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.

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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.

Martin Luther coined the terms “Theology of Glory” and “Theology of the Cross” after seeing in his own day (the mid 1500s) the church’s striving to obtain things that were only promised of believers and the church once we enter into the glory of heaven. Luther pointed people to a “Theology of the Cross” which is the Biblical approach that pilgrims in this present evil, passing age are to understand our current situation awaiting the second advent of Christ.

Today, many people have gone back to a “Theology of Glory” as the recent post of Joel Osteen’s new book points out. They expect God to bless them right now with blessings that really are only promised to us once we are in heaven. This is what is called an “over-realized eschatology.” Let me explain. “Eschatology” is simply the study of the end times. Usually in popular theology this centers around the events that will take place when Christ comes again and when those particular events will happen. However, eschatology really encompases everything concerning not only Christ’s return, but the eternity that comes after! It is in the New Heavens and the New Earth where we are going to be blessed by God beyond imagination. When one has an “over-realized eschatology” then they are pulling out of the future (so to speak) events and blessings and expecting them right now.

It is true that we live in a weird time in redemptive history, the kingdom of God has been inaugurated (with the coming of Christ), but it has not yet been consummated. Christians are living in a time of already and not-yet. We already do experience some of the blessings of God (we do have a realized eschatology!), but those blessings are centered around the church as the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God here on earth. These blessings include the Holy Spirit regenerating and empowering us, the Word and Sacrament creating and sustaining faith, and the providential care of God over all creation. But as Christians there is a not-yet element to our lives as well. We are pilgrims wandering through this age looking for that place where we can settle down, fully and finally. We live in bodies that sin, see decay, and fail us constantly. We aren’t living in our permanent home, and times can be very tough for us here on earth (as Christ told us they would).

A Theology of Glory and an over-realized eschatology takes a Christian’s eyes off of the cross of Christ and looks to one’s own situation as the measure of what God has done and is doing for us. What if things go horribly wrong in your life? What if you loose your job and have to declare bankruptcy? If these things happen to you as a Christian with an overly-realized eschatology then you are going to determine that either your faith isn’t strong enough or that God is not the all-powerful deity that you were led to believe. If it is the former then what despair you will be under as you try to constantly build your faith on a false foundation? If you determine the latter, then why wouldn’t you go to Buddism, Islam, or atheism to try and obtain the life that you want?

An overly-realized eschatology can also lead one to expect that their complete sanctification will be a reality in this life. We will expect to conquer all sins in our life and stand before God holding out our own obtained sanctification as the grounds of our being justified and one of the elect. Being fully sanctified is not something we will ever be able to achieve here on earth in non-glorified mortal bodies. Every part of our being: body, mind, and soul is tainted with sin, and will be so until we die. When we are given glorified bodies on that great and final day, only then we will be fully sanctified.

Looking to the cross of Christ constantly in a Theology of the Cross keeps our faith properly grounded in the life and work of Christ. We realize that we cannot keep any of the commands of God, but we also realize that Christ has kept all the laws of God perfectly for us!. We thank God for his condescension to us in Word and Sacrament every Lord’s Day and we long for that day when our faith will be made sight and the ordinary means of grace will be made obsolete. Let us remember that we do have “realized eschatology” but one that is grounded in the already and not-yet where we are not trying to pull heaven down to make an overly-realized eschatology in this present evil age.

The Reformation Association of the Yakima Valley will be hosting the second annual Reformation Rally at the United Reformed Church of Sunnyside on Friday, November 6. The topics for the two lectures will concern justification and sanctification and their proper Biblical support (and rediscovery) by the 16th century Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin.

For more information check out the site: http://yakimavalleyreformation.blogspot.com/

For a fanscinating (but largely forgotten) look at Poland’s contribution to the 16th Century Protestant Reformation take a look at the first answer on the White Horse Inn Blog’s “Five for Friday” post on Sept. 18. The following Q&As focus on more recent history which are great to read as well.

Keep Dr. Brycko and his colleagues in your prayers as they try to bring the Reformation back to Poland!

JoelSo Joel Osteen is coming out with a new book on November 3. The title of the book is It’s Your Time, which considering the current economic depression a title like that is bound to sell millions. Obviously I am not angry with Joel for writing a book–he can write whatever he wants–but he cannot call this a “Christian” book. Why do I say that? Well, Joel is offering an excerpt from his book that contains an introduction and the first chapter. All in all this selection is 14 pages long and not once, NOT ONCE, does he pen the words “Jesus” or “Christ”. How can you write a whole chapter of a book without mentioning the central character of our faith? This is just another sad case of American Evangelicalism reducing its message to nothing more than platitudes that narcissistic man can’t get enough of.

Joel does talk a lot about “faith”, but he never gives that faith an object. It is just generic faith, at least what I read here. Faith has to have an object and that object is Christ and all he accomplished. From what I can tell, faith for Joel is a belief in blessings from God, material and physical blessings right here and now. Sure we can trust in God to provide for our needs, but our faith is in Christ and Christ alone. What Joel is giving is what Martin Luther called a “Theology of Glory” instead of the proper “Theology of the Cross.”

There is a lot more I could say, and I might use this popular form of Evangelicalism to springboard into the truth of the Bible concerning Christ and our redemption through him. In the mean time I want to point you to two resources that are invaluable in evaluating the theology of Joel Osteen. The first is a “Case Study” on Joel Osteen and the Glory Story which can be found here. This essay discusses the “Prosperity Gospel” and the need for a proper understanding of the Law of God especially as it relates to our sin. The second is a review of Joel’s last book, Become a Better You, which gives a really great insight into the “theology” of Joel and how it works itself out. That great review can be found here. If you know people who are enamored with the message of Joel Osteen then please pass along these documents to them.

The Gig Harbor Reformed Bible Study recently finished up looking at the state of the Evangelical church in America, and talked about what the focus of the church is today as opposed to what that focus should be. This was done using four lectures by Dr. Michael Horton entitled “Christless Christianity” using the title from his recently released book of the same name.

The next study for the group will be looking at the book of Acts. The book of Acts brings the story of redemption from the very beginning in Jerusalem into this very day as the gospel has spread to the very ends of the earth. To help study this great book we will be using Dr. Dennis Johnson’s book Let’s Study Acts. If you are interested in joining this group please e-mail us using the address at the end of this post. We would love to have you join us as we dig into Scripture and learn about God’s care and control over his church even from its very beginnings.

This new study will begin on Sunday, September 6, at 3:00pm at the home of Alvin and Susan Mullins in Gig Harbor, WA. For more information or directions please contact us.

To purchase the book Let’s Study Acts visit the WSC Bookstore or many other on-line bookstores.

To purchase the DVD series “Christless Christianity” only the Westminster Seminary Bookstore carries these videos, so click here to purchase that exclusive video.

If you have any questions please e-mail us at gigharborreformed *at* gmail.com.