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Deuteronomy 6     Psalm 89     Isaiah 34     Revelation 4

Deuteronomy 6

The Greatest Commandment

Deuteronomy 6:1 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, 2 that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

10 “And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you—with great and good cities that you did not build, 11 and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant—and when you eat and are full, 12 then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 13 It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. 14 You shall not go after other gods, the gods of the peoples who are around you— 15 for the LORD your God in your midst is a jealous God—lest the anger of the LORD your God be kindled against you, and he destroy you from off the face of the earth.

16 “You shall not put the LORD your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. 17 You shall diligently keep the commandments of the LORD your God, and his testimonies and his statutes, which he has commanded you. 18 And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may go well with you, and that you may go in and take possession of the good land that the LORD swore to give to your fathers 19 by thrusting out all your enemies from before you, as the LORD has promised.

20 “When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 And the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. 23 And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. 25 And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us.’

Psalm 89

I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD

Psalm 89 A Maskil Of Ethan The Ezrahite.

I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
2  For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
3  You have said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one;
I have sworn to David my servant:
4  ‘I will establish your offspring forever,
and build your throne for all generations.’ ” Selah

5  Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD,
your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones!
6  For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD?
Who among the heavenly beings is like the LORD,
7  a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him?
8  O LORD God of hosts,
who is mighty as you are, O LORD,
with your faithfulness all around you?
9  You rule the raging of the sea;
when its waves rise, you still them.
10  You crushed Rahab like a carcass;
you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11  The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
12  The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name.
13  You have a mighty arm;
strong is your hand, high your right hand.
14  Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.
15  Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
16  who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted.
17  For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
18  For our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel.

19  Of old you spoke in a vision to your godly one, and said:
“I have granted help to one who is mighty;
I have exalted one chosen from the people.
20  I have found David, my servant;
with my holy oil I have anointed him,
21  so that my hand shall be established with him;
my arm also shall strengthen him.
22  The enemy shall not outwit him;
the wicked shall not humble him.
23  I will crush his foes before him
and strike down those who hate him.
24  My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him,
and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
25  I will set his hand on the sea
and his right hand on the rivers.
26  He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father,
my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’
27  And I will make him the firstborn,
the highest of the kings of the earth.
28  My steadfast love I will keep for him forever,
and my covenant will stand firm for him.
29  I will establish his offspring forever
and his throne as the days of the heavens.
30  If his children forsake my law
and do not walk according to my rules,
31  if they violate my statutes
and do not keep my commandments,
32  then I will punish their transgression with the rod
and their iniquity with stripes,
33  but I will not remove from him my steadfast love
or be false to my faithfulness.

     To be sure, ‘self-satisfaction’ in fallen human beings is a particularly unpleasant phenomenon, whether it refers to the satisfying of our instincts and passions or to our complacency. Since we are tainted and twisted with selfishness, to say ‘I must satisfy myself’ lacks self-control, while to say ‘I am satisfied with myself’ lacks humility. But there is no lack of self-control or humility in God, since he is perfect in all his thoughts and desires. To say that he must ‘satisfy himself’ means that he must be himself and act according to the perfection of his nature or ‘name’. The necessity of ‘satisfaction’ for God, therefore, is not found in anything outside himself but within himself, in his own immutable character. It is an inherent or intrinsic necessity. The law to which he must conform, which he must satisfy, is the law of his own being. Negatively, he ‘cannot disown himself’ (2 Tim. 2:13); he cannot contradict himself; he ‘never lies’ (Titus 1:2, RSV: apseudēs, ‘free from all deceit’), for the simple reason that ‘it is impossible for God to lie’ (Heb. 6:18); he is never arbitrary, unpredictable or capricious; he says ‘I will not...be false to my faithfulness’ (Ps. 89:33, RSV). Positively, he is ‘a faithful God who does no wrong’ (Deut. 32:4). That is, he is true to himself; he is always invariably himself.    ( The Cross of Christ )

34  I will not violate my covenant
or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35  Once for all I have sworn by my holiness;
I will not lie to David.
36  His offspring shall endure forever,
his throne as long as the sun before me.
37  Like the moon it shall be established forever,
a faithful witness in the skies.” Selah

38  But now you have cast off and rejected;
you are full of wrath against your anointed.
39  You have renounced the covenant with your servant;
you have defiled his crown in the dust.
40  You have breached all his walls;
you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
41  All who pass by plunder him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors.
42  You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43  You have also turned back the edge of his sword,
and you have not made him stand in battle.
44  You have made his splendor to cease
and cast his throne to the ground.
45  You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with shame. Selah

46  How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
47  Remember how short my time is!
For what vanity you have created all the children of man!
48  What man can live and never see death?
Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah

49  Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
50  Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked,
and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations,
51  with which your enemies mock, O LORD,
with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.

52  Blessed be the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen.

Isaiah 34

Judgment on the Nations

Isaiah 34:1

Draw near, O nations, to hear,
and give attention, O peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;
the world, and all that comes from it.
2  For the LORD is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
3  Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
4  All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.

5  For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens;
behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom,
upon the people I have devoted to destruction.
6  The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood;
it is gorged with fat,
with the blood of lambs and goats,
with the fat of the kidneys of rams.
For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7  Wild oxen shall fall with them,
and young steers with the mighty bulls.
Their land shall drink its fill of blood,
and their soil shall be gorged with fat.

8  For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9  And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,
and her soil into sulfur;
her land shall become burning pitch.
10  Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
none shall pass through it forever and ever.
11  But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it,
the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
He shall stretch the line of confusion over it,
and the plumb line of emptiness.
12  Its nobles—there is no one there to call it a kingdom,
and all its princes shall be nothing.

13  Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,
nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
an abode for ostriches.
14  And wild animals shall meet with hyenas;
the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
indeed, there the night bird settles
and finds for herself a resting place.

15  There the owl nests and lays
and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
each one with her mate.
16  Seek and read from the book of the LORD:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the LORD has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.
17  He has cast the lot for them;
his hand has portioned it out to them with the line;
they shall possess it forever;
from generation to generation they shall dwell in it.

Revelation 4

The Throne in Heaven

Revelation 4 After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 2 At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. 3 And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. 4 Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, 6 and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: 7 the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”

9 And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

11  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”

The Reformation Study Bible

What I'm Reading

Praying for Church Leaders

By Rob Norris 6/1/2008

     I am not used to being considered a heretic. Yet recently, when a colleague and I visited a friend who teaches theology at a famous British university, we found ourselves faced with this charge! In a conversation that had quickly turned to the subject of theology, we found ourselves defending the idea that the death of Jesus Christ was that of a penal substitution in which He in our place bore the wrath of God that rightfully should have been visited upon us. This understanding is both biblical and the historic confession of the church, yet it was this that earned for us the charge of heresy from one who is a self-confessed evangelical theologian. Subsequently, I have realized that this doctrine of penal substitution is increasingly being challenged both by theologians and preachers as an example of “cosmic child-abuse” with no part in an authentic proclamation of the Christian Gospel. This situation provides insight as to why it is important to pray for church leaders.

     Yet it is symptomatic of a sad truth. If praying for church leaders seems to have gone out of style, perhaps an underlying reason for this is that the church often adopts the standards and ideas of the world. In our pursuit of success where the obvious mark of that success is size, influence, power, and money, church leaders are under constant pressure to produce evidence of growth, and technique and program are the obvious means by which this is achieved. In this framework there is no place given for prayer, which speaks of a supernatural framework of thought that is alien to the modern world.

     In order to be successful, congregations look to their leaders to be endowed with entrepreneurial spirits and the necessary charisma to meet all expectations. Superstars are exalted and those who do not have that magnetism nor share in those gifts are compared unfavorably with those who can generate success. Thus, criticism, not prayer, becomes the norm for congregations. Nor is the blame to lie solely with congregations because often their leaders are the very ones who have reduced Christian ministry to techniques and programs, and have substituted methodology for the ministry of the Holy Spirit, looking to human plans rather than divine guidance and blessing. As a consequence, they do not look for prayer as the vital need for their ministries. Divine blessing is seen only in terms of human success.

     This is a very different picture than the one offered by the apostle Paul who understood that the nature of his ministry was essentially spiritual. It was because of this understanding that he sought the prayers of the congregations to which he ministered.

     His requests were marked by urgency because he knew that he both wanted and needed the prayers of God’s people. The apostle was well aware that the work in which he was engaged was spiritual and had eternal consequences. He was aware that entrusted to his care was the proclamation of the Gospel, the careful unfolding of God’s truth, and the diligent defense of that Gospel against all distortion. He recognized that such a ministry required more than human ability and could not be undertaken without prayer. The partnership with the congregations to whom he ministered was vital: “I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf” (Rom. 15:30).

     Paul was aware that he needed the prayers of the congregations that he served because he was a sinner and was aware that he could be tempted and could easily give in to those temptations. Clearly Paul knew that he faced intimidation and the ever-present temptation to compromise the nature of the Gospel message in the interests of peace and tolerance, which is why he requested and needed the prayers of God’s people. He saw the role of those he served to support him with their prayers. In fact, when writing to the church at Ephesus he was clear that the role of prayerful support created a partnership in the work of the Gospel ministry. As such, he clearly regarded it as a high privilege that involved “striving,” and, far from being passive, was an active and vital ministry: “[pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:19).

     He saw that the work of the Gospel is an essentially spiritual work. Paul knew nothing of being dependent upon technique or program to accomplish his work, and his appeal was for spiritual support because he knew that he was battling spiritual powers that were arrayed against Him and were hostile to God and His purpose. Today it is easy to be seduced by the secular mindset into dismissing the spiritual nature of Christian ministry and fail to see that there is a combating of dark and hostile spiritual forces that can be met only with humble dependence upon God, diligence in the study of His Word, and devotion to the Gospel of Christ.

     It is the role of the church leader to keep watch over the souls of God’s people. And to be effective in this role, as in all the other aspects of ministry, he needs the prayers of God’s people.

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Dr. Rob Norris is the senior pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, MD.

Pluralistic Worship

By Terry L. Johnson 6/1/2008

     During the Reformation era, debates raged over what things must be considered crucial to Christian faith and practice, and what could be considered adiaphora (Latin for “things indifferent”). All sides agreed that the doctrines of the Trinity, the atonement, and justification were central. But what about worship issues? What about the elements of worship, sacramental theology, church architecture, and furnishings?

     Theological considerations drove the Reformers to insist upon biblical preaching, congregational singing, vernacular Bible readings and services, and sacramental practices that were consistent with their rejection of a sacrificial understanding of the Eucharist. The Reformers did not always agree on the details, but the principle was clear: “Let us, therefore, repudiate everything that smacks of sacrifice,” said Luther in his Formula Missae (1523). One could argue (I wouldn’t, but one could) that there is nothing wrong with a minister standing in front of the table, with turning his back on the people as he mumbles the words of institution, with elevating the host, with fencing the altar with a rail that keeps the laity at a distance, with serving a communion wafer that won’t crumble. All of these could perhaps be justified with reference to reverence for the eucharistic service, with the aim of maintaining dignity and order. One could argue that they are adiaphora. However, to many Protestants they were not adiaphora, because, they argued, these practices grew out of the doctrine of transubstantiation and implied a sacrificial understanding of the mass.

