There are a lot of life lessons in this one.
University Reformed Church is looking to hire an Associate Campus Ministry Director. The woman in this position will assist in the planning and implementation of the overall vision for our campus ministry, Spartan Christian Fellowship (SCF). In particular, she will oversee the student ministry among women. This is a fully funded, full-time staff position.
We are also accepting applications for our internship program. These full-time, fundraised positions allow for three different tracks: pastoral ministry, biblical counseling, or campus ministry.
Anthony Burgess (d. 1644) argued that while good works should never be construed as meritorious for our justification, they were still necessary as our duty on the way to final salvation. Here are 13 reasons why:
1. “They are the fruit and end of Christ’s death” (Titus 2:14).
2. “There is an analogical relation between good works and heaven insofar as God has appointed the way (good works” to the end (heaven).”
3. “There is a promise made to them” (1 Tim. 4:7-8).
4. “They are testimonies whereby our election is made sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
5. “They are a condition, without which a man cannot be saved. So that although a man cannot by the presence of them gather a cause of his salvation; yet by the absence of them he may conclude his damnation; so that is an inexcusable speech of the Antinomian, Good works do not profit us, nor bad hinder us.”
6. “They are in their own nature a defence against sin and corruption” (Eph. 6:14-16).
7. “They are necessary by a natural connexion with faith, and the Spirit of God.”
8. “They are necessary by debt and obligation. . . . We cannot merit at God’s hand, because the more good we are enabled to do, we are the more beholding to God. Hence it is, that we are his servants.”
9. “By the command of God” (1 Thess. 4:3).
10. “They are necessary by way of comfort to ourselves. And this opposes many Antinomian passages, who forbid us to take any peace by our holiness.”
11. “They are necessary in respect of God, both in that he is hereby pleased, and also glorified.”
12. “They are necessary in regard of others” (Matt. 5:16).
13. “Holiness and godliness inherent is the end of our faith and justification.” (Quoted in Jones, Antinomianism, 68).
Let me commend to you again Mark Jones’ fine monograph Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest. This slim academic volume is not a quick read, but it is important, for Jones demonstrates convincingly from history that antinomianism is much more than saying “let us continue in sin that grace may abound.”
For example, in 1637 the Synod of Elders, with an eye toward refuting antinomianism in New England, declared a number of theological propositions “unsafe.” These statements from antinomian theologians were deemed by the Synod to be out of bound with the Reformed faith.
1. To say we are justified by faith is an unsafe speech; we must say we are justified by Christ.
2. To evidence justification by sanctification or graces savours of Rome.
3. If I be holy, I am never the better accepted by God; if I be unholy, I am never the worse.
4. If Christ will let me sin, let him look to it; upon his honour be it.
5. Here is a great stir about graces and looking to hearts; but give me Christ; I seek not for graces, but for Christ. . . .I seek not for sanctification, but for Christ; tell me not of meditation and duties, but tell me of Christ.
6. I may know I am Christ’s, not because I do crucify the lusts of the flesh, but because I do not crucify them, but believe in Christ that crucified my lusts for me.
7. If Christ be my sanctification, what need I look to anything in myself, to evidence my justification. (8-9)
Remember, these are the statements the Synod in New England considered unsafe, as in not good. Many have a familiar ring to them. People like John Cotton and Anne Hutchinson were arguing that we should not look for evidences of grace in our lives as confirmation of our election and justification. The antinomian impulse was one which maintained that good works were not necessary for salvation, that God delights in all Christians in the same way, that God does not see sin in the believer, that the moral law is no longer binding for Christians, that law and gospel are diametrically opposed in every way, that to strive after holiness smacks of legalistic effort, that we should not speak of spiritual duties or spiritual progress, that the subject of spiritual activity is not the believer but Christ. Clearly, antinomianism was much more complicated and went much deeper than a simple indifference to sin.
As we would expect, J.I. Packer does a masterful job of unraveling the errors of antinomianism.
Thus, with regard to justification, antinomians affirm that God never sees sin in believers; once we are in Christ, whatever our subsequent lapses, he sees at every moment only the flawless righteousness of the Savior’s life on earth, now reckoned to be ours.
