Few things can cause us more consternation than the seeming triumph of evil.
The prophet Habakkuk expressed to God a very human complaint against evil’s triumph: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (1:3-4).
When people abuse or oppress others, when an evil person gets rewarded or promoted, the cry goes up, “Where is God? Where is justice?”
It’s amazing how many people walk around with unresolved past injustices weighing them down. Just sit and listen to folks for a while. You will hear the cries of their hearts against betrayal, abandonment, abuse, and injustice.
No matter how many times it happens, I still have hope. I believe that my seven children will all love the meal I make for them. When I said that in my sermon Sunday, one man shouted out, “Then, order pizza!” Nope! That won’t work. One of my daughters doesn’t like tomato sauce! Another child complains about too much cheese! In spite of that, I hope beyond hope that everyone will like the meal.
I suspect I’m not the only one that is looking for a perfect meal. We are all looking for a perfect something. We think our marriage or vacation or job or church or children will fulfill all our hopes and dreams. The reality is generally far different. Everything disappoints.
One of the key promises of the Bible is that Jesus will come again. “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Why is Jesus coming back? To bring to completion what He started. He will bring in perfection, the restoration of all things.
An important corollary to this truth is that there will be no completion in this life. There will always be something lacking. Every hobby will have its boring moments. Every relationship will have its hard moments. Every church will feel unwelcoming at times.
Here’s a suggestion for you who are parents or will be. Keep a journal of what your children do. If you have a bad day, write about it. If they do something that makes you particularly happy, write about that, too. I would especially suggest this if you have several children.
My wife does not journal a lot. She has written three journal entries over the past five years. However, a few nights ago, she read them, and she really enjoyed it. I’m going to publish some of my own journal entries in a few months where I describe some of the most intimate details of my private life. Just kidding.
In all seriousness, I’m really pleased how my two oldest children are growing and becoming good workers. They are almost 9 and 8 years old. My son is particular willing to work without complaining, even if he is not as thorough as I would like. Nevertheless, I’m quite pleased.
But my 5 and 4 year old daughters drive me crazy sometimes. Every time I try to get them to do even the smallest tasks, they disappear, get “sick,” or suddenly have to go to the bathroom. I was complaining about this to my wife, and she said, “Anna (our oldest) did the same thing when she was five. I just read it in my journal.” I was greatly relieved. We were not failures as parents. Our younger girls were not destined to be eternal couch potatoes, ever avoiding work. They were just being 5 and 4.
This was a good lesson for me. I’ll keep pushing my children to work, but I also want to have realistic expectations. That’s true for all who have subordinates. It’s true as a pastor, and it’s true as a father. “Be patient with all.” says the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 5:14).
In John 7:17–18, Jesus sets forth proper criteria for judging the true religion. The first is that in order to judge properly, one must desire to do the will of God. In other words, one must be ready to follow the commands of God wherever they lead and in spite of the fact that they may conflict with our own desires. The second criterion is that the true religion gives all glory to God, “He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true . . .”
In one sense, we must examine every teaching to see if it is from God. However, there is a sort of shortcut here by seeking that religion which most glorifies God. This is what Herman Witsius said in his book The Practice of True Christianity. Here is a portion of that work which deals with this question:
10. But since the nations that bear the name of Christian are divided into so many different sects, what should someone who is concerned about his salvation do? He should not be too surprised or be shaken in his faith since he knows that the corrupted reason of man is inclined towards novelty and will worship and that the devil is always trying to forge false doctrines and introduce them among men. But it is necessary for a Christian to examine all these things and test them by the standard of Scripture. He must receive all that is in accord with Scripture and reject all that is opposed to it.
11. But that is a dizzying and hard work and which not all who seek their salvation are capable of doing. Can’t you show me some shorter and more general way to discern the true Christian religion from those that falsely bear the name?Continue reading “Criteria for Judging the True Religion”
The Bible teaches that those who have once believed in Christ are secure forever in their salvation. This does not mean that God does not care about the remaining sin in His children. The Bible also teaches that our heavenly Father is displeased with His people’s disobedience and will chastise them for it, determined to lead them away sin. This distinction is presented beautifully in Psalm 89:30–33:
If his sons forsake My law and do not walk in My judgments, if they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, nor allow My faithfulness to fail.
Huguenot theologian Jean Daillé’s comment on this passage is to the point:
God here says two things: first, that he will chastise them, next, that he will not, on that account, cast them out of his covenant. O wonderful, tempering fo the kidness and severity of God! In which he finds his own glory, and believers their safety!
I would highly recommend to you Richard Sibbes’ classic The Bruised Reed based on Is. 42:3–4.
It is one of the most edifying and encouraging of the Puritan Paperbacks. I would like to provide here a brief sample of his insights.
