Archives For Faith

Personal belief, salvation, spiritual disciplines, formation

By Joshua Steely

Open Bible

God the Father, Spirit, Son

Veiled in glory

Three-in-One

One true God in Persons three

Wondrous divine

Mystery

The last Sunday in May was Trinity Sunday, so I preached a sermon focused on the Trinity from the baptism of Jesus in Mark 1:9-11. It’s a powerful passage that displays God’s triune saving work.

A lot of Baptists, though, might think it a bit unusual to observe Trinity Sunday; we tend to leave this to our high-church brethren in other denominations. That’s a pity, because the doctrine of the Trinity is the vital heart of the Christian faith, and we should be regularly rejoicing in this great mystery. Here’s why:

First, God the Holy Trinity is the God we worship. Christianity is a relationship with God, and what is a relationship without knowing the other person (in this case, persons)? If the goal of our lives is to be near to God, to know him, then the Trinity is essential. Our prayer and worship, our personal relationship with God, is grounded in knowing him as God triune.

Second, God is our triune Savior. The doctrine of the Trinity is not only a biblical truth, it is a truth of Christian experience. God triune has saved us. When we were lost in sin and darkness, the Father sent the Son by the Spirit to rescue us. In the power of the Spirit, the Son lived a perfect human life in obedience to the Father. Having died for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead and sent the Spirit from the Father to indwell the hearts of believers. The Spirit living in us unites us with the Son by faith, for adoption as children of the Father. 

Salvation is a thoroughly triune work, and we cannot understand redemption rightly without some understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.

Third, God triune is the God who loves us abundantly and graciously. The Trinity tells us that relationship has always existed in the one God—there has been love between the Father, Son, and Spirit for all eternity. That means that God has never been lonely, and he loves us not because he needs us, but simply because that’s who he is—the God who loves. The wonder of God’s love is magnified when we grasp the mystery of the Trinity.

All glory be to God our King,

Lord of love, One in Three;

Hearts rejoice and voices sing

Praise for all eternity.

The Trinity cannot be left to professional theologians and pastors who read big books. It must be a vital element in the life and worship of the church. How do we make that happen? 

1. Preach and teach on the Trinity.  Now, don’t get the wrong idea—I’m not saying you should turn your Sunday morning sermon into a systematic theology lecture.  Preach on the practical significance of the Trinity. Having a Sunday a year set apart for talking about it is a good habit. But more importantly, the Trinity should be explicitly present when we preach the gospel. Talk about the work of Christ as the saving work of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Talk about salvation as being united with the Son by the Spirit for adoption as a child of the Father.

2. Shape the worship service to exalt the triune God. This doesn’t mean that every praise song has to be explicitly trinitarian. But if our worship service as a whole would be acceptable in a unitarian church, that’s a problem. We worship the one true God, the tri-personal God. Some of the old hymns are really good for this—“Holy, Holy, Holy!” is a standout example.

3. Encourage Trinitarian prayer and spirituality. The beginning of our spiritual life is marked by the Trinitarian baptismal formula—in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Carry that through into the everyday spiritual life of your church. In the public prayers of the worship service and in small groups and individual settings, model the practice of praying to the Father by the Spirit in the name of the Son. Talk (humbly) about the work of the Spirit in your life, about faith in the Son, and about the love of the Father. 

Help the people in your church find devotional materials and insightful books that bring out the practical significance of the Trinity for Christian spirituality, like “Delighting in the Trinity” by Michael Reeves (IVP, 2012).

The Trinity is the heart of the Christian faith, the fundamental mystery of our great God. May our churches reflect the centrality of this awesome truth.

Joshua Steely is pastor of Pontoon Baptist Church in Pontoon Beach.

Don’t quit!

Lisa Misner —  August 2, 2018

By Adron Robinson

Read: Hebrews 12:1-2

The other morning I decided to go for a run. I hadn’t run in a while and I knew starting back would be tough. But I underestimated just how tough it would be. I started slowly by walking the first lap. Then on the second lap I began to run. Things were going well for a while and then it happened: Just a few laps in, I began to feel winded and my chest started to burn. Soon, pain kicked in, and the first thought that came to my mind was to quit.

