Getting Off the Legalism-Laxness Seesaw (Part 4 of 4)

This is the fourth and final installment of Pastor Larry Wilson’s summary of part 1 of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which was written in 1645 by Edward Fisher. It addresses the nature of God’s law and our sinful tendencies to either seek salvation through our own obedience or to do dismiss it all together.

GRATITUDE (“the law of Christ”)

This means that, third, we need to get straight that when Jesus saves us, he puts us under “the law of Christ,” not “the law of works.” Jesus forever sets us free from the law as a covenant of works (see WCF 19:6). We’re never again to receive the law “from the hand of Moses.” When God converts us, we start to receive the law “from the hand of Christ our Savior.” We’re under “the law of Christ” as our rule of life.

In fact, “the law of Christ” has the same content as “the law of works.” It too consists of God’s moral law as summarized in the Ten Commandments. But here’s how it differs. Where the law of works says, “Do this so that you’ll live,” the law of Christ instead says, “Because God freely gives you life in Christ, you’ll do this” (see Eph. 2:8–10). The moral law can never justify us. Andthanks to the finished work of Christit can also never condemn us. Accordingly, it can no longer even command us as a covenant of works—a way to seek or maintain good standing with God. Instead, it shows us how to show love and gratitude to God for his saving love and grace. We obey God in response to his freely making and keeping us right with him through the doing and dying of Jesus Christ plus nothing. We call this “the third use of the law.”

When this fact grips our hearts, it sets us free from a “legal spirit.” This legal spirit isn’t just a doctrinal deficiency. Its solution has to be more than just adjusting our thinking. No, it stems from a deep-seated heart problem, a sin problem. We’re prone to harbor hard views of God that stubbornly resist the gospel of God’s free and full grace in Christ. We need the sovereign Spirit graciously to make the gospel truly triumph over our hearts. By his enabling, we need to repent unto God. We need to confess and forsake our legal spirit. When we do, we no longer obey God out of fear of his wrath. Instead, we know how deeply God loves us. We know how freely and fully he saves us. So now, we obey gladly, not grudgingly. We obey out of faith, hope, and love.

Ironically, this legal spirit is precisely what produces both legalism and antinomianism. These tendencies are actually two sides of the very same coin. Both treat God’s law like a covenant of works. On the one side, legalists fear punishmentthanks to God’s righteousness. So they try dutifully to obey God’s law. On the other side, antinomians no longer fear punishmentthanks to God’s grace. And so they see no point in keeping God’s law. Up and down, up and down. Without heart-repentance from a legal spirit, there’s no escaping the seesaw. But escape we must! Legalism and antinomianism are both deadly counterfeits.

Two factors make them especially dangerous. First, legalism and antinomianism don’t really come in pure form—easy to recognize. They come as subtle tendencies—hard to recognize. They’re generally taught more by what’s not said than by what is. Pastors tend to reject them both out of hand. And they really mean it when they do. But, alas, most still unwittingly preach a muddled blend of law and gospel. On the other hand, people tend to apprehend or misapprehend the preaching they hear by straining it through their own grid. They tend to pressure pastors—both by positive encouragement and by negative criticism—to preach this muddled blend of law and gospel. In this way, both pastors and people flirt with spiritual danger. J.C. Ryle illustrated the danger like this. There are three ways that pharmacists can turn good medicine into poison: (1) by adding a wrong ingredient; (2) by leaving out a right ingredient; and (3) by having all the right ingredients, but in the wrong proportions. That shows how, to the degree that we’re under the influence of a legal spirit, even the way we preach—or the way we listen to—the gospel can be dangerous.

The second factor that makes legalism and antinomianism so dangerous is that they each resemble the true gospel at points. They each ring true to aspects of actual sound doctrine. That’s why they appeal to people. But they deviate from the gospel where it really matters. The gospel insists that when Jesus saves us, not only does he cleanse us from guilt (justification), but also he cleanses us from sin—he makes us pure (sanctification). Accordingly, we won’t do good works in order to get in God’s good graces. But we will do them! We’ll do them because God forgives us, gives us new hearts with himself as our new Master, and is therefore transforming us (see Tit. 2:11–14).

