July 2007


It’s truly amazing when you read the Reformer’s from the 16th Century and realize that much of what they wrote could have been written last week. At Enjoying God Fellowship we are a fellowship of believers committed to enjoying God together. I wanted to share some words from the great Reformer, John Calvin, and his thoughts on fellowship among followers of Jesus Christ. The following is taken from Calvin’s Institutes 3.20.38 and his exposition on the Lord’s Prayer:

“Our Father”: a form of address that sets us in the fellowship with the brethren.

However, we are not so instructed that each one of us should individually call him his Father, but rather that all of us in common should call him our Father. From this fact we are warned how great a feeling of brotherly love ought to be among us, since by the same right of mercy and free liberality we are equally children of such a father. For if one father is common to us all [Matt. 23:9], and every good thing that can fall to our lot comes from him, there ought not to be anything separate among us that we are not prepared gladly and wholeheartedly to share with one another, as far as occasion requires.

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For this first post on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood I thought it would be a good idea to list for you some books that are foundational for this subject. These are books you should have in your library. To purchase one of these books, just click on the picture for an Amazon.com link.

 

 

Here are some websites/blogs that you may find helpful on the subject as well:

Deo Volente

Acts 29

Council on Biblical Manhood an Womanhood

Solo Femininity

 In the news of late are the new Bible action figures that will soon hit the market at your local Wal-Mart. No doubt “Christians” from various denominational backgrounds will rush to purchase these “family friendly” toys for their children as an alternative to Harry Potter, Transformers, Spiderman, and even G.I. Joe. David Socha, founder of one2believe (who is producing these toys) states, “We can’t let this exceptional opportunity just pass-by! We need to raise awareness of this opportunity and encourage others to support us as well.” What opportunity is he talking about? The opportunity to glorify God through the proclamation of the Gospel? The opportunity to elevate God’s Word as Holy and Sacred? In his own words, “This is a chance to let our voices be heard. By supporting this program we can send a message to other retailers and toy makers letting them know that we, as a Christian community, are truly concerned about the toys that our children play with! We are aware of the influence that toys have on our young children’s impressionable minds, so we would like to see more God-honoring options available. It’s a “Battle for the Toy Box”!” While this sounds good, are these toys truly the way to honor God, or just another way to slip away into our “Christian bubble”. They have their toys, we have ours. Are these toys really a good idea? Are they really family friendly? Is it really toys that are causing kids to grow up into little pagans? “I don’t know, me and Billie Jean did everything we could to raise our kids right, it was those blast darnit’ toys that did them in!”

The Trivialization of the Historicity of the Bible

I know, that is a mouthful of words. However, they are necessary words. What happens when you market Bible characters alongside of other fictional action figures like Spiderman and Superman? This reduces the historical accounts recorded in Holy Scripture to nothing more than a fun fairy tale or the latest action adventure which isn’t really true, but it sure is nice to pretend once and a while that it is. These action figures are not causing this kind of thinking necessarily, they are a barometric reading of a culture that already views what they read in the Bible as “nice stories” but not history. Of course the marketing of these toys has nothing to do with history at all. If you would look carefully at the first picture I posted, this is actually an ad that features Sampson fighting Goliath. Perhaps just a little confusing?

The Misunderstanding and Poor Application of Sinful Men and Women as the “Heroes” of the Bible 

One thing is sure when watching a Superman movie or a Spiderman movie: You know who the hero is. The danger of these “action heroes” is that they may fuel the fire of an already confused plethora of children and parents. The Bible has one hero, God. David is not the hero of the Bible, Paul is not the hero, you get the point. In the New Testament, the hero is Jesus Christ alone. Yes, they do have a Jesus action figure that talks to you and is poseable according to the box, but this doesn’t elevate Jesus as the hero, it places Him on equal standing with all of the other “hereos”. This is what the Corinthians were doing when Paul admonished them:

1 Corinthians 3:4-5 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men? 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one.