Have you ever been tempted to quit? Quit your marriage, quit your ministry, or even quit your church? I have. Ministry is hard work; it’s spiritual warfare. If you do what God called you to do, there will be serious opposition, but don’t quit. Pastor, ministry leader, spouse, hear me clearly: God did not call us to ministry because we are able. He called us to ministry because he is able! And by his grace, he has chosen to display his strength in the midst of our weaknesses (2 Cor. 12:9). So, don’t quit serving, just quit trying to serve by your own power.

Paul David Tripp tells the story about the day he attempted to resign from his church. He was sure this was the best decision for him and his family. He was weary.  On Sunday morning he made the announcement to the congregation. After the service, a member walked up to him and said, “We know you are immature, but where is the church going to find mature leaders if immature leaders run?”

Brothers and sisters, the church needs spiritually mature leaders, and God makes them by training us to endure trials and tribulations while trusting him. So don’t quit! Your family needs you, your church needs you, the Kingdom of God needs you. Don’t quit!

PRAYER PROMPT: Father, ministry is hard and at times we are tempted to quit. Teach us to trust your strength in the midst of our weakness and allow you to use every circumstance for your glory. Amen.

Adron Robinson is pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills and president of the Illinois Baptist State Association.

The Briefing

Beth Moore pens open letter on sexism
A member of The Gospel Coalition’s Council has released an open letter, giving an apology to noted evangelical Bible teacher Beth Moore over the sexism she has experienced in some church leadership environments. Moore, the founder of Living Proof Ministries, penned an open letter describing her experiences of misogyny within certain conservative evangelical circles.

Patterson comments draw range of women’s responses
A growing group of Southern Baptist women called for Paige Patterson to be removed as president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS) due to what they claimed was his “unbiblical view of authority, womanhood, and sexuality.” An open letter from Southern Baptist women objecting that Paige Patterson has been “allowed to continue in leadership” despite his statements on sexuality and domestic abuse garnered more than 1,800 signatures in its first 24 hours online. Other Southern Baptist women defended Patterson’s character without affirming all his specific comments.

IL senate bill requires schools to teach LGBT history
The Illinois Senate approved a bill requiring all public schools in the state to teach about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in history. The bill would require that textbooks “accurately portray the diversity of our society, including the role and contributions of people protected under the Illinois Human Rights Act, and must be non-discriminatory as to certain characteristics under the Act.” It would also become effective be July 1, 2019.

Disney ends Christian concert after 35 years
After 35 years, Disney World says it will no longer host the Night of Joy Christian music festival. The annual event held in early September started in 1983 and drew popular Christian artists like TobyMac, Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman, MercyMe, Jars of Clay, and Michael W. Smith. Despite the cancellation, Disney says various Christian groups and artists will still continue to hold concerts at the resort in Florida.

Trump reveals White House Faith Initiative
President Donald Trump has marked the National Day of Prayer with a new policy designed to protect faith groups and their involvement with the American government. After over a year of ad-hoc meetings with evangelicals, the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative will formalize his administration’s ties with faith leaders and offer faith-based organizations equal access to government funding.

2018 SBC Credentials Committee announced, Tellers also named
Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines has announced appointees to the 2018 Credentials Committee. Gaines has also named tellers for the SBC 2018 annual meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.

Sources: Christian Post (2), Baptist Press (3), CBN, Christianity Today (2), Washington Post

Compiled by Andrew Woodrow, IBSA Multi-Media Journalist

Decatur, Ill. | Two days after a mass shooting at a Southern Baptist church in Texas, Illinois pastor Randy Johnson urged pastors to preach every message like it could be their last opportunity to deliver the gospel.

Johnson, pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Decatur, filled in at the IBSA Pastors’ Conference for Southern Baptist Convention President Steve Gaines, who was slated to preach during the conference but is in Texas ministering to First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs. On Sunday, Nov. 5, a gunman killed 26 people at the small church outside San Antonio.

Preaching from the book of 2 Timothy, Johnson encouraged pastors to check their measure of gospel urgency. Preach like it could be your last message, he said, and also like it could be your hearers’ last opportunity hear the gospel.

“As a preacher of the gospel, your highest calling is to preach the word,” he said. “It is your responsibility to stand before your people in your church and tell them what is right, what isn’t right, and how to get right.”

Johnson exhorted pastors to not only remember that every message could be their last, but also that every hearer will have a last moment.

“Preach like it’s their [the congregation’s] last moment. They don’t know when it’s going to be… You’re going to have people who don’t want to hear what you’re going to say. Consider their last moment. What are you leaving them with? What are you turning their hearts toward?”

