The “Grace Alone” Pharisee


Doubting, fearing, trembling as a Christian. It’s okay… In fact. If our doctrine of “grace alone” is summed up only in the position that there is no merit in the things we do after coming to Christ, this view fails to understand the height of the law or the depth of our sin. It’s a failure to understand that even after coming to Christ we’re failing at the perfect fulfillment of law by our commission (what we do) and omissions (what we fail to do) daily, hourly, even every second.

Yet today there is still a lot of confusion even in Reformed churches. There are people teaching and people who are trying to get their primary assurance from their internal perception of their obedience to the law in places like 1St John, and other places of spiritual testing, because to them this is the first place, they look for Christian assurance.

It is true that assurance is strengthened or weakened by our pursuit of, or failure to pursue obedience to God’s laws, but this fruit of the work of the Spirit and is to be considered secondary. It’s not the first place to set your eyes of Christian faith. The first place we set our eyes is on Christ, and the sufficiency of His accomplishments for us,  and promises to us in the gospel for just believing. This is our hope and confidence. To look first to what we do is a short-circuiting of the path to assurance putting the wrong things first.

If our perception of our law obedience is the short-circuited path to our assurance, this naturally leads to a self-righteousness. A sort of elevated view of the self, which also naturally includes a looking down on others who we perceive are not as good as us.  What happens is that since so much weight, the very weight of our assurance before God is put on these evidences, it leads to self-delusion.

So, in this process of assurance looking primarily to the inner feeling that we are meeting the biblical spiritual tests, there is a sort of skipping over of Christ. This process skips looking to Christ and resting our hope on His righteousness promised to us first.  However, we should look first there for assurance!  This is why the gospel is so important for Christians, every Sunday!
It leads to delusions about the wrong things we do (sins of commission), or the things we fail to do (sins of omission). In order to not have our assurance undone, we will judge these sins we do as “not so bad”. We would tend to hide our failures, to overlook them, to diminish them. This is nothing less than a diminished view of God’s law. It’s a softening of the law of God.  Both by lowing the bar for ourselves, and magnifying them in others this leads to a mindset of “Grace for me but not for thee.”

So, in this process of assurance looking primarily to the inner feeling that we are meeting the biblical spiritual tests, there is a sort of skipping over of Christ. This process skips looking to Christ and resting our hope on His righteousness promised to us first.  However, we should look first there for assurance!  This is why the gospel is so important for Christians, every Sunday! People who don’t appreciate the importance of the gospel every Sunday probably have not understood these things.

This is why our Presbyterian confession sends us back to the full weight of the law, for the purpose of driving us see our need of Christ.  Christians are no longer under the law as a “covenant of works” for our justification, but the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches that Christians should “examine themselves”, by the law for this purpose:  That we may “come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience” (WCF 19:6)

This is the “First use of the law” for Christians. First, the law convicts us to see all the more our need of Christ, second as a warning to protect us from the bad consequences of overstepping the law, and third as a guide for a life of gratitude for our salvation in Christ. All three uses of the law are important, and there is an important reason the first is not listed third, and the third is not listed first.  Because of the negative consequences of short-circuiting the first use of the law out of our theology.

How can we be humble if our very confidence that we are Christians at all depends directly on the fact that we are pulling off the law pretty well?

There is a reason that every Reformed and Presbyterian church has a time of confession in the liturgy. The fact that we’re not pulling off God’s law as we should. It’s supposed to be an integral part of our understanding of our Christian theology. But have you ever been to a church where it just feels like an isolated ritual that has nothing to do with the Christian life or the theology of people who are super good and getting better?

How can we be humble if our very confidence that we are Christians at all depends directly on the fact that we are pulling off the law pretty well? What do we confess in silence? That we are not even more awesome than (by God’s grace) we already are?  What does of living a life of daily repentance look like in that?

We should instead take the whole law and the weight of it seriously. The life of gratitude comes after seeing our sins and misery, how we have been set free from our sins and misery, and then how we are to live lives of gratitude to God for that.

To diminish any one of those is an error, and yet that is exactly what making our perception of our obedience the basis of our assurance does.  Again, our relative obedience can and certainly feed our assurance, but a proper understanding of the holiness of God and the high standard of His law should also direct us back around to the first use of the law that the Westminster Confession tells us of, or to that first thing listed in the Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 2

  1. What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?
  2. Three things: first, how great my sin and misery are; second, how I am set free from all my sins and misery; third, how I am to thank God for such deliverance.

We cannot forget what the scriptures and our confession teach us. That even now we are still wretched sinners who deserve condemnation, and yet because of Christ we get life and blessings instead. This is what makes grace so amazing even to the end of our lives. Not simply that he plucked me out of humanity to save me, but that even after that, even after I was not a good deal, God’s grace continues, and even after a lifetime of sanctification, I’m still not a good deal, but Christ’s righteousness is my hope and standing.

Finally, we should understand our “grace alone” theology through the example of the Pharisee and the tax collector. It is important to note that the Pharisee did see that he was who he was because of God’s grace. He acknowledged in his prayer by thanking God that he was not like those others…

Luke 18:9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

So, this person is like those people who say “salvation is by grace alone” yet when it comes to themselves, you only hear things like they can’t take credit for how good they are, but that is by grace. Have you ever heard that? Have you ever thought that?

They also have a view that the sinners, the bad people, they’re out there, they aren’t like me, and like us who’ve receive grace. That’s the theology of the Pharisee. They may think they are being humble by not taking credit, but these men lack true humility that they would beat their breast and cry out that they still need mercy.

Certainly, God can save those of tender conscience, and self-assured self-confident people too. Although, the scriptures do teach that one path is humble and the other is not, and so it’s not the doubter of self who beats on his breast and claims “have mercy on me a sinner” who’s in danger of not being justified. It’s the confident guy. The one who says “I am what I am by grace, but thank you God that I am so good now.”

There is absolutely a place to look for God’s work in our life, and mainly the fact that we feel guilt for our sin and look to Christ are good evidences that we are Christians, but after we have been assured by resting our hope on Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins, and importantly for the imputation of His righteous record of obedience to us. This is sole basis of our justification before God.

Those who have that short-circuited path will hopefully in time find a higher view of God’s holiness and his law. That fact God still requires perfection that we can’t provide, and then Christ and His gospel will be even more beautiful to them as well. The one who looks first at his own obedience for his assurance simply can not find the gospel to be beautiful, but it becomes more of a detail that will show up in what they like to think about, talk about, or if they are a pastor, preach about.

Christian, doubt in yourself, and look to Christ. Men faileth, but God availeth! You’re not doing what you should, or doing something you shouldn’t. Repent of it and then look to Christ. In a healthy church, if it’s gross sin your elder will probably come to you and graciously, and prayerfully point that out. But ultimately don’t let those who might exaggerate others sins, but overlooks their own shape your own theology. It’s actually they who have lowered the law who put too much hope and weight on what they think they are pleasing God by doing. In a time when it seems like there is an obsession over antinomianism (whcih antinomianism is indeed a problem), the theology of the Pharisee flourishes unfettered.  Remember, from the biblical text the Pharisee would also say “of course I am what I am by Grace alone”, so what we mean by “grace alone” should be distinct from the Pharisee. 


fear of the lord

One of the biggest antichrists in our day is about fear. It’s a sort of spirit involviong a set of  machinations that bring about and use fear as a tool.

Fear of death, fear of government, fear of mandates, fear of vaccines, fear of anti-vaxers, fear of no income, fear of loss of wealth, fear of what other people will think, fear of growing old, fear of war spilling over, fear of the future, fear of being rejected, fear for your health, fear for loved ones, fear of the culture, fear of missing out, fear of elections, fear of terrorism, fear of abduction, fear of abuse, fear of being exposed, fear of being canceled, fear of peers, fear of making a wrong decision, fear of too much success, fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of global warming, fear of losing power, fear of queers, fear of bad influencers, fear of losing your church, fear of losing your sight, fear of losing your hearing, fear of losing your mind, fear of the unknown, fear of the decline of culture, fear of bad monetary policy, fear of guns, fear of white nationalists, fear of Marxists, fear, fear, fear, fear, fear. It’s the air we breathe today. Everything is about fear. It’s what’s for breakfast.

Fear paralyzes us and makes us do crazy things. I can tell you this that even those with all the power and money, they fear the most. Justin Trudeau is a man acting out of fear. He is imposing tyranny out of abject fear that his worldview narrative is falling apart, and that is what most of these authoritarians in control are doing also.

Fear paralyzes us and makes us do crazy things. I can tell you this that even those with all the power and money, they fear the most. Justin Trudeau is a man acting out of fear. He is imposing tyranny out of abject fear that his worldview narrative is falling apart, and that is what most of these authoritarians in control are doing also. They’re afraid of being exposed as wrong, blamed for something, or their side losing, and so they spread fear and control people like little chess pieces, even ruining lives, because they fear.

I believe that it’s possible that even Putin is doing this act of aggression against Ukraine out of fear. If we pay attention to the things he has said for years, he sees what looks like the West falling apart with postmodernism creating all kinds of crazy behaviors, and he has argued for years that Christendom is the key to the survival of a culture and a nation. There is a big rift right now in the Russian Orthodox church, and Ukraine holds the city that is sort of like their Jerusalem.

