Tuesday, January 01, 2013

A Prayer for the New Year, from The Valley of Vision

A Prayer for the New Year

O LORD, length of days does not profit me
except the days are passed in thy presence, in thy service, to thy glory.

Give me a grace that precedes, follows, guides, sustains, sanctifies, aids every hour,

that I may not be one moment apart from thee,

but may rely on thy Spirit to supply every thought,
     speak in every word,
        direct every step,         
           prosper every work,
             build up every mote of faith,

and give me a desire
   to show forth thy praise;
   testify thy love,
   advance thy kingdom.

I launch my bark on the unknown waters of this year,
   with thee, O Father, as my harbour,
   thee, O Son, at my helm,
   thee, O Holy Spirit, filling my sails.

Guide me to heaven
with my loins girt,
my lamp burning,
my ear open to thy calls,
my heart full of love,
my soul free.

Give me thy grace to sanctify me,
   thy comforts to cheer,
   thy wisdom to teach,
   thy right hand to guide,
   thy counsel to instruct,
   thy law to judge,
   thy presence to stabilize.

May thy fear be my awe, thy triumphs my joy.


The Valley of Vision, 206-207 (Banner of Truth Trust)

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Total Depravity and the Believer’s Sanctification

Tullian Tchividjian of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Ft Lauderdale, FL and Rick Phillips of Second Presbyterian Church, Greenville, SC have recently engaged with the doctrine of total depravity in its relation to Christians. That is, they are discussing not whether or not people in their natural state are totally depraved, but whether and in what sense believers may be spoken of as "totally depraved." This is a very important issue, so I am glad to have it put on the front burner.
Years ago, Tabletalk magazine asked me to write an article on this subject. I was interacting primarily with forms of Christian perfectionist teaching on the one hand and carnal Christian teaching on the other. But I think the article still speaks to issues that the Reformed and evangelical community is debating today. So, here it is.

