Loving Jesus Christ

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Here is another gem from J.C. Ryle’s Holiness, Chapter 15, “Do You Love Me?” (based on John 21:16).

“…if you love Christ, never be ashamed to let others see it and know it. Speak for Him. Witness for Him. Live for Him. Work for Him. If He has loved you and washed you from your sins in His own blood – you never need shrink from letting others know that you feel it, and love Him in return.

‘Man,’ said a thoughtless, ungodly English traveler, to a North American Indian convert, ‘Man, what is the reason that you make so much of Christ, and talk so much about Him? What has this Christ done for you, that you should make so much ado about him?’

The converted Indian did not answer him in words. He gathered together some dry leaves and moss and made a ring with them on the ground. He picked up a live worm and put it in the middle of the ring. He struck a light and set the moss and leaves on fire. The flame soon rose, and the heat scorched the worm. It writhed in agony, and after trying in vain to escape on every side, curled itself up in the middle, as if about to die in despair. At that moment the Indian reached forth his hand, took up the worm gently and placed it on his bosom.

‘Sir,’ he said to the Englishman, ‘do you see that worm? I was that perishing creature. I was dying in my sins, hopeless, helpless and on the brink of eternal fire. It was Jesus Christ who put forth the arm of His power. It was Jesus Christ who delivered me with the hand of His grace, and plucked me from everlasting burnings. It was Jesus Christ who placed me, a poor sinful worm, near the heart of His love. Stranger, that is the reason why I talk of Jesus Christ, and make much of Him. I am not ashamed of it, because I love Him.’

If we know anything of love to Christ, may we have the mind of this North American Indian! May we never think that we can…

love Christ to well,

live to Him to thoroughly,

confess Him too boldly,

lay ourselves out for Him too heartily!

Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this I believe will surprise us most: that we did not love Christ more before we died!”

Saturday Chores: Making Hope a Laughing Matter

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Most Saturdays for the past few months, a young couple has joined us for a few minutes outside the Jones Franklin Road abortion clinic for a goofy sort of counter-protest, making use of social media and calling it Saturday Chores.

Their shtick has been for one to hold a sign that they find random or humorous or both, the other to take a picture, and then to use that picture to add to a series of pro-choice posts. Their humorous approach has been universally praised by the media outlets that have picked this up over the last week or two.

Here is the problem: the death of babies isn’t funny. When mothers are in crisis, it isn’t funny.

So there is nothing praiseworthy about their approach, because babies are dying every day on the other side of that clinic door. And the mothers who are coming, having been told and wanting to believe that they are solving their problem, are only increasing their troubles exponentially. A baby isn’t a problem, and abortion isn’t a solution. These women need the hope of the good news of Jesus Christ, along with caring practical help, which is exactly what we are there to offer, and that is no laughing matter.

That is why I am so glad that Taylor Tsantles is leading the effort to carefully articulate what we are doing at the clinic and why at hopebeforethedoor.com. You will find visiting well worth your time.

One last thought. One of the random counter-protest signs was “I Like Turtles“. Ironically, our culture loves turtles at the same time that we hate babies. Consider this sign posted above a sea turtle nest that my daughter encountered this past weekend on the beach:

Protecting Sea Turtle Eggs

 

That’s right: mess with a turtle egg and you just might be facing a $100,000 fine and a year in prison. But kill your baby and exit the clinic to a round of applause.

Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Christ Can Ever Maintain His Own Cause

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

When the global church is pressed on every side, from without and within, it is good to remember that the great Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus Christ, needs no help in defending His own.

Consider the true words of J.C. Ryle:

“Fear not for the Church of Christ – when ministers die, and saints are taken away. Christ can ever maintain His own cause. He will raise up better servants and brighter stars. The stars are all in His right hand. Leave off all anxious thought about the future. Cease to be cast down by the measures of statesmen, or the plots of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Christ will ever provide for His own Church. Christ will take care that ‘the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’ All is going on well, though our eyes may not see it. The kingdoms of this world shall yet become the kingdoms of our God, and of His Christ.” (Holiness, Chapter 13, “The Church Which Christ Builds”)

Reprise: That Will Never Be Marriage

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I originally posted “That Will Never Be Marriage” a year ago. It is as needful a blast of the trumpet as it was a year ago, and maybe more so. In the post, I said I was setting reminders on my calendar to republish this each year for the next five years, and so I did. So without further ado:

That Will Never Be Marriage

The progress made by the proponents of homosexual marriage is nothing short of breathtaking. If momentum means anything at all, it will only be another year or two until same-sex marriage has been so overwhelmingly accepted in the United States that those who oppose it won’t even have a significant platform for articulating objections. The advocates who have so skillfully advanced it will have the luxury of just shrugging and waving us off with disdain. In my lifetime, we will have switched spots.

