Saturday, January 30, 2016

Chris Tomlin - Noel (Live) ft. Lauren Daigle

Love Incarnate, love divine
1 Jn. 4:8 "God is love"
Matt. 1:23 "They shall His name Immanuel"
Jn. 1:14 "And the Word became flesh"

Star and angels gave the sign
Matt. 2:2 "For we saw His star"
Matt. 1:20 "An angel of the Lord appeared to Him in a dream"
Luke 2:9 "An angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them"

Bow to babe on bended knee
Matt. 2:11 "And they fell to the ground and worshipped Him"

The Savior of humanity
Matt. 1:21 "For He will save His people from their sins"

Unto us a child is born
Matt. 1:18 "Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows"

He shall reign forevermore
Dan. 7:27 "His kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom"

Noel, Noel, Come and see what God has done
Luke 2:30 "For my eyes have seen your salvation"

Noel, Noel, the story of the amazing love
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world"

The light of the world
John 1:4 "and the life was the light of men"
John 8:12 "I am the light of the world"

Given for us, Noel
John 3:16 "He have His only begotten Son"

Son of God and Son of Man
Matt. 16:18 "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God"
Matt. 16:28 "They shall see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom"

There before the world began
John 8:58 "Before Abraham was born, I am"

Born to suffer, born to save
John 12:27 "But for this purpose I came to this hour"

Born to raise us from the grave
John 6:44 "And I will raise Him up on the last day"

Christ the everlasting Lord
Rom. 16:26 "The Eternal God"

He shall reign forevermore
Rev. 11:15 "and He shall reign forever and ever"

And all of God's people said, "Amen, even so, come Lord Jesus"

Friday, January 22, 2016

Covenants, Creeds, Confessions, and Confusion

If one were to take a survey of modern American evangelical Christians regarding the covenants of Scripture and the confessions of historic Christianity, I am convinced that he or she would uncover enormous confusion. I can say with a high degree of confidence that the typical evangelical Christian’s knowledge of these particular subjects is dreadful. Now, I am not referring to false converts here. I am referring to solid, bible believing Christians.

Ask yourself the question, “how many covenants can I name without much effort?” What was the first great creed in Church history? How many of the great confessions can you name? Now, shift gears and ask yourself; why is knowledge about things like the covenants, creeds, and confessions important to begin with? If you do not know the answers to these questions, the fault lies partly with you and very likely, mostly with your leaders. If the fault lies with you, the good news is that there is something you can do about it. You get go to and make the appropriate purchases to gain a better understanding of church history. Second, you can read about the biblical covenants in Scripture. I will provide a short list and the scriptural references for both at the end of this post.
The more sobering question is why is it that most Christians simply don’t care? Why are the distractions of this world, the entertainment of this world, and the many entanglements of this world so much more interesting than those things that have serious implications where the kingdom of God is concerned? It is obvious that Christians care very little about the biblical covenant, about the circumstances that produced the Apostles and the Nicene Creeds. It is painfully clear that modern evangelicals simply could give a rip about the Westminster Confession, the London Baptist Confession, and the historical setting that provided the impetus for their existence. But that is not the point. The question is why do so many modern evangelical Christians care nothing about what is without a doubt some of the most significant events within the unfolding drama of redemptive history within Scripture and within the Christian church? That they do is uncontroversial. Why they do is a question of a different nature altogether.

I blame the apathy on a number of factors not the least of which is a focus on existentialism by modern evangelical pastors. Now, before I go any farther, I want to explain what I mean by existentialism. In short, existentialism holds that human predication begins with the thinking, feeling, acting individual. This view has led to the idea that any sort of systematizing, either theological or philosophical, is simply too abstract for the concrete nature of human experience. Now, the manner in which existential philosophy has influenced the church can be seen by surveying movements like the seeker-sensitive model, the emergent model, and various other movements that are not quite so obvious. The thinking has shifted from church in community to the individual. Doctrine has been downplayed. People that emphasize theology and reading Scripture properly have been criticized for treating the Bible like a math textbook or something similar. Relationships, feelings, and individual experiences have displaced Bible studies. What we call Bible study, or small group study is really little more than an attempt to emphasize relationships, discuss the worldly affairs we find ourselves involved with from day to day, talk about sports, the kids, work, the spouse, the family, and just about anything but the deep truths of Scripture and the profound events in Christian history. The gospel of Christ is now “lived” rather than proclaimed. Being a good husband has displaced being a godly man. We routinely see articles about “being in love” with God or romancing Jesus as opposed to the sobering and serious command to love God with all our being. In short, existential philosophy has produced a man-centered, feelings oriented, experienced-based concept of Christianity that is a mere shell of that which is unfolded for us in the pages of the biblical text.

This explains why there is such apathy toward doctrine. It’s simply too abstract. Talk about holiness and sanctification and hating sin produces feelings that do not make me feel very good about myself. Repentance is really quite a negative term after all. It implies that I am deficient, that I need to change, that I am unacceptable as I am. And that just cannot be true at all. It contradicts everything my parents, teachers, coaches, and therapists have told me. Confrontation requires judgment, not flattery and tends to offend people and is perceived as unloving and arrogant. It is the “self” that dictates not only the content of the Christian message but the method for how it is delivered. This explains why church discipline is an endangered species in modern times. How often do you hear pastors preach about the purity of the church and what it means for a community to protect that purity? Yes, we can turn such a process into self-righteous legalism. Balance is necessary. Love is essential. And humility is indispensable. But the purity of the Church is a non-negotiable of Christian praxis. Existential theology is antithetical to the church in community. And a church that is not church in community is indeed not a church at all. The unifying principle of the church is the truth revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. Love and diversity and tolerance are not unifying principles of the church even if they are indispensable virtues. (Eph. 2:20-21) 

The Apostles Creed

One of the oldest creeds in church history is know as the Old Roman Creed R. The Old Roman Creed can be traced to the second century. This creed is also known as a baptismal creed. The new convert would confess the Old Roman Creed prior to baptism into the church. The existence of the Old Roman Creed dating back into the second century indicates a very early practice of such confessions within the ancient Church. If we link the old Jewish confessions in the OT with the NT practices of such confessions and then link that to the Old Roman Creed which eventually took shape as the Apostles Creed we witness a seamless connection.   