On Wednesday morning, Ed Stetzer (below) spoke to Pastors’ Conference attenders about working for and journeying toward the long view of ministry. Stetzer, executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College, urged pastors to have an eternal perspective and to recognize the contrast between life now and eternal life in heaven.

Ed Stetzer web

“It’s a long hard slog sometimes in ministry,” Stetzer said, “and we’re going to see Jesus one day.” That sounds very “old-school Baptist,” he acknowledged, but Baptists a few generations ago talked about heaven a lot more than we do now.

Christians have a confident hope, he said, because they walk by faith and not by sight.

“The afterlife is a sighted life, but life now is not. You don’t know everything. But you have a confident hope, because you know Jesus does.”

 

 

 

The Briefing

How do we find meaning in yet another mass shooting?
Al Mohler asks that question following the tragedy in Las Vegas.
In the face of such overwhelming news, we naturally seek after facts. But the facts of who and what and where and how, still unfolding, point to the even more difficult question — why? We cannot help but ask why because, made in God’s image, we are moral creatures who cannot grasp or understand the world around us without moral categories.

Gov. signs HB40 into law; Baptists deeply disappointed
Gov. Bruce Rauner ended months of speculation last week when he signed legislation allowing state health insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortions. Reaction has been swift and strong.


So. Baptists, others release letter on ‘alt-right’ to Trump
A letter drafted by a group of Southern Baptists and others has called on President Trump to denounce clearly the racism of the “alt-right.” The letter commends the president for signing a joint congressional resolution rejecting white nationalism and supremacy, but it tells him the country “needs your voice and your convictions to defeat racist ideologies and movements in every form that they present themselves.”

Pew surveys governments on religion
More than 40% of the world’s countries have an official or preferred state religion, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center. The most common official state religion is Islam, which is named in the constitutions or basic laws of 27 countries. That’s 63% of the 43 countries that officially designate a religion. Thirteen countries list Christianity as their state religion—nine in Europe, two in the Caribbean, one in Africa, and one Pacific island nation.

Sources: AlbertMohler.com, Springfield State Journal-Register, Baptist Press (2), Christianity Today

What Baptists have forgotten (or never knew) about our heritage

Dockery text

The Lord blessed me with the wonderful privilege of growing up in a Christian home—a faithful, Baptist home. Sundays for our family included Sunday school, church services, and afternoon choir practice, as well as Bible Drills, Discipleship Training, and Sunday evening after-church fellowship. It was generally a very busy day. Wednesdays included church suppers, prayer meetings, mission organizations, committee meetings, and another choir practice.

During the week there were opportunities for outreach visitation, WMU, and other activities. Summer calendars were built around Vacation Bible School, church camps, and other church-related events. My family planned weeks and seasons around church activities. Our heroes were Lottie Moon, Annie Armstrong, and Bill Wallace of China. But apart from a world history course as a high school student, I do not recall ever hearing stories about the Reformation, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, or other early 16th-century Protestant leaders in any church-related activity.

My guess is that my experience parallels that of many other readers of the Illinois Baptist. Why then should Baptists pay attention to the many events and programs taking place this year to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, for we are not Lutherans, nor Anglicans, nor Presbyterians. Yet, whether we realize it or not, many of our core convictions as Baptists have been influenced or shaped by those 16th-century thinkers.

What was the Reformation?
The Reformation was a wide-ranging movement of theological and spiritual renewal in 16th-century Europe. Many people across Germany and Switzerland over a period of several decades contributed to this movement, but the most visible event, according to tradition, took place on October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther (1483-1546), a monk and university professor, nailed 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.

Luther was concerned with papal abuses and the selling of indulgences (essentially a ticket out of purgatory for loved ones) in the Roman Catholic Church, along with what he considered to be faulty understandings of justification by faith, biblical authority, and other important doctrinal matters.

Philip Melancthon, one of Luther’s colleagues who knew him as well as anyone, called Luther “the Elijah of Protestantism” and compared his influence to that of the Apostle Paul in the first century. Martin Luther roused the church from her slumber, reopened the fountain of God’s Holy Word for many people, and was responsible for directing a generation to know Jesus Christ as their Lord.