     Is the sacramental host a sacrificial offering of Christ’s flesh and blood placed by a priest on an altar that satisfies, even propitiates a holy God? Yes, said the medieval church, Tridentine, and even post-Vatican II (1960s) Roman Catholicism. If so, then of course one should perform the miracle of the mass at a distance from carnal curiosity seekers; of course the host should be elevated and adored — it is, after all, the actual body of Christ; of course great pains should be taken to prevent clumsy or careless lay people from spilling the wine (so deny them the cup) or dropping crumbs of Christ’s flesh (hence wafers).

     But since (in a Protestant understanding of things) none of these things is true, language, gestures, and furnishings that imply that they are true cannot be regarded as adiaphora. They must be purged from the church’s eucharistic practices. Priests must be called “ministers” or “pastors,” and altars must be replaced with tables. As Luther put it: “everything that smacks of sacrifice” must be repudiated. Everything that implies sacrifice must be removed. Calvin summarized: “[The Lord] has given us a table at which to feast, not an altar on which a victim is to be offered; he has not consecrated priests to make sacrifice, but servants [ministros] to distribute the sacred feast” (Institutes, 4.18.12). Neo-medievalists in conservative evangelical circles would do well to learn the language of church architecture, furnishings, and gestures, and not naively reinstate that which we theologically reject.

     But the real point of this article is not the Lord’s Supper. We regard as axiomatic the principle that worship cannot be entertainment. Worship as entertainment is idolatry. By definition worship must be about God, not my amusement. Here is where disagreement exists: stages, theater-lighting, bands, dancers, dramatists, hand-held microphones, all up front, the service performed on behalf of an audience relaxing in theater-style seating. Is this adiaphora? Normally, issues of seating, lighting, placement of musicians, style of platform might have qualified as things indifferent, just as the elevation and adoration of the host might have been considered adiaphora. But a line has been crossed in our generation. Much of what passes for worship today is nothing more than lightly baptized entertainment, and therefore is idolatrous. It is idolatry from which serious churches must distance themselves. Our principle must be (with apologies to Luther): “Let us, therefore, repudiate everything that smacks of entertainment.”

     Has the time come when the sanctuaries of evangelical Protestantism must be cleansed of everything that reflects the world of entertainment? Our Reformed forefathers took axes to the altars, and they whitewashed the walls of medieval churches. If our analysis of worship that entertains is correct, similar iconoclastic fury must be shown, and soon, in our houses of worship lest they become houses of mirth: theater seats pulled out; stages broken up; dancers and actors banished; musicians’ and choirs’ roles redefined as that of simply supporting and enhancing congregational singing; pulpit, table, and font restored to their proper places; pastors moved back behind pulpits; and simple services of the Word read, preached, sung, prayed, and seen (in the sacraments) reestablished. What was once indifferent can be considered indifferent no more, not if Reformed Protestantism is to continue to practice purity in its worship and avoid idolatry. “Little children,” says the apostle John, “keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

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     Rev. Terry L. Johnson is senior minister of Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, GA. Per Amazon | Terry Johnson was born and raised in Los Angeles. He studied history at the University of Southern California, and also studied at Trinity College, Bristol, England, and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, before earning his D.Min in 2008 from Erskine Theological Seminary. He is ordained in the Presbyterian Church in America and was assistant minister in Coral Gables, Florida, before moving to Savannah in 1987 to the Independent Presbyterian Church. Emily, have five children.

Terry Johnson Books:

"Jesus of the Scars"

By Edward Shillito (1872-1948)

If we have never sought, we seek Thee now;
Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars;
We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow,
We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars.
The heavens frighten us; they are too calm;
In all the universe we have no place.
Our wounds are hurting us; where is the balm?
Lord Jesus, by Thy Scars, we claim Thy grace.
If, when the doors are shut, Thou drawest near,
Only reveal those hands, that side of Thine;
We know to-day what wounds are, have no fear,
Show us Thy Scars, we know the countersign.
The other gods were strong; but Thou wast weak;
They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne;
But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak,
And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.

     Edward Shillito was a a Free Church minister in England during World War I:

How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil

What if the Muslims Won?

By Gene Edward Veith 7/1/2008

     On October 10, 732 a.d., some 80,000 Muslim cavalrymen attacked 30,000 Frankish infantrymen near Tours in present-day France. Those Muslims had already conquered Northern Africa and Spain, and they were poised to sweep over the rest of Europe.

     Normally, foot soldiers are no match for horsemen with lances, especially when outnumbered. So the Frankish king, Charles “The Hammer” Martel, arrayed his men at the top of a steep wooded hill, hoping that having to charge uphill and avoid trees would at least slow down the Muslim cavalry. Most importantly, he had his men huddle together to form a large square, their holding up their shields to form a “shield wall” and creating a thicket of spears to fend off the horses.

     If anyone broke away from the group, if anyone ran away, if the shield wall collapsed so as to force a scattered retreat, the horsemen would easily cut them down as they ran. But during the battle, as wave after wave of cavalry threw themselves against the formation, the shield wall held. Not only that, the Franks utterly defeated the invaders, slew the Muslim general, and drove his surviving forces back over the Pyrenees.

     Mental experiment: What if the shield wall broke? What if the Muslims won the Battle of Tours? What if the Muslims in the eighth century took over Western Europe? If they did, what would our culture look like today?

     Thinking that surely Western civilization would have survived despite a Muslim conquest is naive. Medieval Christendom was probably not as culturally robust as the Byzantine Empire was, but after Constantinople fell to the Muslims much later, hardly anything survived that culture’s Islamicization.

     Just saying that we would be like Iraq or Iran is surely not enough. In their clothing, architecture, and technology, these Islamic countries show a Western influence. When the jihadist terrorists attack Western civilization, they are using bombs, guns, and Internet communications that Western civilization has made.

     So let us imagine what our culture would be like if the Muslims conquered Europe, as very nearly happened.

     We would have no legislatures, since Islam does not recognize the creation of new laws, since the Shari’a of the Qur’an is considered sufficient for all time. This would be enforced by an absolute ruler, such as an emperor or caliph. We would today either own or be slaves. The kinds of political liberty we take for granted today would not exist.

     Islam does not approve of representation art, just elaborate designs for their mosques and tapestries, so we would not have much heritage in the visual arts, and the development of distinctly visual media, such as film and television, would be unlikely. We would have little, if any, music, whether symphonic compositions or rock ‘n’ roll. Islamic countries usually have religious and erotic poetry, but, despite occasional tales such as The Arabian Nights, we would probably have little fiction. The novel would not have been invented. Islam has no drama, and without the biblical plays of the early church and without Shakespeare, neither would we.

     We might have some science. The ancient Muslim world was good with mathematics. But it would not take the same form. Science would probably remain in the realm of the abstract and theoretical, missing the way Western engineers turned scientific discoveries into applied technology.

     Christianity would survive. Christ has promised that. But the church would be marginalized and restricted. Islamic tolerance means that Christians would be allowed to stay in their little groups and propagate their faith within existing families, as long as they pay deference to Islam. But woe to you if you try to evangelize a Muslim. Our churches would be little enclaves, as with the Assyrians in Iraq or the Copts in Egypt. Christianity would exist, but Muslims would control the culture.

     The Qur’an seeks to establish — and to fix permanently — the laws of Allah. Shari’a does not change, and so the culture it governs will not change, especially if it escapes the contingencies of history by becoming universalized.

     Christianity teaches that human institutions are to be judged according to the transcendent moral law of God. Thus we have the habit of criticizing our rulers and our institutions when they do not measure up. And because Christianity teaches that we live in a fallen world, we know they never do. And because this world is not absolute but contingent, that it passes away, we accept and sometimes even cause cultural change.

     In short, if it were not for that Frankish soldier who refused to run when the Muslim horses charged down on him, we would still be, for all practical purposes, in the eighth century.

     To think what Islam’s cultural influence would have been throws Christianity’s cultural influence in high relief. Christianity either directly shaped or allowed to come into being what we now recognize as Western civilization.

     That the shield wall held is an example of God’s providential reign over history.

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     Dr. Gene Edward Veith is provost emeritus and professor of literature emeritus at Patrick Henry College and director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Gene Edward Veith Books:

We Don’t Need Supermen

By Howard Q. Davis Jr. 7/1/2008

     In chapter two of Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change (Resources for Changing Lives), Paul David Tripp relates a story of a church member who called the pastor to get him to help a man. Tripp’s comment to the member was, “Isn’t God’s love amazing? God cares about this man and put one of His children in his path. God cares about you and has given you the opportunity to be an instrument in His hands.” Those of us who are not pastors are prone to want the pastor to do everything! We expect him to be in charge of everything from moving tables for the ladies’ meeting to being the chief administrative officer. That is certainly not the pastor’s role. The flip side of the coin is that in many churches the pastor wants to be and is the CEO, but that is not a biblical model either and will, ultimately, lead to serious problems for the ministry.

     As John MacArthur says in The Master's Plan for the Church: “Understandably, elders cannot afford to allow themselves to be consumed with business details, public relations, minor financial matters, and other particulars of the day-to-day operation of the church. They are to devote themselves first of all to prayer and to the ministry of the Word, and to select others to handle lesser matters.” The biblical model of a pastorate is that of a team effort. In every place in the New Testament where the term presbuteros (that is, “elder”) is used it is plural, except where the writer is referring only to himself. Nowhere in the New Testament is there reference to a single-pastor congregation. The church at Jerusalem included apostles and elders (Acts 11; 15); the church at Antioch had prophets and teachers (Acts 13:1). The churches at Crete, Philippi, and Ephesus all had elders, also called “bishops.”

     Don Clements in Biblical Church Government (A Presbyterian Primer) writes that “in each of the earliest developing New Testament churches, there was clearly a plurality of elders in leadership. In other words, the church was not governed by the decision of one person…. Rather, it was to be governed by groups of elders working together. This is one of the most important points in the biblical form of church government, but one that is frequently misunderstood, wrongfully practiced, and maligned in today’s churches.” There are a number of problems with a single leader. We are all sinners, and, without someone else participating, one may become a “religious dictator.” The vast number of chores in the church is too enormous for one man to handle physically, mentally, and emotionally. In trying to do them all, as Clements says, “The strongest of leaders, left on his own, will quickly burn out.” Scripture requires that we examine every word that comes from the pulpit; if there is only one decision maker, there is not going to be much examination of what he says. Many denominations have gone down the road to apostasy by not having such an examination, and I think it is particularly true in this age of easy-belivism and pluralistic beliefs. The same was true in Jeremiah’s day (see Jer. 5:30–31; 6:13–14).

     The idea of multiple elders is not new to the New Testament church. They are seen functioning throughout the Old Testament. God, when speaking to Moses from the burning bush, instructs him to “gather the elders” (Ex 3:16). It is unlikely that this means only the older men, but this is the first use of the term in Scripture. However, in numerous passages in Deuteronomy we can see that the “elders” are assigned specific responsibilities (19:12; 21:19–20; 22:15–18; 25:7–9; 31:9–13). By the time of Christ, elders were an institution in the Jewish synagogues.