I believe that he wants control just like Trudeau does, and Kiev, where the Russian Orthodox church was founded. It was founded in 988 after Vladimer of the Rus having been converted to Christianity through a marriage to the Christian Emperor Basil II’s sister had everyone in the city gather at the river Dnieper for a mass baptism.

In 2019 the Ukrainian part of the Russian Orthodox church declared independence from the rest, and the Russian Orthodox church based in Russia rejected this independence, and declared it was still part of the churches “canonical territory”. So, if Putin will have a legacy of restoring Christendom in our day against the rise of the Godless post-modernism in the rest of the West, he must unite the church and its holy seat must be seen as Moscow.

This is I think, one of the biggest motives of this war. He made a flimsy argument to the corruption and neo-Nazification of the governing authorities in Ukraine (which both Ukraine and Russia are regarded as the 2 most corrupt nations in Europe). But this sounds in some ways like some of the justifications of a just war that America has used in recent years, only he didn’t have a Western media pumping up the stories of suffering and abuse of those he now claims to be defending by taking out the bad people.

When it comes to being motivated by fear though, the defiant President of Ukraine is possible one of the bravest men in the world today. He gave a speech recently, in a t-shirt saying that he knows he and his family are target number one, and that he is ready to talk with Putin or he is ready to fight, and to die. There is a man who, though he might be afraid, (and who wouldn’t be?), he is fighting his fear, and doing his duty, and he will die for his country as many people who are fighting for it will die.

How are we Christians willing to die to self and live to Christ today?

It has been said that the most repeated teaching in the bible, in various forms is “do not fear”, or “do not be afraid”. Over and over again, we’re told not to let things control us, and that “the love of Christ controls us”.

It has been said that the most repeated teaching in the bible, in various forms is “do not fear”, or “do not be afraid”. Over and over again, we’re told not to let things control us, and that “the love of Christ controls us”. That we fix our eyes on the things above, where Christ is, where our eternal life and inheritance is and this gives us context in the now. That we are pilgrims here, that we have eternal life, and so we are shown again and again in the New Testament that this is the narrative of the Christian life and Christian worldview.

However, in our day there is a desire in the church for Influence, and numbers, and there is this fear that we might lose influence and not get numbers. So, this has changed the narrative, and now we see a lot of people operating out of fear. Fear of a small church, fear of being rejected by the culture, fear of being rejected by our chosen side. Fear of calling out someone for bad theology that one of our peers liked, fear of losing friends, and influence. This is not good. This is not right. This is not “fear of the Lord”, but this is “fear of man”.

The battle today is not so much with others, but it’s between our own ears. In our own minds. Fighting to not fear, but to trust the Lord, to move forward with a clear conscience, and be faithful to what the Lord says is true. Like the brave Ukrainian president, we Christians should be willing to stand with no pomp, or favor, or with the world not on our side at all, and say what’s true.

The offensive message of what God has said is true in His Word without compromise, and without fear. That God is holy and is coming to judge and condemn to hell all mankind who are not dressed in holy and perfect righteousness, and of faith in Christ alone as the only way to be redeemed, restored, and to have eternal life and a place in heaven with God. The bad news and the good news are the witness we have to a dying and condemned world. Christian, don’t fear man, or your temporary circumstances.

Luke 12: 22 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.


A brief essay on Romans chapters 1 through 3

wrath of god romansWe are reading through Romans in our family bible time, and having read the first three chapters so many times in my life, one thing I noticed this time is how strong the theme is that Paul is making through all three chapters. He is keen to point out and stress that it’s both Jews and Gentiles, the whole world is condemned under the law of God, but then at the end of chapter 3, how there is a justification of all who have faith in Christ.

He starts out with the most simplistic level of humanity in chapter 1, that they know God through the creation, yet reject what little they do know about God and Paul points out that they make a bunch of gods up like a bird god, or tree god (animism). Paul notes that God gives this category of Gentiles over to depravity and then in chapter 2 he starts bringing it on around to show the Jews that they are not faring any better in any sort of “righteousness” competition with them. Setting themselves up as superior, even teachers of righteousness to the rest of humanity, yet, they are failing to be righteous under the law as well.

Chapter 2 is important in another way, because Paul starts by laying down the general principle of doing what’s right causing things to go well for you and doing what’s wrong causing things to go bad for you. Then he defines the law as the ultimate standard of righteousness and takes it further, pointing out that if you obey it as you should, it leads to justification and eternal life, but if you obey unrighteousness, you get God’s wrath. These are the terms of the covenant of works.  

Then you have the great separator verse in 2:13 “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.”

This verse is a sort of litmus test to see if someone tends to head back towards a Roman Catholic view of justification, or if they follow Calvin and the majority in Reformed history and understand this is not pointing out a condition of obedience added to our faith in order to attain final justification (heaven).

Here Paul is pointing out to the Jews who thought they were doing okay with God, because they were a Jew, they had been circumcised, and they had the law. But Paul points out that it’s not just hearing the Law that would justify a person, you’d have to do it, and as Jesus points out, you’d have to do it better even than the Pharisees to attain heaven (Mat 5:20). You’d have to do it perfectly! (Mat 5:48), so Jesus points out that the law is bad news to those who are not perfect, those who fail to perfectly fulfill it, in thought, and deed. 

But back in Matthew, Jesus himself points out the gospel that Paul is keen to teach later in Romans. That Christ is the one who came to fulfill all righteousness under the law for us. (Mat 5:17).

In comparing the situation, the Jews and Greeks (aka the rest of humanity) are in, under God’s condemnation for being law breakers, he says are we Jews any better off?”. Then with an emphatic “NO”, he goes into that famous quote of Psalm 53 , “no one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God…”

In the later part of Romans 2 Paul continues to bounce back and forth between talking about how Gentiles, when they do, the right thing are responding to the law written on their hearts (Rom 2:14-16), which is an important point, because he is still in the process of making a great argument that he finishes up in chapter 3, starting at verse 9.

In comparing the situation, the Jews and Greeks (aka the rest of humanity) are in, under God’s condemnation for being law breakers, he says “are we Jews any better off?”. Then with an emphatic “NO”, he goes into that famous quote of Psalm 53, “no one is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God…”

This is such a harsh set of accusations made here in Romans 3 that our tendency is to think that, since we ourselves are pretty good people, it’s reserved for the really bad people in the world. The Adolph Hitlers of the world, the really bad “given over” Gentiles in chapter 1. Yet, Paul makes no distinction like that, his point is that it is about Gentiles and Jews, that “no one is righteous”.

His argument all along includes the visible church (or the OT equivalent), and I would say even the invisible church are included in this, because in and of ourselves, we have earned God’s wrath (though we are not under the Law as a Covenant of Works), and Paul makes it all very clear, what he has been setting up all along that “whatever the law says, it speaks to those under the law.”  (Rom 3:19) He is including Jews and Greeks as being under the law, and under condemnation. [Note: we could certainly read Romans 3:9-20 in our churches today for the first use of the law part of the liturgy, and even make the pronouns personal. That would certainly be quite a blow against our own tendency to self-righteousness.]

Again, how are the Greeks under the law, since they did not have it taught to them as a Jew did? Well, remember in chapter 2, Paul points out that they have it written in their hearts, and so it is the law of the conscience. Everyone being offspring of Adam, we (all humanity) have the law written on our consciences.

Romans 3:19 Paul makes clear something has been building up to and trying to point out. That the law shuts every human being’s mouth if they try to declare they are righteousness, and makes us accountable to God. In verse 20, the point is that no one will be justified in God’s sight by personally fulfilling the laws requirements. We are all therefore under condemnation, according to the standard of the law.

This is the guilt section of Romans, as Paul establishes the guilt, grace, gratitude pattern of argumentation that we see the Heidelberg catechism arranged in.

Continuing his argument of everybody being condemned into the gospel, stating in verse 23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (all humanity) he then turns and says the good news that “all are justified by His grace as a gift”.  Then he says how that gift is appropriated in verse 25 “by faith”.

All are condemned under the law, and all are given what Paul later in Romans 5:17 declares as “the gift of righteousness” through faith alone in Christ alone. That is faith apart from works, because remember, by works we stand condemned. Our works are never added to faith, but faith is the alone instrument given. Faith in Christ is the alone way of attainment of the righteousness that God requires, because Christ is the only one who has fulfilled all righteousness. This is the good news.


The Cosmic Treason of Adam

Adam and

I think one of the hardest sells for us Christians to make to unbelieving world is the fall of all mankind in Adam as our representative. Why, over simply eating a fruit from a tree was there such a fall, such a curse? 

I actually agree that if it was just a simple touching of a tree or a little bite of fruit, it seems excessive. But if we look at the biblical text it was far more than that. It was a complete betrayal of God, and an agreement with the deceiving enemy. It was a failure to do what he should do and a taking and doing what he should not do.

To understand the scope of the sin we need look no further than the biblical text itself, but not just at the text of the event itself, but the greater context of the environment, situation and duty Adam had in the garden that shows this was much more than an issue of intemperance. Which is exactly the point that John Calvin makes:

We must, therefore, look deeper than sensual intemperance. The prohibition to touch the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil was a trial of obedience (obedientiae examen), that Adam, by observing it, might prove his willing submission to the command of God (Institutes,2.1.4)

Calvin points out that Adam’s situation was that he was undergoing a “trial”. It was a “trial of obedience”.  We know that in Romans 5, Paul tells us that Adam was a type of the one to come (Christ) -Romans 5:14.

