Floodlights

At the TGC (The Gospel Coalition) conference last month, Tim Keller (founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, one of the founders of The Gospel Coalition, and Senior Editor of The New City Catechism) shared a brief story from the life of J.I.Packer (Packer is an English-born, evangelical, Calvinist theologian.)

Keller said the wise old pastor told him that on a recent summer evening, as he walked through the streets of London, he turned a corner to witness one of the architecturally beautiful old cathedrals of the city bathed in light. Nearly a dozen huge floodlights gloriously illuminated the building. The lights drew attention to and showed off the beauty and majesty of the building.

Packer continued, “I realized at that moment that I had no thought of praising the floodlights. Their significance was not in themselves, but in what they were able to illuminate—in what they were focused on. Their purpose was not to draw attention to themselves, but to show the glory of the object of their focus.”

“And that,” said Packer, “was what we were created to do.” The first question of the Westminster short catechism is: What is the chief end of man? And the answer is Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

May we all remember that we’re called to be floodlights gloriously illuminating our King.

Written by Jim De Horn

The Masculine Mandate

Pastor Tony Evans, (author, producer and host of the recent film, Kingdom Men Rising), warns: “Satan is determined to undermine men, destroy their God-given roles, and re-define the Biblical definition of manhood because he wants to see the family unravel and society crumble…what we’re seeing, and will continue to see, is the decimation of the family, because the husband and father is the foundation of the family, and the family is the foundation of society.”

On Saturday morning, May 18, the Adult Education Team will be hosting an event we’re calling “The Masculine Mandate.” We’ll start the morning with a full-blown breakfast (bacon, sausage & biscuits, cheesy-hashbrowns, oatmeal, donuts). The meal will be followed by a presentation led by John Teeples, a local lawyer, and adult ministry director. John has put together a wonderful presentation using his own family experience as a model. Our purpose is to challenge the men of Fellowship to honor the mandate given to God’s men to lovingly lead their wives and their families “as Christ loved the church [giving] Himself up for her.” We will be focusing on the ways we can use the unique gifts God has given each of us to successfully lead our families through the minefields of modern culture—and more importantly, to personal relationships with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Please pray for a great turn out for this event and for the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the men of Fellowship.

It’s not too late to register so sign up today. Contact Jim De Horn by today at jdehorn@frchudsonville.org so that we can make sure there’s plenty of bacon on the table when you arrive.

Written by Jim De Horn

Post-Toasties Christians

Most people outside the ropes of Reformed theology would say that there is no such thing as a humble Calvinist. Reformed culture seems to be known for its lack of grace rather than its absolute reliance on grace. Many would classify Calvinists as “Post Toasties” Christians. (I think that the demographic of this readership is such that most of you will remember the advertising slogan on the Post Toasties cereal box. It read, “Post Toasties…Just a Little Bit Better.”) So when I was a kid, we would disparagingly refer to those people who attended the church down the street that claimed to be the only theologically correct church in town as “Post Toasties Christians.” And that’s the way most non-believers, and sadly many of our non-reformed brothers and sisters in Christ, feel about us Calvinists. Why is that? There are Christians around the world who will be sharing the joy of heaven with us for eternity, but who find a reason for debate with every point of the TULIP acronym. But the point that seems to cause the most criticism is the doctrine of Limited Atonement.

By Limited Atonement, the reformers meant to teach that the saving intent of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was limited to the elect, and the elect are those chosen by God before the foundation of the earth, and for whom He died. The Bible clearly teaches that not all people are saved. Romans 9:27 states that Jesus atonement on the cross was only for an elect “remnant.” And that is where so many Christians and non-Christians alike base their objection, arguing that the loving creator of mankind would not save only a finite number of His created humanity.

But Limited Atonement does not mean Meager Atonement. J.A. Medders, the author of a fantastic book which I would recommend to everyone entitled, “Humble Calvinism,” says that phrases like “particular redemption,” or “definite atonement” do a much better job representing the point being made. He says, “’Limited Atonement’ can make it sound like Jesus’ death on the cross didn’t pack enough power needed to redeem all of us from our sins. But ‘Definite Atonement’ puts the focus back on what Jesus did, not what He didn’t do. Definite Atonement means that Jesus’ death definitely and explicitly, surely and indubitably, absolutely and incontestably, paid for the sins of ALL who would believe in Him.”

So why would we conclude that the Father who created every human being who has ever lived would choose to save only a tiny percentage of His creation? Charles Hodge (Presbyterian theologian and principal of Princeton Theological Seminary between 1851 and 1878) wrote that on the basis of God’s electing grace, “We have reason to believe . . . that the number of the finally lost in comparison with the whole number of the saved will be very inconsiderable, our blessed Lord, when surrounded by the innumerable company of the redeemed, will be hailed as the . . . Savior of Men, as the Lamb that bore the sins of the world. The number of the saved shall, in the end, be not small but large, and not merely absolutely but comparatively large; . . . to speak plainly, it shall embrace the immensely greater part of the human race.”

Charles Spurgeon, never one to mince words, once famously preached, “I do abhor from my heart that continual whining of some men about their own little church as the remnant. They are always dwelling upon what they conceive to be a truth, that but few shall enter heaven. . . . I believe there will be more in heaven than in hell . . . because Christ, in everything, is to “have the pre-eminence” and I cannot conceive how he could have the pre-eminence if there are to be more in the dominions of Satan than in paradise.