     The function of elders in both the Old and New Testaments is to exercise “oversight” of the church. The tasks of elders, as set forth in Scripture, include preaching, teaching, watching over the doctrine, exercising discipline, visiting the sick, praying, feeding the flock, and overseeing the congregation.

     Paul in his letter to the Philippians describes two groups of officers in the church: bishops (overseers or elders) and deacons (Phil. 1:1). The special purpose of the deacon is found in Acts 6:1–7; they assist the elders in the ministry to the poor and widows (mercy ministry) so the elders can devote themselves to the ministry of prayer and the Word. As the name implies in the Greek, the deacons’ primary function is that of service. They perform their duties under the oversight of the elders. As Brian Habig and Les Newsom point out in their excellent work The Enduring Community, “The Word had to be preached in order for lives to be changed and hearts to be converted. So fundamental was this activity to the life of the church that nothing was to be allowed to distract them from its practice…. So committed were the disciples to these primary activities that they instituted an entire office dedicated to the temporal, or physical, needs of the church.”

     Not only is rule by a plurality of elders the biblical model, it gives the pastor a great deal of protection. If the preacher acts as a CEO, then every decision he makes will give some disgruntled parishioner ammunition to use against him. When the elders make a decision, it is a group decision, and therefore not the pastor’s alone!

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     Retired Judge Howard Q. Davis Jr. is a ruling elder at First Presbyterian Church in Indianola, Mississippi. He also served as the moderator of the 33rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.

Deut. 6; Psalm 89; Isaiah 34; Revelation 4

By Don Carson 6/2/2018

     We have come accross other passages dealing with the importance of passing on the heritage of biblical truth to the next generation. That theme lies at the heart of Deuteronomy 6. Fresh points that are especially underlined include:

     (1) The ancient Israelites were to teach the next generation to fear the God of the covenant. Moses teaches the people “so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live” (Deut. 6:2). When in the future a son asks his father what the laws mean, the father is to explain the background, the Exodus, and the covenant: “The LORD commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the LORD our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today” (Deut. 6:24). We might well ask ourselves what steps we take to teach our children to fear the Lord our God, not with the cringing terror that is frightened of whimsical malice but with the profound conviction that this God is perfectly just and does not play around with sin.

     (2) Moses underscores the constancy with which the next generation is to be taught. The commandments Moses passes on are to remain on the “hearts”of the people (Deut. 6:6; we would probably say minds). Out of this abundance, the next words follow: “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:7). Even what they wore and how they decorated their houses should serve as reminders of the law of God (Deut. 6:8-9). We might well ask ourselves how constantly we teach our children the content of Scripture. In ancient Israel children usually learned their vocational skills from their parents, spending countless hours with them, which provided many opportunities to pass on the blessings of the covenant. Our more fragmented culture means we must make opportunities.

     (3) Above all, the older generation was to model utter loyalty to God (Deut. 6:13-19). This consistent modeling was to include an utter repudiation of idolatry, obedience to the demands of the covenant, revering the name of the Lord God, doing “what is right and good in the LORD’s sight” (Deut. 6:18). How faithfully have we, by our own living, commended serious God-centeredness to our children?

     (4) There must be a sensitive awareness of the opportunities to answer questions our children raise (Deut. 6:20-25). Never bluff. If you do not know the answer, find out, or find someone who does. We must ask ourselves if we make maximum use of the questions our children raise.

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Don Carson is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and co-founder (with Tim Keller) of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, and recently edited The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Eerdmans, 2016).

Don Carson Books:

Read The Psalms In "1" Year

Psalm 58

God Who Judges the Earth
58 To The Choirmaster: According To Do Not Destroy. A Miktam Of David.

1 Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
2 No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.

3 The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5 so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.

ESV Study Bible

The Institutes of the Christian Religion

Translated by Henry Beveridge

     22. But that I may not be forced to discuss and follow out each point singly, I again appeal to those who, in the present day, would be thought the best and most faithful defenders of the Roman See, whether they are not ashamed to defend the existing state of the Papacy, which is clearly a hundred times more corrupt than in the days of Gregory and Bernard, though even then these holy men were so much displeased with it. Gregory everywhere complains (Lib. 1 Ep. 5; item, Ep. 7, 25, &c.) that he was distracted above measure by foreign occupations: that under colour of the episcopate he was taken back to the world, being subject to more worldly cares than he remembered to have ever had when a laic; that he was so oppressed by the trouble of secular affairs, as to be unable to raise his mind to things above; that he was so tossed by the many billows of causes, and afflicted by the tempests of a tumultuous life, that he might well say, "I am come into the depths of the sea." It is certain, that amid these worldly occupations, he could teach the people in sermons, admonish in private, and correct those who required it; order the Church, give counsel to his colleagues, and exhort them to their duty. Moreover, some time was left for writing, and yet he deplores it as his calamity, that he was plunged into the very deepest sea. If the administration at that time was a sea, what shall we say of the present Papacy? For what resemblance is there between the periods? Now there are no sermons, no care for discipline, no zeal for churches, no spiritual function; nothing, in short, but the world. And yet this labyrinth is lauded as if nothing could be found better ordered and arranged. What complaints also does Bernard pour forth, what groans does he utter, when he beholds the vices of his own age? What then would he have done on beholding this iron, or, if possible, worse than iron, age of ours? How dishonest, therefore, not only obstinately to defend as sacred and divine what all the saints have always with one mouth disapproved, but to abuse their testimony in favour of the Papacy, which, it is evident, was altogether unknown to them? Although I admit, in respect to the time of Bernard, that all things were so corrupt as to make it not unlike our own. But it betrays a want of all sense of shame to seek any excuse from that middle period--namely, from that of Leo, Gregory, and the like--for it is just as if one were to vindicate the monarchy of the Cæsars by lauding the ancient state of the Roman empire; in other words, were to borrow the praises of liberty in order to eulogise tyranny.

23. Lastly, Although all these things were granted, an entirely new question arises, when we deny that there is at Rome a Church in which privileges of this nature can reside; when we deny that there is a bishop to sustain the dignity of these privileges. Assume, therefore, that all these things are true (though we have already extorted the contrary from them), that Peter was by the words of Christ constituted head of the universal Church, and that the honour thus conferred upon him he deposited in the Roman See, that this was sanctioned by the authority of the ancient Church, and confirmed by long use; that supreme power was always with one consent devolved by all on the Roman Pontiff, that while he was the judge of all causes and all men, he was subject to the judgment of none. Let even more be conceded to them if they will, I answer, in one word, that none of these things avail if there be not a Church and a Bishop at Rome. They must of necessity concede to me that she is not a mother of churches who is not herself a church, that he cannot be the chief of bishops who is not himself a bishop. Would they then have the Apostolic See at Rome? Let them give me a true and lawful apostleship. Would they have a supreme pontiff, let them give me a bishop. But how? Where will they show me any semblance of a church? They, no doubt, talk of one, and have it ever in their mouths. But surely the Church is recognised by certain marks, and bishopric is the name of an office. I am not now speaking of the people but of the government, which ought perpetually to be conspicuous in the Church. Where, then, is a ministry such as the institution of Christ requires? Let us remember what was formerly said of the duty of presbyters and bishops. If we bring the office of cardinals to that test, we will acknowledge that they are nothing less than presbyters. But I should like to know what one quality of a bishop the Pope himself has? The first point in the office of a bishop is to instruct the people in the word of God; the second and next to it is to administer the sacraments; the third is to admonish and exhort, to correct those who are in fault, and restrain the people by holy discipline. Which of these things does he do? Nay, which of these things does he pretend to do? Let them say, then, on what ground they will have him to be regarded as a bishop, who does not even in semblance touch any part of the duty with his little finger.

24. It is not with a bishop as with a king; the latter, though he does not execute the proper duty of a king, nevertheless retains the title and the honour; but in deciding on a bishop respect is had to the command of Christ, to which effect ought always to be given in the Church. Let the Romanists then untie this knot. I deny that their pontiff is the prince of bishops, seeing he is no bishop. This allegation of mine they must prove to be false if they would succeed in theirs. What then do I maintain? That he has nothing proper to a bishop, but is in all things the opposite of a bishop. But with what shall I here begin? With doctrine or with morals? What shall I say, or what shall I pass in silence, or where shall I end? This I maintain: while in the present day the world is so inundated with perverse and impious doctrines, so full of all kinds of superstition, so blinded by error and sunk in idolatry, there is not one of them which has not emanated from the Papacy, or at least been confirmed by it. Nor is there any other reason why the pontiffs are so enraged against the reviving doctrine of the Gospel, why they stretch every nerve to oppress it, and urge all kings and princes to cruelty, than just that they see their whole dominion tottering and falling to pieces the moment the Gospel of Christ prevails. Leo was cruel and Clement sanguinary, Paul is truculent. But in assailing the truth, it is not so much natural temper that impels them as the conviction that they have no other method of maintaining their power. Therefore, seeing they cannot be safe unless they put Christ to flight, they labour in this cause as if they were fighting for their altars and hearths, for their own lives and those of their adherents. What then? Shall we recognise the Apostolic See where we see nothing but horrible apostacy? Shall he be the vicar of Christ who, by his furious efforts in persecuting the Gospel, plainly declares himself to be Antichrist? Shall he be the successor of Peter who goes about with fire and sword demolishing everything that Peter built? Shall he be the Head of the Church who, after dissevering the Church from Christ, her only true Head, tears and lacerates her members? Rome, indeed, was once the mother of all the churches, but since she began to be the seat of Antichrist she ceased to be what she was.

25. To some we seem slanderous and petulant, when we call the Roman Pontiff Antichrist. But those who think so perceive not that they are bringing a charge of intemperance against Paul, after whom we speak, nay, in whose very words we speak. But lest any one object that Paul's words have a different meaning, and are wrested by us against the Roman Pontiff, I will briefly show that they can only be understood of the Papacy. Paul says that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4). In another passage, the Spirit, portraying him in the person of Antiochus, says that his reign would be with great swelling words of vanity (Dan. 7:25). Hence we infer that his tyranny is more over souls than bodies, a tyranny set up in opposition to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Then his nature is such, that he abolishes not the name either of Christ or the Church, but rather uses the name of Christ as a pretext, and lurks under the name of Church as under a mask. But though all the heresies and schisms which have existed from the beginning belong to the kingdom of Antichrist, yet when Paul foretells that defection will come, he by the description intimates that that seat of abomination will be erected, when a kind of universal defection comes upon the Church, though many members of the Church scattered up and down should continue in the true unity of the faith. But when he adds, that in his own time, the mystery of iniquity, which was afterwards to be openly manifested, had begun to work in secret, we thereby understand that this calamity was neither to be introduced by one man, nor to terminate in one man (see Calv. in 2 Thess. 2:3; Dan. 7:9). Moreover, when the mark by which he distinguishes Antichrist is, that he would rob God of his honour and take it to himself, he gives the leading feature which we ought to follow in searching out Antichrist; especially when pride of this description proceeds to the open devastation of the Church. Seeing then it is certain that the Roman Pontiff has impudently transferred to himself the most peculiar properties of God and Christ, there cannot be a doubt that he is the leader and standard-bearer of an impious and abominable kingdom.