We’ll do them in faith, relying on our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus plainly tells us, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5).We never stop needing Jesus. The way we rely on him is by using his “means of grace”—especially the Word, sacraments, prayer, and the fellowship of God’s people. As the Good Shepherd puts it, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’ (John 10:27). We can escape the legalism-laxness seesaw, but only in vital contact—by the Holy Spirit and through faith—with the whole Christ.

Previous Posts

Introduction

Guilt

Grace

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

Getting Off the Legalism-Laxness Seesaw (Part 3 of 4)

This is the third installment of Pastor Larry Wilson’s summary of part 1 of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which was written in 1645 by Edward Fisher. It addresses the nature of God’s law and our sinful tendencies to either seek salvation through our own obedience or to do dismiss it all together.

GRACE (“the law of faith”)

Second, we need to get straight that “the law of faith” contrasts with “the law of works.” We call this “the covenant of grace.” (See WCF 7:3). In other words, the gospel contrasts with the law. “The law of faith” (the gospel) shows us how to get life, not by doing, but by receiving. God rigorously enforced the moral law at Sinai. One reason why was to drive his people away from any confidence in their own doing. The Sinai covenant administered God’s covenant of grace. But, in service to God’s grace, it symbolically recapped the covenant of works for God’s people in God’s land (see Gal. 3:23–25). As Thomas Boston explained, at Sinai “there is no confounding of the two covenants of grace and works. But the latter was added to the former as subservient unto it, to turn their eyes towards the promise, or covenant of grace.” We no longer live as a theocracy in the promised Land looking for the coming of Christ. That’s why the “civil” and “ceremonial” dimensions of the Old Testament law no longer apply. But God still uses the “moral” dimension of the law to make us see how much we need a Savior. We call this “the first use of the law.”

When it comes to how the holy God can accept us, the “law of faith” leaves no room for us to add our works to Christ’s. Actually, in practice, legalists don’t claim to perfectly obey God. They figure that, if they do their best and trust Jesus to make up the difference, God will count them as righteous. But, again, the fatal problem is that the holy God insists on perfect obedience. If we have to add our obedience to Christ’s for God to accept us, then our good works not only fall short in themselves. They also pollute Christ’s obedience. They bring it short of God’s standard of perfection. If we want God to justify us (declare his verdict that we’re righteous), then we need to present a perfect righteousness to him—either our own or Christ’s. To present our own is to reject Christ’s. To present Christ’s is to reject our own.

You see, if the holy God counts our obedience toward our justification, then we’ve got no hope that he’ll justify us. As Charles Spurgeon insisted, “If we have to put one stitch into the garment of our salvation, we shall ruin the whole thing.” But—thank God!—Jesus came to save sinners, not those who’ve already succeeded in getting rid of their sins. That’s why Edward Fisher contended, “Your sins should drive you to Christ rather than keep you from him.” It’s Christ’s doing and dying that saves us—without any need for help from us!

Previous Posts

Introduction

Guilt

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

Getting Off the Legalism-Laxness Seesaw (Part 2 of 4)

This is the second installment of Pastor Larry Wilson’s summary of part 1 of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which was written in 1645 by Edward Fisher. It addresses the nature of God’s law and our sinful tendencies to either seek salvation through our own obedience or to do dismiss it all together.

PART 2—GUILT (“the law of works”)

First, we need to get straight that apart from Christ, all people are under “the law of works.” This is what we call “the covenant of works.” (See WCF 7:2). The only way to be right with God in the covenant of works is to obey God’s moral law. Its basic principle is “Do this, and you will live” (Lk. 10:28). As God’s creatures made in his image—and as fallen creatures deceived about God by Satan’s lies—we’re “wired” that way. Even as Christians in the state of grace, we still incline towards this “law of works.” We tend to think that God’s attitude toward us depends on how well or how poorly we perform. The fatal problem with that is that the holy God requires perfect obedience—inside and out. And that’s something we sinners cannot render.

