs), so continuing to believe the gospel is a key part of fighting sin and growing as a Christian.

Both kinds of kids also need to get to know Jesus. Jesus said the way to see the Father is to know him, so one chief aim of any Bible lesson should be to see more of the person and work of Jesus. Unbelievers need this in order to have good reasons to put their faith in Jesus for the first time, and believers need this in order to love him more and have good reasons to keep trusting him.

For these reasons, I show all kids Jesus. I teach all kids the gospel and urge them to believe it. I might take a somewhat different approach to God’s commands if I’m reasonably sure I’m dealing with an unbeliever rather than a believer, but most of the rest of my teaching will be essentially the same. One benefit of this is that I don’t have to try to figure out which kids are true Christians and which aren’t; I just teach the gospel.

…come back tomorrow for part 2 of this interview!

Jack Klumpenhower, author of the new book, Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids, is a Bible teacher and a children’s ministry curriculum writer with more than thirty years of experience. He has created Bible lessons and taught children about Jesus at churches, camps, clubs, conferences, and Christian schools all over the world, including Serge conferences. He is currently working on his next publication, a middle-school gospel discipleship curriculum titled What’s Up? Discovering the Gospel, Jesus, and Who You Really Are. He lives with his wife and two children in Durango, Colorado. Check out Jackklumpenhower.com for more of Jack’s writing as well as resources from his latest book.

David Livernois is married to Nicole, the love of his life, and they have three amazing children, Riley, Sarai and Abigail. They live in the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina where they are active members of Missio Dei Asheville.

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The gospel and duty (Paul Helm)

Posted by on Jul 16, 2014 in Paul Helm | One Comment
The gospel and duty  (Paul Helm)

I think it would be worthwhile to return to the question of whether in sanctification believers have a duty to obey the law.  This came up in an earlier post concerned with the place of the law in sanctification, the third use of the law as it is sometimes called. The question arises also in connection with the free offer of the gospel as defended by Andrew Fuller in The Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation.

Andrew Fuller

There is no question that Andrew Fuller advocated an account of faith and of preaching that returned it to Reformation principles; a general, free, indiscriminate offer of the gospel, and justification by faith as reliance upon the Christ preached.  But fresh controversies lead to new emphases.  As Heraclitus said, it is impossible to step into the same river twice.

Fuller placed a good deal of emphasis on faith as a duty, and his views came to be known as ‘duty faith’ and ‘Fullerism’, terms suggesting something distinctive. In the book he returns to the matter several times.   Most interesting is his discussion in his Concluding Reflections.   Here he seems to qualify his earlier emphasis.  He recognizes here that faith cannot be a duty straightforwardly, since the invitations of grace are not founded merely on divine authority, or on God’s goodness, but in particular on God’s mercy and grace. He here emphasizes the important qualification, that ‘Though believing in Christ is a compliance with a duty, yet it is not as a duty, or by way of reward for a virtuous act, that we are said to be justified by it….we must stand accepted in the Beloved’.   Yet even with this vital qualification, we may ask, is faith as a compliance with a duty a dominant note in the New Testament? Sinners may have a duty to repent but do they, in the same sense, have a duty to believe?

Perhaps Fuller was at his most nervous here, at the very heart of his position, as is shown by the fact that he discusses this matter first at proposition III of Part II,   then in his Answers to Objections, and finally in his Concluding Reflections.   Fuller says that though the gospel is a message of pure grace it ‘virtually requires’ obedience. But if something virtually requires obedience then it requires obedience. I think that by virtual obedience Fuller means that, like the law, the invitations of the gospel call for our compliance, yet they are not as the law is, divine commands, but gospel invitations. That’s my guess.

The Queen Attends The State Opening Of ParliamentSuppose that the Queen, in addition to imposing on me and all her subjects  the duty to keep the laws that bear her signature, invites me to one of her garden parties (as I once was).  You might say that that’s an act of kindness, a matter of grace or of undeserved goodness, not of bare sovereign authority. It follows I have no duty to go to her party. Besides, another duty that I already have might take precedence over the invitation. Nevertheless, I am honored to receive the invitation and it does not escape me that the one who invites is the one who is the sovereign, my sovereign. So the invitation is the sovereign’s invitation. We might say that the sovereign’s invitation is worth something, in the way that other invitations are worth less, or nothing at all. Even so it is possible to decline the invitation without penalty in the way that it is not possible to flout the law without penalty. So no one invited to the party has an obligation to accept.

The analogy of the Queen’s garden party to the invitations of the gospel is, like any analogy, imperfect. Yet it may bring out—I put it no higher—that invitations differ from laws. Perhaps that was what Christ was stressing in his analogy of the gospel to a marriage feast. Not everything that God says creates in the one addressed an obligation to comply. These analogies help us to see, perhaps, that gracious invitations are different from commands.

Sanctification

There is a parallel situation in the case of sanctification, much-discussed at present. Is sanctification required? This is one question. But the inseparability of sanctification from justification, and it’s being required, is (I think) often confused with the question, is sanctification a duty? It is required, but is it a duty? Two different questions. One has to do with a logical requirement, the other with a legal requirement, or a moral requirement, or with both. If someone says that being justified, there is no need for sanctification, they fail to see the requirement of sanctification. And in saying this they have not only misunderstood sanctification but justification too. For each is inseparable from the other, the two-fold gift of Christ to his people. But to say that sanctification consists in keeping commands hasn’t quite struck the note and emphasis of the NT.