We can understand a lot more about how this was a trial by looking at a the testing that Jesus went through in the wilderness in Matthew 4. Immediately at the start of Jesus ministry he is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. How this parallels with Adams’ temptation is not a coincidence, but this is actually at the heart of Christ’s mission on earth. Christ is the promised Seed of the woman, and this battle with Satan is exactly what Christ came to succeed at where Adam failed.

Christ came into a fallen world, into a harsh wilderness instead of a safe garden, and with intense suffering and hunger instead of a full stomach. He endures, he succeeds, and does what Adam should have done. He faced the tempter three times! Each time, Christ obeyed God. Instead of agreeing with the tempter, Christ vindicated God, and sent the serpent way! This is what Adam should have done. 

We may note that Christ came into a fallen world, into a harsh wilderness instead of a safe garden, and with intense suffering and hunger instead of a full stomach. He endures, he succeeds, and does what Adam should have done. He faced the tempter three times! Each time, Christ obeyed God. Instead of agreeing with the tempter, Christ vindicated God, and sent the serpent way! This is what Adam should have done. 

If we look earlier in Genesis we see that in Genesis 1:27-30 that God made Adam in His own image, and gave him dominion over everything. Adam was God’s great creation, created above the rest of the creation on earth and given dominion over it. He had a job to do.

God also put the Tree of Life in the garden along with establishing the Sabbath rest. These are signs relating to eternal life, a rest or competition of the probationary trial and entry into consummation.

We see the environment of the trial of obedience starting with Genesis 2:15, which most of our English translations don’t do a good job of translating the word “keep it” in relation to the garden. 

The Hebrew word “shamar” there is actually better translated to “guard”. It’s used that way in Genesis 3:24 describing the action of the cherubim with the flaming sword that turned every way to “shamar” (guard) the way to the tree of life. Adam should have guarded the garden from the invading serpent. 

This same word is used of the Levites who were to “shamar” (guard) the whole congregation, the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and the people of Israel:

Numbers 3: And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”

Based on the understanding of the scope of duties assigned to Adam, God’s representative on earth, given dominion over everything and being given the duty to guard the garden, instead of killing the serpent on sight, or at the very least kicking him out of the garden, we find Adam fails to do his duty from the very first moments of the incident.

Even more, he tolerates this invading creature as he starts spouting anti-God propaganda, calling God’s word and character into question, as if God were keeping something good from man by prohibiting him to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil!

It’s not as if Adam were taken off guard, which he was indeed off guard, but He is present as this happens to and through Eve, as if standing over the situation in silent approval, He goes along with the whole thing, and then eats the fruit himself.

To use a military example, this would be as if the captain of a battleship with all of his orders and vows, and duties, allowed a foreign enemy to come onto the bridge of the ship in his presence, and then start speaking of how his home country was really betraying his interests and that He should disregard his vows duties and orders and instead do the opposite.

Of course, in a war costing everyone under him their lives, that traitorous Capitan should be court marshaled and given the death penalty. Which is exactly the promise given by God for touching or of eating of the tree. It was exactly what Adam deserved, and worse Adam ,was a representative of all humanity in this.

But God….

After Adam’s eyes were opened, he was afraid of God. Rightly so, his nakedness was more than physical. He was morally naked, and exposed before a Holy God as a traitor. He was a transgressor under penalty of death.

But out of sheer mercy, God didn’t kill Adam immediately as He deserved. In Genesis 3:20 we read that God took some animal skins and covered Adam and his wife. Then the real weighty promise God makes in Genesis 3:15. There is a seed of the woman, an offspring that will bruise or crush the serpent’s head.

This of course begins the story of redemption after the fall, and of course the promised offspring is Christ. God is going to take on our nature in the person of the son and fulfill what Adam did not. We find in the gospels that Christ came to accomplish two things on earth. In John 1, we see his work is to be the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, and starting in Matthew 3, we see that he comes to be the obedient one that fulfills all righteousness.

Adam’s transgression was heinous, it was cosmic treason. The promise of death and perdition that hung over the trial were equal to their opposite, of eternal life and the blessings of God. If we do not like the fact that God imputes sin to mankind, then what do we say of his imputation of our sins to Christ on the cross, or even more, the imputation of Christ’s record of righteousness to us?

These two tasks, of obedience and sacrifice are the mission, and Christ perfectly fulfills both, turning away God’s wrath, and also meriting a righteousness beyond any probation for a people He represents, God’s elect, all who will believe, and put their faith in Christ alone.

Unlike the first Adam, who’s sin is imputed to mankind, on the cross, Christ bears away or is imputed our sins, and we receive (have imputed) His righteousness, the wonderful consequences of His obedience. This is the basis of our Justification before God.

Our hope of eternal life is secured. Heaven is secured by Christ, whom Paul calls the last Adam (1Cor 15:24). By His obedience and sacrifice, Christ has secured eternal life and the heavenly rest that Adam failed to secure. This is good news for all who rest their faith on Him.

Adam’s transgression was heinous, it was cosmic treason. The promise of death and perdition that hung over the trial were equal to their opposite, of eternal life and the blessings of God. If we do not like the fact that God imputes sin to mankind, then what do we say of his imputation of our sins to Christ on the cross, or even more, the imputation of Christ’s record of righteousness to us? 

We can rejoice in the good news of what Christ has secured by knowing more how amazing it is, what a great salvation we truly have. We, sinners who deserve condemnation are instead made sons of God in Christ, and given eternal life and an eternal inheritance. This is good news that almost seems too good to be true. Christian, our salvation in Christ is secured by Christ.  What an amazing savior we have.



Christ Centered Christianity and its Modern Detractors

Christian Hedonism

I’m not trying to pick on John Piper, or disparage anyone who has been helped by his ministry, but I think it’s important to point out some very important differences between his views and a more classic Christian view. His ministry is a great example of a larger trend from vertical to horizonal focused Christianity that I think is not going to do so well in the future.  

John Piper has a kind of overarching philosophy he calls: Christian Hedonism, which is different from what I would argue is the theologically Reformed view of things. So, really, I’m not picking on John Piper himself or certainly not all the good things he has said and done, but just his Christian Hedonism doctrine.

I believe that a fair and basic summary of Christian Hedonism is this. Piper takes the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer one, and makes a whole Christian philosophy based on it.

Since man’s chief end is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”, Piper fits human nature into this view and concludes that is the model God created for the church.

He argues that since we’re all ultimately focused on our own self and pleasures, he finds a way to reconcile this with the fact that as a Christian, we are now new creations created to glorify God by following and obeying Christ.

So, he concludes that this following and obeying Christ gives us joy, and so we should seek to “maximize” our joy (which, remember, all humans want to do) by focusing on following and obeying Jesus. So, all the pieces fit.

This view hits all the major pieces of biblical Christianity, and yet I would suggest that it is the moving of the center of gravity from one thing to another that the bible does not do, nor do the Reformed confessions, or historic Reformed Christianity.

The bible puts the objective gospel of what God has done for us in Christ as our joy, not our self-focused obedience to God. The gospel being the person and work of Jesus Christ, securing forgiveness, eternal life, and ultimately an eternal inheritance as sons of God in Christ.

The bible puts the gospel as our joy (Ro 5:13; 1Pt 1:8-9), not our obedience to God. The gospel being the person and work of Jesus Christ, securing forgiveness, eternal life, and ultimately an eternal inheritance as sons of God in Christ.

This is the Christian hope. It’s future life focused, and it’s sure because it’s all been secured by Christ for us. It’s not something we qualify for or maintain over time to ultimately attain. It’s promised in Christ, received by faith, and we rest on the righteousness of Christ secured for us. So, we rejoice over what His obeying secured. We are justified, and there is no such thing as final justification, unless we use the definition of justification being to be vindicated, or shown to be truly in Christ.

In this Biblical/Reformed model, good works, and obedience are consequential fruit of the new creation life already received.

So, what differs is the focus, and emphasis, or center of gravity. His view of self-pleasing by being Christ focused, ultimately it places the center of gravity on self. On the Christian life on what we do in it. His sermons and his teachings reflect this emphasis.

I would point out that his view of Christian motivation is taught nowhere in the scriptures, which is one reason it’s not found anywhere in Reformed teachings or confessions. It also takes the center of gravity off of the gospel, our eschatological hope, and what all Christ has secured for us.

Now, importantly Piper does not stop preaching the gospel himself. As the leader of this movement, he does so quite a bit, or at least has in the past, but it’s not the center of gravity, it’s not the center of the Christian life. Remember, in His view you maximizing your joy through following and obeying Christ as your central focus. 

So, what we have here in Piper’s view is something that has become very popular in Christian circles in the last 20 years or so. To many, the biggest problem in the world is all the Antinomians. All those people who love the gospel but aren’t putting enough feet to the faith. They’re not obeying God, and taking what they do as Christians seriously. 