But “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4–5). Under the law as a covenant of works, Jesus perfectly did all that the law requires. He perfectly performed all our duty for us. Jesus also offered himself as the perfect sacrifice. He perfectly paid all our debt for us. That’s why God’s Word declares that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 10:4). Through Christ’s finished work on our behalf, God sets us free from “the law of works” (see Rom. 6:14; 7:4–6). As believers in Jesus, we’re never again under the law as a covenant of works. Thanks to Jesus, God’s law can never again condemn us (see Romans 8:1).

Previous Posts

Introduction

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

Getting Off the Legalism-Laxness Seesaw (Part 1 of 4)

A friend of mine, Pastor Larry Wilson, has been working on a summary of Part 1 of The Marrow of Modern Divinity, which was written in 1645 by Edward Fisher. It addresses the nature of God’s law and our sinful tendencies to either seek salvation through our own obedience or to do dismiss it all together. Over the next few days, I’m going to post Pastor Wilson’s summary in four parts.

INTRODUCTION

Sometimes, after a period of laxness, believers rediscover—as if it’s new—that God is holy. They start to feel that, if God is finally to deem us righteous in his sight, we’d better obey his law. This signals the start of a renewed pursuit of holiness. But then, bit by bit, assurance of salvation starts to flag. Joy wanes. People start to feel as if God is distant and angry. Christian living sinks into forcing ourselves to do our duty out of slavish fear. But then, believers start to rediscover—as if it’s new—that God is merciful and gracious. God saves sinners because of his free grace alone and by Christ’s work alone! And it’s sinners who he saves! We don’t have to obey God in order to get right with him. He saves us through faith alone! We’re not under law but under grace. Joy bursts out! But then, bit by bit, laxness starts to prevail once again.

We call the first tendency “legalism.” We call the second “antinomianism.” Alas, both tendencies are built into our sinful flesh. We believers keep trying to cure antinomianism with legalism, and legalism with antinomianism. This pattern keeps seesawing up and down, up and down, trapping us. That’s why it’s so refreshing to hear Sinclair Ferguson cut through the knot that binds us: “Antinomianism and legalism are not so much antithetical to each other as they are both antithetical to grace. This is why Scripture never prescribes one as the antidote for the other. Rather grace, God’s grace in Christ in our union with Christ, is the antidote to both” (The Whole Christ [Wheaton: Crossway, 2016], p. 156).

God says, “The law is good, if one uses it lawfully … in accordance with the glorious gospel” (1 Tim. 1:8‑11). But how do we do that? An old book, The Marrow of Modern Divinity (1645), shows how we need to make three vital distinctions in order to rightly use God’s law. Thomas Boston borrowed terms from the Apostle Paul to sum it up like this:

“All [people] by nature are under ‘the law of works’ [see Rom. 3:27–28]. But taking the benefit of ‘the law of faith’ [see Rom. 3:27–28] by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are set free from the law of works and brought under ‘the law of Christ’ [see 1 Cor. 9:21].”

To rightly use God’s law in accordance with the gospel—and thus get off the legalism-laxness seesaw—we need to get these three things straight. Therefore, our pastors need to explicate them clearly. And our people need to embrace them heartily.

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

The Ugliness of Anti-Semitism

The recent synagogue shooting in San Diego has made national headlines. Once again our nation has been shaken by tragedy and grief. But for us, this tragedy strikes closer to home. John Earnest, the shooter, is a member of a church in our denomination. His pastor, was quick and clear that this hatred of Jewish people is antithetical to what the church believes and preaches. Our denomination has posted a statement condemning the act and disavowing any such ideology. Such statements are necessary and important. 

