Forgiveness is the Key (Danae Burghgraef)

When Jesus commands us to forgive those who have sinned against us, we have a tendency to question just how far he would have us go with extending such forgiveness. Surely the Savior didn’t have Corrie ten Boom forgiving those who cruelly persecuted her and her family–those who were responsible for the deaths of some of her closest family members–in mind, did he?

Yet, he so clearly teaches, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25).

Until World War II, Corrie ten Boom had lived peacefully in her home in the Netherlands with her father and sister, Betsie. When the war broke out, Corrie and her family began hiding Jews in her father’s home. Betrayed by a fellow countryman, the family was sent to prison where her father died. After being separated for a time, Corrie and Betsie ended up in the same place in Germany, the notorious prison camp–Ravensbruck.

Sadly, Betsie also died while in the camp, her body unable to tolerate any more of the poor conditions and cruel treatment. After a clerical error, Corrie left Ravensbruck and returned to Holland.

No one would have blamed Corrie if she had never returned to Germany. It was a miracle that she left Ravensbruck alive. But it was Betsie who suggested that they someday would, in fact, return. One night, in Ravensbruck, while lying face to face on a small cot, Betsie shared what she knew God had told her: that they would be back to share the love of Jesus. Even under Corrie’s protest, Betsy insisted God would take away the bitterness and fill their hearts with God’s love.

As Corrie rested her hand on Betsie’s beating heart, she realized how close her sister’s heart was to God’s. Corrie wrote, “Only God could see in such circumstances the possibility for ministry in the future-ministry to those who even now were preparing to kill us.”

After Betsie died, Corrie returned to Germany in order to bring the message of…

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Rebirth of the Gods: The Sexual Revolution (Dr. Peter Jones)

The presupposition of our world right now is that we create our own identities and our own values. Therefore, if you make a statement of judgment, that’s seen as a personal attack. It’s a very delicate place to be as a Christian; if we make any kind of statements, we are dismissed as being hate-filled.

Behind all this is the attack on the binary. Stanford University offers a course entitled “Destroying Dichotomies: Exploring Multiple Sex, Gender and Sexual Identities.” Two lesbians write an article, “Can We Put an End to the Gender Binary?” This is, of course, the notion that is currently driving our culture in terms of sexuality. A short time ago, a public school department in Texas sent a message to its schoolteachers, telling them they must no longer refer to children as boys and girls. What’s going on here? It’s the abolition of the binary. And so our culture, which was based on the binary–God creating the world separate from himself and putting distinctions within his creation–is now under massive attack in a deliberate attempt to get rid of any notion of distinction…in order that we can never again remember God as distinct from us.

People like Hugh Hefner and Alfred Kinsey concurrently attempted to destroy the binary by changing how we view sexuality. At the time of his Hefner’s death, his son described his father’s achievement thusly: “My father was a leading voice, advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom.” Piers Morgan, after being invited to an event at the Playboy Mansion, said “It was the nearest thing to a Caligula-style Roman orgy I have ever experienced.”1 We’re back to Rome. We’re back to the Roman orgies and that’s seen as good. It’s viewed as sexual liberty, and that’s what the culture now looks forward to.

I met a brilliant German intellectual named Gabriele Kuby during a trip to Korea in 2017. Kuby, a radical feminist and atheists during the 1960s, helped bring about the so-called Sexual Revolution. But then she became a Ch…

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The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 8, The Church (Josh Buice)

[Editorial Note: This is the eighth post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” to expound upon the statement’s affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]

Article 8: The ChurchWE AFFIRM that the primary role of the church is to worship God through the preaching of his word, teaching sound doctrine, observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper, refuting those who contradict, equipping the saints, and evangelizing the lost. We affirm that when the primacy of the gospel is maintained that this often has a positive effect on the culture in which various societal ills are mollified. We affirm that, under the lordship of Christ, we are to obey the governing authorities established by God and pray for civil leaders.

WE DENY that political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church. Though believers can and should utilize all lawful means that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society, we deny that these activities are either evidence of saving faith or constitute a central part of the church’s mission given to her by Jesus Christ, her head. We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.

The church (ἐκκλησία) is the assembly of God’s people who are saved by faith alone in Christ alone and gather together in local assemblies for both service and worship. In a literal rendering of the Greek – the term means a called out assembly. Christ founded his Church and made a definitive statement – “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18). It has been God’s plan from the beginning for his people to associate together, help one another, and assemble for worship and serv…

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A Beautiful Scandal (William Boekestein.)

There is a lot to like about the story of John Newton. And Simonetta Carr and Amal tell and illustrate it beautifully (Reformation Heritage Books, 2018). Newton first told the story himself in an 18th century best-seller. A young man with a dead mother and hard-to-please father pursues riches and adventure at sea. After several brushes with death Newton–who married the love of his life–left the sea to pursue poetry and preaching. Along the way he adopted needy relatives, and hosted struggling writers; he even befriended a few domesticated hares. Just months before his death he received news that warmed his soul: the British slave trade, against which he had fought for decades, had been abolished.