Here is the description of the Jesus “Messenger of Faith” figure from one2 believe, “A long time ago, God sent His only Son, Jesus, from heaven to Earth. He was born to a woman named Mary and a man named Joseph. His earthly parents raised Jesus until He became a man. Then, He left them to travel all around the land. He helped lots of people by teaching them, healing them and performing many miracles!” Is that all Jesus did? There is no mention of the cross or the resurrection or Jesus paying for sin on the website. This is typical of what my father in law calls “Christianity Lite.” If this is the story their talking Jesus tells the children who play with them, they will in fact be introduced to an unbiblical Jesus. I know, some of you may be thinking, “Wow, he sure is making a big deal of this, I mean after all they are just action figures!” You make my point precisely. That we have come to a place where Christians have no problem with the treasure that we have in the Word of God being represented by silly children’s toys proves that we have in fact trivialized the Word of God and missed the point on who is the central character in the entire Bible. The Bible is not a book that merely tells us about some cool people who had exciting lives that we can copy not only in our lives but now also as we play with action figures. The Bible is a book that tells us who God us. I once heard R.C. Sproul say that unbelievers greatest need is that they need to know who God is. He then said that the churches’ greatest need was to learn who God is. Amen to that. We won’t learn who God is by getting our kids to play with these new Bible action figures. In fact, this kind of trivialization of God’s Word may ensure that our kids never really learn who God is.

Currently I am reading Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor. This book, written in the 17th century, may be the most challenging book on Pastoral Ministry ever written. Yesterday, I gave you a quote from this work and thought it would be appropriate to continue with Baxter and the theme of Pastoral Ministry for today’s “Issues in Theology.”  Baxter was clear that a pastor is called to take heed to all the flock. Baxter also says, “But, while it is our duty to take heed to all the flock, we must pay special attention to some classes in particular.” Baxter gives six different groups of people that will be in our communities that need different kind of attention.

1. We must labour, in a special manner, for the conversion of the unconverted.

Baxter says, “The work of conversion is the first and great thing we must drive at; after this we must labour with all our might.” The man of God should be willing to undergo any suffering or discomfort for the sake of men and women who await an eternal punishment. How easy it is to get distracted by “church stuff” and neglect this great need to labor for the conversion of the unconverted.

2. We must be ready to give advice to inquirers, who come to us with cases of conscience.

“A minister is not to be merely a public preacher, but to be known as a counsellor for their souls, as the physician is for their bodies, and the lawyer for their estates; so that each man who is in doubts and straits, may bring his case to him for resolution; as Nicodemus came to Christ” (Baxter, 96).

3. We must be ready to build up those who are already truly converted. In this respect our work is various, according to the various states of Christians.

Baxter goes on to break down this group for us even more:

a. There are many in the flock that are young and weak, who, though they are of long standing, are yet of small proficiency and strength.

“This, indeed, is the most common condition of the godly. Most of them content themselves with low degrees of grace, and it is no easy matter to get them higher” (Baxter, 97).

b. Another class of converts that need our special help, are those who labour under some particular corruption, which keeps under their graces, and makes them a trouble to others, and a burden to themselves.

c. Another class who demand special help are declining Christians, that are either fallen into some scandalous sin, or else abate their zeal and diligence, and show that they have lost their former love.

“As the case of backsliders is very sad, so our diligence must be very great for their recovery. It is sad to them to lose so much of their life, and peace, and serviceableness to God; and to become so serviceable to Satan and his cause. It is sad to us to see that all our labour is come to this; and that, when we have taken so much pains with them, and have had so much hopes of them, all should be so far frustrated. It is saddest of all, to think that God should be so dishounoured by those whom he hath so loved, and for whom he hath done so much; and that Christ should be so wounded in the house of his friends. Besides, partial backsliding hath a natural tendency to total apostasy, and would effect it, if special grace did not prevent it” (Baxter, 99).

d. The last class of the converted are the strong.

4. We must have a special eye upon families, to see that they are well ordered, and the duties of each religion performed.

I can’t emphasize enough how crucial this point is. There is not any institution around that God has ordained that has been around longer than the family (Gen. 2:24). One of the downfalls of many churches today is that church becomes the one place you don’t see your family. We send the men here, the women there, the youth over there, and the children have to go around the corner to the blue building down the street. I’m not saying that there should never be these kinds of specialized ministries. However, it is crucial that families worship together. We want to strengthen families in the Lord. We want corporate worship to be seen as time where families really do grow closer together.

5. We must be diligent in visiting the sick, and helping them to prepare for a fruitful life, or a happy death.

I don’t think I have an aversion to visiting the sick. I think I have an aversion to what it has turned into. Most preachers are required to visit the sick; and they do so with a vengeance. However, it is the preparation for a fruitful life of happy death part that seems to be absent. Pastoral visitation is not to become “shoot the breeze” sections where nothing is really talked about and then you say a little one minute prayer with a Bible verse at the end. I am guilty of this as well because it’s so easy to let it happen! This is a hard discipline for the pastor and for the one who is sick, but a necessary discipline nonetheless!