However, a few other articles have probed deeper questions. Carl Trueman has written a heart-searching article for Christianity Today asking how our current culture of dismissive debate has contributed to our current environment of polarization and shootings. The Washington Post had a recent article where pastors ask how theology has been weaponized and used to sanction such acts of violence. These, I think, are the important questions for us to be asking right now. There is a vein of thinking out there that goes something like this—“Jesus came to the Jews and they murdered him. They are enemies of God. We must destroy them.” As with all lies, there is a faint kernel of truth here. Jesus did come to the house of Israel. He was rejected and put to death. But that is where the truth ends and Satan’s lies take flight. 

Jesus was not executed without the help of Gentile leaders in Israel. But more to to the point—as Christians, our deepest confession is that it was our sins that put Jesus on the cross. I remember a story I heard in my youth. It went something like this. An older Christian found a young man, new in his faith, weeping. “What’s wrong?” he asked. The young man said, “I just realized that if I was the only person on earth, Jesus still would have come to die in my place.” “That’s right!” the older man replied, “Isn’t that wonderful?” But the young man just dropped his head and said, “Don’t you understand? That means I would have had to be the one to pound the nails!”

What this story drives home is that if you are a Christian—if you trust in Jesus for your salvation—you have no one to blame for the death of Jesus but yourself. His life was not stolen from him, he laid it down of his own accord (John 10:17-18), according to the foreordained will of the Father (Acts 2:23). He did this because there was no other way to save you. To deny that it was your sin that put him on the cross is to say that he did not die for you. Such arrogance leaves you without any hope of salvation. 

At the heart of all such arguments is the tendency we as sinners have to use theology as a cloak for our own evil desires. Throughout history, people have tried to use God’s word to promote their own sinful ends. They sound pious. They sound like they love God’s word. This is but a thin veneer covering over a darkness that knows nothing of the gospel of God’s grace. While there are many ways sinners have done this, one way that shows up over and over is the attempt to pin all of life’s problems on a certain group of people rather than accepting that our greatest problem is the sin within our own hearts. 

Sadly, it is the Jewish people who have been the object of such hatred more than any other group. The Bible clearly and explicitly condemns all such antagonism. God gives priority to the Jews. This goes back to Noah’s prophecy over his three sons (Genesis 9:26-27). The blessings would come first to Shem, the father of the Jews (thus shemitic or semitic peoples). But Japheth was told that these blessing would one day include his descendants (the Gentiles) when they came to dwell in peace with the children of Shem. This is why the New Testament says that we Gentiles have been made members of the commonwealth of Israel (Ephesians 2:12) and that we are being built together into a spiritual house, the previous hostility being replaced with peace (vv. 14-22). Paul writes to his readers in Rome that Gods has not rejected the Jews, but has plans for their future blessing (Romans 11:2, 11-12). 

But it’s what he says next that should catch our attention. Turning to the Gentiles, Paul says that we are not to be arrogant toward the Jews, remembering that they are the root of the tree to which we have been added, upon whom we find our support (v. 18). The Bible specifically calls us to deference, love, and, yes, gratitude toward the Jews. This doesn’t mean that all Jews are saved by virtue of their ethnic lineage. It doesn’t mean that anyone is exempt from God’s judgment because of their family lineage (Romans 2:9). It does mean that we Gentiles have been invited to live in the house of Israel as the younger siblings. The blessings of God are for the Jews first and then the Gentiles (Romans 1:16; 2:10). The warning for the arrogant Gentile in this regard is that he will be broken off and cast out (Romans 11:19). 

Anti-semitism is a great evil that should never have existed, but continues to find a place in the hearts of angry sinners. It is an attempt to blame others for the pain in life, rather than to fall down before the God of glory and say, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner.” It should never find a safe place in Jesus’ church. If discovered it should be quickly and decisively disciplined as an offense against our God. More to the point, each of us should regularly take stock of the sinful lies that reside within our hearts and how we use God’s word of life for our own destructive ends. You might not deal with anti-semitism, but we are all far too quick to make judgments about others because they are different than us. May God enable each of us to take every thought captive to the word of Christ!