In recent years similar focused models suddenly took hold in the Churches, be they Neo-Calvinistic Transformationalism, Federal Vision, N.T. Wright’s Covenantal Nomism, or John Piper’s Christian Hedonism, they all are movements that put more emphasis on Christians doing more, obeying more, bearing more fruit through emphasizing our responsibility to do so. 

So they all moved the center of gravity off of the vertical emphasis on Christ-for-me, His person and work securing forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life, with good works as the consequential fruit, to a horizontal emphasis of Christ-in-me and me and either focused on personal or world transformation. 

They all moved the center of gravity off of the vertical emphasis on Christ-for-me, His person and work securing forgiveness, righteousness and eternal life, with good works as the consequential fruit, to a horizontal emphasis of Christ-in-me and me either focused on personal or world transformation.

They have most of the same biblical components, but the difference is mainly emphasis based on a few theological tweaks. They don’t abandon the gospel. It’s often proclaimed by the heads of the movement more than those who follow. This is one reason those adhering to these movements are not charged with abandoning the gospel doctrinally. Yet functionally, as churches follow these models, you hear less gospel, and even now the ears of people are attuned to where many have no great appetite for it. They see no point in the gospel, but just a mention and something they agree with and believe in very much.  

I would argue that all of them are also theologically or functionally monocovenantal, and therefore lack (or see as mostly irrelevant) a view of Christ’s active obedience, and therefore Christ’s perfect righteousness under the law securing an advancing of us beyond any probation, and a call to rest on that righteousness, and the eschatological future that is secured.

It is my position that this correct doctrine and emphasis is enough for the Holy Spirit to work in us to sanctify us on this earth and enable us to seek to obey and do good works, even bearing much fruit. I would argue that this is in fact the superior, and even the only biblical and proper view that does so. That the other views are actually counterfeit, human inventions that need to be abandoned if not condemned.

That even if there are antinomians, and you find some problem with fruit bearing, or sanctification it is because they are not believing in or hoping in what is secured by Christ in the life to come. That it might very well be a consistently anemic gospel that is the point of failure in churches. Because they have not got a big enough vision or understanding consistently drummed into their dull ears as to what their true hope is, so they cling to what is presently before them with fingers clutched too tightly.  

However, I believe and see some evidence that there is a shift happening in Churches. It’s really also a shift from the cultural maintainer, cultural influencer Christianity back to a Salvation, eternal life focused Christianity.

Basically, it’s back to what the bible teaches front and center, which some of us never wanted to leave in the first place. So, I believe that these hastily adopted views and their less-gospel (Christ for us) more fruit-of-the-gospel (me for God and neighbor) emphasis are not going to do well moving forward.

Of course, we need the Lord to do this work. Because churches failed to take the gospel seriously God must work to make hearts embrace it. This is what I believe is meant  by a lampstand being removed, the gospel starts to disappear. The gospel was once more popular in churches, and yet it became redefined, used and backgrounded. Then end result of its second place status or balancing-act status will be its complete loss. Repentance is in order by the Churches who did so. But one has to at least acknowledge that they did not take the gospel seriously first before they can repent of having done so.

I believe that a Christocentric Christianity, and therefore a Gospel-centric Christianity with an eschatological hope is the Christianity of the future. It’s the only way forward for the Church. That most will have claimed to have been doing that all along will be a hurdle and hinderance to Reformation. They have not. Far too many Reformed churches, teachers, writers, thought leaders, elders, seminaries, professors and teachers in America have not taken the gospel seriously. Humble repentance is in order for not having done so. A return is in order to consistently and clearly proclaiming the gospel to help tune ears to understand it’s centrality.

Elevating it and our eternal life in the world to come, making that message central to our faith and the Christian life. Returning to a  humble trust in the Holy Spirit to work faith in us through that and to therefore sanctify us by that good news preached as our great hope and the light of our lives, placing our hope in what Christ has secured for us in the world to come is in order.  We should repent for not taking the gospel seriously, repent from not trusting God to accomplish His purposes on earth through the good news and hope in the life to come. 

What many claim about taking the gospel seriously and what they practice has been inconsistent. Which, wasn’t that the whole issue their new self-focused teachings were supposed to cure in others in the first place?  Therefore some will need to take King Jesus and His already accomplished work seriously and repent of their failure to take the gospel seriously. This is what I think the church should be doing at this time. Repenting and asking the Lord to restore the gospel to its right place in the churches today. 



The Biblical External / Internal distinction correlates with the Administrative / Substantive distinctions recognized in the Covenant of Grace

God circumcizes our hearts

Presbyterians doctrinal standards called the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) recognizes 2 of the 3 main covenants. Other documents (Such as the Sum of Saving Knowledge, and Savoy Declaration) that followed make clear what was implied in the Westminster standards the third overarching Covenant of Redemption.

However, the WCF has dedicated an entire chapter (Ch 7) discussing both the Covenant of Works, and the Covenant of Grace under the title “Of God’s Covenant with Man”.

The Covenant of Grace is described as being set forth in the time of the law and under the gospel under the name of “Testament”. These comprise the Old and New Testaments (OT,NT) which the Covenant of Grace spans across, but in distinctly different administrations.

Two important distinctions are made in regards to the Covenant of Grace in WCF 7.5 & 6. The distinction of Administration and Substance. This is key to understand, and in fact there is much misunderstanding of it that has led to confusion among Baptists, and errors of the Federal Visionists and others.

What is too often misunderstood is that someone can receive the administrative sign of the Covenant of Grace without participating in the substance of the covenant.

The WCF explains that the Covenant of Grace is administrated during the time of the law (in the OT) through things like: promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the Passover lamb meal, and other types of ordinances. The Covenant of Grace is administered under the gospel (in the NT) through the preaching of the word, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. There are not two Covenant of Grace, but one, and substance of the Covenant of Grace is Christ.

Biblically speaking from Paul’s teaching in the book of Romans we can say that the administration of the Covenant of Grace is done externally, and participation in the substance is done internally. Paul describes this important external/internal distinction in Romans 2:28-29, where he speaks of circumcision being of the heart, not merely outward and physical, but inwardly (Also see Colossians 2:11) made without hands, but by God. He continues in the first part of Romans 3 to describe the benefits of being a Jew and of circumcision by describing the benefits of one being surrounded by the oracles of God. That this was an entire belief system to be inculcated into the life of the household of faith in which the covenant child was raised as a Jew.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. ~ Colossians 2:11-14

Paul continues later in Romans with contrasting Jacob and Esau in Romans 9. Paul describes the differences between Jacob and Esau ultimately being God’s election of one and reprobation of the other. In other words, though both were circumcised, and participated administratively in the Covenant of Grace promises, both did not internally have faith, and so we could also say that because of that both did not participate in the substance of the Covenant of Grace. Esau forsook his inheritance because he simply did not internally believe. Esau was never in the Covenant of Grace substantively, but merely received it administratively.  

Because there is this external/internal distinction, because not all who claim to believe really do believe, we can also say that all in the visible church are not elect.  We can say that all in the visible church are members of the Christ professing community of believers, yet unless they inwardly have faith in Christ, that they’ve never been legally united with Christ, they’ve never been justified. Unless at some point in God’s timing they are born again and then believe internally, they have never participated substantively in the Covenant of Grace.

In the case of pedobaptism, Calvin argues that unless at some point that is joined with faith that baptism is of no use to them. Because a sacrament does not constitute the spiritual reality that it points to and is given the name of, but there must also at some point be an internal faith, which ultimately the timing and the grace offered and promised in the sign is conferred, or not, according to the counsel of God’s will.

God is the one who elects or not, and so we can say that the participation in the substance of the Covenant of Grace (Christ) is ultimately contingent upon God’s secret election. God is the one who from eternity chooses all those who are elect unto salvation. We are chosen in Christ in eternity, and therefore God unites us with Christ, makes us born again, grants us faith and repentance, and preserves us into glory. Salvation is wholly of the Lord. God must grant us faith, so that inwardly we truly believe.

So, the external / internal distinction can be said to corollate to the administrative / substantive categories of the Covenant of Grace, which can also be said to corollate to participation in the visible / invisible church.  

A child baptized in the Presbyterian church is considered a member of the congregation and yet not a communing member until they profess faith, because the bread and wine are to be received only in faith. The sign of Baptism is still to be seen as a sign and a seal of the Covenant of Grace, of our ingrafting into Christ. Yet it’s the outward sign of a spiritual reality based on the promises of God, and we are given the honor and solemn responsibility of raising our children in the faith. 

The children of believing church members, being baptized are also made members of the Christ confessing covenant community of believers, and so they are made members (yet not communing members until they exhibit faith) of the visible church. We their parents have the full hope and expectation that they will not as Esau did, forsake their inheritance promised in their (external administrative participation in the Covenant of Grace) Baptism into Christ.

We know that our confession teaches that: “The efficacy of baptism is not tied to that moment of time wherein it is administered; yet, notwithstanding, by the right use of this ordinance, the grace promised is not only offered, but really exhibited, and conferred, by the Holy Ghost, to such (whether of age or infants) as that grace belongeth unto, according to the counsel of God’s own will, in his appointed time.” ~ WCF 28.6.

Based on that, it’s clear that we already teach that the baptism itself does not constitute the reality, but that it points to a real spiritual reality as a promise that crosses time. It is really exhibited and conferred by the Holy Spirit (or not, if the person is not elect) in God’s timing.