But another fact about Newton nearly ruins the story. He himself had been a slave trader. As both captain of a slave ship and later as an investor in the same, Newton profited from the sale of human beings. He willingly participated in the inexcusable degradation of precious lives of people created in the image of God. He is responsible for the misery and death of unknown scores of beautiful people.

Newton, the slave-trader who died as a well-respected minister in the Church of England, is the perfect picture of the kind of person we naturally hate.

The obvious questions flood our minds. How could such a vile person regain the dignity he lost in a dirty trade with the devil? Is it possible that the God who grieved over the death of Newton’s victims could ever smile upon that lost, blind, guilty wretch? Could anyone like Newton be spared the eternal consequence of damnation for his sins? How could such a man get a second chance at life? And why should any of us care about his sin-ravaged story?

John Newton had racked up more moral debt than he could ever repay. His only hope was for God’s Son to own Newton’s sins and give him a righteousness that satisfied divine justice. Newton heard this message of hope in the gospel, the Bible’s plainest theme. And by a heaven-sen…

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Even the Smallest Sin… (Nick Batzig)

I was intrigued to read the results about what evangelicals profess to believe concerning key biblical truths in 2018 in Ligonier Ministries’ State of Theology survey. Among the many shocking findings was the conclusion on the category dealing with the just punishment for sin. Out of 3002 respondents, 58% rejected the idea that “even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation.” Unlike several of the other findings, in which there is a noticeable shift in beliefs of 18 year olds and 65 year olds, there was uniformity of rejection in the represented age groups. That ought to give us pause about what has and what is being taught in our churches. As I read these findings, my mind drifted to the interchange between Anselm and his associate Boso in Cur Deus Homo (Why the God-Man?), in which Anselm pointedly told his theologically confused understudy, “You have not as yet estimated the great burden of sin.” Further on, Anselm said, “So heinous is our sin whenever we knowingly oppose the will of God even in the slightest thing; since we are always in his sight, and he always enjoins it upon us not to sin.” This, in turn, reminded me of those words of C.S. Lewis, in his preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost, in which he wrote of the nature of Eve’s sin, “She who thought it beneath her dignity to bow…to God, now worships a vegetable.” All sin–even the least sin–is a worshipping of self or some other created thing. It is, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “exchanging the truth about God for a lie and worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Rom. 1:25). Sin is transgression against the infinite and Eternal God and therefore each and every sin deserves infinite and eternal punishment. The writer of Hebrews captures this principle when he writes that according to the Law of God, “every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution” (Heb. 2:2). God requires perfect, personal and perpetual obedience of all men…

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Closing the Facebook (Adam Parker)

It’s been two weeks since I deleted my Facebook account. I do not see myself going back. The reasons for leaving have nothing to do with cybersecurity or privacy – they have to do with what Facebook is doing to me as a person.

I began using Facebook about a decade ago. Ten years ago my life was very different. My wife and I had lived in a different state for a stretch and recently had moved closer to home again. My life had been going through changes as our family had grown from 1 children to 4 children. As a young family, the idea of being able to share our lives online with family and friends was quite appealing: why not post photos for grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other friends we had made while living in multiple states to see?

There was a stretch of time when I was quite happy with Facebook and found its utility to be helpful. My mom would “like” photos of her grandkids, I knew when my uncle or aunt would have a health emergency, and most importantly I would know when new branches were added to our family tree or less-than-close family members would get married.

However, even back then I found that I was using social media to trumpet my opinions and slap people upside the head when I believed that they were wrong. I would open Facebook and feel a chemical rush as I saw that not only did I have “notifications” to check, but somebody thought I was important enough to argue with me (more about that chemical rush later). I don’t recall ever changing anyone’s mind, but I remember spending a lot of my time quite worked up.

As I moved toward attending seminary and becoming a pastor I decided that my Facebook use needed to be measured and careful. No more shooting from the hip and picking fights wherever I could find a willing participant. I resolved that my Facebook page would be a place of positivity and up building other Christians. I shared helpful articles, interesting news stories, Bible verses, and quotes from theologians that I hope…

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The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 7, Salvation (Justin Peters)

[Editorial Note: This is the seventh post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” to expound upon the statement’s affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]

WE AFFIRM that salvation is granted by God’s grace alone received through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. Every believer is united to Christ, justified before God, and adopted into his family. Thus, in God’s eyes there is no difference in spiritual value or worth among those who are in Christ. Further, all who are united to Christ are also united to one another regardless of age, ethnicity, or sex. All believers are being conformed to the image of Christ. By God’s regenerating and sanctifying grace all believers will be brought to a final glorified, sinless state of perfection in the day of Jesus Christ.

WE DENY that salvation can be received in any other way. We also deny that salvation renders any Christian free from all remaining sin or immune from even grievous sin in this life. We further deny that ethnicity excludes anyone from understanding the gospel, nor does anyone’s ethnic or cultural heritage mitigate or remove the duty to repent and believe.

