“Having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof.”–2 Tim., iii. 5.

MCILVAINE-Charles-P_1I. “THE POWER OF GODLINESS”–What is it?

We answer, it is the substance, or reality of godliness, as distinguished from all its forms. And godliness here is a term for that inward and spiritual grace which is the life and being of all genuine piety before God. Its only abiding place is the heart, which we are therefore exhorted to keep with all diligence, because out of it are the issues which make the visible life of righteousness. Just as prayer in the Spirit is essential to all reality of prayer, in distinction from the words of prayer; just as the inward grace of Baptism, signified in the sacramental “sign or form,” namely: “death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness,” is the reality of the true Baptism, in distinction from its outward administration; just as when one comes to the Lord’s Table, without “a true penitent heart, and lively faith,” he receives the outward part or sign in the Lord’s Supper, without the grace it signifies, and thus the form, without the power of that godliness which lives by faith upon the sacrifice and mediation of Christ; while another, approaching the same holy table, with the sacrifice of a contrite heart, and drawing near with faith, is a partaker not merely of the sacrament of the death of the Saviour, but of that death itself, in all the benefits of His passion, to his soul’s health. And so, in the whole life of a true believer, of which in its essential being and sustenance, the two sacraments are the concentrated expression, the power or reality of godliness is none other than, as St. Peter expressed it, “the hidden man of the heart,” in distinction from all visible ways and works of its manifestations before men.

“I am the life,” saith the Lord. “He that abideth in me, and [10/11] I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” The fruit is the effect of the life, and its evidence–notthe life.

“Your life, (saith the Scripture) is hid with Christ, in God.” [* Col. III. 3.] As branches of that “true vine,” his people abide in Him by a hidden communication of spiritual life, wherein they receive of His Spirit, just as the natural vine-branch abides in its vine, only as it is in communion with its hidden current of life. The Apostle has it thus: “The law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” [* Romans, VIII: 2.] That blessed Spirit of life, shedding abroad in the heart, the love of God, creating in us the faith by which we are justified in the righteousness of Christ, and the holiness which makes us meet for his presence and glory, carrying on the hidden work of grace, into more and more conformity to the mind of Christ, till it become perfect in his likeness–such is godliness in its reality and power. Until it enters and takes possession within us, we are “dead in sin.” As soon as it so enters, we are “alive unto God.” As its essential being is in that new and inward life, its only beginning is in a new and inward birth. “Born again by the Holy Ghost,” “transformed by the renewing of the mind,” having “a new heart,” in place of the old; such, according to the Scriptures, are they to whom the Gospel has come “not in word only, but in power and the Holy Ghost.”

The inward depth of that great transformation, its thorough reality as a work of internal renewal, or new creation, is given by Saint Paul, when he says to the Christians at Ephesus, that if they had “been taught as the truth is in Jesus,” they had “put off the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and were renewed in the spirit of their mind, and had put on the new man, which after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” [* Ephes. IV: 21-24.]

Such is godliness in the power, whether abiding in a heart [11/12] just now made new by the Spirit of God, or in a believer almost full grown in grace; whether time may not have been allowed, to make itself visible in the fruits of holiness, or whether it be already full clothed therein.

We must be careful not to confound “the hidden man of the heart” with the manifested man in the outward walks and deeds of righteousness. The child of God, is “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works.” [Ephes. II: 10.] Good works do not constitute him that new creature, they follow upon a workmanship of grace, of which they are the essential fruit and evidence.

Now such godliness is power, just because it is life. It is the power of a faith which purifies the heart, and gets victory over this evil world. In some of God’s children, it is more a power than in others, according as some are riper in grace than others; precisely as this natural life, essentially active and a power, varies in powerfulness as men differ in the maturity and activity of their faculties.

True godliness cannot be a mere inoperative seed or unconscious germ of spiritual being. It is a leaven that must leaven. The godliness is itself the power. And the new creature, in Christ Jesus, living by faith and working by love, is the godliness. It is just the image of God, lost in the first Adam, renewed in the second Adam, “the Lord from heaven.” Without it, you can no more attain to fruits of righteousness, than you can raise a tree to fruitfulness, while the root is dead. All works are “dead works,” before God, that come not of that new heart. Paint them, dress them as you may, to give them the aspect of life, they are not written among the living.

And just what that hidden life is to the individual christian, it is to the whole Church, which cannot have any true godliness but as its several members are children of that new heart. All the ability of the Church for its real, living work in this world, all its existence as a living Church, depends on that. [12/13] It is written: “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.” And the Church overcomes the world for Christ, in the war and victory of his Gospel, only as it contains those who being so born of God, do in their personal striving so overcome. Be not deceived. There may be much outward aspect of life and growth, and none in truth. Church edifices may be built on every side, and adorned with all the magnificence that wealth and art can give. Our borders of sacramental communion may be greatly extended. Signs of flourishing increase and vigorous activity may stand in bright array before eyes that look only on the outward appearance; while to that which looketh on the heart, and finds the heart of the Church only in the hearts of its several members, that whole appearance, and all beneath it, may be only what St. Paul said he would be, “though he should give all his goods to feed the poor, and his body to be burned–and have not charity,” the love of God in his heart–“NOTHING.”

These teachings, I know, are old things, said over and over again by faithful Ministers of Christ, as they ought to be. They are too much the very marrow of the teaching of the old Bible and the old Apostles, who “spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost,” and of the old Church, to be else than old wherever the preacher keeps to “the old paths” in which the feet of Jesus led. I rejoice to believe that they are old, and loved because so old, in this congregation. Very sad will it be for you, Brethren, if ever the old Manna of this pilgrimage, that spiritual meat of which your fathers ate and never wanted other, shall become so distasteful, that you will hunger for something new instead of it, something more progressive, something, in other words, less of inspired teaching, more of the carnal mind.