So, it’s not like a magic spell done by a village shaman, but that it is an ordinance given by God, who is not bound to elect someone to salvation in Christ because they receive the sign, but that God grants an internal faith, or not, in His own timing, based on what we learn earlier in the confession.

That it’s all ultimately based upon Him having predestined some to life before the foundation of that world. That “they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season” ~ WCF 3.6.

We do not consider baptism to be baptismal regeneration the way Rome and the Federal Visionists do. We also do not consider it as Baptists do to be about the sign being only for those who have believed internally showing with their testimony about their changed nature and external commitment to follow and obey God in church membership. 

All of these views deny in some ways what I have argued here exegetically, doctrinally and confessionally as external-internal, administrative-substantive, and visible-invisible-Church distinctions.

Permission to Sojourn

The “Permesso Soggiorno” (permission to sojourn) is something that we’re looking forward to getting here next week in Italy. It’s essentially our residency permit which will cause us to be able to attain our work permit, our tax id, our health cards, etc… Everything is contingent on getting this official permission to essentially be pilgrims here. I think that’s such a telling name that we Christians who were born in America seem to have lost touch with. That this life here is temporary and like our father Abraham (Gal 3:29) we’re not city builders, we’re tent dwellers looking for a city whose architect and builder is God (Heb 10:11).

That was the whole promised inheritance that God promised him and His offspring (his seed) in a covenant ceremony where the smoking cauldron passed between the cut pieces of animal over. (Gen 15:15-21) The promised inherence of the land (Gen 15:3-8). That promise to Abraham and his offspring was not simply for some small piece of land in the Near Middle East, but Paul makes it clear that what Abraham only understood in that typological form was actually the whole world (Rom 4:13). Paul explains in Galatians 3 that the singular offspring is Christ (Gal 3 16,19).

The inheritance is secured by the righteous one, Christ alone, who then becomes our united head through faith alone. So, Christ secures eternal life and the eternal inheritance in the new heavens and the new earth for us, and we receive it through union with Him by God’s grace alone through faith alone. 

One of Paul’s biggest points from Galatians 3:15 and forward is that it’s not “offsprings” (plural) as if Israel the nation could have secured the inherence under the law. The inheritance is secured by the righteous one, Christ alone, who then becomes our united head through faith alone. So, Christ secures eternal life and the eternal inheritance in the new heavens and the new earth for us, and we receive it through union with Him by God’s grace alone through faith alone.  This is the good news of the gospel. That this broken world where we all die is not the best it gets for those who rest their hope in Christ as their savior, and forsake all their own righteousness and rest upon His righteousness alone. (Phil 3:9). 

I mention all of this to give context of our move to this part of the world where some people who are fixed on their best life now come to retire. It’s not that I’m opposed to good times, or living in a safe, comfortable place where I don’t get the sense that my government or my culture hates me. I’m a firm believer that if people feel like the place they live is oppressive, holding them back, or that it’s dangerous that there is not necessary a Christian virtue in sticking around that place. There is nothing wrong or un-Christian about seeking to improve your lot in life, and if a move does that, then there’s nothing inherently wrong with asking the Lord to make an opportunity to do so. 

The problem comes with the fact that, “no matter where you go, there you are”. In other words, most of our problems are not outside of us, but are us. I’ve often told my wife Cheryl that I could be sitting on the finest and most pristine beach, both of us in super-model shape, millions in the bank, living in a great house and still find a way to be absolutely miserable. In other words, I’m the cause of my own sin and misery.

So much of life is how you look at it. I think this is one reason that Christians are called to set our mind on the things above (Col 3:2), where Christ the securer of our eternal inheritance is preparing a place for us (Jhn 14:3), and why in Philippians 4 Paul exhorts them with these words “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”.

Is Paul just telling us about the power of positive thinking? No, not in the means-to-its-own-ends sense that little children are told that Santa Clause says “you’d better be good for goodness sake”. In other words, it’s not an end to itself, or some Christian practice hollowed out of any meaning other than being Pollyanna like. Some might even seek to use positivity in some system to attract the world to make converts.

Christians should be optimistic, not to drive some earthly result, but I believe its simply one of the gifts of God to us who are sojourners. That we have a hope that does not fade like the grass, or wilt like the flower of the field, but we have eternal treasure in heaven where moth and rust don’t destroy (Mat 6:19:21). We’re to fix our eyes on Christ, and the eternal, immutable promises made to us in Him who secures them for us.

The fact remains however that our move to Italy partly for our own mixed motives. It’s true, that in part I desired to do it for purposes of my own blessing and that of my family. I thought it would be good, and still do think that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, other than what I might import in my own potentially sinful and idolatrous thoughts about it.

Also however, we did it to potentially help a church plant, where the pastor was willing and even desirous to have us come and help how we could. So, we humbly have that goal and pray that God would use us for His glory here and that we might help make the gospel clear to those who either don’t know it, or who don’t understand the heights and depths of the good news of what we have in Christ.

Ultimately, I only have perhaps thirty more years on this earth, and I don’t know if there will be great suffering and malady during that time. Jesus tells us that the world hates us and to expect suffering. (Jhn 15:18; 16:33),  so I might also suffer more in Italy than I would in the US. I hope not, but since I’m not God, I don’t know. I don’t know why many things happen in my life, but I do know that often things that seem bad wind up for my good.

I can tell you that through some frustrating stumbling and bumbling God took us to the exact right place to meet with the exactly right people on the first day available to schedule the meeting to receive our Permesso Soggiorno about a week later. From all I have read this advanced scheduling is not normal, and we have been greatly encouraged by it.  That was just one in a long list of blessings where the Lord not only opened a door, but blessed us, even in the middle of our move when there was suffering and heart ache of leaving our church, loved ones, our house, our friends and our country for a place where we don’t even speak the language and have never even visited before.

Yes, that’s true, while we’ve all visited cities in Italy before we never had been to Lecce Italy before determining to sell or give away everything and move here. We tried to visit before hand, but lockdowns because of Covid and limited funds caused me to decide to call off the trip. So, our faith was stretched even further by that uncertainty, yet God used our saving those extra funds to be able to put them into fixing up our house, and we wound up getting way more for it than we thought we could. Yet again, another providence that seemed bad, yet God made it for our good, and we were encouraged by it.

I’m not giving these anecdotal stories to teach some sort of faith/blessing doctrine, but I’m also not going to deny what happened. God grants and withholds blessings at His will.

In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter refers to believers as sojourners, which we truly are, because our eternal home the Christ secured for us is with God in heaven. This reality awaits us, who while we are here are witnesses to the saving work of Jesus Christ for sinners like us

This church in Lecce Italy that we want to help might not even grow, we might not learn the language well enough to feel like we fit, I hope not, but Romans 8:28 is still true. That ALL things work for our good, even things that seem like failures. The question there I think we should ask is “What is for our good?”. Paul completes his thought from that in verse 30 ending on our being in glory. That is I think the ultimate ends that God works for our good, which is consistent with our being sojourners here. So, even if we eventually become citizens of Italy the most important thing is that we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven because of and in Christ Jesus, the one who secures eternal blessings, and eternal land, and eternal life for all who put their hope in Him.

In 1 Peter 2:11, Peter refers to believers as sojourners, which we truly are, because our eternal home the Christ secured for us is with God in heaven. This reality awaits us, who while we are here are witnesses to the saving work of Jesus Christ for sinners like us. This is why we can and should help plant churches, not to help build great earthly cities or to influence cultures, but that proclaim the good news that God causes to bring about and increase faith in Christ alone. So, this is our hope, and this is why we can say that our household has simply moved from sojourning in Texas to sojourning in Italy, because wherever a Christian is on this earth, he is a sojourner. That’s ultimately good, because we have an eternal home far better than the best Italian city ever could be.


The Neoliberal Globalist Technocracy as a Religion

The Neoliberal Globalist Technocracy as a Religion

A world ruled by “experts” with personal righteousness and tribal membership on the line (by S.M. White)

Understanding the foundations of why things are the way they are:

In order to understand the world, we live in today we have to understand some things about human nature. Particularly because the way the world is arranged now is based partly on the coercing of human nature.

There are some altruisms about humans:

  1. We’re tribalistic: We like to be on a team that we think is going to win. We like to fit in, to be liked, to be safe, to be successful. We like for our team, the group, or ideas, or where we live to win against some benchmark. This is why for example people root for local sports teams even if they have nothing else in common with them than the location they happen to be living.
  2. We like to be righteous: This is a big one. There is a part of human nature that wants to be told the “well done good and faithful servant” from God or another proximate authority. There is a sort of desire for approval from God for what we do and don’t do that is in all of humanity. We can see this transactional nature every religion ever made by man has the element of a heaven or reward based on our deeds, what we have to offer. So, it’s a works-based salvation, and a works-based justification. You see this at a smaller level based on children just wanting the approval of parents even after they grow up. This is a common reflection in human nature. Righteousness (our good-enough-ness), and validation of our own personal righteousness is a common desire of all humanity.