26. Let the Romanists now go and oppose us with antiquity; as if, amid such a complete change in every respect, the honour of the See can continue where there is no See. Eusebius says that God, to make way for his vengeance, transferred the Church which was at Jerusalem to Pella (Euseb. Lib. 3 cap. 5). What we are told was once done may have been done repeatedly. Hence it is too absurd and ridiculous so to fix the honour of the primacy to a particular spot, so that he who is in fact the most inveterate enemy of Christ, the chief adversary of the Gospel, the greatest devastator and waster of the Church, the most cruel slayer and murderer of the saints, should be, nevertheless, regarded as the vicegerent of Christ, the successor of Peter, the first priest of the Church, merely because he occupies what was formerly the first of all sees. I do not say how great the difference is between the chancery of the Pope and well-regulated order in the Church; although this one fact might well set the question at rest. For no man of sound mind will include the episcopate in lead and bulls, much less in that administration of captions and circumscriptions, in which the spiritual government of the Pope is supposed to consist. It has therefore been elegantly said, that that vaunted Roman Church was long ago converted into a temporal court, the only thing which is now seen at Rome. I am not here speaking of the vices of individuals, but demonstrating that the Papacy itself is diametrically opposed to the ecclesiastical system.

27. But if we come to individuals, it is well known what kind of vicars of Christ we shall find. No doubt, Julius and Leo, and Clement and Paul, will be pillars of the Christian faith, the first interpreters of religion, though they knew nothing more of Christ than they had learned in the school of Lucian. But why give the names of three or four pontiffs? as if there were any doubt as to the kind of religion professed by pontiffs, with their College of Cardinals, and professors, in the present day. The first head of the secret theology which is in vogue among them is, that there is no God. Another, that whatever things have been written and are taught concerning Christ are lies and imposture. [571] A third, that the doctrine of a future life and final resurrection is a mere fable. All do not think, few speak thus; I confess it. Yet it is long since this began to be the ordinary religion of pontiffs; and though the thing is notorious to all who know Rome, Roman theologians cease not to boast that by special privilege our Saviour has provided that the Pope cannot err, because it was said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not"(Luke 22:32). What, pray, do they gain by their effrontery, but to let the whole world understand that they have reached the extreme of wickedness, so as neither to fear God nor regard man?

28. But let us suppose that the iniquity of these pontiffs whom I have mentioned is not known, as they have not published it either in sermons or writings, but betrayed it only at table or in their chamber, or at least within the walls of their court. But if they would have the privilege which they claim to be confirmed, they must expunge from their list of pontiffs John XXII., [572] who publicly maintained that the soul is mortal, and perishes with the body till the day of resurrection. And to show you that the whole See with its chief props then utterly fell, none of the Cardinals opposed his madness, only the Faculty of Paris urged the king to insist on a recantation. The king interdicted his subjects from communion with him, unless he would immediately recant, and published his interdict in the usual way by a herald. Thus necessitated, he abjured his error. This example relieves me from the necessity of disputing further with my opponents, when they say that the Roman See and its pontiffs cannot err in the faith, from its being said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not." Certainly by this shameful lapse he fell from the faith, and became a noted proof to posterity, that all are not Peters who succeed Peter in the episcopate; although the thing is too childish in itself to need an answer: for if they insist on applying everything that was said to Peter to the successors of Peter, it will follow, that they are all Satans, because our Lord once said to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me." It is as easy for us to retort the latter saying as for them to adduce the former.

29. But I have no pleasure in this absurd mode of disputation, and therefore return to the point from which I digressed. To fix down Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Church to a particular spot, so that every one who presides in it, should he be a devil, must still be deemed vicegerent of Christ, and the head of the Church, because that spot was formerly the See of Peter, is not only impious and insulting to Christ, but absurd and contrary to common sense. For a long period, the Roman Pontiffs have either been altogether devoid of religion, or been its greatest enemies. The see which they occupy, therefore, no more makes them the vicars of Christ, than it makes an idol to become God, when it is placed in the temple of God (2 Thess. 2:4). Then, if manners be inquired into, let the Popes answer for themselves, what there is in them that can make them be recognised for bishops. First, the mode of life at Rome, while they not only connive and are silent, but also tacitly approve, is altogether unworthy of bishops, whose duty it is to curb the licence of the people by the strictness of discipline. But I will not be so rigid with them as to charge them with the faults of others. But when they with their household, with almost the whole College of Cardinals, and the whole body of their clergy, are so devoted to wickedness, obscenity, uncleanness, iniquity, and crime of every description, that they resemble monsters more than men, they herein betray that they are nothing less than bishops. They need not fear that I will make a farther disclosure of their turpitude. For it is painful to wade through such filthy mire, and I must spare modest ears. But I think I have amply demonstrated what I proposed--viz. that though Rome was formerly the first of churches, she deserves not in the present day to be regarded as one of her minutest members.

30. In regard to those whom they call Cardinals, I know not how it happened that they rose so suddenly to such a height. In the age of Gregory, the name was applied to bishops only (Gregor. Lib. 2 Ep. 15, 77, 79; Ep. 6, 25). For whenever he makes mention of cardinals, he assigns them not only to the Roman Church, but to every other church, so that, in short, a Cardinal priest is nothing else than a bishop. I do not find the name among the writers of a former age. I see, however, that they were inferior to bishops, whom they now far surpass. There is a well-known passage in Augustine: "Although, in regard to terms of honour which custom has fixed in the Church, the office of bishop is greater than that of presbyter, yet in many things, Augustine is inferior to Jerome" (August. ad Hieron. Ep. 19). Here, certainly, he is not distinguishing a presbyter of the Roman Church from other presbyters, but placing all of them alike after bishops. And so strictly was this observed, that at the Council of Carthage, when two legates of the Roman See were present, one a bishop, and the other a presbyter, the latter was put in the lowest place. But not to dwell too much on ancient times, we have account of a Council held at Rome, under Gregory, at which the presbyters sit in the lowest place, and subscribe by themselves, while deacons do not subscribe at all. And, indeed, they had no office at that time, unless to be present under the bishop, and assist him in the administration of word and sacraments. So much is their lot now changed, that they have become associates of kings and Cæsars. And there can be no doubt that they have grown gradually with their head, until they reached their present pinnacle of dignity. This much it seemed proper to say in passing, that my readers may understand how very widely the Roman See, as it now exists, differs from the ancient See, under which it endeavours to cloak and defend itself. But whatever they were formerly, as they have no true and legitimate office in the Church, they only retain a colour and empty mask; nay, as they are in all respects the opposite of true ministers, the thing which Gregory so often writes must, of necessity, have befallen them. His words are, "Weeping, I say, groaning, I declare it; when the sacerdotal order has fallen within, it cannot long stand without" (Gregor. Lib. 4 Ep. 55, 56; Lib. 5 Ep. 7). Nay, rather what Malachi says of such persons must be fulfilled in them: "Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people" (Mal. 2:8, 9). I now leave all the pious to judge what the supreme pinnacle of the Roman hierarchy must be, to which the Papists, with nefarious effrontery, hesitate not to subject the word of God itself, that word which should be venerable and holy in earth and heaven, to men and angels.


[569] French, "Voila l'Archeveque d'Arles assis pour retracter; si bon lui semble la sentence de l'Eveque Romain. au moins pour juger par dessus lui."--Here is the Archbishop of Arles seated to recall, if he thinks fit, the sentence of the Bishop of Rome, or at least to judge as his superior.

[570] Nicolas, whose view is given in Decretis 17, Quæst. 3, cap. Nemini; Innocent IX. Quæst. 3, cap. Nemo. Symmachi 9. Quæst. 3, cap. Aliorum. Antherius, ibidem, cap. Facta.

[571] Erasmus, in a letter to Steuchus, says, "It may be that in Germany there are persons who do not refrain from blasphemy against God, but the severest punishment is inflicted on them. But at Rome, I have with my own ears heard men belching out horrid blasphemies against Christ and his apostles, in the presence of many besides myself, and doing it with impunity!"

[572] John Gerson, who lived at the time, attests that John XXII. openly denied the immortality of the soul.


     Christian Classics Ethereal Library / Public Domain      Institutes of the Christian Religion

  • Paul’s Pilgrimage
  • No Other Gospel
  • Hate “Fun”?

#1 John Piper  Desiring God


#2 John Piper   Desiring God


#3 John Piper   Desiring God


     Devotionals, notes, poetry and more

coram Deo
     8/1/2010    Daily Confession, Enduring Reform

     I have a friend who is a Roman Catholic. Not too long ago he went to “confession,” after which he told me, with tears welling up in his eyes, he felt “clean like a new born baby.” Confession is an integral component of the Catholic sacrament of penance. After one confesses his sins to his priest, the priest absolves his sins and he is assigned particular righteous acts of penance and prayers in accordance with the nature of his sins.

     Knowing my Protestant convictions, my friend thought I would be overjoyed to hear that he was confessing his sins and feeling clean. And although I was certainly thankful, I knew full well that such a natural emotional response would only last until his next sin. Although historically Rome has taught the necessity of both private and public confession of sin, many Catholics have been persuaded that only when they confess their sins to their priests, are absolved, and do penance that they really possess the forgiveness of God. But apart from faith alone in Christ alone, no one will ever possess the imputed righteousness of Christ for justification, which leads to a faith that is active in word and deed, and a life of both public and private confession of sins.

     In the tenth century, in one small corner of the world, the Lord raised up a new theologian in the Eastern church. Simeon (949–1022) preached against nominal Christianity, which was expressed by a merely outward faith and public confession of sins. Simeon argued that if our Christian faith is genuine, we will be engaged not only in the periodic public confession of our sins, but in the daily private confession of our sins as well. From his Discourses, we read, “Let us endeavor to attain to purity of heart, which comes from paying heed to our ways and from constant confession of secret thoughts of the soul. For if we, moved by a penitent heart, constantly and daily confess these, it produces in us repentance for what we have done or even thought.” Through the centuries the Lord has continued to sustain and reform His church by raising up faithful men to proclaim His gospel and to call His people to live coram Deo, before His face, in genuine repentance, humble confession, and authentic faith leading to a life wholeheartedly devoted to God.

     click here for article source

     Dr. Burk Parsons (@BurkParsons) is editor of Tabletalk magazine, senior pastor of Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Sanford, Fla., a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow. He is editor of John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology.

Ligonier     coram Deo (definition)

American Minute
     by Bill Federer

     There was a marriage in the White House this day, June 2nd, 1886. The only President in history to marry while in office wed Frances Folsom and together they had five children. He was both the 22nd and 24th President, being the only person to serve a second term after being defeated following his first. Who was he? Grover Cleveland. In his Second Inaugural Address, President Cleveland stated: "Above all, I know there is a Supreme Being… whose goodness and mercy have always followed the American people… He will not turn from us now if we humbly… seek His… aid."