Total depravity is a reality, both taught in Holy Scripture and experienced in life, with important implications not only for pagans but also for Christians. Very often we think of this Biblical doctrine in connection with those who are unregenerate, or with regard to Christians before their conversion, but we reflect less frequently on the depravity which still infects those who have been saved by grace and reborn of the Spirit. This is a serious omission, for misunderstanding or underestimating the continuing corruption in the believer leaves the Christian unprepared for the warfare of sanctification and leads to a variety of spiritual problems.
There are many errors propagated in evangelical circles on this subject, the two main tendencies of which are: perfectionism and antinomianism. The former asserts that the Christian life is (or ought to be) characterized by complete victory over sin. Hence, Christian life as intended by God is “higher life” or the “victorious life.” Perfectionistic teachers not only distort the biblical teaching on holiness, but also dangerously underestimate the believer’s struggle with indwelling sin (setting up the tender-hearted Christian for a real struggle with depression and assurance).
On the other end of the spectrum, purveyors of antinomian dogma insist that true Christians may be no different in terms of vital godliness than pagans. They teach that the believer may be judicially free from sin, while “carnal” in the overall tendency of life. Oftentimes without realizing it, they teach that sin may still have dominion in the believer’s life (setting up many for tragic self-deception and encouraging spiritual lethargy in others).
In sum, the perfectionist tends to deny continuing depravity in the believer, while the antinomian implicitly denies the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification to be an essential component of our salvation. Of total depravity in the believer’s life, the perfectionist says (of the ‘victorious Christian’) “it no longer exists,” while the antinomian says (of the ‘carnal Christian’) “it doesn’t matter.” Over against both these mistakes, the Bible teaches that when a person becomes a Christian the dominion of sin is broken, but the presence of sin is never abolished in this life (see Sinclair Ferguson, John Owen on the Christian Life [Banner of Truth, 1987], 125ff).
In sorting out this doctrine and its implications, there are several great principles to be kept in mind. Let me mention four of them here.
Believers are still sinners
Depravity is still part of the believer’s reality. We not only fall victim to the depravity of others in this life, we continue to see the fruits of depravity in our own character and conduct. As the Westminster Confession puts it: “The corruption of nature remains in the regenerate during this life, and although it has been pardoned and mortified through Christ, yet both itself and all its tendencies are truly and properly sin” (WCF 6.5).
This is why Martin Luther could speak of believers as simul justus et peccator (“at the same time righteous and sinner”). He did not mean that Christians are no different after conversion than before, but he did mean to acknowledge that sin continues to be a constant reality in the believer’s experience (Romans 7:14-25). Even in the Christian, the residue of depravity is scattered throughout the whole man --mind, will, and affections-- and is in that sense still “total.”
So when certain religious teachers speak of “the higher life,” “perfection,” “entire sanctification,” “living without sin,” or “perfect love,” as the ideal for Christians in this life, they betray their contradiction of Scripture. This truth brings with it a two-edged sword of conviction and comfort. This truth moves us to grieve the way we continue to displease our loving Lord, but it also allows us to be realistic about our spiritual growth. When we see remaining sin in us, we are reminded that God has not yet completed his final domination of sin. Its bondage is broken, but its influence is still keenly felt. The lives of Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and Paul all testify to the continuing influence of sin even in the lives of mature believers. It was not a backsliding believer, but the Apostle Paul who said: “the good that I wish, I do not do; but practice the very evil that I do not wish” (Romans 7:19).
Believers must, by the Spirit, strive against sin
This truth of the continuing influence of sin in believer means that there will be God-instigated internal spiritual warfare in the lives of all true Christians. The new principle of life and holiness implanted in us strives against the remains of depravity. This warfare is not only not the exception to the rule, it is the rule! Though sin’s dominion is ended by regeneration, its presence is not. In consequence, the Spirit wars against the remaining corruption that “grace might reign through righteousness” (Romans 5:21).
As J.C. Ryle reminds us “a holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of [in Paul’s Epistles] as characteristic of the true Christian” (Holiness, xxvi). Christians are not to be passive in this warfare (a favorite “higher life” teaching), nor are we to become complacent about remaining corruption (a dangerous result of antinomian teaching).
Often, perfectionistic teachers assure us that victory over sin will be ours if we will only “let go and let God” or “be still and yield ourselves to God.” All we need do, they say, is believe and the conquest of depravity will be assured. These instructions are not only unintelligible, but also impractical. They don’t work! Though it is true that faith is instrumental in sanctification as well as justification, sanctification is not an instantaneous work and the Bible calls us to “watch, pray, and fight,” as well as “believe,” in the struggle for sanctification.
The vocabulary of the New Testament requires an active response, not merely a passive yielding, on the part of the believer in the fight against sin. Our efforts are empowered by the Spirit and done in a framework of grace, to be sure, but we ourselves are nevertheless called by God to fight.
Believers are no longer under the dominion of sin
Though sin still remains in true Christians, and we see in ourselves the evidence of a great struggle between flesh and Spirit, yet in Christ we have been “freed from sin” (Romans 6:7). This is not merely a freedom from judicial consequences, but a freedom unto holiness. Thus sanctification always accompanies justification: “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he frees him from his natural bondage under sin” (WCF 9.4). Where there is grace, there is righteousness. Where there is no righteousness, there is no real grace, because “grace reigns in righteousness” (Romans 5:21).
As a result of our liberation from sin’s dominion our affections are no longer enslaved to worldly desire. Our wills are enabled to prefer spiritual good. We are motivated to live in accord with the law of God and not the law of self. Those who would saddle us with the “carnal Christian” doctrine underestimate God’s works of regeneration and sanctification and thereby tempt some to apathy with regard to indwelling sin.
But as the Westminster divines reminded us long ago “the corruption of nature (which remains in the regenerate during this life) and all its tendencies are truly and properly sin” (WCF 6.5) and as such it is to be hated and mortified by the Christian. This means we will work and pray against the remaining sin in our experience, and never glibly excuse it by saying “well, I am already forgiven.” The doctrines of justification and adoption were never intended to produce presumptuous attitudes toward sin, nor to lead us to discount the doctrine of sanctification.
Christian life is characterized by growth and holiness, but not perfection
Finally, the Christian’s walk will neither be marked by complacency towards sin, nor spiritual perfection. “When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, he . . . enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet, because of the sinner’s remaining corruption, he does not perfectly or only desire that which is good, but does also desire that which is evil” (WCF 9.4).
When perfectionistic teachers assure us that we can come to a point when we no longer consciously sin and that the spiritual believer is one who is beyond the struggle against sin, they stumble at three points. (1) They underestimate sin (which is more than willful acts, but extends to thoughts and disposition). (2) They underestimate perfection (which involves more than a superficial outward conformity to the law, but requires whole-hearted obedience in behavior, pure motivation, dependence on God, and desire for his glory). (3) They evidence a longing for cessation of spiritual hostilities this side of glory (which the Bible does not promise!).
No, the true Christian will walk through this world in a fight against sin, not just in others but in himself. Sadly, depravity remains a reality for believers - all too real in our thoughts, words, and actions sometimes. But God has broken the dominion of sin by uniting us to Christ, given us the Spirit to empower our obedience, given us his word for an unchanging standard of righteousness, and filled our hearts with a desire for his glory and eternal fellowship with him as our goal. Sin will not have the last word.

