Family and Catechesis

Dear friends and church family,

I have often remarked that the family is the foundation for all ministry. We see this in the requirements for pastor and deacon in the church. On Wednesday night, I read a portion from the Westminster shorter catechism on the Lord’s prayer and spoke of a short treatise written by Thomas Manton on the importance of using catechisms in raising children. I thought this morning I would provide some short portions from it to give you a flavor for the puritan view of the home and the need to not only provide an example for our children, but also provide them a method for understanding the scriptures. I hope that this will be encouraging to you as you seek to raise your children. To those of you who no longer have children in the house, or have older children and feel that you have failed, please know that there is no failure in the Christian life. If up to now you have not raised your family spiritually, start today. There is no condemnation for you, only opportunity. No matter the make up of your current home situation, I pray that you make it a strong scriptural Christian home, a light on a hill. I find that I myself need these aids in understanding the scriptures often.

 

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“The devil hath a great spite at the kingdom of Christ, and he knoweth no such compendious way to crush it in the egg, as by the perversion of youth, and supplanting family-duties. He striketh at all those duties which are publick in the assemblies of the saints; but these are too well guarded by the solemn injunctions and dying charge of Jesus Christ, as that he should ever hope totally to subvert and undermine them; but at family duties he striketh with the more success, because the institution is not so solemn, and the practice not so seriously and conscientiously regarded as it should be, and the omission is not so liable to notice and public censure. Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh to crush it; the families of the Patriarchs were all the Churches God had in the world for the time; and therefore, (I suppose,) when Cain went out from Adam’s family, he is said to go out from the face of the Lord, Gen. 4:16. Now, the devil knoweth that this is a blow at the root, and a ready way to prevent the succession of Churches: if he can subvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigor; for there is the stock from whence they are supplied both for the present and future.”

“For the present: A family is the seminary of Church and State; and if children be not well principled there, all miscarrieth: a fault in the first concoction is not mended in the second; if youth be bred ill in the family, they prove ill in Church and Commonwealth; there is the first making or marring, and the presage of their future lives to be thence taken, Prov. 20:11. By family discipline, officers are trained up for the Church, 1 Tim. 3:4, One that ruleth well his own house, etc.; and there are men bred up in subjection and obedience. It is noted, Acts 21:5, that the disciples brought Paul on his way with their wives and children; their children probably are mentioned, to intimate, that their parents would, by their own example and affectionate farewell to Paul, breed them up in a way of reverence and respect to the pastors of the Church.”

“I do therefore desire, that all masters of families would first study well this work themselves, and then teach it their children and servants, according to their several capacities. And, if they once understand these grounds of religion, they will be able to read other books more understandingly, and hear sermons more profitably, and confer more judiciously, and hold fast the doctrine of Christ more firmly, than ever you are like to do by any other course. First, let them read and learn the Shorter Catechism, and next the Larger, and lastly, read the Confession of Faith.”

So, friends, in light of Manton’s recommendations I would like to offer these resources for your aid. These are the catechisms and confessions that I appreciate the most:

A Short Catechism on Baptism ( http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/tcat.htm )

John Bunyan’s Catechism ( http://www.reformedreader.org/ccc/ifti.htm )

Spurgeon’s Baptist Catechism ( http://www.spurgeon.org/catechis.htm )

Heidelberg Catechism ( https://www.ccel.org/creeds/heidelberg-cat.html )

London Baptist Confession 1689 ( http://www.1689.com/confession.html )

A City and its society: The City of God in this World

Greetings friends, it has been a little while since I last posted. I have recently been going through the hiring process with a church and this has taken much of the time I was dedicating to writing and reading for this blog. In that time, I have become the senior pastor at New Horizon Baptist Fellowship in Marion, Nc. It is my hope that my congregation may find this blog to be a good resource and a blessing, as I hope those of you who have been following it have.

To the point, today I was struck by a short text written by St. Augustine in his “City of God” and thought it was a fitting way to move back into working on this blog.

