Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and I will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
~2 Timothy 2:15
Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. . . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan's reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God
I don't how many know this or care but today is the 500th birthday of John Calvin, one of the instruments God used to spread the Reformation throughout Europe. One could easily argue that he is one of the most influential theologians in history next to the apostle Paul. Personally, he is one of the "Johns" whom God has used to greatly impact my life and aid in teaching me His Word (the other two being John MacArthur and John Piper). Regardless of whether you agree with him theologically or not (while through my study of Scripture I wholeheartedly affirm, embrace, and cherish the doctrines of grace he purported, I differ with him on his understanding of infant baptism and amillennialism), there are things we all can learn from his life and ministry which had at its heart the glory of God. A fresh look at Calvin teaches us several things:
1) The Importance of the Word of God
The backbone of Calvin's ministry was the Word of God. This was central to his work in Geneva. In fact, upon seeing the many problems which existed in the church at Geneva, Calvin concluded that the only remedy to the problem would be to preach God's Word and let God straighten the people out through it. Calvin labored at teaching the flock that God had entrusted to him what God had communicated to them through His written Word. He preached ten sermons every two weeks at the same time writing several commentaries which he has blessed the church with today. His belief on the centrality of God's Word led him to preach through the Scriptures verse by verse. Such a commitment is shown in his return to Geneva after his banishment to start preaching from the exact verse he left off at his last sermon three years prior. He is known as the "prince of expositors." Every minister would do well in making the Word of God the foundation of his ministry. Every born again believer would do well in making the Word of God the foundation of their life and work; whatever God has called them to do.
2) The Importance of Embracing, Proclaiming, and Sharing the Glory of God
Calvin had one thing which drove his actions. This was his zeal for the glory of God to be made manifest and shared. The impetus for the strong commitment of teaching God's Word just discussed came from Calvin's perspective that to honor the Word of God would be to honor the God of the Word. He felt that the best way to display God's glory to the people was to preach God's Word which revealed His glorious work of redemption throughout history. He even stated at the end of his life that "I have written nothing out of hatred to any one, but I have always faithfully propounded what I esteemed to be for the glory of God."1 Such a commitment to living for the glory of God should be one which envelopes our lives as well. I have already shown from Psalm 67 what I believe reveals God's glory to be the impetus of missions (see my note: "Missions is About God"). Paul tells us that Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Nothing should be a higher priority for the Christian than seeking to bring glory to God in everything that he or she does.
3) The Importance of Scholarship
Calvin was a pastor-theologian; something many claim today can't exist. In one moment he could write a treatise explaining what Scripture actually says about "free will" and then in another minister to one who was grieving the loss of a loved one. In fact, Calvin at first could not see how the two went together. He desired to be a scholar and write books concerning the faith. His whole purpose in writing The Institutes of the Christian Religion, his "magnum opus" respectfully, was to teach the pastors who were suffering persecution in France the faith that they were dying for. However, God continued to direct the Reformer to the pastorate where he used his scholarship in his teaching. He was not only a pastor shepherding his flock but a scholar seeking to teach God's Word as thoroughly and clearly as possible. It is interesting that for many decades historical scholars were perplexed with what translation Calvin used in his teaching. It was not until recently they realized the reason for their mystery. Calvin did not use a translation but translated the original Hebrew and Greek on the spot from the pulpit without ever mentioning a Hebrew or Greek word! Such scholarship is usually laughed at today with ministers who desire to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) and pine over what God originally spoke in the original languages with them being accused of wasting their time on frivolous matters. I actually think the church would benefit more from scholarly pastors such as Calvin as well as Jonathon Edwards and John Piper which have followed him. Personally, I sense that God is calling me to be a pastor-theologian and it was through studying Calvin's life and ministry that my eyes were opened to this possibility.
Calvin's hard work in ministry is enough to make the busiest pastor today in 21st century America appear lazy. Not only did he keep up with his extensive preaching schedule and strive relentlessly to write his commentaries, he also visited people in their homes and managed his administrative responsibilities at his church. He also had a wife and kids to minister to, some kids which I believe he took in. He never would have had time to waste hours in front of a TV or playing video games (not saying that these are wrong but we do need to be careful how we spend our time-Ephesians 5:15-16). These would have slowed him down from the work of ministry. Upon his latter years in poor health, people begged him to take a break. He was even preaching in his bedroom. The Reformer's answer was "What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?"2 Unfortunately, and not admirable, he occupied himself so much with the work of the church that he did not take care of his health. (Something the current commentator as well as others would be wise to take heed about.) Calvin's dedication to what God called him to do reminds me that no matter how overwhelmed I feel with what God has on my plate, I can accomplish what He would have me to do if I rely on His strength through His grace.