Almost forgotten is the God who called all things into existence with only the words of His mouth. He is the One that keeps the debate from being over. God should never, ever be left out of any equation, because no matter what mankind says or does, He always speaks last, and what He says goes. In card playing lingo, every card in His hand is an ace of spades. Always the highest card. Always trump. Always.

And so that will never be marriage, no matter how many people say it is or how long they say it. Two men, no matter what they say or what they do, can never be married. Two women, no matter what they say or what they do, can never be married.  Because marriage is God’s, and no amount of momentum can ever change that. It is His institution, given in the first chapter of the book of beginnings. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it…’” (Genesis 1:27-28a). “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). This is God’s. This is marriage.

Is there another view to be had in all of Scripture? No. None. The last prophet of the Old Testament is simply representative: “You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and crying; so He does not regard the offering anymore, nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been witness between you and the wife of your youth, with whom you have dealt treacherously; yet she is your companion and your wife by covenant. But did He not make them one, having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” (Malachi 2:13b-15). Three profound things are learned from the three questions in the text and their answers. God responds when His institution of marriage is dishonored, it is only God who can make two one, and He does so to increase those who honor Him. All three of these truths stand immovably between God’s creatures and any such thing as gay marriage.

And the New Testament seals this truth with stunning clarity. Having spoken at length about how husbands and wives must relate to one another, Paul says this: “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (Ephesians 5:32). This is why, just a few verses earlier, he said that husbands must act like Christ and wives must act like the church. Because this institution was created by God to play out the most sacred drama – the gospel drama – before a home and before a world. So Christians can never, ever accept homosexual marriage, because it fundamentally upends the gospel drama. It destroys the gospel picture that God created marriage to be. And so that will never be marriage.

I am setting reminders on my calendar to republish this each year for the next five years, because saying it once won’t be nearly enough. I will need to lay my eyes on these words again and again myself, and I’m guessing you will too. And when we read it, we will remember that God always has the highest card to play, that He always plays trump, and that He will act at just the right moment.

“Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.’… Now therefore, be wise, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 2:1-6, 10-12).

Brothers and sisters, our duty is to declare the truth of Scripture, never letting the light of that truth be extinguished by even the greatest multitude, and to pray fervently that when our God acts, it will be to grant repentance and faith to those enslaved to sin, and not to send the judgment we so richly deserve. May we be found laboring tirelessly towards those ends!

Twenty-Three Years of Wedded Bliss

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Outside of the day I was born again by the grace of God, the most important and wonderful day of my life was Saturday, June 29, 1991, the day Janet Mizelle walked up the aisle on the arm of her father and then walked back down that aisle on my arm as Janet Dohm.

Months before that day, I desperately wanted her to agree to marry me, but I’m still not entirely sure why she did. Janet was and is lovely, intelligent, fun, funny, godly, and above all, God-fearing and God-loving. The term “better half” has never been more appropriate. God has been so kind to give us twenty-three very happy years together, and my prayer is that our love for each other would continue to grow as we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18a).

Dohms Wedding w Browns

Bill Brown Reads Our Recitation Text

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Every three months we choose a new text to recite and memorize together so that we are hiding God’s word in our hearts. The text is normally from the book of the Bible that is being preached, but this time we are reciting Isaiah 44:24-28 because the book being preached, the Book Ezra, is the breathtaking fulfillment of this prophecy:

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; 25 who frustrates the signs of the babblers, and drives diviners mad; who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolishness; 26 who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ to the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be built,’ and I will raise up her waste places; 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers’; 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ‘

Isaiah was given this prophecy something like one hundred and forty years in advance of it coming to pass, with Cyrus, the Gentile king God would use, called out by name!

Now, if you have heard the resonant voice of Bill Brown reading Scripture, you know what a treat it is. Here he is reading our current recitation text.

This is available because Hope Baptist is working their way through Isaiah, and two of my kiddos, Megan and Jake, are recording him reading that book and putting it up on the internet. This is where you can access Bill Brown reading Isaiah.

Enjoy!

More on Birthdays

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

A couple of years ago I posted some wisdom from John Calvin regarding birthdays. Now some more from J.C. Ryle’s “Holiness” (the chapter on “Assurance”):

I believe it ought to be our continual aim and desire to go forward, and our watchword on every returning birthday and at the beginning of every year should be “more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1) – more knowledge, more faith, more obedience, more love. If we have brought forth thirty-fold, we should seek to bring forth sixty; and if we have brought forth sixty, we should strive to bring forth a hundred. The will of the Lord is our sanctification, and it ought to be our will too (Matthew 13:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:3).

Here are the texts he references, with the sections he quotes in italics and underlined:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.

Matthew 13:23, “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Exactly! Our glorious God is worthy of a lifetime of progress in the faith. The sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of a lifetime of demonstrated thankfulness. More and more indeed! Not to earn favor, but because we have inexplicably received unearned favor.