Shaped by the past 100 years:

We also need to consider the huge impact that the United States of America has had on the world in the past 100 years. The fact that it was things like our blue-jeans and factory-farming filled grocery stores that brought an end to the world shaping cold war with the Soviet Union has helped shape the world we live in today. Namely the idea that the blessings of the “good life”, of humanity thriving, is to be found through human ascendency through capitalistic means and wealth creation. That’s what won out from the more purely collectivist worldview that the former Soviet Union was. Today there is a mix of capitalistic-communism in China that appears to be a third path, but I would seek to convince you in this essay that the worldwide zeitgeist driving much of what is going on is based on a goal of personal prosperity through technological and wealth advancement. In regards to a type of religion, this can be seen as the proximate “heaven” that is the goal and helps explain why things are the way they are in the world today.

Understanding the different models and why a technocracy ruled by elites is the model today:

Just as with the soviet vs American model of governance, mankind has been trying different forms of government in the modern age with varying forms of success and or misery. Mostly the battle lines of how a nation should be governed has been defined by things like freedom or collectivism, or Right-wing or Left-wing. There have been governments that have partnered with religion, some that have been atheistic, others that have mixed collectivism style socialism with capitalism, and others that have sought to maximize a libertarian model.

A policy that was determined in a libertarian US think tank in the 1990s was that free-trade and globalism is the path forward, and it seems that particularly with the advent of the World Wide Web everyone has bought into it and that this is the model. The internet has helped open up the world to everyone (particularly big corporations) and so experts have determined that places like the US shouldn’t really make many things, but that things should be made in poor nations (or in the case of China places where the government subsidizes cheap labor to make it impossible for anyone to compete with them). Rather than making or building things, young people in the US were supposed to go to college, get degrees in sociology, and STEM and never really get their hands dirty with making anything, including things like masks or pharmaceuticals, or computers, or smart phones. That could be and should be made elsewhere. That’s the “free market” after all, which is a good thing, or so we’re told.

Understanding some of the effects on US culture:

As it turns out not everyone was cut out for this predetermined national/global human categorization model policy, and so this created a divide of societal underperformers. One example would be white Millennial males lacking the desire for a white-collar knowledge-work skill-set became involuntary celibates because they couldn’t compete with and win the affections of a young lady who had a degree and required more a more socially and economically competitive partner. This manipulated cultural environment in-turn created even more competition and an even more conditional (arguably less human) nature to relationships in the US where less marriages occurred, and with men of potential better character being replaced by those who are just more ambitious, successful in the system and more prone to the more simplistic utilitarian view of the harsh reality of winning and losing. I would argue that it helped foster less human compassion and a more cold and narrow people focused on others as a resource to be used.

Understanding the idea of “expertism”, a world ruled by technocratic elites and think tanks:

It’s ironic that the one most prominent outlet we have for extreme individuality, the ability to choose our own gender is itself a sort of mandate from the top. A social pressure pushed down on us that must be accepted and approved. Who applies this pressure, and why? How do they do it?

Today’s globalism is a world where things are made in the cheap places, and computer screens are occupied in the “rich” nations, where we produce little, but mainly deal in knowledge work and our economy moves forward based on consumption of things made in the cheap places, but also, we consume the information itself, the media, the entertainment, the games, the factory food, the “good life” (or so we’re led to believe) things. It’s more of a hedonistic consumerist pseudo-utopia that even the poor can enjoy.

People are mostly convinced of the “good life” what they should do or not do by these experts, by scientists, doctors, social-experts, and know-better-than-yous. They’ve replaced looking at government as purely left or right, or religious, or libertarian. This is a layer above that. It’s a view that the best decisions for everything are made by these elites. Experts in healthcare, and solving global warming, and solving wars, and poverty, by experts. There is a sort of faith that this is the way to go, the next evolution of governance is a sort of worldwide economy ruled by elite experts.

 Understanding how to herd cats, through tribalism and righteousness:  

How do you get everyone on board for a global agenda? Aren’t’ all politics local? How do we herd cats? How does one nation or one group of people that may be on the right or left or center, or atheistic, or religious, or whatever someone might think all get on the same page for think-tank inspired globally calculated agendas?

The answer is through a sort of technocratic information-driven religious experience. Remember the two points about human nature, we’re tribalistic, and we want to be righteous. So, what better way than endless secular sermons through institutions that are on board with the technocratic globalist plan? So, from education, to music, to movies, to books, to institutions, to corporations and their commercials, to the news media online, in print, or streaming news things like “global warming” , “social injustice” and other cultural imperatives are preached. We’re shown endless evidence of what’s wrong, and then the (unbiased) “experts” tell us what needs to happen to make it right.

We need economic policies. We need to make different kinds of cars. We need to pump the market. We need to recognize and elevate the right people and their plight. We need to power our houses differently, and we need to live in certain new ways.  For people who are already religious, or for people who have abandoned traditional religions, this becomes their new religion, or at least a supplemental religion. It’s a secular religion with righteousness on the line.

This can carry over into other things like no-mask to mask wearing to double-mask wearing, or certainly people don’t want to be an unrighteous racist by having the wrong border policy. This is all controlled by whoever controls the information. They control the narrative, so they get define who is culturally-orthodox or who is a cultural-heretic, and they control the information evidence to back up either thing.

What follows cultural heresy is cultural damnation, cancel culture. Cultural-heretics get shut out of middle-culture for being unrighteous and disagreeing with the experts. The alternative to cultural-heresy is cultural-orthodoxy. Agree with the media-priest sermons and what is righteous and you’ll be righteous, you’ll be safe on the righteous path. You’ll be blessed with the comfort and safety of full membership into the “good people tribe”. You’ll have nothing to fear, on the contrary, you’re vindicated. You’re a good person with full tribal benefits to live in peace and safety because you do and think the right things. For you, you’re justified. So, it’s a works-based secular religion based on fear of condemnation and hope of reward.

What follows cultural heresy is cultural damnation, cancel culture. Cultural-heretics get shut out of middle-culture for being unrighteous and disagreeing with the experts. The alternative to cultural-heresy is cultural-orthodoxy. Agree with the media-priest sermons and what is righteous and you’ll be righteous, you’ll be safe on the righteous path. You’ll be blessed with the comfort and safety of full membership into the “good people tribe”.


Parts of this are a world-wide phenomenon, but it’s most intense in the Anglosphere, particularly the United States. At this point there is almost no part of any policy or information that makes its way to you that is not a part of a certain tribe that ultimately agrees about the big picture of rule by a technocratic global elite. They only disagree about things like priorities, emphasis, focus, and other details. They all agree that experts need to control all our decisions, and they all agree that they get to control what experts control our decisions. Really, they are more qualified, because there’s not a lot of good independent thought going on in the world that they’ve already been controlling the information, what gets rewarded and punished, and what people should pursue and think.

This, I think,  was not as much a planned takeover of things, but more natural. With a sort of policy agreement that experts are good things (who could disagree with that?) those over our institutions naturally sort of set the table for themselves to be the elite rulers because they have the money and the power, and a majority of those they are ruling over generally ignorant, naïve and ultimately malleable masses of people who can’t think for themselves. People that have been indoctrinated by the systems in place that helped make them that way. For the masses to be herdable is a problem the elites have nearly solved.

If anyone starts to think for themselves, and comes up with any alternative or populist movement, the information priest-craft goes to work labeling, demonizing, and showing the worst elements of that movement. If that doesn’t work, it seems like they even plant information or people in these movements that cause them to self-destruct as bad movements eventually.

My thoughts are that this is just the way things are, and we have to deal with it. Ultimately against the backdrop of left vs right, collectivist vs individualist, socialist vs capitalist, theist vs atheist it seems that enough people from each of those sub-triable categories think that a neoliberal globalist technocracy where experts are given control of most things is a happy meeting in the middle. The fact that many things are coerced by control of information and the manipulation of people thought carrots and sticks applied to human nature doesn’t seem to be seen as a macro level problem. Instead endless news cycles define the relevant issues for all those who think they are thinkers. Stories on national politics, social ills, election, ecological, financial and other issues relating to the pandemic to fill most of that mainstream intellectual space, and the solutions are always political. Political, where the ruling experts that determine which experts tell us how to live, and move, and have our being… 

As for me, I don’t like it, and I don’t think it will end well, but I am going to continue to try and think through it as to what is best for me and my family with the limited resources and abilities that we have. I’m going to live where I think its better, and that there is less trouble, and to do business as best I can. Perhaps this is like what the elites themselves do at one level. Insulate themselves from the worst effects of world they help create. Yet I hate the system that I’m a part of. I never would have created it, because I don’t see people, even experts as basically good, or unassailably honest and for me,  I don’t see the prospect of a perfectible utopia, or that this is meeting in the middle. For one thing they’re way too optimistic about human nature, and also, they don’t seem to factor in bias. We’re just supposed to trust the honesty and goodness of the nameless-faceless globalist think-tank created policy that those who govern, and the information priesthood prepares for our thought consumption as if it’s given by basically good people and will be basically for our good. Because they care. Really? In the words of Joe Biden “come on man!”


This little Saturday morning essay was a little outside my normal topic and writing style, and I would be remis if I did not mention that while I like things like safety, comfort and the good things in this world, this is not my ultimate home. This is why I don’t seek to overturn anything per say except generally the household of the god of this world, Satan, whom Christ has bound and his house is being pillaged even now by the proclaiming of the gospel as the Holy Spirit uses that in the lives of the elect. There is simply no form of worldly governance that will not ultimately represent itself in various forms and to varying degrees of severity against Christ, and His people.

