The Sunday Reader

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Biblical Texts to Show God Does All Things for His Glory

Enough said.

Self Control and the Battle for Our Minds

Randy Alcorn meditates on the Biblical mandate to govern our minds and actions.

Justification in the Early Fathers

Ever wondered if there are passages from the ancient Christian church clearly expressing justification by faith alone? There are.

Bonus: Photos of Dutch Tulips from the Ground and Sky

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE SUNDAY READER — While not always representing the views of the Pastors, the Sunday Reader shares articles we've found particularly insightful, thought-provoking, or edifying this week. These selections offer a mix of Christian and secular viewpoints to broaden and frame our understanding of God, Scripture, ourselves, and the world we serve in Christ's name.

The Sunday Reader

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Resources on the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel

As a follow-up to the sermon from last Sunday evening, here is a list of useful Reformed articles and confessional statements from Dr. Clark at WSCAL.

Why We Cringe at "Submit" 

Reflections on why many believers feel uncomfortable with biblical references to submission and one author's take on how we should respond. If you'd like to go deeper, the well-regarded Greek linguist, Dr. Bill Mounce, weighs in on "submission" texts here.

The Busy Critic and the Simple Church

Every church should aim for vital community and service among its members. What is not so simple is determining how best to achieve these goals, whether by facilitating more church programs or by fostering organic relationships and events. This article deals with the difficulty of striking a healthy balance.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE SUNDAY READER — While not always representing the views of the Pastors, the Sunday Reader shares articles we've found particularly insightful, thought-provoking, or edifying this week. These selections offer a mix of Christian and secular viewpoints to broaden and frame our understanding of God, Scripture, ourselves, and the world we serve in Christ's name.

The Sunday Reader

This week's insightful and interesting links.

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God's Metrics

It's easy to get caught up in comparisons with other churches. Here's some encouragement for congregations and individuals to press on in spite of slow outward growth.

Rediscovering the Lost Art of Lament

Stephen Un presents a strong case for the importance of embracing lament and how it differs from hopelessness.

The Secret Things Belong to the Lord (Evil, the Will of God, and the Cross)

Some deep thinking on God's will to go along with our Canons of Dort series. 

 

 

 

 

The Sunday Reader

This week's insightful and interesting links.

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4 Ways Christians Should Share Their Faith That Are Actually Effective

Excellent Sunday reading from Matt Chandler. Essentially he boils it down to hospitality, finding common ground, sharing your personal story, prayer, and finally sharing the actual gospel. Worth pondering how to implement these practices in your routine.

Where did the Pope come from?

Desiring God provides a brief rundown on the historical background to the modern papacy. Far from being the direct descendant of Peter and the "rock" on which the church is built, the Roman pontiff developed gradually out of human and not divine wisdom to be what it now is. "The papacy is more a child of imperial categories than biblical ones. The papacy never would have emerged if there were no empire forming the political and cultural milieu of the life of the early church."

You Are Going to See God

This is an uplighting and awesome little reflection on what is in store for us.

15 Doctrines that Ought to Bring Comfort in Suffering

The title says it all. It is far better for Christians to become familiar with them in advance rather than after sorrow strikes.

 

 

 

 

The Sunday Reader

This week's insightful and interesting links.

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The Burning of the Wooden Shoe

Rev. Chris Gordon, pastor at our sister church, Escondido URC, has written this clarion article on what he believes are current trends within Reformed churches that reflect the CRC's history. “The CRC may have rightly burned the wooden shoes of a parochial, ethnic, and cultural identity but made the mistake of leaving in those shoes the very Reformed confessions that gave her a theological identity. In our attempts to accommodate the culture, to address social injustice, some of which may certainly need to happen, we run the risk of burning the Reformed confessions. This is no small matter and, in the end, it has everything to do with what the Reformation helped us recover: the gospel of Jesus as a Savior from sin.”

Can You Make Your Election Sure?

Rev. Spotts answers a question about the Apostle Peter's admonition to “make your calling and election sure,” in light of sovereign grace.

Doing Church Biblically Can Be Messy

How might members and leaders at PURC respond if a homosexual couple became regular attenders? God, grant us wisdom to point all people to Christ, as Savior and Lord, in a faithful way, regardless of the their response. 

 

 

 

Can You Make Your Election Sure?

Lately, our evening service has been going through the biblical doctrines of grace confessed in the Canons of Dort. This topic lends itself to many questions and opportunities to dig into the Word. For instance, a member wrote to ask how we should understand 2 Pet 1:1-10:

At the beginning of this passage, Peter makes it clear that all good things come from God's "divine power" and that "through them you may become partakers of the divine nature..."  He then lists a set of qualities that make us productive and fruitful members of God's kingdom.  It is clear that these things come only from God.  Later he says that we must "...be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure..."  What does it mean to  make our calling and election sure? The wording seems to assume that we can take action on our own that affects our election which would contradict the rest of scripture... Can you shed some light on that for me?