What could make for a happier birthday?

Has Doug Phillips Repented?

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Getting right to the point, there are two things to say: No one knows, and don’t count on it. Now, why do I even think it appropriate to go on record with my view of this? Because Christians have proven to be slow to think rightly about leaders who are exposed for scandalous sin, and that makes us quick to take them back as leaders. We have a soft spot for those who have taught us valuable things, and that can make us hopelessly naive, mistakenly ready for their return. SINFULLY ready for their return.

Let’s take a closer look at my two propositions:

Has Doug Phillips repented? No one knows.

Even if all the signs were positive – granting that purely for the sake of argument – no one would really know for quite some time. Though Proverbs 28:13 doesn’t explicitly use the word “repentance,” it contains the best definition of true repentance that I know: “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Did you catch that? Confession ≠ Repentance. Confession is a subset of repentance. The other active ingredient is the forsaking of the sin, and knowing whether or not that has really happened takes significant time. Part 1, confession, is super-easy for a skilled communicator – and Doug is a very skilled communicator. Part 2, forsaking, is where the rubber meets the road. As John the Baptist warned the Pharisees who came to receive his baptism (or at least to gawk), there must be “fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8), and that takes time. Significant time.

Has Doug Phillips repented? Don’t count on it.

If we have learned anything from these revelations, it is that Doug is a very skillful deceiver and manipulator. He is good at it, and he has had a lot of practice. Knowing that, it would be foolish for any of us to put ourselves in a position to be deceived or manipulated by him now.

Doug was a shepherd. He was entrusted with sheep. Now, the Bible tells us the full range of what we need to know about shepherds and shepherding. It tells us how God shepherds in Psalm 23. God the Shepherd makes His sheep lie down in green pastures and leads them beside the still waters. The Bible tells us how Jesus shepherds in John 10. Jesus the Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. These things are what Paul calls under-shepherds to in Acts 20, as does Peter in 1 Peter 5. These must be the objectives of every local church elder. The Bible also warns of false shepherds in Ezekiel 34. These shepherds exploit the flock. These shepherds devour the flock. And God removes them in His time. Let us fear Him together.

Which kind of shepherd has Doug been? For years now, Doug has been an Ezekiel 34 shepherd, exploiting and devouring for self-satisfaction. He was entrusted with sheep to be a blessing to them, and instead he has been a curse. Is this not beyond dispute? And has not the Chief Shepherd removed him? Let us fear Him together.

Has Doug really repented? Time will tell, as the saying goes. And as it relates to Christian leadership, that can’t mean a week, a month, a year, or a decade. When it becomes known that a shepherd has cultivated a life of deception and manipulation for many years, such a man may not have enough years to reestablish himself as qualified for leadership.

Should Doug be forgiven? Absolutely. Anyone who has been forgiven much by the King must stand ready to forgive his fellow servants (Matthew 18:21-35).

Should he be trusted? Not on your life. At least not now. At least not soon.

So pray for him, but don’t mistakenly hope for his return to Christian leadership. And pray for his family. And more than that, pray for the woman who was exploited by a shepherd who was meant to be a blessing to her. Nothing short of the grace of God will bring her back from that, but He is gracious.

Nuggets from Puritan Preaching

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

One of the outstanding messages from the NCFIC “Worship of God” conference included some observations by Joel Beeke about Puritan preaching. I found two to be especially inspiring and helpful:

1. They detested “exposing their learning.”

Most of the Puritan preachers were very learned men. Reading them and gaining a sense of what they themselves had read is very humbling. It isn’t a stretch to say that modern preachers pale by comparison as a whole. But well-studied as they were, and hard as they worked in preparation for preaching, Puritan preachers labored to speak plainly and directly. They worked to pierce the heart, as well as to enlighten the mind. They wanted power in their preaching, not polish or flourish. They wanted to be faithful to the text and to be thoroughly understood, not to be thought smart. Every preacher should aspire to this.

2. They preached that the natural man was sinning with every tick of the clock.

Puritan preachers pressed on their hearers that every person was created by God for His glory, and so every second living for self and unreconciled with God was an utterly sinful second. This allowed them to lift up the remedy – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – in a beautiful and unparalleled way. It helped them to batter down the walls of self-satisfaction erected by those outside of Christ who needed to be convinced of their desperate need to fly to the cross for mercy.

Preachers of the gospel, join with me in aspiring to follow our Puritan forefathers by preaching to the heart as well as the mind, and by pressing the sinfulness of the unrepentant state on our hearers. These hearers will be better served as we do.

Wisdom for Family Worship

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

I have no idea how many times I have listened to this message from Jeff Pollard since he delivered it in Birmingham, Alabama in 2007, but the number certainly won’t fit on the fingers of one hand. It is my favorite sermon on the subject, and I gain something valuable every time I listen to it.

I highly commend it to you. Happy listening!