St. Augustine writes:

“I know, of course, what ingenuity and force of arguments are needed to convince proud men of the power of humility. Its loftiness is above the pinnacles of earthly greatness which are shaken by the shifting winds of time– not by reason of human arrogance, but only by the grace of God. For, in Holy Scripture, the King and Founder of the City of which I have undertaken to speak [the city of God] revealed to His people the judgment of divine law: ‘ God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble.’ Unfortunately the swollen spirit of human pride claims for itself this high prerogative, which belongs to God alone, and longs and loves to hear repeated in its own praise the line: ‘To be merciful to the conquered and beat the haughty down.’ (Augustine is quoting a line from the Greek poet Virgil here, about being a great conqueror.)

Hence, in so far as the general plan of the treatise demands and my ability permits, I must speak also of the earthly city [the city of man]– of that city which lusts to dominate the world and which, though nations bend to its yoke, is itself dominated by its passion for dominion.”

Here we see in Augustine’s argument the difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man. Those who reside in what Augustine calls the “City of God” are driven by humility and service. He will go on to argue that for these two reasons the people who live in the “City of God” are more studious and effective citizens, because they do not seek their own glory and do not look for others to serve them. Rather, they serve and love sacrificially. This will prove somewhat of a fulfillment of Christ’s promise that we will be known for our love for one another. Love, true biblical love, does not seek its own glory.

Sadly, this leads us to the consideration of Augustine’s other city the “city of man” where lusts and pride rule and those in power are the most arrogant. Let us as believers keep these cities in mind. I pray that we would seek humility as a people recognizing that whatever we have, we have because it was given to us, not earned by us. All things are a gift from God. At the root, you have no control over you will take in your next breath, or your heart will beat one more time. Because of this, every second and every event that happens in the space of that time, is a gift of God to you. I pray that you might rejoice in the love of a creator that sees fit to keep you living today, and more than that, keeps you in the city of God. We are kept by a generous and loving God, who does not let us wander, but rather blesses us and keeps us close, under the shadow of His wing. Let us delight in Him.

Jesus, life!

In preparing this week for a sermon on Col. 3, I came across a sermon by the puritan Thomas Brooks. In it, his main concern is that the congregation recognize that Jesus Christ is their life. This has been a doctrine that has dogged me the past several years. I have been reminded time and time again that Jesus Christ is all that we have. It is common to hear people speak of Jesus Christ as all we need, but this understanding leaves one with the thought that if Jesus is all we need then we can add to him by going beyond our needs to our wants as well. However, if Mr. Brooks is right, and the apostles for that matter, then we should instead recognize that there is nothing but Christ. There is no hope, joy, or life outside of him. There is nothing but death outside of Jesus Christ. Let us consider two paragraphs from this sermon:

 

Is the Lord Jesus Christ a believer’s life? To pass by what we have further spoken upon this point—this same, by way of use, doth serve to bespeak all believers not to repent of anything they have done, or suffered, or lost, for the Lord Jesus. Oh, is the Lord Jesus Christ a believer’s life? Why, then, let no believer be disquieted, nor overwhelmed and dejected, for any loss or for any sorrow or suffering that he meets with for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake. What a base and unworthy spirit is it for a man to be troubled and disquieted in e himself for anything that he shall do or suffer for his own natural life! Oh, Jesus Christ is thy life; do not say this mercy is too dear for Christ, nor that comfort is too great for Christ. Christ is the life of a believer: what wilt thou not do for thy life? The devil hit right when he said, ‘Skin for skin, and all that a man hath will he give for his life.’ Oh, what should a man then do for Jesus Christ, who is his life! You noble hearts whose particular God hath come near in this sad loss, remember this, that Christ is a believer’s life; Christ is that glorious champion’s life. Therefore be not over-whelmed, for doubtless he is now triumphing in the love, in the light, in the goodness, and in the glory of him who is his life. Let the sense of this sad loss kindly affect you, but let it not discourage you.