American Minute

Lean Into God
     Compiled by Richard S. Adams

We always keep God waiting
while we admit more importunate suitors.
--- Malcolm de Chazal
Quotes for the Journey, Wisdom for the Way

We must never allow anything
to injure our relationship with God;
if it does get injured, we must take time and get it put right.
The main thing about Christianity is not the work we do,
but the relationship we maintain
and the atmosphere produced by that relationship.
That is all God asks us to look after,
and it is the one thing that is being continually assailed.
--- Oswald Chambers
The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers

Be still, and know that I am God’ (Ps. 46:10) is a wonderful antidote for a restless spirit. The Hebrew word translated ‘be still’ means ‘take your hands off, relax.’ It’s so easy for us to get impatient with the Lord and start meddling in matters that we ought to leave alone. He is God, and His hands can accomplish the impossible. Our hands may get in the way and make matters worse.
--- Warren Wiersbe
Be Committed (Ruth & Esther): Doing God's Will Whatever the Cost (The BE Series Commentary)

When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken.
--- Benjamin Disraeli
The second neurotic's notebook

... from here, there and everywhere

The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism
     CHAPTER 3 / “Israel”: The People or the Person?

     The plain sense of this word in the biblical verse is fairly obvious: “Israel” here refers to the entirety of the people summoned by Moses to hear the proclamation of divine unity. Similarly, when an individual worshiper recites these words, he is making a public proclamation. He thereby testifies to his belief, as it were, before all Israel.

     Indeed, the affirmation of divine unity is not a “private” matter between one person and God alone; it is an affirmation by each individual Jew, who in declaring this faith, integrates into kelal Yisrael, “the whole community of Israel,” as well as into the unbroken continuum of Jewish faith and faithfulness. That is why this verse begins with the word shema, “hear,” in the singular (rather than shim’u, in the plural): the original words were addressed to the entire people of Israel as one, rather than to a mass of individuals.

     For another interpretation of “Israel,” we turn to a midrash (Deuteronomy Rabbah 2:25) based upon a famous aggada mentioned in the Talmud (Pesaḥim 56a), concerning our custom of interjecting, after the first verse of Shema, a line not found in the Bible: Barukh shem kevod malkhuto le’olam va-ed, usually translated as “Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever.” In explaining why this verse has been added to the Shema, the aggada links the Shema to the biblical patriarch Jacob, whose other name was Israel:

     “And Jacob called unto his sons and said: gather together that I may tell you what will befall you in the End of Days” (
Gen. 49:1). Jacob sought to reveal to his sons the End of Days (i.e., the coming of the Messiah), but the Shekhinah departed from him (and he was unable to prophesy). He said, “Is there perhaps, Heaven forfend, some blemish in my family (that makes me unworthy of receiving the divine message)—such as Abraham, from whom there came forth Ishmael, and my father Isaac, from whom there came forth Esau?” His sons said to him: Shema Yisrael, “Hear O Israel (the cognomen of Jacob), (2) the Lord is our God, the Lord is One”; by which they meant to say, “Just as in your heart He is but One, so in our hearts is He but One.” Whereupon Jacob declared, “Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever.”

(2)     Normally the name “Jacob” is used for him personally as the (third) father of the Jewish people. However, the name “Israel” is sometimes used for Jacob himself, in his capacity as father of his people, as in
1 Chron. 29:10 —“Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation, and David said ‘blessed be You, Lord the God of Israel our father, for ever and ever.’ ” Our midrash is, therefore, not too far from the peshat or plain meaning of the text in identifying him as the “Israel” of the Shema.

     Said the Rabbis: What practice shall we follow? Shall we recite it? But Moses did not recite it! Shall we not recite it? But Jacob did recite it! Therefore they ordained that it should be recited—but in an undertone. Referring to this aggada, our midrash states:

     Wherefrom did the Children of Israel merit [that they should be given the commandment] to read the Shema? When Jacob was about to die, he called his sons together, etc., and they responded, “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” Whereupon he quietly said, “Blessed is the Name of His glorious Kingdom forever and ever.” (Note that according to this midrash, the recitation of Barukh shem kevod was done quietly by Jacob himself and is not a compromise proposed by the Rabbis to resolve the dilemma of offending the memory of either Jacob or Moses, as the parallel text in the Talmud would have it.)

     Alluding to this ancient aggada, an earlier source, the Sifre, notes why Moses summoned the people by the name “Israel,” rather than as “children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”: Moses specifically invoked Jacob-Israel because of the latter’s righteous concern for the spiritual integrity of his family. (Whether this aggada is a legend woven around the historical figure of Jacob, suggested by the name “Israel,” or a tradition of which Moses was aware and handed down with other oral traditions at Sinai, is irrelevant. Even if the former, it is a most valid insight into the nature of this grand profession of monotheistic faith, integrating the worshiper into the sublime continuum of Jewish emunah, the faith of Israel. Netziv (R. Naftali Zevi Yehuda Berlin) in his Ha’amek Davar to
Deut. 6:4 answers the question of Ramban why the Torah here uses the first person plural possessive, “our God,” rather than “your God,” which occurs in all other verses preceded by the invocation, “Hear O Israel”: Moses knew of this tradition of Jacob and his sons and referred to it specifically. The possessive “our” is thus critical. Support for this interpretation may be found in Targum Jonathan b. Uziel to Deut. 6:5, where the second verse of the Shema, “You shall love,” etc., is prefaced with the words, “The Prophet Moses said to the people, the House of Israel.” In other words, the second verse is explicitly attributed to Moses, to emphasize that the first “Hear O Israel” was uttered by Jacob, and Moses only repeated the phrase in his talk to his people and later committed it to writing in the Torah. Netziv avers that this is but one of a number of cases of oral traditions that were incorporated, in whole or in part, by Moses into the (Written) Torah.)

     Based upon this tradition, another passage in the Midrash (Deuteronomy Rabbah, paragraph 2) draws a parallel between this ancient dialogue between the dying patriarch and his loyal sons and the daily life of the individual Jew. Thus, what applied to the sons of the patriarch applies to us as well:

     R. Levi said:

     And what does Israel (i.e., the Jewish people) say nowadays?—“Hear O Father Israel (i.e., Jacob), we practice that which you commanded us: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”

     According to this midrash, our words, repeated twice daily, are addressed not to the general community, kelal Yisrael, but to our very personal, intimate forefather Jacob-Israel. In calling out to him across the chasm of the generations, we assure him and ourselves that the One God he worshiped is ours as well; that we continue his tradition, which he entrusted to his children; that we have not and will not falter as we strive to implement the “Kingdom of Heaven” in our own times and our own places; that three and a half millennia later we still carry aloft our grandfather’s torch of yiḥud Hashem (the unification of His Name); and that we pledge to continue to do so even in an age of cynicism, confusion, and despair.

  The Shema: Spirituality and Law in Judaism

History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
     Thanks to Meir Yona

     6. So Herod went to Samaria, which was then in a tumult, and settled the city in peace; after which at the [Pentecost] festival, he returned to Jerusalem, having his armed men with him: hereupon Hyrcanus, at the request of Malichus, who feared his reproach, forbade them to introduce foreigners to mix themselves with the people of the country while they were purifying themselves; but Herod despised the pretense, and him that gave that command, and came in by night. Upon which Malithus came to him, and bewailed Antipater; Herod also made him believe [he admitted of his lamentations as real], although he had much ado to restrain his passion at him; however, he did himself bewail the murder of his father in his letters to Cassius, who, on other accounts, also hated Malichus. Cassius sent him word back that he should avenge his father's death upon him, and privately gave order to the tribunes that were under him, that they should assist Herod in a righteous action he was about.

     7. And because, upon the taking of Laodicea by Cassius, the men of power were gotten together from all quarters, with presents and crowns in their hands, Herod allotted this time for the punishment of Malichus. When Malichus suspected that, and was at Tyre, he resolved to withdraw his son privately from among the Tyrians, who was a hostage there, while he got ready to fly away into Judea; the despair he was in of escaping excited him to think of greater things; for he hoped that he should raise the nation to a revolt from the Romans, while Cassius was busy about the war against Antony, and that he should easily depose Hyrcanus, and get the crown for himself.

     8. But fate laughed at the hopes he had; for Herod foresaw what he was so zealous about, and invited both Hyrcanus and him to supper; but calling one of the principal servants that stood by him to him, he sent him out, as though it were to get things ready for supper, but in reality to give notice beforehand about the plot that was laid against him; accordingly they called to mind what orders Cassius had given them, and went out of the city with their swords in their hands upon the sea-shore, where they encompassed Malichus round about, and killed him with many wounds. Upon which Hyrcanus was immediately affrighted, till he swooned away and fell down at the surprise he was in; and it was with difficulty that he was recovered, when he asked who it was that had killed Malichus. And when one of the tribunes replied that it was done by the command of Cassius, "Then," said he, "Cassius hath saved both me and my country, by cutting off one that was laying plots against them both." Whether he spake according to his own sentiments, or whether his fear was such that he was obliged to commend the action by saying so, is uncertain; however, by this method Herod inflicted punishment upon Malichus.

          The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston

The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)

Proverbs 18:12-13
     by D.H. Stern

12     Before being ruined, a person’s heart is proud;
before being honored, a person must be humble.

13     To answer someone before hearing him out
is both stupid and embarrassing.

Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
My Utmost For The Highest
     A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers

                What are you haunted by?

     What man is he that feareth the Lord? ---
Psalm 25:12.

     What are you haunted by? You will say—‘By nothing,’ but we are all haunted by something, generally by ourselves, or, if we are Christians, by our experience. The Psalmist says we are to be haunted by God. The abiding consciousness of the life is to be God, not thinking about Him. The whole of our life inside and out is to be absolutely haunted by the presence of God. A child’s consciousness is so mother-haunted that although the child is not consciously thinking of its mother, yet when calamity arises, the relationship that abides is that of the mother. So we are to live and move and have our being in God, to look at everything in relation to God, because the abiding consciousness of God pushes itself to the front all the time.

     If we are haunted by God, nothing else can get in, no cares, no tribulation, no anxieties. We see now why Our Lord so emphasized the sin of worry. How can we dare be so utterly unbelieving when God is round about us? To be haunted by God is to have an effective barricade against all the onslaughts of the enemy.

     “His soul shall dwell at ease.” In tribulation, misunderstanding, slander, in the midst of all these things, if our life is hid with Christ in God, He will keep us at ease. We rob ourselves of the marvellous revelation of this abiding companionship of God. “God is our Refuge”—nothing can come through that shelter.

My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition

     the Poetry of RS Thomas


   I feel sometimes
         we are his penance
   for having made us. He
   suffers in us and we partake
         of his sufferings. What
   to do, when it has been done
         already? Where
         to go, when the arrival
   is as the departure? Circularity
   is a mental condition, the
   animals know nothing of it.

         Seven times have passed
   over him, and he is still here.
         When will he return
   from his human exile, and will
   peace then be restored
         to the flesh?
   I think that there is no end
   to this torment and that the electricity
   that convulses us is the fire
         in which a god
   burns and is not consumed.

Selected Poems, 1946-68

Swimming In The Sea of Talmud
     Niddah 31a


     During the Second World War, an Austrian psychiatrist, Dr. Viktor Frankl, was among those Jews arrested and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. During the three years of his incarceration, Frankl paid careful attention to how human beings reacted to the most horrid examples of "man's inhumanity to man" in modern history. His observations became the basis for his book Man's Search for Meaning and a new school of psychiatric thought, "logotherapy." Frankl wrote:

     "We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been a few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." (p. 104)

     The Nazis could dictate and determine every single aspect of a person's life, except for one: how that person would respond to what the Nazis did.