Then, with regard to sanctification, there have been mystical antinomians who have affirmed that the indwelling Christ is the personal subject who obeys the law in our identity once we invoke his help in obedience situations, and there have been pneumatic antinomians who have affirmed that the Holy Spirit within us directly prompts us to discern and do the will of God, without our needing to look to the law to either prescribe or monitor our performance.
The common ground is that those who live in Christ are wholly separated from every aspect of the pedagogy of the law. The freedom with which Christ has set us free, and the entire source of our ongoing peace and assurance, are based upon our knowledge that what Christ, as we say, enables us to do he actually does in us for himself.
So now we live, not by being forgiven our constant shortcomings, but by being out of the law’s bailiwick altogether; not by imitating Christ, the archetypal practitioner of holy obedience to God’s law, but by burrowing ever deeper into the joy of our free justification, and of our knowledge that Christ himself actually does in us all that his and our Father wants us to do.
Thus the correlating of conscience with the Father’s coded commands and Christ’s own casuistry of compassion need not and indeed should not enter into the living of the Christian life, as antinomians understand it.
The bottom line of all this? The conclusion of the matter? Here, as elsewhere, the reaction of man does not lead to the righteousness of God, but rather obstructs holiness. In God’s family, as in human families, an antinomian attitude to parental law makes for pride and immaturity, misbehavior and folly. Our true model of wise godliness, as well as our true mediator of God’s grace, is Jesus Christ, our law-keeping Lord. (x-xi)
The reason for this post, the reason for Jones’ book, and the reason for Packer’s foreword is to show that antinomianism is not a phantom, a straw man, or an unheard of error in our day. Throughout history we see that the recovery of grace and the triumph of gospel-centrality are often accompanied by confusion surrounding sanctification and less than careful statements about the nature of obedience, the love of God, and human exertion. We need to know our Bibles better, our history, and our confessions. For then we would remember that the moral law is not “contrary to the grace of the gospel,” but does “sweetly comply with it” (WCF 19.7).
I like lists–top ten lists, book lists, year end lists, new year lists, all kinds of lists. I’m always interested to see the list of best books put out by various magazines and bloggers at the end of the year. I also enjoy it when the blogs I frequent list their most trafficked posts of the year.
So, in case you were curious–or missed some of these the first time around–here are the most viewed posts from my blog in the past year.
(Note: One guest post, “The Story You May Not Have Heard” by Jason Helopoulos, had enough hits to make the top ten.)
In looking over this list, I’m pleasantly surprised that only a few of these posts were generated by controversy (1 and 10, and to a lesser extent 9 and 3). I don’t know how to check my blogging stats, and I very rarely take the time to figure out which posts were popular (although you can make a good guess by tracking Facebook likes). I started this blog as an outlet for writing things I was interested in saying. And for the most part, that’s still what I do. I write about what I’m thinking, what I’m reading, and what seems to be affecting the people I know.
There is a strong temptation for bloggers to write mainly (or only) about pop culture and current events. I don’t fault Christian bloggers who write on these topics. I have before, and I’m sure I will again. But if all we aim to do is to spike our traffic by weighing in on the latest public spat, we will find that our posts get attention quickly and get forgotten even faster. Which is, I suppose, one reason that to my knowledge I’ve never written anything about Duck Dynasty or Miley Cyrus. For my part and my gifts and my calling, I’d rather look at my year-end top ten list and think five years from now “You know what, some of these are still helpful” as opposed to “Now what was that all about?”
And the Lord of Twitter spoke all these words saying, I am the Lord your God, who gave thee computers and tablets and smartphones, the Holy One of all social media who foreknew the internet before the foundation of the earth, yea even when the world of handles and hashtags was without form and void:
Thou shalt worship other gods before Twitter. Take heed lest ye waste your life 140 characters at a time. What shall it profit a man if he has 100,000 followers and forgets what it means to follow me?
Thou shalt not assume the worst about the tweets of others. Careful qualifications and robust explanations are not to be expected in two sentences. Cuttest thine enemies some slack.
Thou shalt not take the name of thine own person too seriously. If thou art prone to feeling offended at every turn and to feeling sorry for thyself publically before others, I beseech thee to gettest thou over it. To tweet like an eight-year-old is an abomination before me.