But, secondly, If the Lord Jesus Christ be a believer’s life, then this serves to bespeak all believers highly to prize the Lord Jesus. Oh, it is this Christ that is thy life; it is not thy husband, it is not thy child, it not this or that thing; neither is it this ordinance or that, that is a believer’s life. No; it is the Lord Jesus Christ that is the author, that is the matter, that is the exerciser, that is the strengthener, that is the completer, of a believer’s life. You prize great ones; the Lord Jesus Christ is great—he is King of kings, and Lord of lords. You prize others for their wisdom and knowledge: the Lord Jesus hath in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, Col. 2:3. You prize others for their beauty: the Lord Jesus Christ is the beautifullest of ten thousand, Cant. 5:10. You prize others for their usefulness: the Lord Jesus Christ is the right hand of a believer, without which he can do nothing. The believer may say of Christ as the philosopher .said of the heavens, Tolle coelum, nullus ero—Take away the heavens, and I shall be nobody; so take away Jesus Christ, and a believer is nobody—nobody to perform any action, nobody to bear any affliction, nobody to conquer corruption, nobody to withstand temptation, nobody to improve mercies, nor nobody to joy in others’ grace. Oh, prize Jesus Christ!

The whole sermon can be found here: http://www.puritansermons.com/sermons/brooks7.htm

A Pity, Then, That it Should Cleave to the Earth

Today, I thought it would be wise to follow up with Matthew Henry’s second point concerning the creation of man. In the first post he showed that man was made of clay and therefore comes from a low origin. This was designed to keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves. However, this second section from his commentary is in regards to our soul and its high origin. I find it intriguing that his argument appears to be that we do not value our soul and its origin enough. I have to agree with him on this point. I think he is also correct concerning the tragedy it is that we focus so much on our body and its appetites when it is such a base thing, but forget that our spirit has appetites that must be fulfilled and it is a high thing. It must indeed be a devilish scheme that keeps us from looking upon the higher things with gratitude and from truly appraising them for their worth. Let us not be distracted with dirt!

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The high origin and the admirable serviceableness of the soul of man. (1.) It takes its rise from the breath of heaven, and is produced by it. It was not made of the earth, as the body was; it is a pity then that it should cleave to the earth, and mind earthly things. It came immediately from God; he gave it to be put into the body (Eccl. 12:7 ), as afterwards he gave the tables of stone of his own writing to be put into the ark, and the urim of his own framing to be put into the breast-plate. Hence God is not only the former but the Father of spirits. Let the soul which God has breathed into us breathe after him; and let it be for him, since it is from him. Into his hands let us commit our spirits, for from his hands we had them. (2.) It takes its lodging in a house of clay, and is the life and support of it. It is by it that man is a living soul, that is, a living man; for the soul is the man. The body would be a worthless, useless, loathsome carcase, if the soul did not animate it. To God that gave us these souls we must shortly give an account of them, how we have employed them, used them, proportioned them, and disposed of them; and if then it be found that we have lost them, though it were to gain the world, we shall be undone for ever. Since the extraction of the soul is so noble, and its nature and faculties are so excellent, let us not be of those fools that despise their own souls, by preferring their bodies before them, Prov. 15:32 . When our Lord Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with clay perhaps he intimated that it was he who at first formed man out of the clay; and when he breathed on his disciples, saying, Receive you the Holy Ghost, he intimated that it was he who at first breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life. He that made the soul is alone able to new-make it.

Shaking Hands With the Devil

Yesterday, while listening to a sermon by Charles Spurgeon, I was struck by and illustration that he gave of those who put on an act of fighting sin and living as a Christian. It struck me to the core and caused me to consider whether I have truly been seeking to fight sin in earnest, or if I had instead been taking on the appearance of the life of repentance. These questions are good and helpful. We as believers should never blindly assume our salvation, but rather should be working it out daily in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12) never forgetting that it is God who gives us the desire and ability to do so.

In our church age of decisionsism it is easy and often encouraged to rest our hopes on a decision we have made and be done with it. If we are troubled, we will often be reminded of that day where we made our decision or prayed a prayer and even asked if we meant it. This move is not helpful and it is not scriptural. The question is are you trusting Jesus Christ right now? Do not waste your time trusting a decision you have made, rather trust the person and finished work of Jesus Christ for surely if He has not done it then it is not done! Everyday should be an examination of ourselves. Are we truly fighting sin? or are we rather putting on a show? Heed the words of Mr. Spurgeon:

At the same time, let me observe that a man’s outward life may be very much like that of a Christian, and yet there may be no religion in him at all. Have you ever seen two jugglers in the street with swords, pretending to fight with one another? See how they cut, and slash, and hack at one another, till you are half afraid there will soon be murder done. They seem to be so very much in earnest that you are half in the mind to call in the police to part them. See with what violence that one has aimed a terrific blow at the other one’s head, which his comrade dexterously warded off by keeping a well-timed guard. Just watch them a minute, and you will see that all these cuts and thrusts come in a prearranged order. There is no heart in the fighting after all. They do not fight so roughly as they would if they were real enemies. So, sometimes I have seen a man pretending to be very angry against sin. But watch him a little while, and you will see it is only a fencer’s trick. He does not give his cuts out of order, there is no earnestness in his blows, it is all pretense, it is only mimic stage-play. The fencers, after they have ended their performance, shake hands with one another, and divide the coppers which the gaping throng have given them; and so does this man do, he shakes hands with the devil in private, and the two deceivers share the spoil. The hypocrite and the devil are very good friends after all, and they mutually rejoice over their profits: the devil leering because he has won the soul of the professor, and the hypocrite laughing because he has won his self. Take care, then, that your outward life is not a mere stage-play, but that your antagonism to sin is real and intense; and that you strike right and left, as though you meant to slay the monster, and cast its limbs to the winds of heaven.

taken from: A Christmas Question (a sermon)

http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0291.htm

Our Pleasure and Advantage, Work!

This morning, I was reading in Matthew Henry’s commentary regarding the fourth day of creation when I was struck by a point that he made regarding God’s creation. he writes concerning the Sun and Moon:

They do also give light upon the earth, that we may walk (Jn. 11:9 ), and work (Jn. 9:4 ), according as the duty of every day requires. The lights of heaven do not shine for themselves, nor for the world of spirits above, who need them not; but they shine for us, for our pleasure and advantage.

He states that the lights of Heaven shine for “our pleasure and our advantage”. This appears to echo the great words of the Westminster catechism which asks “what is the chief end of man?” The wonderful answer is, “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It would seem that, in pointing us to the Sun and Moon as workers for our advantage and pleasure, Matthew Henry is stating that these work so that we might glorify God and enjoy Him. It is then tragic when He points out what men typically do with the light given by these luminaries:

Lord, what is man, that he should be thus regarded! Ps. 8:3Ps. 8:4. How ungrateful and inexcusable are we, if, when God has set up these lights for us to work by, we sleep, or play, or trifle away the time of business, and neglect the great work we were sent into the world about! The lights of heaven are made to serve us, and they do it faithfully, and shine in their season, without fail: but we are set as lights in this world to serve God; and do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? No, we do not, our light does not shine before God as his lights shine before us, Mt. 5:14 . We burn our Master’s candles, but do not mind our Master’s work.

Let us, friends by faithful to our master as His luminaries are faithful to serve us! Lets not trifle away the day on vain things, but rather let us be about glorifying God and enjoying Him! How does one go about this work? In a day when “audacious faith” and “mighty acts” are preached to the believer, it would be wise to remember the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12. We are there commanded to lead a quiet life and to be about our business. Are you a plumber or a carpenter? perhaps you are a teacher or a parent in the home? Then be about honoring God in your work and testifying to His goodness as you are able. Do not be a lazy worker, but seek to honor the Lord where you are. In being faithful and working to His glory, you are testifying to His goodness and faithfulness on your behalf. Come friends, let us be faithful like the luminaries, and let us see that they work for our pleasure (enjoyment) in God and our Advantage (glorifying Him) in our work.

Troubles

There is a type of Christianity today that teaches that Jesus is here to ease all of our earthly troubles. However, they are unable to produce legitimate texts to support their position. We are told to count it all joy when we face trials and tribulations (and these are not the little difficulties of having unruly children). God’s common grace ensures that we will have the good things, but it also means that the wicked will enjoy the good things of the earth as well. So too, the bad will dog the heels of all who dwell on this earth. We serve a sovereign and risen Lord, but we will not see Heaven here. That is, not until it comes to Earth at Christ’s return. However, take heart dear Christian, we might die in the midst of troubles on this earth, but these troubles are only designed to make you yearn so much more for Heaven. These earthly troubles are the worst you will face, and soon they will be no more. Let us take to heart the words of J. C. Ryle.

“If we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other people. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace by the way and glory to the end – all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no afflictions. He loves us too well to promise that.” ~ J.C. Ryle