Pastor Brett

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

Finding Meaning When All Seems Meaningless

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Increasingly today, it seems like people struggle to find meaning. It is something we all long for, but few find. We live in a time of unprecedented peace, economic prosperity, technological advancement, and global connectedness. Yet we feel turmoil. We feel poor and alone.

Perhaps this is because we look for meaning in the wrong places… and this is not new. The quest for meaning has always been a part of what it means to be human. So too is the tendency to look for it in the wrong place. More and more we fill our lives with distractions, afraid to face life's biggest and hardest questions.

On January 13th, we will be starting a new sermon series on the book of Ecclesiastes, which is a breath of fresh air with its honest questions and sober answers. It is not afraid to ask the big questions… confess the big failures… and announce the way of meaning, peace, and hope.

I look forward to working through this book with you.

For Such a Time as This: Conversing with Your Community and Culture About Christ

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I am excited to let you know that Pastor Stephen Roberts will be teaching an 8-part Sunday School series starting January 6th. Here is what Stephen has to say…

Our culture is changing… quickly. The greatest difficulty for us as Christians is not that the culture is changing, but that we don't understand how it's changing. We often talk past our non-Christian friends and answer questions that none of them are asking. We are now cross-cultural missionaries to our culture and communities, which means we need to learn how they think, how they speak, and how we can most faithfully engage them. This series will explore what's happening in our culture, where we can engage our culture, and how we can do so faithfully.

Pastor Roberts serves as a Chaplain at JBLM and is exceptionally gifted in identifying the issues and concerns of our age and engaging them in a loving and caring way with the hope of the gospel. I hope that you will take the opportunity to be a part of this class.

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

Bible Reading and the False-Trinity (of Self)

At the recommendation of Tim Draper, I am currently reading a book by Eugene Peterson called Eat This Book (A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading). In it, Peterson calls the Believer to what he calls a “Trinitarian Reading” of the Bible, which he describes this way:

We read in order to get in on the revelation of God, who is so emphatically personal; we read the Bible the way it comes to us, not in the way we come to it; we submit ourselves to the various and complementary operations of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; we receive these words so that we can be formed now and for eternity to the glory of God.

In other words we come to the Bible to be shaped by the God of the Bible, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Anything less is to miss the point of reading scripture.

In Peterson’s characteristically astute way, however, he identifies a false trinity that has shaped how we often read scripture. I realize that this a bit lengthy, but worth the time of a careful read.

A new twist on non-Trinitarian ways of reading the Bible has emerged in our times. It has reached the scale of an epidemic and requires special attention. It can be understood best, I think, as a replacement Trinity… this way is very personal and also very Trinitarian, but also totally at odds with what is achieved while reading in submission to the authority of the Holy Trinity. 

Trinitarian thinking praying before Holy Scripture cultivates a stance and attitude that submits to being comprehensively formed by God in the way God comprehensively and personally reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the Holy Scriptures. The alternative to that is taking charge of our own formation. The most popular way of conceiving this self these days is by understanding the self in a Trinitarian way. This way of self-understanding is not as an intellectual interested in ideas or as a moral being seeking a good life or as a soul looking for solitary solace, but as a divine self in charge of my self. And this divine self is understood as a Holy Trinity. 

Here's how it works. It is important to observe that in the formulation of this new Trinity that defines the self as the sovereign text for living, the Bible is neither ignored nor banned; it holds, in fact, an honored place. But the three-personal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is replaced placed by a very individualized personal Trinity of my Holy Wants, my Holy Needs, and my Holy Feelings. 