     The same lesson applies to a person who is the victim of a debilitating disease or of a terrible accident. Much may have been taken away from them: their mobility, their health, even their future. But one thing remains: How they will react to the terrible blow. Some people become bitter and spend their days striking out at everyone who tries to come near—doctors, friends, even loved ones. There are those who choose to pull away from others, withdrawing into a world of their own, overcome by sadness or self-pity. But there are also those who choose a different path: They decide to make the most out of every day that remains to them. Instead of obsessing on what they cannot do, they concentrate on what they are able to accomplish, and then go out and do it.

     It's no different with the mundane or ridiculous problems that each and every one of us faces every single day. So much of what happens to us is out of our control. We are all, in one sense or another, victims of fate, circumstance, and bad luck. We cannot pick the cards that life deals us. But once dealt a mediocre, or even a terrible hand, there are still options and choices we have. We can give up and quit, or we can make the best of a less than perfect situation. As Victor Frankl came to see, the choice we make under such situations tells a great deal about character and inner strength.

     Rabbi Ḥanina taught the very same lesson from a religious perspective: "Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven." God determines everything, except for one thing: What we feel about God. We have been given the power to say "Yes" or "No" to God … and to life. All else can be taken from us and decided for us, but never that.

     Even the one who has a miracle happen to him does not recognize his own miracle!

     Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except for the fear of Heaven.

     Text / Rav Yosef expounded: What does this text mean: "I give thanks to You, O Lord! Although You were wroth with me, Your wrath turned back and You comfort me"
Isaiah 12:1]? What is the text speaking about? Two men who set out to trade. One of them got a thorn, and he started to revile and blaspheme. After a while, he heard that his friend's ship had sunk in the sea; he began to thank and praise. Therefore it is written: "Your wrath turned back and You comfort me." And this is what Rabbi Elazar said: "What does it mean: 'Who alone does wondrous things; blessed is His glorious name forever' [Psalms 72:18–19]? Even the one who has a miracle happen to him does not recognize his own miracle!"

     Context / Three times a day in the Amidah, we acknowledge the miracles that God performs for us:

     We proclaim that You are the Lord our God and God of our ancestors throughout all time. You are the Rock of our lives, the Shield of our salvation in every generation. We thank You and praise You Morning, noon and night for Your miracles which daily attend us and for Your wondrous kindness. Our lives are in Your hand; our souls are in Your charge. You are good, with everlasting mercy; You are compassionate, with enduring lovingkindness. We have always placed our hope in You. (Translation, Siddur Sim Shalom : A Prayerbook for Shabbat, Festivals, and Weekdays )

     This homiletical explanation comes in a series of expositions contrasting God and human beings. People have the ability to do certain things, while God, with infinite power, has the ability to outperform humans. Several examples are given, and our text is one of them.

     The explanation by Rav Yosef starts with a person who is initially angered but subsequently becomes comforted. This proves the point that a person cannot see even one's own miracle. Rav Yosef uses a story of two traders to explain his approach. One trader is angered that he is prevented from traveling on the ship because of a thorn in his foot. However, he is actually the fortunate one: The friend's trip will continue with his taking the boat on an ill-fated voyage. The thorn in the foot turns out to be a fortuitous accident, saving the first man's life. This, says Rabbi Elazar, shows that one does not even recognize a miracle as it is happening.

     Rabbi Elazar uses the verses from
Psalm 72 to prove his point, though he quotes only the second half of the first verse and the first half of the second verse. The verses in their entirety read:

     Blessed is the Lord God, God of Israel,

  who alone does wondrous things;
  Blessed is His glorious name forever;
  His glory fills the whole world.
    Amen and Amen.

     If we read the first verse with the emphasis on alone, we understand better Rabbi Elazar's point: God alone does miracles. We cannot do them; we usually do not even see them. Often, what we think of as a bad turn of events is, in reality, an auspicious one. We human beings are left to thank God after the fact.

Swimming in the Sea of Talmud: Lessons for Everyday Living

Ministry failure
     Richard S. Adams

     Jesus teaches how we are to be in relationship, union with God. We are united in him the way the branch is united in the vine. We, the branch, receive our spiritual life from the vine. Just so we also receive our strength from the vine. If we are going to produce fruit it too must come from the vine or it will not be sustainable. Can we do anything truly lasting on our own?

     Ministries begin with the best of intentions, but somewhere along the way they become disconnected from their source of power, the vine. Unless you and I stay continuously connected to the vine, in intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, we will lose our power to continue to produce, and just like the ministries whose failure is promoted by the media, we too will fail. We have to learn that life is not about us.

     I love the metaphor I heard Bob Gass preach. He said we are called to be extension cords, not lights. Stop trying to be a big light and be content to be an extension cord. Remember, extension cords are under the rug, behind the chair, out of sight. The media does not write songs, books or movies about extension cords.

     Even if we cling desperately to the vine, always recognizing that it is indeed our source and that we can do nothing apart from it ... we will still be cleaned and pruned through discipline and blessing.

     Then there is prayer. How can we pray the effectual prayer of a righteous person if we are not connected to the vine?

John 15-17
     The Teacher's Commentary

     Power for the New Life: John 15:1–17

     The new community of Jesus asks us to adopt a lifestyle far beyond our capacity. Knowing this, Jesus then explained how a life of fruitfulness is possible for human beings. The fruit Jesus promised here is, of course, the fruit of the Spirit, who will soon settle down into the disciples' lives. The "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control" Paul lists (
Gal. 5:22–23) are promised in these chapters of John.

     Where does the fruit grow? On a living vine, of course. Branches (and this is how we believers are pictured in Jesus' illustration) are unable to bear fruit by themselves. They must be connected to the vine. Roots and trunk support the life of the branch, and only the branch "remaining in" the vine has the potential for fruitfulness.

     Several questions are asked about this passage in Scripture. They range from an eager, "What is remaining in?" to a fearful, "What does it mean to be thrown away and wither, especially with the reference to gathering branches and throwing them into the fire?" Let's look at these two typical concerns and then return to the great promise of fruitfulness.

     Remain in Me (
John 15:4). This often-repeated exhortation is explained here as well as in John 14. If we keep Jesus' commandments, we will remain in His love
15:10). As His words take shape and form in our personalities, as we experience for ourselves the goodness of God's will, we will live in the center of His love. Living close to Jesus is part of remaining in Him.

     Thrown away (
John 15:6). The simile of the vine and branches focuses on fruitfulness, and does not refer to salvation. This is why the text carefully says, "He is like a branch that is thrown away."

     In any living vine the function of a branch is to bear fruit. But it cannot fulfill its purpose unless it remains in intimate connection with the vine. Without that intimate "remaining in Me" relationship, it will never accomplish what it was designed for. How empty will the life of a Christian who fails to remain in Jesus be? As empty as that of a branch torn from the vine; it has no potential for fruit bearing. Its only use would be to serve as fuel to provide momentary warmth; then it must disintegrate into ash.

     The warning is clear. We cannot become what we are intended to be without having a close relationship with Jesus, with our love for Him expressed in obedience to Him. How tragic if you or I, branches now, fail to experience the joy that comes as we fulfill our potential for bearing fruit. How tragic if, after life is over, we can point to nothing but ashes.

     The promise. But this paragraph is not meant to depress us. It's meant to excite us and to give us joy. Because we are branches, we can draw life from Jesus the Vine! What we cannot do by ourselves, Jesus can accomplish in us! The fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control—all these are possible now. As we live in Him, we will become fruitful. As we remain in Jesus, we will become the kind of people who can make the new community a reality here on earth.

     How natural then that Jesus would return to this new-community theme.
"This is My command," He repeated. "Love each other." We are Jesus' friends; we are enabled by His Spirit, empowered by His own life flowing through us; and we can fulfill His command to love one another.

John 15:18–17:26

     These chapters, containing the last words of Jesus to His disciples and a lengthy prayer, are extremely significant, for they focus on the lifestyle of disciples, and on the church. Here we find out more of how we are to live with one another. And here, especially, we begin to see how we are to live as Christ's people in an often hostile world.

     These chapters are so significant that literally hundreds of books have been written about them. I have one book of over 400 pages on
John 17 alone. It has been suggested that every truth which has been developed by the apostles in the New Testament letters is here, in seed, in Jesus' Last Supper Discourse.

     Be One.
John 17 stresses Christ's desire for believers to "be one as We are One." This has been taken as a prayer for Christian unity, and an argument for denomination unification.

     A careful study of the chapter, however, makes it clear that what Jesus prays for is that we might experience our union with Him, even as He had experienced His own union with God the Father throughout His life on earth. Through faith we are united with Jesus, linked to Him in an unbreakable bond. But we must experience that union by living in responsive obedience, for the One to whom we are united is God.

     Believers across the ages have yearned for the new community Jesus described to His disciples in the Upper Room. We long for the loving fellowship, the humility expressed in foot-washing, the deep experience of Jesus' presence, the sense of remaining in Him.

     Some have found this ideal impossible to reach in society, and so they have formed separate communities. The monastery of the Middle Ages and the commune of the twentieth century often have been attempts to withdraw from carnal Christians or from the pollution of pagan culture.

     But in these chapters (
John 13–17) we do not hear Jesus advocate withdrawal. He calls us to involvement! The Christian does not experience Christ by removing himself from the world; we experience Christ in the world, though we are distinctly not of the world.

     The World / John painted reality boldly, with vividly contrasting concepts. He showed us life versus death, grace versus law, light versus dark. Then he contrasted Jesus' followers (a fellowship of love) with the world (a society of mere men).

     The Greek word used here for "world" is kosmos. According to the A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament , kosmos has several meanings. It can refer to "the sum total of everything here and now" (the universe as a whole). Or it can refer to "all beings above the level of animals." In this usage it includes both men and angels, or may focus specifically on mankind. In a moral sense, "the world" refers to "that which is at enmity with God," that is, every thought and action, every value and behavior, that is tainted by sin.

     In this moral sense, the New Testament portrays the world as far more than tainted: it is lost in sin, ruined, and depraved. It is hostile to God and godliness. The principles on which the world operates stand in dark contrast to divine righteousness and a godly life.

     To grasp the difference between the two approaches to life, we must be born again. We must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (literally, "perceptions," or "perspective") (
Rom. 12:1–3). Because the "whole world is under the control of the evil one" (1 John 5:19), we are to keep ourselves "from being polluted by the world"
James 1:27).

     What the world identifies as "adult," we recognize as perversion. What the world praises as "success," we often must label failure. What the world views as the highest of values—material success, popularity, and so on—we recognize as emptiness. There is a deep and abiding antagonism between the society of unredeemed man and the community of Jesus' own.

     Because this antagonism always exists, there are two great dangers the Christian continually faces. The first danger is conformity: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold" (
Rom. 12:2, PH). And John added this warning in his first epistle: "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world" (1 John 2:15–16). The world's basic approach to life is twisted and perverted. We are to love the people of the world but decisively reject (and fear) the attitudes and values of the world.