The Nicene Creed

Another creed worth mention is the one that came out of the Nicean Council in 325. The Nicene creed was the result of a council at Nicea aimed at dealing with a serious heresy in early Christianity. The root of the Arian heresy was located in the attempt of certain Christians to make the Christian message respectable in their culture among the intelligentsia of the day. Sound familiar? Ultimately, this led to false views involving the nature of Christ. To resolve the issue once and for all, a council was called in the city of Nicea. The result was the Nicene Creed which gives us a concise confession regarding what a genuine Christian confesses about the nature of Jesus Christ. How many Christians know anything about the details and significance of the Nicene Creed?

Fast-forward to Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517 and keep your eyes fastened on the doors of the Castle Church. If you watch long enough, legend has it that on this day you will see something else fastened to the door of this church: Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. Luther was reacting to abuses in the Roman Catholic Church. And in response to those abuses, Luther gives us 95 Theses, a confession if you will, of what Luther holds to be essence of Christian belief. Luther sought to set the record straight by way of confessing a particular set of beliefs that he held were the expression of true Christianity.

Then again, in response to Charles I, the Long Parliament was called to assembly in Westminster to discuss the reform of the Church of England. The result was the Westminster Confession of Faith. In addition to this we can add the reaction of the Baptists who differed with their Presbyterian brothers on the nature of the covenants, and restructured the confession with one of their own, known as the Second London Baptist Confession. This latter confession deviates only on a few points from the older Westminster Confession. These great confessions were designed with the same spirit as the early Christian creeds. Moreover, they were in keeping with a long held rich tradition that goes back to the very beginning of man’s covenantal relationship with God.


Why Christians should care about the biblical covenants
The reason Christians must care about the biblical covenants is because the covenant is the vehicle by which God enters relations with all His creatures and especially with His elect. He covenants with us. The truth is that God has never related to man apart from a covenant. The covenant defines the terms of God’s relationship with man and man’s responsibilities to God. Robertson says, “In its most essential aspect, a covenant is that which binds people together. Nothing lies closer to the heart of biblical concept of the covenant than the imagery of a bond violable.” [Robertson: The Christ of the Covenants] All Christians relate to God via the blood of Christ spilled in the New Covenant. (Heb. 9:28) Modern Americans have numerous casual relationships. God has none! God does not engage in informal relations or casual relations whatsoever. Modern Christians view their relationship with God the same way they view their relationship with others. This is simply wrong. According to Nehemiah Coxe, the covenant “implies a free and sovereign act of the divine will exerted in condescending love and goodness.” [Coxe: Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ] God stoops down to enter covenant relation with His creatures. The picture is nothing short of stunning and glorious. What this means of course is that unless you understand that God’s relationship is always covenantal in nature, then you do not understand the nature of God’s relationship with His creation and especially His elect. I could be wrong, but I think this means that every Christian should have a firm understanding of the biblical covenants, their nature, and how they operate. And if they do not possess such an understanding, then they must be presently working on attaining one. Nothing less will do if you truly care about the nature of your relationship with God and His relationship with you.

Why Christians should care about the ancient creeds
Philip Schaff begins his work, The Creeds of Christendom, “The Bible is the Word of God to man; the Creed is man’s answer to God. The Bible reveals the truth in the popular form of life and fact; the Creed states the truth in the logical form of doctrine. The Bible is to be believed and obeyed; the Creed is to be professed and taught.” To being with, creeds and confessions are significantly important in Scripture. For example, the basis for the most fundamental of all Christian confessions is located in Deut. 6:4     “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!” That God is one is revealed truth. That our God is one is the confession of God’s own. We fast-forward to the New Testament and a different scene. Jesus asked His disciples who men thought He was and Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God.” This is Peter’s great confession about the identity of Christ. Paul gives us a wonderful confession about the mystery of godliness in 1 Tim. 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory.” There are many other examples in the text that teach us the significance of confession in our devotion and worship of God. One cannot help but wonder how something so obviously significant and important in the text has come to be so neglected and ignored in so many modern versions of Christianity. I think I have a word for it: existentialism.

The Major Covenants are Scripture are as follows:
The Covenant of Works: Genesis 1:28-30; 2:15-17
The Noahic Covenant: Genesis 9:1-17
The Abrahamic Covenant(s): Genesis 12:1-3; 17; 22:15-18 
The Mosaic Covenant: Genesis 19-24
The New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:27-40; Matt. 26:26; Heb. 8

The Great Creeds and Confessions would include:
The Apostles Creed
The Nicene Creed
The Athanasian Creed
The Canons of Dordt
The Belgic Confession
The Westminster Confession
The London Baptist Confession 1689

A couple of recommendations:
Church History In Plain Language (Bruce Shelley)
The History of Christianity (Justo L. Gonzalez) 2-volumes
Turning Points (Mark A. Noll)

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