Salvation. It, along with the related term gospel (the subject matter of Article VI), is one of the most widely used and recognized of evangelical terms but also one about which there is much misunderstanding.

The New Testament employs two primary words for salvation: sozo (σῴζω) and rhuomai (ῥύομαι), both of which carry the idea of rescue or deliverance. Salvation then, in a very real sense, is an act of deliverance and being saved is to be in a constant state of being delivered. When God saves someone, He delivers that person. In Psalm 144:1-2 David writes, “Blessed be the Lord, my rock…my lovingk…

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The Statement on SJ&G Explained: Article 6, Gospel (Josh Buice)

[Editorial Note: This is the sixth post in a series of posts in which we have invited the authors of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” to expound upon the statement’s affirmations and denials. We encourage our readers to take the time to read through our prefatory editorial note at the beginning of the first post prior to reading through subsequent posts in the series.]

Article 6: GospelWE AFFIRM that the gospel is the divinely-revealed message concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ–especially his virgin birth, righteous life, substitutionary sacrifice, atoning death, and bodily resurrection–revealing who he is and what he has done with the promise that he will save anyone and everyone who turns from sin by trusting him as Lord.

WE DENY that anything else, whether works to be performed or opinions to be held, can be added to the gospel without perverting it into another gospel. This also means that implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel.Within the evangelical culture today marketing tactics often employ keywords as a means of increasing sales. There is no greater marketing term in our day than the word gospel. Many people believe that if they can somehow attach the word gospel to their product as a descriptor it will bring instant success. It’s not uncommon to see people talking about gospel books, gospel marketing, gospel people, gospel diet, gospel music, and gospel issues. In the controversy on social justice, people are insisting that it’s a gospel issue. In the same way that everything we disagree with isn’t heresy, everything that we do agree with isn’t a gospel issue.

The New Testament Greek word for gospel (εὐαγγέλιον) literally means “good news.” While many have objected to “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” as being unaware of cultural evils and …

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Doing Doctrine Pastorally? (Richard D. Phillips)

As Reformed churches face an array of social challenges and pastoral concerns, I have found the idea spreading that we must “do” doctrine pastorally. That is, we must decide the Bible’s teaching based on how we think it will impact our hearers. Most recently, we see this occurring with respect to men and women struggling with homosexual desires. The doctrine in question does not concern homosexual behavior, on which evangelicals are agree, but on how the Bible understands same-sex orientation (SSA). In my opinion, the Bible’s actual teaching is not seriously in doubt. The desire or orientation toward homosexual sin is not categorically different than other impulses to sin. Not only are we not to engage in the sinful behavior, but we must also mortify the desires toward the sin in question. Jesus even put his emphasis on the inward condition over the overt sinful acts:

“What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person” (Mt. 15:18-20).

The same focus on sinful desire is found in James 1:14-15: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin.” (The words for desire – epithumia – does not mean temptation, as is being said, but clearly relates to an inward orientation.)   According to Jesus and James, not to multiply other biblical citations, in order to combat sinful actions one must purify the heart.

Given the clarity of the biblical data, it may seem surprising that many purportedly Bible-believing people take a differing view when it comes to same sex attraction. When it comes to this struggle (and apparently only this one), we change our approach. Instead of mortifying homosexual desires by the power of God through the means of grace, in this one case we tell people that while they must not act on their…

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Truth and Politics (Donny Friederichsen)

I’ve been listening to a fascinating audio book on the nature of warfare in World War II. Giles Milton’s book, Churchill’s Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare details the unconventional and sometimes brutal methods employed to defeat the Nazis. Churchill’s belief was that the Nazis were inflicting total warfare on the British. Thus, the only response was to defeat them by any means. The idea of a genteel and gentlemanly war was discarded in favor of espionage, deception, and sabotage. This was a zero-sum game. It was either won or lost, and losing was not an option. It seems that many today are approaching modern American politics with the same zero-sum game attitude. And in that type of battle, the end justifies the means.

The truth is, I planned on writing this post well before the current brouhaha in national politics had erupted. When it was planned, I didn’t have any idea that the nation would be embroiled in a hyper-politicized “he said/she said.” But here we are; a nation that feels, in many ways, to be ripping at the seams. What is a Christian to make of it? How should believers in Jesus Christ evaluate their political opinions? How should Christians express their opinions (even political ones)? The Scriptures point us to the sanctity of truth, the necessity of honesty, and the maintaining of our own and our neighbor’s good name.

Truth is to be regarded as sacred because it is an attribute of God. God cannot lie (Titus 1:2). “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). God’s word is truth (Jn 17:17). God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his truth (WSC 4). But untruth and falsehood is rampant in this fallen world because of sin. Satan is the deceiver (Rev. 12:9). He is the father of lies (Jn. 8:44). The sacred nature of truth makes an ethical and moral demand upon the lives of Christian. Christians are to cherish and uphold truth while rejecting falsehood.

The ninth commandment instructs us, “You shall not bear false witness against…

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