Ligon Duncan  @LigonDuncan  www.fpcjackson.org  www.rts.edu/jackson
Senior Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi, USA
John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Take a look and make a note of the upcoming Church Schedule from now to the end of the year, through the Holiday Season!

Sunday, November 18
Lord’s Day Morning and Evening Services - 8:30 & 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, November 20
Midweek Prayer Meeting (Discipleship Groups are NOT meeting)
Note that Wednesday Midweek activities shift to Tuesday for next week only (because of the Thanksgiving Holiday)

Thursday, November 22
Thanksgiving Service - 8:30 a.m. (Nursery Provided)

Thursday-Friday, November 22-23
Church Offices are Closed for Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 25
Lord’s Day Morning and Evening Services - 8:30 & 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Sunday, December 2
Sunday Morning and Evening Services - 8:30 & 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
The Children's Choir Christmas Music as part of the Evening Worship Service

Tuesday, December 4 WIC Christmas Dinner - 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, December 5
"Joy, An Irish Christmas" with Keith and Kristyn Getty - 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 6
Men of the Covenant Luncheon - 11:45 a.m. Speaker: Tom Elkin

Sunday, December 16
Lord’s Day Morning Services - 8:30 & 11:00 a.m.
Music of Christmas Lessons and Carols 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, December 19
Prayer Meeting - 6:30 p.m. No Supper, Nursery or Children's Activites

Friday, December 21
Day School Dismissed for Holidays 11:00 a.m.

Sunday, December 23
Lord’s Day Morning and Evening Services - 8:30 & 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Monday, December 24
Family Christmas Eve Carol Service 4:00 p.m. (Nursery Provided)

Monday-Tuesday, December 24-25
Church Offices are Closed for Christmas

Wednesday, December 26
No Midweek Activities

Sunday, December 30
Lord’s Day Morning and Evening Services - 8:30 & 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Tuesday, January 1
Church Offices are Closed for New Years Day

Wednesday, January 2
No Midweek Activities

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Charles Simeon, Exhortation to Holiness not antithetical to the Gospel and Grace

Charles Simeon offers some sober warnings about a carelessness in how some preachers teach about the Gospel and grace, in relation to holiness and obedience.

How deluded they are who rest in Christian principles, without aspiring after Christian attainments— Such there have been in every age of the Church. Not that the Gospel has in itself any tendency to create such characters; but the corruption of men’s hearts will take occasion from the Gospel to foster sentiments, which are, in reality, subversive of its most fundamental truths. 

Many regard all exhortations to holiness as legal: yea, there are not wanting some who will maintain, that Christ, having fulfilled the law for us, has absolved us from all obligation to obey it in any of its commands. They affirm that it is cancelled, not only as a covenant of works, but as a rule of life. They profess, that the sanctification of Christ is imputed to us, precisely as his righteousness is; and that we need no personal holiness, because we have a sufficient holiness in him. 

Horrible beyond expression are such sentiments as these: and how repugnant they are to those contained in our text, it is needless to observe. That some who advance these sentiments are externally moral, and often benevolent, must be confessed: (if any be truly pious, it is not by means of these principles, but in spite of them:) but the great body of them, with, it is to be feared, but few exceptions, bear the stamp of their unchristian principles in their whole spirit and conduct. 

The whole family of them may be distinguished by the following marks. 