     The second danger for the Christian is withdrawal. If we do not recognize the world system for what it is, we may unknowingly adopt its lifestyle. When we do recognize the world system for what it is, we may be so repelled that we seek to escape it. This, of course, is the route taken by early monastics; it is the way of the Essenes in Old Testament times, and the way of the Qumran community. It is also the way of a distorted kind of separatism practiced by believers in many churches today. When Christians attempt to protect themselves from the practices of others, they frequently build a wall that rejects people and refuses relationships with those "outside."

     The New Testament picture of the world challenges us with important questions. How do we relate to the society in which we live? Should we withdraw? Are there any other options? How do we relate to non-Christians who have only seen worldly values? How can we construct the new community within the ruins of man's society … or are we even supposed to try?

     The last paragraph we studied (
15:12–17 above) restated Jesus' command to His disciples: "Love each other." In the context of loving each other, lasting fruit will be produced, intimate relationship with Jesus will be experienced, prayer will be answered. Together we will experience new life. But how will the world respond to this radical new community that is founded on principles so opposed to its own lifestyle and views?

     With antagonism (
John 15:18–27). Christ immediately warns that as we learn to live out the new community, the world will react with hatred. "Keep in mind that it hated Me first," Jesus reminded the disciples. "If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you."

     Antagonism develops because light shows up darkness, and grace morality reveals the perversion of sin. Jesus went on to remind His followers that men had seen Him do "what no one else did." They had been forced to recognize their own works as sin and, consequently,
"They have hated both Me and My Father."

     This witness of Jesus to the Father continues in and through the Christians in the new community (vv.
26–27). God has taken us out of the world. At one time, we were part of that sinful system, and our lifestyles reflected its values. But in Christ we have been "chosen out of the world" and have been called to live a new life in the world. Our lives and our relationships with others are to be a visible, continuing testimony to God in our godless, hostile world.

     Our witness to God will produce hatred and persecution at times. But God the Spirit will shine through our lives, declaring that God is life and love and light.

The Teacher's Commentary

With persecution (John 16:1–15)
     The Teacher's Commentary

     At times the world's antagonism has led to persecution, oppression, and death of those who follow Jesus. This would soon be the experience of the 11. Jesus warned, "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God."

     How are we to understand and to respond to persecution—often in small things, but sometimes the ultimate that Christ described, being killed because we love Jesus? Jesus helped us understand by speaking of the advantage to us of His return to the Father. By going away, Jesus made it possible for the Father to send the Holy Spirit to us. When the Spirit came, He would take the witness of the Christian under persecution and use it to prove the world wrong (or, convince, convict) about sin, about righteousness, and about judgment. The world will see the truth in Christians, and though the world as a whole will not respond with faith, individuals will believe.

     The Holy Spirit will open our hearts and minds to understand the ways and the truth of God. He will make clear to us what Jesus has said in the written Word. He will give us the wisdom we need to apply that Word on a daily basis and to live in responsive obedience to our Lord.

     A little earlier I noted two wrong reactions of Christians to the world. We can see more clearly now why they are wrong. If we adopt the values and lifestyle of the world, if we conform to the world system, God is left without a witness to truth and life and grace. But if we withdraw and cut ourselves off from the world's people in order to develop separated communities, God is also left without a witness. Only by living in the world—by being involved daily with the men and women around us, by being involved in the issues of our own times and society—can we show the contrast between human ways and God's ways.

     The natural response to persecution, to antagonism, to pressure, is to withdraw or to conform. But you and I, like Jesus, are to live under pressure. We are to open ourselves to hurt. We are to resist protecting ourselves and, instead, to expose ourselves, for God yearns to reveal His glory in our lives. As we learn to love each other, we will have the strength to become involved in the world and to find joy in our suffering, even as Jesus found joy in His. We will begin to love all men, even as Jesus loved us and gave Himself for us.

     Prayer is a resource (
John 16:16–33). It is all too easy in reading Jesus' warnings to become fearful or depressed and to feel that the Christian life is a burden almost too heavy to bear. Jesus had already pointed to some resources He had given: the Holy Spirit, and Jesus' own continuing guidance. Then Christ spoke of the resource of prayer.

     Jesus Himself was soon to leave the 11. At first the events of the Crucifixion would create despair, but soon the disciples would know joy.
"I will see you again," Jesus promised, "and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy." Life in the world, in spite of hostility and persecution, is a life of secure joy.

     How is joy possible? It is possible because we are not cut off from Jesus! We are free to bring every need to Him in prayer, and can be confident that He hears us.
"My Father will give you whatever you ask in My name," Jesus said. "Until now you have not asked for anything in My name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."

     Where can we find joy in times of pressure and uncertainty? First, by acknowledging that each of our ministries and everything we possess is God's. Jesus is Lord, and everything I have and do is committed totally into His hands. If Jesus in grace chooses to use it for His glory, I rejoice. And if He chooses not to use it, but to bring all I have planned and worked to achieve to an end, He can use disaster too to glorify Himself—and I rejoice.

     To know that Jesus lives, that He hears, and that He responds as we speak to Him, brings abiding joy whatever the pressures may be.

     And so Jesus concluded His words to His disciples.
"The Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God." With this assurance, what have we to fear? "I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

     Jesus is Lord. --- And God loves us. --- No wonder we have peace and joy.

     Jesus' Prayer for Us:
John 17

     The intimate Upper Room experience concludes with Jesus' prayer. This is a prayer for us, His people in the world.
"I will remain in the world no longer," Jesus said, "but they are still in the world."

     Jesus had described the world's hostility that we will face. Now what will He ask for us? What is His deepest desire?

     Glory (
John 17:1–5). Jesus first spoke to the Father about Himself, thus giving us a model. "I have brought You glory on earth by completing the work You gave Me to do." This work finished, God would lift Jesus to His presence again and give His Son the glory that "I had with You before the world began."

     We live in the world now, but this world is not the end! The end for us, as for Jesus, is glory in the very presence of the Father. The word "glory" speaks literally of brightness, splendor, radiance. Expanded to denote the majesty and sublimity of God, it carries a sense of magnificence and splendor. In the verb form it means more than "to praise or honor"; it means to "clothe in splendor."

     With Jesus' work on earth finished, He returned to the Father to be clothed again with the splendor that was His from eternity past. For Jesus, life in this world had a purpose. Christ lived to reveal and to glorify God. But life in this world was only a momentary experience for Christ.

     How good to know that for us as well, life in this world is only a momentary experience. Like Jesus, we will be lifted by the Father when our work here is accomplished. Then we too will be clothed in a splendor like Jesus' own. While we are on earth we may never know the glory God intends for us, but one day we will see Jesus, and then, "we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (
1 John 3:2). Our destiny is to be clothed with our Lord in splendor.

     Manifest Your name (
John 17:6–10). What is the work God has for us on earth? To be "great"? To be noted evangelists? To be famous teachers? To be known and respected by all? Hardly. God wants a very simple thing, which every believer, no matter how humble, can share in fully. God wants us to manifest (make known) His name. We have received Jesus' words (v. 8) and believed in Him. Now we are to live out those words on earth. The quality of our lives is what will make plain to those around us the character of God. Each of us can brighten the world around us by reaching out to others with a grace and love that are like God's own.

     Sanctified (
John 17:11–19). Christ then prayed that God will guard us while we live in the world's hostile environment. "My prayer is not that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one." He asked that we be sanctified by God's truth, that is, that we will be set apart to a holy way of life, and then "sent into the world" (v. 18). We are to not only witness to, but are to personally experience Christ's joy as we become more and more like Him. And we have Jesus' added promise that He consecrates Himself to aid our growth in godliness.

     Reproductive (
John 17:20–26). Jesus then emphasized the fact that He was not praying just for the 11 disciples, but for "those who will believe in Me through their message." You and I, and our local fellowships, along with all believers throughout the centuries are included in this great commitment of Jesus and His Father to all who belong to Them.

     The society of those who belong to Jesus is a community that grows in love and then multiplies. Jesus is still reaching out, through you and me, to rescue men and women lost in sin.

     There is, of course, one source and one source only for the strength we need to live a God-glorifying life. This is our union with Jesus Christ. Jesus lived in union with the Father, drawing on Him for strength and power. As we are "brought to complete unity" with Jesus and the Father, then the world will know that Christ has sent us and that He loves us still.

     Grace and Glory / John's themes of grace and life, and his emphasis on light versus darkness, find special expression in the final chapters of his Gospel.

     John, like the other Gospel writers, reported in graphic detail the events that are associated with the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. By comparing the treatment of each of the Gospels, we have a more complete picture of this three-day span than of any other period in ancient history!

     John's emphasis is on triumph—the triumph of truth, the victory of life over the dark powers of death. How good to be able to share this sense of victory with those we teach. And how good to realize that for us as well, the resurrection of Jesus is the guarantee of life throughout eternity.

     Truth. Pilate demanded of Jesus, "What is truth?" The passage shows how captive this Roman ruler was to pressures, how controlled by the demands of others. Without a sense of absolutes, and a certainty that there is right and wrong to guide our decisions, we would be just as wavering and tormented. Thank God there is truth—that we know reality as unveiled in the Word of God. We need to choose to live by that truth, rather than the uncertainties of expediency.

     Commentary / The time for words had now passed. Jesus had spoken much about grace and life and light. And also of the darkness that grips those who are of this world. Now, if anyone had questions, those questions were about to be answered decisively.

     How deeply is the world entrenched in darkness? How great is God's love for us, and His grace to us? How vital is the life that Jesus offers? How bright is the light by which we are invited to live? The answer to each of these questions is found in the events of the final night and day of Jesus' life on earth … and in His resurrection.

The Teacher's Commentary

Surprising Texts
     from the Late Second Temple Period
     Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

     Starting in the latter half of the third century B.C.E., light begins to shine on the textual landscape, thanks to the discovery of more than two hundred biblical manuscripts in caves near Qumran and at other sites along the western side of the Dead Sea. The biblical scrolls provide a wide-ranging parade of textual surprises that deserve close review.


     An extensively preserved manuscript of Exodus written in the Paleo-Hebrew script and dated to approximately the middle of the first century B.C.E. surprised scholars shortly after the discovery of Cave 4. 4QpaleoExodm routinely displayed the expanded text edition that was well known from the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP). In every instance where it is preserved, it displays the major expansions beyond the MT and the LXX that are exhibited by the SP. Where it is not extant there is also no reason to suspect that it did not agree with other SP expansions, except for one instance. It apparently did not have space to contain the lengthy extra commandment added in the SP at
Exod. 20:17b after the traditional commandments. That specifically Samaritan commandment (though taken from Deuteronomy 11 and 27, common to MT, SP, and LXX) to build an altar at Mt. Gerizim evidently was not in 4QpaleoExodm, just as it is lacking in the MT and the LXX. It seems clear, then, that there were at least two variant editions of the text of Exodus in circulation within Jewish circles during the first century B.C.E. Evidently both were used and enjoyed equal status. 4QpaleoExodm was damaged at one point, and someone carefully sewed a patch over the large hole and reinscribed the lost words. The Samaritans made use of that secondary, expanded edition and apparently made only one theological change in two forms: they added the commandment that Israel’s central altar was to be built on Mt. Gerizim, and in the recurring formula they stressed that God had chosen Mt. Gerizim, not Jerusalem, as that central shrine where his name should dwell. Thus, the “Samaritan” Exodus was mainly a general Jewish text of Exodus. And that secondary, expanded edition that lacked the two specifically Samaritan changes continued to be used by Jews and was still being copied around the middle of the first century B.C.E. There does not appear to be any evidence that the Jews and Samaritans were aware of or concerned about the specific text-type.