When one thinks of the Reformation period, one reflects upon the titanic force of Luther, the good sense and preaching ministry of Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) in Zurich, Switzerland, and the biblical exposition and theological articulations of John Calvin (1509-64) in Geneva. Among these three important leaders of the Reformation, there is general agreement that the one with the greatest influence was Martin Luther.

Closing the gap from Luther to Southern Baptists
Many people reading this article have grown up in a home or church with experiences rather similar to those I described earlier. Somehow we had a sense that our parents, grandparents, and pastors had received an understanding of the Christian faith as if it had come directly to them from the 1st-century apostles. We were quite naively unaware of what went on in between then and now. By and large, Baptists do not know very well our heritage, our history, or our theological identity.

The reality is that while we are “a people of the Book,” shaped, formed, and informed by Holy Scripture, we also have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before us who stood on the shoulders of others.

Francis Wayland, a most significant Baptist leader in the 19th century, wrote these words in “The Principles and Practices of Baptist Churches” (1861): “I do not believe that any denomination of Christians exists, which, for so long a period as Baptists, has maintained so invariably the truth of their early confession…The theological tenets of the Baptists, both in England and America, may be briefly stated as follows: they are emphatically the doctrines of the Reformation, and they have been held with singular unanimity and consistency.”

With Christians through the centuries, Baptists stand with the Reformers in confessing that there is one and only one living and true God, who is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal being, the creator, redeemer, preserver, and ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections.

Furthermore, our confession as Baptists maintains that God is triune and that there are within the godhead three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can say that God is one in his nature and three in his persons.

More specifically, we confess that there is only one God, but in the unity of the godhead, there are three eternal and equal persons, the same in substance, yet distinct in function.

Baptists are “people of the Book.” With Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and other 16th-century Reformers, Baptists believe it is impossible to define or even describe Christian orthodoxy apart from a commitment to a full-orbed doctrine of Scripture. Baptist theology and spirituality rest on Scripture as the central legitimizing source of Christian faith and doctrine, the clearest window through which the face of Christ may be seen.

The Reformers were also in agreement regarding the truthfulness and authority of Scripture, a belief with very real consequences. Such an understanding of Holy Scripture led to a rejection of the medieval belief and practice concerning papal authority and church tradition.

The Reformers recognized that these matters could no longer be acknowledged as an authority equal with Scripture or as a standard independent of the Bible. Martin Luther summarized well these things when he said, “Everyone indeed, knows that at times the Fathers have erred, as men will; therefore, I am ready to trust them only when they give me evidence for their opinions from Scripture, which has never erred.”

Salvation by grace through faith
The Reformers believed that medieval thinkers had led the church astray by teaching that human effort and good works, as well as moral or ritual action, would earn favor in the eyes of God, enabling sinners to achieve salvation. A serious ongoing study of the teachings of the Apostle Paul, however, led Luther to the conviction that sinners are granted forgiveness as well as full and free pardon only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Sinners are justified by grace through faith, not by their own achievements. The Reformers were in full agreement that justification is a forensic declaration of pardon, which Christ has won through his victory over sin, death, the law, and the devil.

Standing on the shoulders of the Reformers, Baptists believe that justification is accomplished at the cross of Christ (Rom. 5:10), guaranteed by his resurrection (Rom. 4:24-25), and applied to believers when we confess our faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Experientially, we still sin, but God views us as totally righteous, clothed in the robes of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 4:1-8). Because of Christ’s sacrifice, God no longer counts our sins against us (2 Cor. 5:19-21). Thus, justification is even more than pardon, as wonderful as that is; it is the granting of positive favor in God’s sight based on the redemptive work of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:21-26).

It was John Calvin who emphasized the perseverance of the saints, which Baptists sometimes refer to as the doctrine of eternal security. Our salvation is secured in Christ, and nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (John 10:28-30; Rom. 8:31-39), yet our response to this truth brings our assurance.

About priests and believers
The Reformers were in full agreement in their affirmations of scriptural authority and the essence of the doctrine of salvation. Likewise, they rejected the superiority of the priesthood, of vocational ministry, stressing instead the priesthood of all believers. Not only did this mean that all believers in Christ had access to God (Heb. 10:19-25), but it underscored the Christian dignity of ordinary human callings, including artists, laborers, homemakers, and plowmen. By implication, this elevated the importance of family life, opening the door for clerical marriage.