They are full of pride and conceit, imagining that none can understand the Gospel but themselves. Such is their confidence in their own opinions, that they seem to think it impossible that they should err. 

They are dogmatical in the extreme, laying down the law for every one, and expecting all to bow to their judgment: and so contemptuous are they, that they speak of all as blind and ignorant who presume to differ from them. 

Their irreverent manner of treating the great mysteries of our religion is also most offensive; they speak of them with a most unhallowed familiarity, as though they were common things: and so profane are they, that they hesitate not. to sneer at the very word of God itself, whenever it militates against their favourite opinions. “By these fruits ye shall know them;” and by these fruits ye may judge of their principles. 

True indeed, with their errors they bring forth much that is sound and good: but this only renders their errors the more palatable and the more delusive. They altogether vitiate the taste of the religious world, and indispose them for all practical instruction. They so exclusively set forth what may be called “the strong meat” of the Gospel, as to withhold all “milk” from the household of our God. In a word, they promote nothing but spiritual intoxication, and banish from the Church all spiritual sobriety.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention

Dr. Frank S. Page has named an advisory group to help the SBC navigate the issues surrounding Calvinism. I know many of the fine people he has appointed to the team. His goal is for these folks to "help him craft a strategic plan to bring together various groups within the convention who hold different opinions on the issue of Calvinism" and then to "develop a strategy whereby people of various theological persuasions can purposely work together in missions and evangelism." This is most welcome, IMHO.

I hope that some of the State-level SBC officials and others who have been attempting to wage an exclusionary campaign against Calvinism in the SBC will re-think their activities in light of what Dr. Page is so graciously doing here. Dr. Page is in print critiquing Calvinism but he also understands that some of the best and brightest (and a significant proportion of the younger generation) of the SBC are Calvinists, and that they are in complete accord with the historic Baptist tradition and the Baptist Faith and Message, and that they are aggressively committed to the Great Commission, evangelism, missions and church planting.

As a Bible-believing Presbyterian (PCA), I am so thankful for the SBC. Of course I love that many SBC Baptists have rediscovered their historic Calvinist roots, but I value the SBC for profound reasons other than that. I rejoice in the SBC commitment to inerrancy. I treasure the SBC's fidelity to the Gospel. I admire the SBC's focus on the Great Commission. I revel in the SBC's warm embrace of complementarianism. SBC Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike embrace these theological priorities. I revere Dr. Paige Patterson and love Dr. Albert Mohler too. I respect Dr. Malcolm Yarnell and Dr. Russell Moore. I appreciate Dr. Chuck Kelley and Dr. Danny Akin as well. I esteem Dr. Mark Dever and Dr. Johnny Hunt. And I could go on.

Friends, the SBC is hugely important to the rest of evangelicalism, and the vitality, unity and theological fidelity of the SBC is strategic for the well-being of robust Gospel witness here in the increasingly pagan Western world. I count you as a friend and ally, brethren of the SBC. Even if you think me to be suspect and dangerous because of my Calvinism and Presbyterianism (and, tell it not in Gath, my paedo-baptist convictions!), I love you still. And I pray for you. And I want you to prosper. And I thank God for you at every remembrance.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

David Felker and Ralph Kelley Ordination/Installation Tonight at 6 o'clock

Tonight, on this beautiful Lord's Day evening, we will ordain and install David Felker as our Minister of Young Adults, and we will install Ralph Kelley as our Executive Minister (he is already ordained). Afterwards we will all have an opportunity to welcome them at a reception in their honor in Lowe Hall. Make plans to be here for this very special occasion. We are thankful to God for His generous gift of these men and their families to us.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ordination and Installation, Sunday PM, August12, 2012


Please plan to join us Sunday evening, August 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. We will have a special service of ordination and installation for David Felker as our new Minister of Young Adults and a service of installation for Ralph Kelley as our new Executive Minister.