THE DIVINE NATURE

First, let's sort out what is meant by, “you may become partakers of the divine nature." As mere creatures, we can never grasp, let alone partake in God's essential being. The “partaking” which Peter has in mind is the Spirit's impartation to us of God's communicable attributes, such as virtue, brotherly affection, self-control, etc.  Over time, the divine image comes to be reflected in us.

Unlike sin which results in spiritual bondage, this godly nature produces true freedom. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor 3:17). Sanctification can therefore be described as a process of liberation from corrupt desires unto holy preferences. We are no longer simply depraved but are “being renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph 4:23). In this way, partaking in the divine nature means that believers can begin to sincerely will the good, albeit imperfectly.

MAKING YOUR ELECTION SURE

Now that we've been set free from sin unto godliness, one might wonder whether good works determine our final destination? Perhaps God's election is based on foreknowledge of how different people would use or abuse their liberty. Not at all! Growth, however vital as evidence of spiritual life, does not itself serve as the ground of God's eternal decision to elect and call certain people to salvation. Otherwise salvation would not be entirely of grace:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:8-10, ESV)

So what might Peter have in mind when he tells us to “be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (NKJV)? This is one instance where confusion is largely resolved by comparing translations. The ESV, for instance, renders the text, “brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” 

First, the word translated “fall” (πταίσητέ) here means “to stumble or loose one's footing.” Elsewhere, we find this term descrbing believers in the midst of doubt or sin. James 3:3, for instance, admits “we all stumble in many ways.” When discussing apostasy, however, a different term is used for permanently “falling away” from the visible church (ἀποστῆναι). It is reasonable to presume the kind of descent Peter has in mind is not from profession of faith to denial, but from confidence in one's salvation to doubt.  The preceding verse highlights this by noting a person who has “forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” Clearly, he is elect and called, or else he would not be cleansed, yet he has become uncertain of his status.

Second, observe the phrase “confirm your calling.” Confirming doesn't have to mean earning or establishing the ground of something. Suppose a car accident leaves me and several passengers stranded. Geico assures me a tow truck is on the way. After fifteen minutes, I become impatient and doubtful. ‘Are they coming or not?’ So I contact the rental company to confirm. The operator assures me, “the driver left ten minutes ago. He will be there shortly.” In this case, my call to confirm did not initiate the tow truck's coming. He was already headed my way. What confirming did, however, is put me and my passengers at ease concerning the status of our situation. 

Even so, confirming one's election by growing in virtue does not influence God's objective and eternal choice. The Lord is already on the way to salvage his wrecked elect! Ongoing spiritual growth, however, settles doubts within ourselves and others concerning the reality of grace at work in us.

Peter's argument relates to the so-called Practical Syllogism common among Reformed theologians. Basically, the syllogism shows how one's election and calling, known directly by God, can be logically inferred by individuals. It goes like this:

1. Only elect people receive the Spirit through calling (regeneration). 
2. All those who receive the Spirit walk in newness of life (ongoing faith and repentance)
3. I walk in a way that evidences newness of life
4. Therefore, I have strong reason to believe I have been elected and called.

Conversely,

3. I am NOT walking in a way that evidences newness of life
4. Therefore, I have weak reason to believe I am elect and called.

While this argument does not replace faith in Christ's objective work as the primary basis of assurance, it can serve a secondary role in strengthening our hope. 

CONCLUSION

In light of all this, 2 Pet 1:10 can be understood as saying, “diligently pursue abundant fruits of the Spirit which prove the reality of your election and calling.” Essentially, Paul says the same thing in Rom 8:1-4, “there is therefore now no condemnation... to those who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit...” Walking after the Spirit is not why we are no longer condemned, but is proof we are forgiven. Becoming virtuous is not the ground of God's election, but a comforting confirmation of it.

PS: I'm glad to hear our members are pondering God's riches in the Word.

The Sunday Reader

This week's insightful and interesting links.

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Is Hospitality Your Mentality?

"Rather than opening and sharing our homes, the current American Dream is that each family member has his or her own room, their own screen, and their own bathroom. The typical American home built in the 1950s was 1,700 square feet, while in 2017 it was 2,600 square feet. Our homes are larger and nicer—but there is less life within." Highly recommended. 

Does 2 Cor 3:17 Teach the Deity of the Spirit

Rev. Spotts interacts with accusations raised against this text.

Homeschool Will Not Save Them

An important if perhaps heavy article. "An idea had taken root, sprouted, and grown over the years, and it was this: By giving my child a distinctively Christian education, I was ensuring she would turn out Christian. It had been like a private insurance policy I had taken out with God. I thought he had agreed to my terms

 

 

 

The Sunday Reader

This week's insightful and interesting links.

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Yes, Doctrine Divides

Rev. Spotts reflects on how sometimes sharp distinctions must be made for the sake of the Body.

The Peculiarity of Early Christian Worship

Michael Kruger observes how early “Christian worship managed to irritate just about everyone,” and what we can learn from it.

I Have Forgotten How to Read

“For a long time, I convinced myself that a childhood spent immersed in old-fashioned books would insulate me somehow from our new media climate—that I could keep on reading and writing in the old way because my mind was formed in pre-internet days. But the mind is plastic—and I have changed. I'm not the reader I was.” Highly recommended.