Moreover, it is said there is to be a multitude that no man can number in heaven; I have never read that there is to be a multitude that no man can number in hell. Of all people, those who affirm the Bible’s teaching on unconditional election have reason to hope for a vast election. This is because salvation doesn’t rest on people’s willingness to choose grace, but on God’s free choice.”

In Genesis 15:5, God promises Abraham that his descendants (the chosen of God-the elect through the ages) would outnumber the stars. Then in Revelation 7:9, John gets to see that promise come to fruition as he beheld “a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne…” So Reformed theology doesn’t promote Post Toasties Christians. It encourages humble sinners, who have been saved by God’s grace alone, to rejoice in the immensity of our Savior’s love and the fulfillment of His promise to deliver an innumerable remnant of redeemed believers to the eternal throne of the Father. Sola Gratia.

Written by Jim De Horn

More Than You Love These

I just finished studying the book of John in my personal Bible study.

(Side note, I used Meditation Method #2, Rewrite the Text in Your Own Words, from the “FRC Little Booklet of Bible Study Techniques” that we distributed in January. It took a long time each morning, but it was very effective. Are you using any of those techniques in your own personal studies? I want to encourage you to try some different methods when you study the Bible. You might discover some interesting insights just because of the way you’re looking at the passages. And that’s what happened to me.)

John 21 tells the story of the resurrected Jesus feeding seven of His apostles breakfast on the Sea of Galilee. If you can recall, with Jesus absent from the apostles, except for brief appearances, Peter had announced that he was “going fishing,” and some of the guys decided to join him. Now, let’s not forget that Peter was by trade a professional fisherman. So his decision to go fishing could have been a decision to return to his past life now that Jesus wasn’t around on a day-to-day basis. (This event was, of course, before Pentecost.) On the morning of the incident, the guys had been fishing all night and had come up empty. But then, Jesus had miraculously filled their nets with 153 fish. (Do you think that there was anything symbolic in the number 153? I don’t have a clue. It might just have been John’s way of giving proof to the story by recording the exact number of fish. (Sorry about going down that rabbit trail. I’ll stick to the point from now on.)

The Bible now says that, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

What was Jesus referring to when he used the pronoun “these”? My ESV study notes suggest three possibilities:

  1. Jesus was saying, Peter, do you love me more than these other guys love me?

  2. Jesus was saying, Peter, do you love me more than you love these guys?

  3. Jesus was saying, Peter, do you love me more than you love these fish?

Now before you throw out the last one as ridiculous, consider that these/fish could be a metonym for “the whole fishing life.” Was Jesus asking Peter if he loved Him more than his former life as a fisherman? (That’s not a ridiculous question at all. Jesus asks us all, “Do you love me more than the material world your fishing in daily?”) Now, add to the discussion the fact that in Mathew 4:19 Jesus had asked Peter to join him and become a “fisher of men.” But here’s the really cool part. Allow me to paraphrase here: Jesus said, “Peter, do you love me more than you love being a fisherman?” and Peter said, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus said, “Feed my lambs. I don’t want you to be a fisherman anymore; now I want you to be a shepherd. I want you to lead my flock. I’ve got a different role for you now.”

Isn’t that an interesting possible interpretation of a passage that we’ve all read many times? And it came because I tried a different technique of meditating on the Word. I want to challenge you to do the same.

Written by Jim De Horn

Wisdom

James 3:13-16: Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly and unspiritual. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

Our Family Night study on the book of James has led to dozens of very interesting conversations. But after session seven, where we discussed the difference between the “False Wisdom” of the world and “True Wisdom” from God, I came across this amusing, true story, that I so wished I had read before our class discussion so that I could have shared it with the group.

The book of James makes it clear that unless we seek wisdom from “above” (the truth from God), our old sinful nature will most often lead us to decisions based on our own self-interest and arrogant conceit. As proof, consider this episode in the life of professional golfer, Tommy Bolt.

It was a well-known fact the Bolt was hard on his caddies. Nowadays, pro golfers pay their loopers big money to, not only carry their clubs, but to give advice on things like course management, the contours on the greens, and club selection. If you ever watch golf on television, you’ll often get to hear the strategy conversations between the golfers and their caddies before important shots. But Tommy Bolt was known to be very particular about asking for and taking advice from his caddies. In the 1952 Los Angeles Open, being played at Riviera Country Club, on the tee box just before the final round, Bolt told his caddy, “Don’t say a word to me. And if I ask you something, just answer yes or no.”

The obedient caddy followed instructions throughout the round. Then, with a two-stroke lead and two holes to play, Bolt hit his drive under the trees on the left side of the fairway. The ball was under a tree with full, heavy, low-hanging branches making for a very tough shot. Looking at his caddy, he asked, “five-iron?”

“No, Mr. Bolt,” was the reply.

“What do you mean, ‘No’?” And with that, Bolt reached into his bag himself, took out his five-iron, and proceeded to hit a rocket under the overhanging tree, and on to the green, not more than two feet from the pin. He smirked at his caddy and said, “Now what do you think? …You can talk now.”

“Mr. Bolt,” the caddy said, “that wasn’t your ball.”

Written by Jim DeHorn