Christ told us that the world will hate us because it hated Him.  That is true. I am not the enemy of people, but of Satan. Our battles are spiritual, which is why sharing the gospel with whoever the Lord puts in our path is the way to go. This short life we have in this present evil age is best spent planting churches and helping churches, and seeking to love and disciple people in Churches. Our churches need to be Christ centered, and particularly centered on the gospel, which is His person and work to save sinners like me and you.  There’s the good news. That’s the ultimate good news, because it’s about an eternal life where true justice and goodness does reign. I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ! That’s my true hope! That’s my good news. That’s good news to all who rest their hope on the righteousness of Christ. 

Other resources on the phenomenon of informal secular religion: 

Michael Chrichton, Environmentalism as a Religion:

Davis Zahl, Seculosity: How Career, Parenting, Technology, Food, Politics, and Romance Became Our New Religion and What to Do about It


Advent is not a Presbyterian tradition

adventThe Reformed churches used to whitewash the inside of former Roman Catholic cathedrals, making them more ordinary interiors not because they despised art or beauty, but because they were drawing a line in the sand and essentially saying: The ordinary means of word and sacrament were to be the focus and means of teaching maturing and preserving those in Christ. Because formerly things like reading and the bible itself were held in the hands of the Roman Catholic priesthood, things like religious paintings, sculptures and carvings were ways of depicting biblical scenes and events in cathedrals, and therefore means of continual teaching to the uneducated citizens of the middle ages, although some of these particular things were probably used as a sort of idol or icon in prayer.

As far as paintings, or etchings however, think of it like teaching a child through a picture book. Also, the way one’s eyes were taken upward in most cathedrals had some intent to make one think up above towards God or whatever mediators the adherent was taught to speak to. Later opulence and artistic flourishes became more about the majesty and authority of the Roman Catholic Church itself. Baroque architecture where beautification, majesty and power of the structure itself was more the point. This was part of Rome’s answer in their Counter Reformation.

So, whitewashing was taking one’s attention off of the building, the images, the eye-candy. The Reformers took the position that the building or what is in it is not what is sacred, or holy, or to draw one’s eye and attention. The ordinary preaching of the word of God, and particularly the good news of salvation, eternal life and an inheritance in Christ alone where moth and rust don’t destroy is what the Reformation church was all about. Therefore, that is what was elevated in Calvinistic churches. Except for less than thoroughly Reformed circles. You can find imagery in Lutheran churches today which itself is a tradition that is less thorough in Reformation than Calvinistic tradition. In the Calvinistic tradition through the Church of England there is Anglicanism, which unlike Calvin’s Geneva did seek to hold on more of the old ways in a sort of hybrid manor, and so Roman Catholic things like Lent, and Advent were kept going. Stained glass windows with biblical stories, and even images of Jesus (2nd commandment issue?) are found today in many Anglican (or Episcopalian) cathedrals and churches.

Advent is celebrated with different colored candles lit up in the area of worship (how well do flames before the Lord go in the bible?) to teach, and inspire spiritual nourishment just as Rome had done. For Lent, fasting and 40 symbolic days of sacrifice where spiritual disciplines and times of reflection independent of the normal means offered in the Church are propped up.

These are the hybrid ways, and less thorough of a Reformation. This imagery and ritual takes on an almost mystical type of reflection that seems to me most similar to the kind of reflections we do with the elements associated with the sacraments. Yet, we find the command to do these things nowhere in the scriptures. Therefore, absorbing these things into worship violates the Reformation principle that Sola Scriptura regulates worship and practice. This is of course known as the Regulative Principle of Worship.

Regulative Principle is part of Presbyterianism since John Knox. However, it seems that in the past 100 years or so, Presbyterians have started to absorb this practice from other traditions. It would seem that Presbyterians in a push to reach the world have looked at the culturally superior Anglican/Episcopal traditions and determined to be more of a traditional Swiss Army Knife absorbing that aesthetic into a tradition that had formerly rejected it.  

It would seem that Presbyterians in a push to reach the world have looked at the culturally superior Anglican/Episcopal traditions and determined to be more of a traditional Swiss Army Knife absorbing that aesthetic into a tradition that had formerly rejected it.

I can think of no other reason why Presbyterians have forgotten that they are Presbyterians and started doing things like Advent. Unless it is done simply because of a simplistic understanding of where they actually stand. If they draw outside the lines in where they stand then where will their children go in the next church? I think we are already seeing that in the woke churches.

Come back Presbyterians. Come back to the Regulative Principle of Worship. Keep the Christmas trees and candles out in the hallway if you must have them, but not in worship, not part of worship. Certainly, we can observe days like Christmas and Easter in homes and even in the Church, yet there is no need to follow a liturgical calendar, no need for Lent or Advent.

Have you lost the “Rule of Worship”? There is no need to add ritual and spectacle that are not called means of grace in your doctrinal standards. No need to add these things to worship, no need to bind consciences to observe extra biblical rituals in a Christian worship service. By doing so you have made yourself something more than a Presbyterian, or less than one, however you want to look at it.  

I can think of no bigger name in American Presbyterianism in regards to culture and cultural engagement than the Dutch Reformed theologian Abraham Kuyper. New Calvinism, Missionalism, and Neo-Calvinism found in Presbyterianism today are all offshoots of his sphere sovereignty and other ideas of how Christianity engages culture, yet even he had a hand-break called Antithesis. He realized that the world always ultimately manifests itself against Christ and His church, and so Christianity was always going to be ultimate hated by the world, and that Christianity is Antithetical to the world and its ultimate agenda. We should see that the world and pop-culture were always therefore going to have a corrosive and deconstructive effect on the Church. Perhaps the ultra-confident Baby-Boomer generation liberalized these things in line with American Presbyterianism, but there is no need to continue their mistakes.

The old adage that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything rings true. The Semper Reformanda (always Reforming) does not mean that we’re always adding to the Reformation, or modifying it to fit the worlds trends, but it means the exact opposite, a return to Reformed confessional standards. Churches don’t need to change to whatever Spirit-of-the-Age is here in each moment in order to reach the world. There is plenty to suggest that though there are seasons when the church is called archaic and behind the times, that at least it is a cultural mooring that just by being there gives a standard to call the world back to. This might mean that you don’t grow as big of a church for a season, but what price is growth gained with? Wouldn’t it be better to be the place where firm principles are found? Or even better where an emphasis on the good news of salvation in Christ alone is found? It has been my observation in much American Presbyterianism in 2020 there is more of a platitudinal and truncated gospel that is preached, and much less of the underlying doctrinal basis of that proclamation. Perhaps less emphasis on imagery and bumper sticker sized gospel proclamations and a more completely laid out scope of what redemption in Christ entails would be a good goal.  In other words, a bigger better articulated and taught good news. This is a suggestion to be even more distinct, not less. That would be antithetical would it not? 

There is plenty of doctrinal meat and tradition on the bones of Reformed Presbyterianism without adding mystical pomp and circumstance and little fires before the Lord in a worship service. Even if it does feel good and make for a good holiday card.

On being a crazy Christian

The gospel is bigger than a one-time message about the forgiveness for sins. It has to be. When the gospel only includes the atoning element, the forgiveness of sins, and when a one-time “born-again” conversion experience is so elevated it swallows up everything else, then you’ve got a truncated gospel.

Now, I’m not talking about Christians needing to be re-justified, or maintaining-justification, and I do think that people who believe that Jesus died for their sins, placing hope in the sufficiency of that, that’s a justifying faith. However, I think if that is as good as the good news is to someone, it’s a recipe for them being a baby Christian. Particularly in the affluent and seductive world we live in.

There is of course a tendency in the Reformed world in America, particularly to those who only know the Westminster Confession of Faith, (or some teacher influenced by it) to build only two main mental categories. Categories built on the theological categories of Justification and Sanctification. It goes something like this: “Justification is attained when I believed, and before that I was a baddie, and now I’m involved in Sanctification and for the most part done with being a baddie.”

This is a super-simplified take on the fact that justification is a one-time event, and since we’ve been removed from the law as a covenant-of-works, it becomes to us a guide to a God-glorifying life. The fact that even the power of sin in our lives is like a snake that has had its head cut off, and we have all the power in Christ to overcome whatever temptation we face each day. Even though, because of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in us, we have been much improved, have different desires and have changed many habits.  Yet by that same Spirit, we see (or we should see), how far off we are from the perfect standard, which is Jesus Christ, the one truly obedient Israelite, the promised seed of Adam and of Abraham who loved God and neighbor perfectly, fulfilling all righteousness under the law.

Somewhere in that we should see that we are no where near what God requires. Yet it seems that most American Christians think that a personal renovation from the state of being in gross-sin and having no desire for the things of God, to less-sin along with a sometime desire for the things of God means they’re somehow far above the same level of reproach as the great unwashed masses, the real sinners out there, or perhaps that guy in the church who doesn’t seem to visibly obey King Jesus as well as I do.