We live in an age in which we have all been trained from the cradle to choose for ourselves what is best for us. We have a few years of apprenticeship at this before we are sent out on our own, but the training begins early. By the time we can hold a spoon we choose between half a dozen cereals for breakfast, ranging from Cheerios to Corn Flakes. Our tastes, inclinations, and appetites are consulted endlessly. We are soon deciding what clothes we will wear and in what style we will have our hair cut. The options proliferate: what TV channels we will view, what courses we will take in school, what college we will attend, what courses we will sign up for, what model and color of car we will buy, what church we will join. We learn early, with multiple confirmations as we grow older, that we have a say in the formation of our lives and, within certain bounds, the decisive say. If the culture does a thorough job on us—and it turns out to be mighty effective with most of us—we enter adulthood with the working assumption that whatever we need and want and feel forms the divine control center of our lives.

The new Holy Trinity. The sovereign self expresses itself in Holy Needs, Holy Wants, and Holy Feelings. The time and intelligence that our ancestors spent on understanding the sovereignty revealed in Father, the, Son, and Holy Spirit are directed by our contemporaries in affirming and validating the sovereignty of our needs, wants, and feelings. 

My needs are non-negotiable. My so-called rights, defined individually, are fundamental to my identity. My need for fulfillment, for expression, for affirmation, for sexual satisfaction, for respect, my need to get my own way—all these provide a foundation to the centrality of me and fortify my self against diminution. 

My wants are evidence of my expanding sense of kingdom. I train myself to think big because I am big, important, significant. I am larger than life and so require more and more goods and services, more things and more power. Consumption and acquisition are the new fruits of the spirit. 

My feelings are the truth of who I am. Any thing or person who can provide me with ecstasy, with excitement, with joy, with stimulus, with spiritual connection validates my sovereignty. This, of course, involves employing quite a large cast of therapists, travel agents, gadgets and machines, recreations and entertainments to cast out the devils of boredom or loss or discontent—all the feelings that undermine or challenge my self-sovereignty.

Well there you have it. Do you see hints… echos… shadows of your own tendencies in what Peterson has said? Do you come to the Bible to shape it your ends or to be shaped by God’s? Is He there to serve you or are you there to serve Him?

Let us always draw near to God’s word in order that He might increase and we might decrease.

Pastor Brett

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

New Sunday School Series on Discipleship

This Spring we are doing a short six-part Sunday School series on Discipleship. Discipleship is one of those subjects that the church often talks about, but seldom defines. We began last week as defining discipleship as the restoration and perfection of the image of God in us. Or to put it even more simply—discipleship is about becoming more like Jesus (Luke 6:40). 

This is what the church is called to do—make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). But what that looks like and how it is done is not always easy to answer. That is what we will be talking about for the next five weeks before our Summer break.

This Sunday we will look at who is responsible for discipleship (whose job is it?). After that, we will spend on three weeks on the major focuses of discipleship—your mind, your heart, and your life. Then we will conclude the series with a look to your calling and responsibility toward helping others grow in their faith. 

I encourage you to come and be a part of the study. See you Sunday at 10am!

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.

The Yellow Brick Road and the Seven Churches

The Yellow Brick Road and the Seven Churches

Judy Garland’s performance in Frank Baum’s the Wizard of Oz will forever be a classic. It is one of those movies that has successfully crossed barriers and renewed its place in the hearts of each new generation for many decades. 

In the movie, Dorothy and Toto are accompanied on the road to Oz by three companions—the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion. Each feels frustrated by the lack of something. For the Scarecrow, he longs to have a brain so that he can think deep thoughts. The Tin Man wishes he had a heart so that he can love. And the Lion wishes that he could be brave. What is interesting is how each of these corresponds to what we have been learning in the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. 

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Worship is for the Hypocrite

Worship can sometimes feel like a chore, that’s why so many of us don’t show up on Sundays to church. But worship is not like taking out the garbage. Our feelings are too fickle to be the basis for going to worship. They change with a drop of a hat. They are always in flux according to what kind of day we’ve been having. Depending on the day, we either feel high or low when it comes to praising God. What we need is a bigger picture of worship to sustain us when our feelings are betraying us. 

