Morality without Godliness?

Dr MLJ“You cannot have morality without godliness. There in a phrase, it seems to me, I have indicated the whole trouble during the last fifty years in particular. There are good people in the land who are very much concerned about morality; but they are not concerned about godliness. You simply cannot have morality, finally, without godliness. And the last half century has proved that to the very hilt. If we go back a hundred years and more we find that the great emphasis was upon godliness. But then a generation came which said in effect, Morality is very good and it is most essential for the country, but of course we do not want this godliness any longer; we no longer believe in the supernatural, we do not believe in miracles, we do not believe that Christ is the Son of God–He was no more than a great moral teacher–and so, of course, we must shed all this godly part of it. And they did so. They thought that they could preserve morality without the godliness. But you see what has happened. Continue reading

What Does Faith Look Like?

latimer-ridley-woodcut-detailWhat does faith look like in the Christian life? What is its character? The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes Scripture telling us that saving faith “is different in degrees, weak or strong.”

We can see these contrasts both between Christians, and in any individual Christian. Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were both courageous in faith during the English Reformation, yet at the point of martyrdom, at the stake to be burned, Ridley was struggling, weak in faith, very much in need of the encouragement of Latimer, his brother in Christ: “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.” The apostle Peter was so weak in faith as to flat out deny Christ to the servant girl; weeks later, by grace, he was strong in faith, fearlessly “street preaching” in the public square in Jerusalem, in the heart of the city that had crucified Jesus. Continue reading

Understanding Faith

Weltchronik_Fulda_Aa88_317r_detailHave you ever thought about what saving faith is or what it does? God’s Word tells us that faith is a gift of grace: our faith has been obtained “by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1) It is something given to us—without our having done anything to merit it. The theologian Thomas Boston describes our receiving faith this way: “We are born spiritually blind, and cannot be restored without a miracle of grace… There is, in the unrenewed will, an utter inability for what is truly good and acceptable in God’s sight.” Even elect souls attempt to resist “when the Spirit of the Lord is at work, to bring them from the power of Satan unto God.” God’s Word plainly declares our inability to create or conjure up spiritual life, including faith, from within. Continue reading

Mayberry and Othniel

3-tissot-othniel2 America is not the country that it was fifty or sixty years ago. Instead of Andy Griffith patrolling Mayberry, we have Hobby Lobby in the Supreme Court. This happened within a generation, from fathers to sons. At the same time there appears to be a steady continuity, if not resurgence of conservative evangelicalism in America. We are witnessing not only a tectonic cultural shift, but also a profound divergence within American society. What is happening?

The book of Judges gives us some very relevant insight, proof that “there is nothing new under the sun.” Continue reading

True Courage

moses-michelangelo“Meekness is commonly despised by the great men of the age as cowardice and meanness, and the evidence of a little soul, and is posted accordingly. But the most furious and angry revenge is celebrated and applauded under the pompous names of valour, honour, and greatness of spirit.

This arises from a mistaken notion of courage… True courage is such a presence of mind as enables a man rather to suffer than to sin, to choose affliction rather than iniquity, to pass by an affront though he lose by it, and be hissed as a fool and coward, rather than engage in a sinful quarrel. He that can deny the brutal lust of anger and revenge, rather than violate the royal law of love and charity (however contrary the sentiments of the world may be), is truly resolute and courageous… Continue reading

Understanding Law and Gospel

Over at Reformation21, Carl Trueman assesses a recent blog post by Tullian Tchividjian, calling for “a much needed face-to-face debate” after Tchividjian’s claim that Reformed and evangelical preachers are confusing law and gospel; Michael Kruger provides a helpful response to Tchividjian at his blog, leading to a Kruger-Tchividjian exchange in the comments section. Reading through the posts it seems plain to me that Tchividjian lacks clarity on the relationship of law and gospel–and that his counter-bloggers (Trueman, Kruger, et al) capably and clearly explain the scriptural relationship of the law and the gospel. Others have as well, including:
Continue reading

Lessons in Church Planting

holy trinity presbyterian church Engaging in the work of planting Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church (ARP) in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan is bringing back memories of life lessons in church planting, gained in a small inner-city church in Kokomo, Indiana. The church there, itself a fairly recent church plant, was engaged in planting a church in the next town. The longer we lived, worshiped, were mentored in that Christian community, the more we grew in deep respect and appreciation for God’s gracious work through the Reformed Presbyterian Churches (RPCNA) in Indiana. Over a few decades, with a biblical simplicity, the kingdom of God advanced through them, from one small congregation in Bloomington, to eleven–still continuing to envision more across the state. Continue reading

Christ the King in His Suffering

Ströhl-Rangkronen-Fig._07What does it mean for you that Jesus Christ is King?

While many of us could give a good answer, perhaps not many of us would include the profound and powerful testimony of Scripture to Christ as King in his humiliation. This is the period described in the Apostles’ Creed: he “suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried; he descended into hell.” Thinking through this time of earthly humiliation for Jesus, we might wonder whether his Kingship was evident at all.

In the Old Testament’s prophetic descriptions of the coming Messiah, we see that a number of these refer to his Kingship immediately alongside his suffering: Continue reading