If I think that justification is all that is needed, or that Christ is imputed to a sinner for sanctification as he is for justification, what’s the mistake? It is the mistake of thinking that as a justified sinner there is nothing more to do. But the NT is full of imperatives to the people of God. For example, Paul said to the Ephesians, be renewed in the spirit of your minds. (4.23) But this, it seems to me, is a kind of command that can only be obeyed indirectly. It involves putting on the new man (as Paul says), and as a consequence living in a certain way. This way can often be mapped on to  the commands of God, or the commands on to it, yet such living is not simply a matter of obeying these commands, but first of understanding what it means to profess regeneration. In other words, we leave the world of simply endeavoring to keep the commands of God, and seek to understand  a life that is lived from the inside out. There are various ways the NT has of depicting such a life—living as those who are alive from the dead, living as children of God, walking in love. The emphasis follows on having a new life and a new outlook, and bearing fruit, growing in grace. Living in disregard of the commands of God is a sign of failure, but it does not follow that keeping the commands of God is a sign of success.

Immanuel Kant contrasted the sense of duty with what he called ‘a holy life’. If we do certain acts as duties, dutifully, the requirements in question bear down upon us. We feel pressured to do what a part of us, perhaps the whole of us, does not want to do. We have to do it. Our action is (Kant said) heteronomous. If, somehow, we have internalized the norms we discern in the commands, if we want to do them in the core of our person, then, Kant also said, we possess (in his sense) a holy life. We act autonomously. We no longer have any duties. Or to the extent that we internalize the norms, in this sense we possess a holy life. (I don’t think Kant said this bit, on reflection, but he may have.) We do the substance of what are duties but not as duties. (‘Whose service is perfect freedom’.)

Paul’s habitual way of teaching us how to behave is to emphasize that Christians are new people – ‘How can we who died to sin still live in it?’ , ‘Put off the old self….be renewed in the spirit of your minds….put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’….’If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things which are above, where Christ is’….’For we are all children of light, children of the day…so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober….’And he writes of gifts, graces, and Peter of virtues. Lists of them.

If we ask, how should we then live, the answer is, by the norms and values as expressed in the Decalogue, what Calvin called ‘the eternal law’, expressed, he thought, in the Golden Rule. But (ideally) not as duties, even though in our present far-from-perfect state, expressing such norms in living—as distinct from talking about them—may be irksome and difficult. But for new men and women in Christ ‘doing our duty’ is not quite the best way of expressing this, is it? Yet if all else fails then duty it had better be.

Paul Helm was appointed J.I. Packer Chair of Philosophical Theology at Regent College, Vancouver, in 2001. He is presently a Teaching Fellow there. Among his many books are Calvin and the Calvinists, Faith and Reason, The Trustworthiness of God, The Providence of God, Eternal God, The Secret Providence of God, The Trustworthiness of God (with Carl Trueman), John Calvin’s Ideas, Calvin at the Centre, and Calvin: A Guide for the Perplexed. 

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Sunday’s Sermon (Schreiner, Barrett, Zaspel)

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Sunday's Sermon | One Comment
Sunday’s Sermon (Schreiner, Barrett, Zaspel)

Three of Credo Magazine’s main contributors include Thomas Schreiner, Fred Zaspel, and Matthew Barrett. Each of them are professors, but they are also pastors. So each Monday morning we will be highlighting their “Sunday’s Sermon” on the blog to provide you with encouragement throughout the week and an opportunity to study God’s Word.
 

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What Are You Doing With Your Bible?

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014 in Bible, Jeremy Kimble | One Comment
What Are You Doing With Your Bible?

I have recently been enjoying Kevin DeYoung’s latest work, Taking God at His Word. It is an excellent discussion concerning what the Scripture says about itself, so that one can formulate a proper theology of Scripture. This reminded me of a quote I had read long ago about the importance of Scripture in our lives. For those of us who are prone to buy good books, aspire to read them though they go on the shelf, and then rarely read them, let alone read the Bible itself, J.C. Ryle (1816-1900) issues a clarion call to wake up from lethargic Bible intake. May we be a people of the book!

Next to praying, there is nothing so important in practical religion as Bible-reading. God has mercifully given us a book which is “able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3: 15.).  By reading that book, we may learn what to believe, what to be, what to do; how to live with comfort, and how to die in peace. Happy is that man who possesses a Bible! Happier still is he who reads it! Happiest of all is he who not only reads it— but obeys it, and makes it the rule of his faith and practice! Nevertheless, it is a sorrowful fact that man has an unhappy skill in abusing God’s gifts….And just as man naturally makes a bad use of his other mercies, so he does of the written Word. One sweeping charge may be brought against the whole of Christendom, and that charge is neglect and abuse of the Bible. To prove this charge we have no need to look abroad: the proof lies at our own doors. I have no doubt that there are more Bibles in Great Britain at this moment than there ever were since the world began. There is more Bible buying and Bible selling, more Bible printing and Bible distributing—than ever was since England was a nation. We see Bibles in every bookseller’s shop— Bibles of every size, price, and style; Bibles great, and Bibles small— Bibles for the rich, and Bibles for the poor. There are Bibles in almost every house in the land. But all this time I fear we are in danger of forgetting, that to have the Bible is one thing— and to read it quite another….Surely it is no light matter what you are doing with the Bible. Surely, when the plague is abroad, you should search and see, whether the plague-spot is on you.

Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan

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