The Reformers rejected the mediation of Mary and the intercession of all the saints, insisting that Christ alone was our high priest to bear our sin and sympathize with our weaknesses. They rejected the medieval teaching regarding the seven sacraments, insisting that the New Testament only taught two sacraments or ordinances: baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The Reformers unanimously rejected the sacrificial nature of the Lord’s Supper, refuting the church’s teaching regarding transubstantiation. Baptists have emphasized a view of the Lord’s Supper that reflects much of the perspective of Ulrich Zwingli.

The Reformers also departed from the medieval teaching which affirmed that the church was dependent on communion with the papacy. Instead they insisted that the church was called into being by God’s Spirit and was established on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:20).

Baptists have shaped their beliefs regarding the triune God, Jesus Christ, Holy Scripture, salvation by grace through faith, the church, the ordinances, Christian service, and the family in recognition of their gratitude for and indebtedness to the courage and conviction of the 16th-century Reformers. Yet, Baptists have chosen not to be content merely with the basic teachings of the Reformers. They have also modified these teachings and moved beyond them in key areas that we often call “Baptist distinctives.”

Baptists shaped their own distinctives
While Baptists are heirs of the 16th-century Reformation (with influence also from the “radical reformers” like Menno Simons, Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, and Balthasar Hubmaier), they have moved beyond the Reformers in at least five key areas.

  • Baptists affirm believer’s baptism by immersion, instead of the Reformers’ view of infant baptism.
  • Baptists have contended for a voluntary understanding of the church and congregationalism based on a regenerate church membership, instead of an inherited understanding of church membership connected with infant baptism.
  • Baptists repudiate church-state ties, stressing religious liberty along with the local organization of church life, instead of state control or even denominational control.
  • Baptists believe that the two ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are to be practiced as matters of obedience and fellowship, rather than as a means of grace.
  • Baptists, more so than any of the 16th-century Reformers, have consistently stressed the priority of the Great Commission and global missions.

We recognize that Baptists are a people committed to the primacy of Scripture, who are heirs of the best of the Reformation. The gospel-focused, scripturally grounded core to which we all must hold has been greatly influenced, both directly and indirectly, by the teachings of the Reformers. It is important for us during this year of commemorating and celebrating the Reformation to clarify our confessional commitments and reappropriate, retrieve, and reclaim the very best of both the Reformation heritage and our Baptist heritage.

We pray that the reminders to which we have pointed in this brief article will enhance our understanding of the gospel and deepen our commitment to Scripture and to our Baptist confessional heritage, bringing renewal to our churches and our shared service as we seek to pass on this heritage in a faithful manner to the next generation, and as we seek to take the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and needy world.

– David S. Dockery is president of Trinity International University and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in metro Chicago. 

The Briefing

SBDR Irma response to begin; Harvey relief work continues
Preparations are being made by the Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania/South Jersey, New York and Virginia Baptist conventions to respond to the needs of hurricane survivors as Irma continued to crawl up Florida and into Georgia and S. Carolina. As of Sept. 11, Hurricane Harvey SBDR response has witnessed 29 professions of faith and initiated 508 Gospel conversations; provided 444,765 meals, 7,240 showers and 4,534 loads of laundry; and completed 109 construction jobs including 47 roof repairs.

Justice Dept. backs Christian baker
Christian baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex wedding has a major backer as his case heads to the US Supreme Court this fall: the Trump administration. The Department of Justice has sided with Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, arguing that governments “may not … truncate the First Amendment by compelling a person to create a piece of artwork—particularly one that violates the artist’s conscience.”

Churches no longer face overtime pay increase
Just before Labor Day, a federal judge in Texas struck down a US Department of Labor (DOL) mandate that full-time, salaried workers—including church and parachurch staff—who earn up to $47,476 must be paid time-and-a-half for any overtime they work. This week, the Justice Department announced that it would not pursue the matter.

Tillerson decries ISIS genocide
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released the U.S. State Department’s annual report on international religious freedom Tuesday, highlighting the Islamic State as one of the biggest threats to liberty around the globe. “ISIS has and continues to target members of multiple religions and ethnicities for rape, kidnapping, enslavement, and death,” he wrote.

Senator criticized for religious questions
Senator Dianne Feinstein is coming under criticism from prominent academics and university leaders for her “chilling” line of questioning of a Roman Catholic judicial nominee last week during a Senate hearing.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christianity Today (2), World Magazine, Christianity Today