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Loving Actual People

Sin will always entice you to feel free to address evil elsewhere but not in your own heart. We find a strange comfort in speaking piously and critiquing others, because it gives us a sense that we care about what is good and right and true. But God calls us to look deeper and see if our hearts really beat with his... if we are willing to ask whether or not we meet the standard that we so freely impose on others. 

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2017 Campout Sign-Ups are Open

The church campout will be July 20-22 at Eastcreek Campground in Mineral.

Eastcreek does not have a group site, but we have reserved seven sites close to each other (3, 10, J, K, P1, P2, P3) that can form a group area and will mean more than one RV and more than one tent in each site. We have space for up to 4 RVs and 16 tents, which will mean sharing sites. If you would prefer, you can reserve your own private site through the campground. Check in is at a 2pm on Thursday. We have reserved the sites through Saturday night so that we can stay as long as we want to on Saturday. 

Reservations will be on a "first come, first served" basis. The cost is $43 / night for RVs and $27 / night for tents. Please be aware that each assumes (4) people and there may be an extra charge for larger families. You can sign up here.

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New Sermon Series on the Church and Evangelism

Last Sunday we started a new series on the Church and Evangelism. While topical series are not the norm at Reformation, we do periodically pause and look at subjects that we believe are timely and important to the congregation. In the past we have done this with church officers, worship and the Lord’s Supper.

Over the past several months the elders have been reading through the book Evangelism: How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus by Mack Stiles. The book addresses evangelism—the calling of non-Christians to saving faith and the process of discipleship, which is becoming more like Jesus (Luke 6:40).  Stiles does a great job addressing problems with many modern approaches to evangelism—but more importantly he offers a biblically faithful approach. Such an approach is desperately needed in the church today.

It is needed because God has a heart for the lost and we ought to as well. Jesus came into this world to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). The last words our Savior spoke included the command to take the gospel of salvation into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20). It pleases him for all men to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). When we are apathetic toward evangelism we betray hearts that are out of sync with our Savior’s. The elders believe that this is an area where our church can (and should) grow.

But biblical instruction on evangelism is needed for another reason as well. Many well-intentioned believers have employed methods of evangelism that are not in accord with God’s word. We don’t just want to evangelize—we want to evangelize well. So the new series will not only seek to explain what evangelism is and why we should be passionate about it, but how God calls us to engage in that work.

The series will break into two parts. First, we will look at what the church is. It is the church that evangelizes and so we must understand what the church that evangelizes is. The first sermon was on the invisible church. From here we will look at the visible church as well as various metaphors God gives us to describe the church such as the bride of Christ, the pillar of truth, the household of God, the body of Christ and so on. We will look at each of these and see how they reveal an aspect of who we are as the church. 

From there we will turn and look at the work of evangelism. We will address the content of the gospel message. Sadly many Christians struggle to clearly and succinctly summarize what the gospel is. The Bible says the gospel is the power of God unto salvation—we ought to know what it is. Much of what we will look at in this part of the series is how the church bears witness to the work of Jesus both by being the church and actively seeking to work together to share the grace of Jesus with unbelievers. Evangelism is not a solo sport, but a group effort. As Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) A healthy view of evangelism must understand how we, as Christians, support each other in sharing the love of Christ with others. Our hope is that the series we are beginning will help us see, appreciate and embody all of these things. 

We would also encourage each of you to read Stiles’ book. If you would like to buy a copy it is available at Amazon in hardback or on Kindle. However, as we mentioned on Sunday, we have copies available for free on the back table. Please feel free to take a copy for your family and read through it—you will be glad you did. The July 2016 New Horizons had a wonderful review of the book by John Shaw if you would like to read it (pages 14-15). That same issue also had a helpful article on evangelism on pages 3-8. 

Pastor Brett

Brett McNeill

Brett McNeill has been our pastor since we began in 2004. He and Jen have been married since 1998 and have four wonderful daughters. Brett is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in California (Masters in Divinity, 2003). His desire is to clearly proclaim Jesus Christ from all of Scripture in a way that is clear, convicting and encouraging.