It will be a time to praise and thank God for the call He has placed on their lives, and the gifts that He has given our church in giving them to us.
There will be a reception in Lowe Hall immediately following the service.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Twin Lakes Fellowship, 2012 Schedule

2012 Twin Lakes Fellowship Schedule

Tuesday Activity
12:00 Noon Check-in begins lunch available in the Dining Hall
1:30-1:45 Welcome and Singing
1:45-1:50 Devotional Reading 1
1:50-2:50 Seminar 1 – The Hopefulness of Progressive Sanctification Philippians 2:12-13 – Ligon Duncan
2:50-3:20 Break
3:20-4:15 Introductions of church planters and newly attending Twin Lakes Fellows – Carl Robbins
4:15-4:30 Break
4:30-4:35 Devotional Reading 2
4:35-6:05 Seminar 2 – The Content of Our Preaching – Terry Johnson
6:05 Supper and Fellowship
7:30-9:00 Worship Service 1 – Wheels with Eyes: The Providence of God Ezekiel 1 - Dr. Douglas F. Kelly, preaching
9:00-9:05 Meditation, Repentance, Reflection, Rejoicing and Evening Fellowship and Rest

Wednesday Activity
8:00 Breakfast and Fellowship
9:10-9:15 Devotional Reading 3
9:15-10:30 Worship Service 2 – We Do Not Lose Heart: The Way of the Cross 2 Corinthians 4:7-15 - Dr. Sean Lucas, preaching
10:30-11:00 Break
11:00-11:05 Devotional Reading 4
11:05-12:15 Seminar 3 – Leading with the Soul: The Crucible of Pastoral Ministry – Nate Shurden
12:15 Break for lunch and fellowship
1:45-1:50 Devotional Reading 5
1:50-3:00 Worship Service 3 - The Missional Pastor: Our Call, Hindrances, Dangers, Help! Jonah –– Elbert McGowan, preaching
3:00-3:30 Church Planting Interviews and Reports 1 – Carl Robbins
3:30-6:00 Free Time – rest, recreation and fellowship
6:00 Supper and Fellowship
6:55-7:00 Devotional Reading 6
7:00-8:30 Worship Service 4 – To Journey's End Mark 14:32-42 - Derek W. H. Thomas, preaching
8:30-8:35 Meditation, Repentance, Reflection, Rejoicing and Evening Fellowship and Rest

Thursday Activity
8:00 Breakfast and Fellowship 8:40-8:45
Devotional Reading 7
8:45-10:00 Worship Service 5 – One Like No Others Hebrews 1:13-14 - Professor Reddit Andrews, preaching
10:00-10:05 Break
10:05-10:30 Church Planting Interviews and Reports 2 – Carl Robbins
10:30-11:00 Interview with Caleb Cangelosi
11:00-11:15 Break
11:15-12:00 Recorded Interview with Kevin DeYoung
12:00-12:05 Devotional Reading 8
12:10 Brown bag lunch and Farewell

Monday, February 20, 2012

Three Things that All Jesus' Disciples Do

Jesus' disciples, all of them, Come to Jesus, Listen to Jesus, and Live for Jesus. They depend on Jesus (and Jesus alone) for acceptance with God, they believe what Jesus teaches and they do what he commands. They Come to Christ, Hear Christ and Obey Christ. They come to him for pardon and acceptance, they listen to him for faith and live according to his word for joy.

So, Christians, heed the words of your Savior and (1) Come to Jesus, who is the only way to the Father and only hope of salvation; (2) Listen to Jesus like your life depended on it (because it does); and (3) Live as if Jesus is really your Lord and treasure (especially in the storms of life).

Charles Simeon elaborates this point in his comments on Matthew 7:24.

"In the words before us he describes,the character and condition of the godly— Their character is drawn in simple but comprehensive terms—

“They come to Christ:” this is absolutely necessary to their entrance on the divine life: till they have come to Christ under a sense of their own guilt and helplessness, they have no pretensions to godliness; they are obnoxious to the curse of the law, and the wrath of God.

After they have come to Christ, “they hear his sayings;” they sit at his feet, like Mary,” desiring to be fully instructed in his mind and will. With this view they study the Holy Scriptures, and “meditate in them day and night:” with this view also they attend the ordinances, and “receive the word, not as the word of man, but as it is in truth, the word of God.”

They do not, however, rest in hearing his sayings; but they go forth to “do them.” They desire to know his will in order that they may do it. They love the most searching discourses, because by them they discover the evil of their own hearts, and are led to aspire after a fuller conformity to the Divine image: nor would they rest, till they feel every “thought and desire captivated to the obedience of Christ.”