October 2009

Come and join us if you can!!


This Lord’s Day I am preaching a sermon on Exodus 20:7 – the third commandment. Quick… what is it?

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

As I was studying for and writing this sermon it was fascinating to unpack all that this seemingly short commandment tells us as children of God. One of the areas that I was most fascinated with was how this commandment speaks of our salvation. How in the heck can “not taking the Lord’s name in vain” lead to talking about our salvation?

Blasphemy is the direct or the indirect detracting from the glory and honor of God. Doing anything to take away from the glory and the honor that is due the Triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) alone is blasphemous.

There are many preachers today who are telling believers that they can lose their election and their salvation if they are not righteous enough, if they are not faithful enough. When Christ comes again, in that final judgment these teachers say that when you are standing before God the Judge he will look at your obedience and render a verdict based on what you have done. To put it another way some would have us believe that God’s favor and acceptance of us ultimately depends on our obedience. This has taken root in many churches across the world (unfortunately) under the heading of “Federal Vision Theology.” It is amazing that the Reformed Confessions (both the Westminster Standards and the Three Forms of Unity) speak so clearly against this errant theology, but yet somehow they are tolerated even in so-called Reformed churches.

Teaching such as this takes away from the finished and completed work of Christ! Christ’s active obedience is our obedience and righteousness before God. Anybody that teaches or believes otherwise is diminishing the finished work of Christ and making our acceptance before God based, at least partly on our own work. Put simply, this is blasphemy!

Maybe you think that this is too strong. Really? Blasphemy? If you think that then listen to what The Belgic Confession says in article 22:

We believe that for us to acquire the true knowledge of this great mystery [what Christ has done for us] the Holy Spirit kindles in our hearts a true faith that embraces Jesus Christ, with all his merits, and makes him its own, and no longer looks for anything apart from him. (Not even looking at ourselves.)

For it must necessarily follow that either all that is required for our salvation is not in Christ or, if all is in him, then he who has Christ by faith has his salvation entirely. (Its one or the other. Either completely not in Christ, or entirely in Christ)

Therefore, to say that Christ is not enough but that something else is needed as well is a most enormous blasphemy against God– for it then would follow that Jesus Christ is only half a Savior.

This is serious! “A most enormous blasphemy against God.” If this is misusing the name of God, then what does the commandment say? “… And the Lord will not hold him guiltless.” This blasphemy means that you will stand before God still clothed in your own filthy rags trying to impress him. God is not going to look on these blasphemers and see the perfect righteousness of Christ, but their own pitiful merits which the Heidelberg Catechism says in Q&A 114 “even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience.” The name of God and of his Christ is the basis of our salvation. Looking to anything or anybody else means that we are misusing the Name of God and breaking the Third Commandment.

I hope and pray that if you believe in teaching such as this that you will seriously consider the ramifications of holding that position. The Federal Vision is not just a benign, innocent interpretation of Scripture and the Reformed Confessions and the only difference is just a misunderstanding. This theology is breaking one of the Ten Commandments, and one of the commandments that speaks of God’s just punishment for those who break it – “you will not be held guiltless.” Not quite the position that one wants to be in when they are standing before God. I am thankful everyday that I am standing before God guiltless, not because of anything I have done, but because I have been clothed in the pure garments of Christ and that he is my righteousness before God.

Today and tomorrow (10.20-21.09) the Pacific Northwest Classis of the United Reformed Churches in North America is meeting in Bellingham, WA. For those of you not familiar with the Reformed structure of church government, classis is simply a meeting of URC churches within a particular area. If you are familiar with Presbyterian government, classis is similar to presbytery. The classis has a full plate of business to attend to including an examination of a minister to be the welcomed into the URC from a different denomination. This minister could then be officially called as the pastor of Grace Church in West Linn, OR which is a church plant of Immanuel’s Reformed Church in Salem, OR.

Also on the agenda is supposed to be discussion about our church plant in Gig Harbor! So please keep this meeting in your prayers and may the Lord’s will be done in all matters.

This morning I was reading article 12 of the Belgic Confession. This article deals with the creation of the world and of the angels. The article goes onto state that some of the angels have fallen and that even now “devils and evil spirits are watching to ruin the church and every member thereof, and by their wicked stratagems to destroy all.” This is a sobering thought, and precisely the reason why God has ordained the office of elder to protect the church and her sheep during this present evil age.

Throughout the New Testament we are told to be on watch for false prophets inside the church. Think about Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 4:1-3; 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-5; 1 John 2:18-25; 4:1-6; 2 John 7. Whenever false prophets come into the church they are going to be well disguised and will even say some true things and use the right words. But they are going to twist the meanings of those words, and ultimately depart from the singular truth of the Gospel and lead people to look to something or someone other than Christ.

J. Greshem Machen early in the 20th century wrote this, “The enemy has not really been changed into a friend merely because he has been received within the camp” (Christianity & Liberalism, p.19). It is not hard to see that Machen’s words have not been heeded and that throughout the church the enemy has been considered a friend. We need to constantly pray that God will give us (and especially our elders) the wisdom to discern these false prophets, antichrists, deceivers, evil spirits, who are within our midst even in good and solid Reformed churches.

No church is immune and the history of the Reformed churches in America shows how slowly and quietly the devil works in the church seemingly benign until the church has strayed so far from the Biblical faith thinking it is still faithful when, in fact, it has abandoned everything of value. May the Lord continue to raise up courageous men who will lead his church with conviction, resting only on the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

CalvinThe Gig Harbor Reformed Bible Study will be sponsoring a FREE Reformation Day Conference on October 30, 2009 at 7:00pm in the Peninsula Meeting Room at the Pierce County Library in Gig Harbor (address below). The conference will look at the life of John Calvin who had a very profound impact on Western culture as we know it today, and whose birth was 500 years ago this year.

bookThe speaker will be Douglas Bond, a prolific author and leader of Reformation Tours around central Europe focusing on the life and times of the Genevan Reformer. Mr. Bond will be giving away five signed copies of his latest book The Betrayal, a novel on the life of John Calvin, to the first five families that arrive.

This will be a great opportunity for those in Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Port Orchard, Tacoma, and the surrounding areas to join in fellowship and to discuss the truths of the Christian faith that stem from the Reformation.

Seating is limited so please arrive early! Refreshments and activities for children will be provided.
The Address is:
4424 Point Fosdick Road NW
Gig Harbor, WA
Click here for a Google Map of the location

If you would like a poster for this event, click here (750kB jpeg).

If you are interested in being on our mailing list, have any quesions about this event, or are interested in who we are, please e-mail us at gigharborreformed *at* gmail.com.