The Eerdmans Dictionary of Early Judaism

Take Heart
     June 2

     Your kingdom come. --- Luke 11:2.

     The Bible is a book of hope. (The model prayer;: A series of expositions on "The Lord's Prayer",) It always speaks of a best that is still to be. We read of Eden, of a time when the world was free from pain and sadness, because humankind was free from sin. Their home was a garden, all nature served them, and God was their familiar friend. But we read on a chapter or two, and a change comes over the aspect of things. Eden disappears and has never been found since.

     People lost everything by sin except hope. That note of hope, struck even in the story of the tragedy of the Fall, is the keynote of the Bible. The Bible is a book of the future and the springtime and the dawn. “Your kingdom come” is a prayer for the good time coming, for the golden age, for the better Eden. For the earth’s golden age will come when God is King. Jesus means that we are to pray that God may reign here on the earth, that people here may acknowledge him as King, that life here may be regulated by his commands. This is not a prayer that we may be taken out of earth into heaven, but it is a prayer that heaven may come down to earth, so that earth itself may become heavenly.

     In most people’s minds the idea of a golden age is associated with the name of some king. The Israelites associated it with the name of David. For [the] British, romance gathers round the time of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. And as a matter of fact, the world’s good time is inseparably connected with the coming of a King and the establishment of a kingdom. But the kingdom is no earthly royalty, and the King is no David or Arthur. The kingdom is the kingdom of God, and the name of the King is Jesus. When that kingdom is established, when that King is enthroned, a better Eden will be here than the Eden we have lost.

     But, isn’t God King now? Isn’t the world his? That is true! But that kingship rests on God’s creatorship. God wants to be king in Jesus Christ, in virtue not of his power but of his love. He wants people to obey him not because they are afraid of him but because they love him. “Your kingdom come.” Whose kingdom is it? It is our Father’s kingdom—a kingdom of love! God wants to be King not because he is Creator, but because he is Father. It is for this kingdom we pray.

     “Your kingdom come,” in my own heart, over all the world, and in every department of life.
---J. D. Jones

Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers

On This Day
     Let Them Become Angels  June 2

     The British Isles were evangelized perhaps as early as the first century, but the decline of the Roman Empire allowed the Anglo-Saxons to eventually overrun the islands. Christians were massacred, churches destroyed, the Gospel nearly extinguished. The years passed, and one day in Rome an abbot named Gregory saw three blond, blue-eyed British boys being sold in the slave market. His heart went out to them. Being told their nationality he reportedly said, “They are Anglos; let them become angels.” He set out as a missionary, longing to reintroduce Christianity to the British, but the pope called him back before he had reached England. Shortly afterward, being named pope himself, Gregory dispatched a group of 30 or 40 missionaries led by a monk named Augustin.

     The group landed near the mouth of the Thames in the spring of 597. They discovered that Queen Bertha of Kent had previously heard the Gospel in her native France and had been converted. With her help, King Ethelbert agreed to see Augustin, though he insisted their meeting be conducted in the open air where he thought Augustin’s “magic” wouldn’t affect him. But it did. Hearing Augustin preach, Ethelbert acknowledged Christ as Lord on this day, June 2, 597. Later that year, the king and 10,000 of his subjects were baptized. The message of Christ spread throughout neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, and as the church grew Augustin was named archbishop. King Ethelbert gave his own castle to the new archbishop, thus establishing the archbishopric of Canterbury as the episcopal center of England.

     Augustin, refusing to compromise on points like the dating of Easter and modes of baptism, sowed much discord, marring his record. When he died on May 26, 604, he was buried in the cathedral of Canterbury with these words on his tomb: “Here rests Augustin, first archbishop of Canterbury, who being sent hither by Gregory, bishop of Rome, reduced King Ethelbert and his nation from the worship of idols to the faith of Christ.”

     Paul went there to worship, and on three Sabbaths he spoke to the people. He used the Scriptures to show them that the Messiah had to suffer, but that he would rise from death. Paul also told them that Jesus is the Messiah he was preaching about. Some of them believed.
--- Acts 17:2-4a.

On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes

Morning and Evening
     Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON

          Morning - June 2

     “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” --- Galatians 5:17.

     In every believer’s heart there is a constant struggle between the old nature and the new. The old nature is very active, and loses no opportunity of plying all the weapons of its deadly armoury against newborn grace; while on the other hand, the new nature is ever on the watch to resist and destroy its enemy. Grace within us will employ prayer, and faith, and hope, and love, to cast out the evil; it takes unto it the “whole armour of God,” and wrestles earnestly. These two opposing natures will never cease to struggle so long as we are in this world. The battle of “Christian” with “Apollyon” lasted three hours, but the battle of Christian with himself lasted all the way from the Wicket Gate in the river Jordan. The enemy is so securely entrenched within us that he can never be driven out while we are in this body: but although we are closely beset, and often in sore conflict, we have an Almighty helper, even Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, who is ever with us, and who assures us that we shall eventually come off more than conquerors through him. With such assistance the new-born nature is more than a match for its foes. Are you fighting with the adversary to-day? Are Satan, the world, and the flesh, all against you? Be not discouraged nor dismayed. Fight on! For God himself is with you; Jehovah Nissi is your banner, and Jehovah Rophi is the healer of your wounds. Fear not, you shall overcome, for who can defeat Omnipotence? Fight on, “looking unto Jesus”; and though long and stern be the conflict, sweet will be the victory, and glorious the promised reward.

     “From strength to strength go on;
     Wrestle, and fight, and pray,
     Tread all the powers of darkness down,
     And win the well-fought day.”

          Evening - June 2

     “Good Master.” --- Matthew 19:16.

     If the young man in the Gospel used this title in speaking to our Lord, how much more fitly may I thus address him! He is indeed my Master in both senses, a ruling Master and a teaching Master. I delight to run upon his errands, and to sit at his feet. I am both his servant and his disciple, and count it my highest honour to own the double character. If he should ask me why I call him “good,” I should have a ready answer. It is true that “there is none good but one, that is, God,” but then he is God, and all the goodness of Deity shines forth in him. In my experience, I have found him good, so good, indeed, that all the good I have has come to me through him. He was good to me when I was dead in sin, for he raised me by his Spirit’s power; he has been good to me in all my needs, trials, struggles, and sorrows. Never could there be a better Master, for his service is freedom, his rule is love: I wish I were one thousandth part as good a servant. When he teaches me as my Rabbi, he is unspeakably good, his doctrine is divine, his manner is condescending, his spirit is gentleness itself. No error mingles with his instruction—pure is the golden truth which he brings forth, and all his teachings lead to goodness, sanctifying as well as edifying the disciple. Angels find him a good Master and delight to pay their homage at his footstool. The ancient saints proved him to be a good Master, and each of them rejoiced to sing, “I am thy servant, O Lord!” My own humble testimony must certainly be to the same effect. I will bear this witness before my friends and neighbours, for possibly they may be led by my testimony to seek my Lord Jesus as their Master. O that they would do so! They would never repent so wise a deed. If they would but take his easy yoke, they would find themselves in so royal a service that they would enlist in it for ever.

Morning and Evening

Amazing Grace
     June 2


     William T. Sleeper, 1819–1904

     In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, unless a man is born again, [born from above] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

     Jesus made it clear that to be a member of His heavenly Kingdom, people must be twice-born—recipients of God’s Spirit and possessors of eternal life. Such a person then begins to live by a new dimension and a new direction. He has a new disposition, a new nature, a new commitment, and a new purpose for living. A so-called Christianity that does not involve a personal conversion and change is not an authentic Christianity in the New Testament sense. Eternal life is a quality of life that begins with the new birth experience and continues in daily fellowship with God and His people both now and forever. But the new birth experience can never be adequately explained. It is more than knowledge and mental assent. To be understood, it must ultimately be experienced.

     The composer of this hymn, George C. Stebbins, tells in his Memoirs and Reminiscences about the time he was assisting Dr. George F. Pentecost in an evangelistic crusade in Worcester, Massachusetts, when Dr. Pentecost one night preached on Christ’s statement to Nicodemus in John 3:3 about the need of being born again. With the strong impression of this sermon still in his mind, Stebbins contacted one of the pastors in the city, William Sleeper, and asked his assistance in writing verses for the musical ideas he had for this text. “He acted at once upon my suggestion,” said Stebbins, “and soon after came to me with the hymn that bears his name.

     And another hymn was born that has since been used to confront individuals with the necessity of a new birth if they are ever to “see the kingdom of God.”

     A ruler once came to Jesus by night to ask Him the way of salvation and light; the Master made answer in words true and plain, “Ye must be born again.”

     Ye children of men, attend to the word so solemnly uttered by Jesus the Lord; and let not this message to you be in vain, “Ye must be born again”

     O ye who would enter that glorious rest and sing with the ransomed the song of the blest, the life everlasting if ye would obtain, “Ye must be born again.”

     A dear one in heaven thy heart yearns to see, at the beautiful gate may be watching for thee; then list to the note of this solemn refrain, “Ye must be born again.”

     Chorus: Ye must be born again; I verily, verily say unto thee, “Ye must be born again.”

     For Today: John 3:1–21; 17:3; Romans 8:16; 1 Peter 1:23.

     Share this truth with another who needs to hear and respond to the urgency of this message ---

Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions

De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of the Will
     Martin Luther | (1483-1546)

     Sect. XLIII. — BUT this life or salvation is an eternal matter, incomprehensible to the human capacity: as Paul shews, out of Isaiah, (1 Cor. ii. 9.) “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” For when we speak of eternal life, we speak of that which is numbered among the chiefest articles of our faith. And what “Freewill” avails in this article Paul testifies, (1 Cor. ii. 10.) Also: “God (saith he) hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.” As though he had said, the heart of no man will ever understand or think of any of those things, unless the Spirit shall reveal them; so far is it from possibility, that he should ever apply himself unto them or seek after them.

     Look at experience. What have the most exalted minds among the nations thought of a future life, and of the resurrection? Has it not been, that the more exalted they were in mind, the more ridiculous the resurrection and eternal life have appeared to them? Unless you mean to say, that those philosophers and Greeks at Athens, who, (Acts xvii. 18.) called Paul, as he taught these things, a “babbler” and a “setter forth of strange gods,” were not of exalted minds. Portius Festus, (Acts xxvi. 24.) calls out that Paul is “mad,” on account of his preaching eternal life. What does Pliny bark forth, Book vii.? What does Lucian also, that mighty genius? Were not they men wondered at? Moreover to this day there are many, who, the more renowned they are for talent and erudition, the more they laugh at this article; and that openly, considering it a mere fable. And certainly, no man upon earth, unless imbued with the Holy Spirit, ever secretly knows, or believes in, or wishes for, eternal salvation, how much soever he may boast of it by his voice and by his pen. And may you and I, friend Erasmus, be free from this boasting leaven. So rare is a believing soul in this article! — Have I got the sense of this definition?

The Bondage of the Will   or   Christian Classics Ethereal Library

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