Devotion and Obedience

Last night we touched on Christian obedience in our study on 1 John.

By this we know if we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. (1 Jn 2:3)

Christian obedience, far from a drudge, flows out of our love for God because of who He is and what He has done, most especially in lavishing His grace upon His people and the presence of His Spirit in our life; the mark that we are a true believer. So you might say that what undergirds Christian obedience is devotion. I am currently reading another Puritan classic written by William Law in 1729. It is called A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. In many ways it echoes the theme found in Wilberforce’s book Real Christianity that we studied this summer regarding nominalism and authentic Christianity. I cannot comment on the whole book because I have not finished it yet, but I was struck by the opening page in which Law unpacks the essence of true Christian devotion. I pray you’ll find it helpful. He wrote:

DEVOTION is neither private nor public prayer; but prayers, whether

private or public, are particular parts or instances of devotion.

Devotion signifies a life given, or devoted, to God.

He, therefore, is the devout man, who lives no longer to his own will,

or the way and spirit of the world, but to the sole will of God, who

considers God in everything, who serves God in everything, who makes

all the parts of his common life parts of piety, by doing everything in

the Name of God, and under such rules as are conformable to His glory.

We readily acknowledge, that God alone is to be the rule and measure of

our prayers; that in them we are to look wholly unto Him, and act

wholly for Him; that we are only to pray in such a manner, for such

things, and such ends, as are suitable to His glory.

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Suggested Readings

Over the summer I spent a lot of time reading various Puritan authors that influenced the man that I am writing a biography on for my PhD. Two such works were influential in his conversion, and also the conversion of men like Charles Spurgeon and countless others. Each work is known as a spiritual classic from its age, and I had to stop counting the insightful comments that graced their pages, each jam-packed with spiritual power and Biblical truth. As we are looking at 1 John this autumn and the topic of assurance, particularly in chapter one about a persons relationship to Jesus Christ and their understanding of sin, I thought I would recommend these two short works for the profit of Christians and non-Christians alike. For Christians it will certainly help you in your understanding of sin and God’s amazing grace. For those who are non-Christians or of the nominal sort, it will challenge you to the core as to whether you indeed have any merit to stand before the Almighty. Irregardless, the authors do not mince words! For those who take the time to read them you will be sure to be blessed (aka- don’t be put off by their 17th Century writing style, be patient).

Richard Baxter: A Call to the Unconverted

Joseph Alleine: An Alarm to the Unconverted

Enjoy!

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

Resources from Sunday

Praise the Lord for a great day of teaching and fellowship at the chapel! In the morning we looked at a robust basis for true unity amongst the churches. In the afternoon we had pleasant weather for our Tortworth Lake walk and tea and were blessed to have Rev. Maurice Wheatley with us in the evening when he spoke on providence. It was great to have so many family members and guests along with us too!

Further to the our sermon from Amos 3:3 (“How can two walk together unless they are agreed”) here are a couple helpful articles if you would like to pursue the topic further.

Our FIEC Gospel Unity Statement can be found here.

On the subject of theological triage you can find a helpful article by Albert Mohler Jr. here.

Another helpful model comes from the ESV Study Bible (2008), pp. 2506-07. I summarize it here. Similar to the model of theological triage is one of a target, or concentric circles. We are to aim to hit the mark in the middle, not straying from orthodox belief. That said we must recognize that not all doctrines have the same significance and affect how we relate to others who profess to be a believer or who truly are.  We need to ask ourselves the question, “on which hill are we willing to die.” Let us not confuse the periphery for the centre.

concentric circles

The relative importance of theological issues can fall within four categories: absolutes or the core beliefs of Christianity, convictions or those beliefs which are so important have a significant impact of the health and effectiveness of the Church, opinions or items that are less clear and certainly not worth dividing over, and questions or unsettled items to which answers would not necessarily effect or alter the absolute tenants of the Faith.

To help one discern where a theological or practical issues falls within the circle one can weigh the cumulative force of the following seven considerations: 1) relevance to the character of God; 2) biblical clarity; 3) relevance to the essence of the gospel; 4) biblical frequency and significance; 5) effects on other doctrines; 6) consensus among Christians; and 7) effect on personal and Church life. These need to be understood collectively. Often only one of these seven tools is used which produces a skewed result and a person or tribe resting upon an absolute that is actually an opinion (or visa versa). “The ability to rightly discern the difference between core doctrines and legitimately disputable matters will keep the Church from either compromising important truth or needlessly dividing over peripheral issues.”

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris

“Fixing” the Church with Square Wheels

dontreinventthemap-6ba62b8ba05d4957d2ed772584d7e4cdI have just spent the last several days at an international Baptist history conference on the subject of Baptists and revival. It was great connecting with scholars from around the world. While I do not personally like employing these terms, for lack of a better term or explanation, there was a wide range of scholars holding anywhere from ultra-liberal to conservative evangelical views.

At one of our meal times the questions turned to the state of life of the church in our home regions. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the UK were all represented at the table. One individual had not liked some of the statistics I had revealed and language I had used about Christianity in Canada, and rightly said that they probably did not capture all of the “fresh expressions” of church. She went on to spell off new creative initiatives, folks who wanted to embrace new cultural norms such as homosexuality, and then frustratingly aired her bewilderment at why “conservative” churches were growing while many of these “fresh expressions” were not. She did not entirely appreciate my answer, though I pray my genuine and gentle response gave her something to think about, however, another chap at the table was very interested in what I had to say. I was grateful that I was at least able to encourage his already existent views.

The first individual thought that the answer to rescuing the state of the church in the West was to reinvent it. Certainly I would agree we need to engage different and developing cultures with the Gospel in different ways. She was trying to reinvent the wheel but trying square wheels, triangular wheels, oval wheels, and even no wheels, in a desperate attempt to sort things out. She was greatly troubled as to why those churches who were continuing with round wheels seemed on the whole to be growing.

The faulty thinking in her reasoning was this. She felt that the “round wheel” was obviously antiquated and was reacting against this to find out what would work. I would contend that she didn’t know what the true round wheel was in the first placed and asked her, “tell me about this round wheel you are reacting against because I probably don’t believe in it either.” Both she and her church were reacting against the failure of nominal and liberal christianity falsely believing it had been the real thing. As a result their church was floundering.

As the Church we do not need to reinvent “church” but only rediscover it, or in other words get an alignment.

We already know what works and that is the Truth. A dependence upon God through prayer and His word, and a belief in orthodox Christianity is the only thing that produces fruit. As a friend of mine often says, “we need to get the Gospel right and we need to get the Gospel out!”

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6:7 ESV).

The Lord’s Sweetest Blessings,

Pastor Chris