Remember thine hyperlinks, to keep them holy. Three things are a nuisance to others, four things are always to be avoided: broken links, trashy videos, rickrolling, and linking to thine own article 17 times in the same day.
Honor thy father and thy mother and all others to whom honor is due. Let thy tweets be full of encouragement and praise. Find what is commendable and commend it before others. Forgettest not that athletes and politicians are real people too. And rememberest thou that thy parents and pastors can read thy tweets.
Thou shalt not humblebrag. Better to be humble and say nothing or to brag and say everything, than to fool no one but thine own conscience.
Thou shalt not disguise self-congratulation in the form of lamentation. If thou shouldst mention before a multitude, and with conspicuous disappointment, that thou wast the only one white person who entered a float for Nelson Mandela Appreciation Day or that it breakest thine heart to think about the church’s responsibility for the Crusades, small shall be thy reward in heaven.
Thou shalt not make public demands of complete strangers. Calling upon others to respond to thy blog or denounce the evil thou refusest to put to rest is like unto social media terrorism. It is a constant dripping on a day of steady rain.
Thou shalt not retweet thine own awesomeness. The decree to “Let another praise you, and not thine own mouth” shall not be loosed all thy days. It is a perpetual statute, even unto the age of Twitter. Let it be a light unto thy path, to guard thy head from swelling and thy friends from cringing.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s klout; thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s retweets, or his followers, or his hip Instagram photos, or his travel complaints, or his mentions, or anything belonging to thy neighbor.
It has been quoted many times, and deservedly so: “Nearly all wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves” (Institutes. I.1.i). What a way to start your magnum opus. No wonder it is repeated frequently.
But the quotation must be taken in context. Often, the line is used as a justification for introspection or a psychologized self-awareness. It is suggested that Calvin (even Calvin!) wanted us to get in touch with our inner self and that Calvin (yes Calvin!) believed that we can’t understand God apart from our own experiences. Sounds good. Sounds relevant. Sounds like something we might say.
The only problem is, it’s not Calvin’s point at all.
True, Calvin argues that we must know ourselves to know God, but what we must know is our “shaming nakedness” which exposes “a teeming horde of infirmities.” Knowledge of self is indispensable because from “the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity” we can recognize “that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good, and purity of righteousness rest in the Lord alone.” The goal is not to discern our personality type or figure out our giftedness or get in touch with our past, though all of these have their place. For Calvin, knowledge of self is essential because we will only begin to seek after God when “we begin to become displeased with ourselves.”
Calvin goes on to say that though the two are intertwined, we must start with knowledge of God. Here again, the reason is that we might know how far we are from the glory and holiness of God.
For we always seem to ourselves righteous and upright and wise and holy-this pride is innate in all of us-unless by clear proofs we stand convinced of our own unrighteousness, foulness, folly, and impurity. Moreover, we are not thus convinced if we look merely to ourselves and not also to the Lord, who is the sole standard by which this judgment must be measured. (Institutes I.1.ii)
We must know God, not in order to understand our feelings, temperament, and history-again there is a place for all this-but to understand our need for God. For when we see God as he has revealed himself, “What wonderfully impressed us under the name of wisdom will stink in its very foolishness.”
Know God. Know yourself. Know yourself to know your need of God. Know God to know you are not gods.
That’s what Calvin means. And that’s true wisdom.
I have used these reflection questions in the past. As we begin a new year, I find them still remarkably relevant. Even though the questions are particular to a husband, father, and pastor, you may be able to put them to good use as well.
1. Am I spending time slowly reading God’s word and memorizing Scripture?
2. Am I having consistent, focused, extended times of prayer, including interceding for others?
3. Am I disciplined in my use of technology, in particular not getting distracted by emails and blogging in the evening and on my day off?
4. Am I going to bed on time?
5. Am I eating too much?
6. Have I exercised in the last week?
7. Am I patient with my kids or am I angry with them when they disobey or behave in childish ways?
8. When at home, am I “fully present” for my wife and family or are my mind and energy elsewhere?
9. Am I making sermon preparation a priority in my week or am I doing other less important things first?
10. Have I done anything out of the ordinary to cherish and help my wife?
A little something to remember as you head off to your New Year’s parties: Beware the Me-Monster, for we may be he.