This simplified view often turns into a simple message, particularly among the more broadly evangelical camp of “Take-Jesus-as-Savior-and-then-you’d-better-work-on-making-Him-Lord-or-else-you’re-goin’-to-hell.”  Trying to teach these people that works only follow justification as a consequence of prior regenerating union with Christ doesn’t often go very far, and they might peg anyone who does so as a liberal who is unwilling to say with un-minced words that Jesus better be King of your life or else. The Reformed Presbyterian version of this is: “But Sanctification is important too” …reminding them that “I didn’t’ say it wasn’t” is going to be the next step to probably getting nowhere.

It seems these people have setup this dichotomy where either one or the other is elevated and that when you elevate one, you’d better balance it out, because the two main categories governing their thought are that one is either a legalist or an antinomian. Too much law, and you’re a legalist, and too much gospel and you’re an antinomian.

Again, this is an over-simplification that is not helpful, because the gospel believed is what was able to make people who were formerly very moral Jews and or grossly sinful pagans do some pretty amazing things. They were now willing to not only accept persecution, rejection from society and imprisonment, but they also bore the antithetical fruit of actually rejoicing when all their worldly possessions and property were taken away from them.

“For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property” (Heb 10:34a)

Now I’m a Texan who’s been on this earth for over 50 years and I don’t personally know anyone who would do that. It’s really shocking behavior. In fact, I will be honest about myself, I would have a serious problem if someone came and told me that all my stuff is being taken away because I am Christian.

My first thought is: “from my cold dead fingers.” Yet there that verse sits, right there in the bible. Who were these people, and why were they so over the top crazy rejoicing while their stuff being take away? This must be some sort of socialist plot to take more of my money.evicted Christians

Speaking of socialist plots… The first time I was shown that verse was by a well-off church Administrator/elder who was on the wealthy church’s payroll (partly with my money), and who himself had just come back from a vacation in Europe, a place I had never been.

This was the first years of the Obama administration, and I had not realized how many people in the allegedly conservative church I was in had voted for him. This elder was my elder and I was complaining about barely being able to make it financially, and about how a corrupt Federal law had made it impossible for our family owned mortgage brokerage to continue to compete with the larger companies and we had to close it down, and how bad off we were, and how much we were struggling. Based on me taking all that to him he hit me with that verse and suggested my wife (who had been the educated and certified primary operator of that family business) get a job.

Since then I have given a little thought to it now and again, and over time I realized that the answer was in the second half of the verse itself. “since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (Heb 10:34b) . I present it to you in this little essay not because I’m an out of touch self-important socialist trying to get my hands on your stuff, (which yes, they most probably are), but to ask you a question. Do you think those crazy Christians only heard (and believed) a good report of Justification in Christ and then move on into sermons emphasizing Sanctification and personal holiness in their lives lived? Did that kind of sermon inspire such joy at having their earthly possessions plundered?

The fact is that Christ, by His obedience secured not only the promised eternal life in the first covenant with Adam, but we find out even more about the future secured by the obedient seed where there is an eternal and imperishable inheritance promised to Abraham and His seed (Christ) and to us who are seeds in Christ (Gal 3:26-28).

This is also not the only place we see Christians rejoicing, not over thoughts relating simply to being born again, with sins forgiven, but further into eternal things we Justified have attained in Christ:  1 Pet 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice…

In Ephesians 1:3-14, Paul paints a much bigger picture of what God has done for us in Christ, all based on Christ’s work, starting from electing us in eternity past all the way to our guaranteed eternal inheritance, with the mere mention or thought of all of this wonderful news eliciting praise of God by Paul as he goes through it all, he writes of praise to God over and over again.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

This is all part of the good news is it not? 

The Gospel is for Christians, because the gospel includes the description and reality of what is promised and secured for all who rest their faith on Christ alone. Only with the centrality of that hope regularly proclaimed and therefore pressed into the heart of every structure of the believer’s worldview would we expect to see a Christian like the Hebrews 10:34 Christians were.
Speaking of the ultimate hope is about the eternal life and eternal inheritance. Jesus teaches us not lay up treasures here on earth, but in heaven (Mat 6:19-20), and Paul even tells us where to set our minds, on the things above, where Christ is (Col 3:1). This is not an abstract call to mindless piety, but there is a specific hope He is calling us to, because that is where Christ is, and that is where our life is hidden and where our future secured hope is.

This sort of expanded view of the gospel helps make more sense of those crazy Christians in Hebrews 10:34.

The gospel for them had to have been expanded beyond a singular justifying event and message of atonement to a larger understanding of what all Christ secures and where our true hope lies. They had a bigger picture of things preached to them, and so to have a biblical understanding of the message of the gospel we must say that the good news therefore cannot be collapsed down to simply a pre-conversion message for unbelievers, but is at the heart of the Christian life. It’s the great hope of our very existence in a world where we all eventually grow old and die.  It’s not so much about a balancing act, but an all-consuming belief about the ultimate nature of reality that very naturally bears the fruit of holiness as a consequence.

Holiness of a life set apart by God. With what is important to speak about, to think about, to meditate on, and to do, being ever more controlled and governed by the doctrinal foundation of the Christian theology concerning the promises of God to those who rest their faith upon Christ alone.

The Gospel is for Christians, because the gospel includes the description and reality of what is promised and secured for all who rest their faith on Christ alone. Only with the centrality of that hope regularly proclaimed and therefore pressed into the heart every structure of the believer’s worldview would we expect to see a Christian like the Hebrews 10:34 Christians were. 

This is of course the whole reason that God instituted the church and called ministers into them. That we are not only matured, but as Peter teaches, it is part of the ordinary means of God’s guarding us to the inheritance: “ to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for…salvation.” (1Pet 1:3-5) It is through faith we are guarded by the power of God. This faith is in the gospel, of what we have in and through faith in Christ. This is why the gospel is for Christians, and why a church that clearly teaches and proclaims the whole gospel is a necessity.

Is it also why the Westminster Confession of Faith states that “there is no ordinary possibility of salvation outside the visible Church” (WCF 25:2) Its why excommunication is serious business, and why a clear and consistent grounding in the whole gospel is not only the highest honor a pastor is given, but is his most solemn responsibility to protect it. A pastor protects the gospel by proclaiming it. You help guard the Christian by proclaiming the gospel to them. This is the one chief duty of the shepherd over the flock, with the normative law proclamations always included as a guide for a life of gratitude, needing to be pressed in more or less for how grossly pagan, or perhaps unloving and needing of instruction in godliness the converts are. It is my observation that most Christians in a moral culture need less repetitive guidance in that regard and gladly seek to obey the moral law as a guide to a life of gratitude.

I would even say that in a culture where moral imperatives are valued, an important measure is not how much a Christian claims to love the law of God, but do they have an appetite for and hope in the gospel? You can fill large churches with “Promise Keeper” Christians, and “City Builder” Christians just aching to do something, but what is their ultimate hope? Would they rejoice at their stuff being taken away from them because they are Christians? Perhaps some would, but what about being looked upon as the scum of the earth, as evil and ridiculed as a fool added to that?

If someone would rejoice in that, in my mind right now, I’d have to say they are a much better Christian than me. I like my stuff, and I don’t want to be ridiculed and oppressed, to those who do, I say “you first.” It’s not as if my pastor hasn’t done a good job of grounding us in the eternal inheritance that is ours. I would say that he is the best pastor in my city who has consistently taught and emphasized the centrality of the gospel better that most anyone I’ve ever heard. But ultimately, I’m still struggling with my comfortable life and my blessings here.  I hope to have a long life with my wife, and see even great grandchildren that belong to the Lord.

But I also hope and am struggling to let go. I want to be able to let go of everything, especially as I get closer to glory. I want to do that, I want to rejoice at my eternal inherence as everything is slowly taken away from me in regards to my health, and abilities.

So, from that perspective, if we do that, we really are like those crazy Hebrews 10:34 Christians. For them it was sped-up into a quicker set of events, but ultimately, we do have all our possessions taken away. Do any of us really want to be on a death bed clinging to our land, our house, our retirement account? Surely a Christian would not do that, so why live our lives as if those things are our hope now?

It’s because we’re immature. It’s because we’re still baby Christians.

Sunday is a day of rest for Christians. It’s a sign of our eternal rest. It’s like a foretaste of the eternal rest, like a little piece of heaven we rest in once per week, secured by the labors of Christ on our behalf. It is therefore not at the end of the week as a covenant of works sign, but moved to be beginning of the week, given to us with the required consummation meriting obedience already fulfilled by Christ for us. What a beautiful day each Sunday is for the believer.

Like Paul, we hear the good news of all the spiritual blessings we have in Christ and we praise God. Like Peter said we who are born again to a living hope are guarded through faith to our imperishable inheritance. When hear about and we believe what we have in Christ and what Sunday is when we will start to see that it’s not really a day to skip Church for Cowboys football games, or skiing at the lake. That is for the babies, the this-world clingers who sadly are given only the milk of truncated gospel proclamations, and large doses of watered-down moral imperatives to balance it out (as if they could). As the writer of Hebrews 6:1 says however “let us leave the elementary teaching about the Christ and press on to maturity not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith” A more mature faith starts with a more robust and complete gospel pressed in. Regularly pressed in to the heart by the Holy Spirit so that when the crazy-let-go time comes (Heb 10:34) and it will come, we can let go and rejoice. Lord help us to love the good news, which includes our eternal inheritance secured by the obedience of Christ on our behalf.