It points us to a merciful and compassionate Savior. “If Christ had stood upon his own greatness, he would have rejected him that came with his ‘if.’ But Christ answers his ‘if” with a gracious and absolute grant, ‘I will, be thou clean'” (21). He points us to the graciousness and glory of the Gospel:
What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ’s obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him, wherein God, from being a judge, becomes our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished? (36)
At the same time, he does not want us to use Christ’s graciousness as an excuse for not repenting. I find that he is particularly good at calling us to this in a challenging way consonant with the tenor of the Gospel:
There are those who take up a hope of their own, that Christ will suffer them to walk in the ways to hell, and yet bring them to heaven; whereas all comfort should draw us nearer to Christ. Otherwise it is a lying comfort, either in itself or in our application of it. (67)
But lest any poor soul should be discouraged under the display of this providence [in conversion], because he cannot remember the time, place, instruments, and manner, wherein and by which his conversion was wrought; I will therefore premise this necessary distinction, to prevent injury to some, whilst I design benefit to others.
Conversion, as to the subjects of it, may be considered two ways; either as it is more sensibly wrought in persons of riper years, who in their youthful days were more profane and vile; or in persons in their tender years, into whose hearts grace was more insensibly and indiscernibly instilled, by God’s blessing upon pious education. Continue reading “Can You Remember the Time of Your Conversion?”
In this section (Institutes, 11.15.13–15), Francis Turretin sets forth a balanced view of the celebration of days in the church. He urges toleration for those who celebrate them and those who do not, provided they agree in rejecting the superstitious use of them and the idolatrous rites of the Papists. On the other side, he gives cautions concerning their use and explains how they can be used in a right and wrong way. He writes:
XIII. If some Reformed churches still observe some festivals (as the conception, nativity, passion and ascension of Christ), they differ widely from the papists because they dedicate these days to God alone and not to creatures. (2) No sanctity is attached to them, nor power and efficacy believed to be in them (as if they are much more holy than the remaining days). (3) They do not bind believers to a scrupulous and too strict abstinence on them from all servile work (as if in that abstinence there was any moral good or any part of religion placed and on the other hand it would be a great offense to do any work on those days). (4) The church is not bound by any necessity to the unchangeable observance of those days, but as they were instituted by human authority, so by the same they can be abolished and changed, if utility and the necessity of the church should demand it. “For everything is dissolved by the same causes by which it was produced,” the lawyers say. In one word, they are considered as human institutions. Superstition and the idea of necessity are absent. Continue reading “Turretin on the Celebration of Days”
I have completed my translation of French Huguenot preacher Pierre Allix’s Guidelines for True Christian Living. You can read it by clicking on the title of the book. Here is my preface to the book:
Our catechisms cover the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. We do well to master them. However, there are few resources that set forth in a simple way how to live a Christian life. I believe that Peter Allix’s book does just that. If you take into account the 50 principles that he sets forth here, I believe you will be much better equipped to live a godly life. This book is simple enough that young children can understand it. I intend to use this book to teach my children the basics of godly living. I will be gratified if others put it to the same use.
And here are a few highlights from the book:
To fail to reflect upon our conduct is to live without reason. But to not consider the state of our heart each day is to live without piety and godliness. We must see what good acts we have omitted and what sins we have committed. (9)
We may think we are innocent because we do not commit any great crimes. But let’s be honest. Most of the things we do are far removed from the real purpose of our lives. Oftentimes, we just waste time doing nothing. This negligence is not innocent, even though it may not be the most criminal. (11)
Let us be ashamed at such an imperfect Christianity. Let us be ashamed to do less by the fear of Jesus Christ, by this Jesus whom we ought to love, than by the fear of men who are not worthy of either our love or fear.
I am working on a translation of Peter Allix’s Maxims of the True Christian. I hope to publish it in a series of posts for my “Sabbath Meditations.” Here is an introduction to his life adapted from the Dictionary of National Biograph:
Peter Allix (1641–1717), preacher and theologian, son of Pierre Allix, pastor of the Reformed Church of France at Alençon, was born at Alençon, Normandy in 1641. His father directed his early studies; afterwards, he attended the protestant universities of Saumur and Sedan. He was especially distinguished in the study of Hebrew and Syriac, and worked at a new translation of the Bible, in conjunction with the well-known Jean Claude (1619–1687). His first charge as a pastor was at St. Agobille in Champagne. In 1670, owing to his distinguished abilities, he was translated to Charenton, Paris, the principal reformed church of city, attended by most of the distinguished families of the reformed faith. Here he acquired great fame and power as a preacher, so much so, that in Bayle’s Dictionary a high compliment is paid to his learning and abilities. In 1683, he was chosen moderator of the last provincial synod, held at Lisy, in the diocese of Meaux. The synod numbered fifty-four ministers and sat for three weeks. Continue reading “Huguenot Theologian Peter Allix (1641–1717)”