6. We must reprove and admonish those who live offensively or impenitently.

Baxter writes, “Before we bring such matters before the church, or its rulers, it is ordinarily most fit for the minister to try himself what he can do in private to bow the sinner to repentance, especially if it be not a public crime.” Let me paraphrase this for you, “Pastors need to have a spine!” We are not called to walk on eggshells when it comes the the spiritual life of our flock. Sin is destructive and shepherds are called to protect their sheep from destruction. This means that there will be times when sinners refuse to repent and go on a tirade about the minister. This is of no consequence. Their souls matter to much to worry about what people may think of you.

You may be starting to see why a pastor cannot be a CEO or an administrator or a financial guru. While all of those things are important in their places, it is not the calling of a shepherd. Just this list from Baxter is enough to keep any man of God busy for the rest of his life with his flock. That is my dream and vision for Enjoying God Fellowship. This is the kind of shepherd I want to be for the rest of my days. Soli Deo Gloria!

Here is a great word from Richard Baxter from the 17th century in his work The Reformed Pastor. By God’s grace, this is what I want to be for you at Enjoying God Fellowship:

“It is, you see, all the flock, or every individual member of our charge. To this end it is necessary that we should know every person that belongeth to our charge; for how can we take heed to them, if we do not know them? We must labor to be acquainted, not only with the persons, but with the state of all our people, with their inclinations and conversations; what are the sins of which they are in most danger, and what duties they are most apt to neglect, and what temptations they are most liable to; for if we know not their temperament or disease, we are not likely to prove successful physicians.”

I absolutely love stopping what I am doing while working at Target to pray because of a text message I received while “zoning” in HBA. What was the text message? Who was it from? It was from one of the members of this community of faith asking me to pray for her because she was talking to a Christian friend who was having serious doubts. She was having a conversation with her to attempt to strengthen her faith in Jesus Christ. This is so awesome! I love it! It costs me $.05 to receive a text message. That may have been the best nickel that I’ve ever spent! I can’t wait to hear how everything turned out. I wouldn’t trade this group of believers in Jesus for anything, and I mean that! God is already doing things in our group that are of eternal significance. Soli Deo Gloria!

When Christ is Head of the Local Church 

At this point in history it would be rather difficult to provide convincing evidence that Jesus Christ is head of His church. Evidence for a church submitted to His headship would not come from the songs they sing, where the body of Christ chooses to meet, the size and number of church facilities and congregation, or the charisma of the pastor(s). A local church whose members submit to Christ’s headship would be:

1. Founded on the gospel of Jesus Christ-I Cor.3:11
2. Committed to the preaching of God’s Word-Acts 6:4; II Tim.3:16-4:5
3. Governed by Spirit-filled men-Acts 6:1-7; I Tim.3:1-13; Tit.1:5-9; Gal.6:1
4. Committed to “the praise of the glory of His grace”-I Cor.1:30-31; Eph.1:6, 12, 14
5. Defenders of sound doctrine-I Tim.1:3-11; 4:1-11, 13, 16; 6:3; II Tim.1:13; Tit.1:10-14
6. United in the Spirit-Eph.4:1-3 ; I Cor.1:10ff
7. Equipped for ministry and active in it-Eph.4:11-12; I Cor.12-14
8. Suffering for Christ’s sake-Rom.8:18-39; I Pet.1:6-8; 4:12 (in persecution and inner turmoil)
9. Walking in a manner worthy of their calling-Eph.4:1; I Thess.2:12
10. Characterized by and committed to prayer-I Thess.5:17; Acts 6:4
11. Excercised in church discipline-I Cor.5; Mt.18
12. Seeking God’s wisdom in all decisions, major and trivial-Acts 6:1-7
13. Rejoicing in God their Savior-I Thess.5:16
14. And keeping Christ preeminent in all things-Col.1:18

These are just thoughts I have had recently as I have reflected on the condition of many local churches I am personally acquainted with. What will it take for the local church to return to Jesus Christ as its Head?

 -Rev. J. Theodore Helms

 -originally posted at Our Sovereign Joy

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