5) How God Uses Men Despite Their Many Flaws
Calvin is another reminder of how God uses the most flawed men to do His perfect work. The Bible is full of those who had several weaknesses which would have hindered their effectiveness if it had not been for God's supernatural work both in and through them. Abraham had wavering faith, Jacob was a trickster, Moses couldn't speak, Jeremiah was too young, Gideon was unsure, David committed adultery and murder, Samson was a womanizer, and Peter denied his Lord. Yet, inspite of all of these and possible because of them, God chose to use such weak vessels so that He might get the glory. Calvin is no different. He had his flaws. Just the mention of the name "Michael Servetus" brings the sober reminder of Calvin's role in his execution and no discussion of the church's role with the state is complete without a reference to Calvin's Geneva and how the merging of the two entities was disastrous. This birthday is not a celebration of Calvin. He was a mere man who was nothing. Instead it's a celebration of a great God who sovereignly chose to work through such a weak vessel to bring Reform to His church for His glory as He had purposed. Calvin was just an ordinary man who was used by an extraordinary God. Just as we also are. Praise God for John Calvin and the work that He accomplished with his life and ministry. May God use us, as insignificant as we are, to further His Kingdom for His glory as He sees fit.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!
1 John Dillenberger, John Calvin, Selections from His Writings (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1975) 110.
2Preface to John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009) xiv.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, "I am pregnant" . . . Now in the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. He had written in the letter, saying, "Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die" . . . The men of the city went out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among David's servants fell; and Uriah the Hittite also died . . . But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.
~2 Samuel 11:1-27
For the past couple of weeks I have been pondering the words of the Casting Crowns' song, "Slow Fade." One thing I greatly appreciate about the ministry of this group is their convicting songs rooted in God's Word. I mean just listen to the words of "Can Anybody Hear Her?" and "If We are the Body." The message of this song is no different. Here is a sampling of the words:
It's a slow fade when you give yourself away
It's a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It's a slow fade, it's a slow fade
The point of the song is so true to life. We don't necessarily jump into sin but slowly drift into it. We start out thinking that nothing is wrong to realize that we have already veered off course. In fact, the pride of thinking that we are above falling into a certain sin, makes us all the more vulnerable to it. It is taking our guard down that places us more prone to Satan's attacks. Paul told the Corinthians to learn from the examples of the wilderness generation God had brought out of Egyptian captivity to Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (I Corinthians 10:12). If the Israelites whom the Lord delivered out of Egypt were susceptible to temptation, what makes us think that we are above them? After all, it only takes one look, one dip, one smoke, and one drink for a sinful addiction to start while we are under the impression that "once is not going to hurt me." King David is a prime example of how one can "slowly fade" into sin.
The author of I Samuel describes David as a man after God's own heart (I Samuel 13:14). In fact, his name in Hebrew means "beloved". This man after God's own heart was not invincible to sin as this text shows. David's problems began when he did not do what he was supposed to. The chapter opens up with the description of the usual practice of the kings going to war every spring. The author appears to make a contrast with the fact that David was not among this group. He states: But David stayed at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). David should have went with the group as was his usual practice. Had David not strayed from what he was supposed to do, he may have never fell into such grievous sins as followed. While the author does not provide the reason for David's decision to stay home, I am sure that he did not think that it would result in him committing two high handed sins (Numbers 15:30). Likewise, we get ourselves in trouble when we are not where we are supposed to be or place ourselves where temptation lies. In so doing we open ourselves up to the greater possibility of being carried away by our lusts and falling into sin. This is what happened to David.
David's fade continued as he walked on the roof and caught sight of the beautiful Bathsheba. The next thing we know is that the lustful thoughts have turned into action as David has Bathsheba brought to him for his pleasure. David should have stopped after the first glance. Instead, he inquires about who the woman is and inspite of the fact that he was told that the woman belonged to Uriah, had messengers deliver her to him. This is a good example of James' teaching concerning the progression of sin. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death (James 1:14-15). David's lust had given way to one sin which actually led to another just as horrendous. It is true that there is a snowball effect of sin. One lie we tell leads to others to cover up the first and another bad decision is justified by another. Sin has consequences and the worst thing we can do instead of dealing with the consequences and confessing our sin, is attempt to cover up the sin.
The consequences of David's sin was a pregnant Bathsheba. Instead of coming clean with his sin, David attempts to cover it up by having Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, called home in hopes that he would sleep with his wife and David's deed would remain hidden. However, Uriah is too noble to enjoy his wife while his fellow troops are out in the battlefield. When all of David's attempts to convince Uriah to go home fail, he winds up being guilty of murder as he arranges for Uriah to get killed in battle. The author makes sure to point out that David had done evil in the sight of the LORD.
Thus David went from being where he was not supposed to be to being an adulterer and a murderer. While these events probably took longer to unfold then the brief summary of the events portray, it does convey how easy one wrong decision can result in sin. As the Casting Crowns' song points out: The journey from your mind to your hands is shorter than you're thinking. May we learn from David's example to be aware of what may seem like little sins in our lives and our attempts to hide them. May we not seek to hide our sin resulting in further sins. Make sure that you are where God wants you to be and be aware of the slippery slope of sin.
Soli Deo Gloria