Many years ago, and during all the years when it was my happiness to be the pastor of that beloved flock from which this has grown, and in that dear Old Church, where so many dear ones, now gone to their Lord, were “begotten again by [13/14] the word of God,” and the power of His Spirit, and where it pleased Him to give most precious fruits of grace to the seed of his truth–there, my constant teaching was, as it has been (I bless God) ever since, those same old things, of grace and faith, of the new heart and the new man, “justified by faith,” and so “having peace with God, through Jesus Christ.” And thus it must be, till I put off this tabernacle, the Lord being my helper. They are just the great truths which there is a continual and dangerous tendency among professing christians to get away from, to lose sight of their transcendant importance, to put something less vital in their place, to mix them up confusedly in a crowd of inferior matters, and thus very easily and sadly to confound the outside of godliness with its reality, and satisfy themselves with a name to live, while they are spiritually dead. It is exactly here that “the god of this world” labors to blind the minds of men, “lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ should shine unto them.”

Read it all.

Around-the-Horn[1]If It Makes You Happy
“Love” is bandied about as the answer to every societal ill. Every problem is met with the call to love. Racism, sexism, classism, terrorism, or whatever “-ism” that gets thrown out, the answer is love. What makes this solution so attractive and also so dangerous is that there is quite a bit of truth to it. If rightly understood, love is the answer to these problems. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? It is rare for the idea of love to be rightly understood. Often it is reduced to emotional or sentimental tripes that can be easily shared, retweeted, pinned, or liked.

Eight Reasons to Preach Through the Books of the Bible
Every fall we preach through a book of the Bible.  Jared Wilson offers a few supporting reasons.

The Legacy of One-Point Calvinism and Casual Churchianity
From John Piper: I grew up among a few million “one-point Calvinists” who misunderstood their one point: “once saved, always saved.” In general, it meant, if Johnny asked Jesus into his heart at age six, left the church at sixteen, mocked Jesus for ten years, and died in Vietnam with a bullet hole through his playboy bunny, he was in heaven.

The Myth of Cosmopolitanism
Ross Douthat: Now that populist rebellions are taking Britain out of the European Union and the Republican Party out of contention for the presidency, perhaps we should speak no more of left and right, liberals and conservatives.

Playing With Fire
Carl Trueman: The claim that “history is on our side” is one that has been debunked frequently, on this website and elsewhere. Yet it remains one of the most attractive and therefore persistent political myths of our day. And for radicals today, the idea that history is on their side has real plausibility because, to borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill, they intend to write it. Indeed, they are busily engaged in doing so.

Back to the Early Church?
You’ve probably heard it many times. “We just need to get back to the days of the early church.” “You know, things would be so much better in contemporary Christianity if we were more like the early church.” While there were some great things happening then, I’m not so sure that I am eager to get back to the early church days.

 

jc_ryle“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven–not as your father ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:53-58)

 

Few passages of Scripture have been so painfully distorted and perverted as that which we have now read. The Jews are not the only people who have striven about its meaning. A sense has been put upon it which it was never intended to bear. Fallen man, in interpreting the Bible, has an unhappy aptitude for turning food into poison. The things that were written for his benefit, he often makes an occasion for falling.

Let us first consider carefully what these verses do not mean. The “eating and drinking” of which Christ speaks do not mean any literal eating and drinking. Above all, the words were not spoken with any reference to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. We may eat the Lord’s Supper, and yet not eat and drink Christ’s body and blood. We may eat and drink Christ’s body and blood, and yet not eat the Lord’s Supper. Let this never be forgotten.

The opinion here expressed may startle some who have not looked closely into the subject. But it is an opinion which is supported by three weighty reasons. For one thing, a literal “eating and drinking” of Christ’s body and blood would have been an idea utterly revolting to all Jews, and one flatly contradictory to an often repeated precept of their law.

For another thing, to take a literal view of “eating and drinking” is to interpose a bodily act between the soul of man and salvation. For this there is no precedent in Scripture. It cuts off from eternal life all who do not receive the communion: all who die in infancy and childhood, all who die of full age without coming to the communion, and also the penitent thief. It was to avoid this painful conclusion that many early Christians in Cyprian’s time held the doctrine of infant communion.

To take a literal view of “eating and drinking” opens wide a door to formalism and superstition. It would admit to heaven thousands of ignorant, godless communicants in the present day who would wish nothing better than to hear, “He that eats my flesh and drinks my blood (that is, eats the sacramental bread and drinks the sacramental wine) has eternal life.” Here is precisely what the heart of natural man likes! He likes to go to heaven by formally using ordinances. He literally eats and drinks, no doubt! But he has no eternal life and will not be raised to glory at the last day.

The plain truth is that there is a morbid anxiety in fallen man to put a carnal sense on Scriptural expressions wherever he possibly can. He struggles hard to make religion a matter of forms and ceremonies–of doing and performing, of sacraments and ordinances, of sense and of sight. He secretly dislikes that system of Christianity which makes the state of the heart the principal thing, and labors to keep sacraments and ordinances in the second place. Happy is that Christian who remembers these things and stands on his guard! Baptism and the Lord’s supper, no doubt, are holy sacraments and mighty blessings, when rightly used. But it is worse than useless to drag them in everywhere, and to see them everywhere in God’s Word.

Let us next consider carefully what these verses do mean. The expressions they contain are very remarkable. Let us try to get some clear notion of their meaning . . .

Read it all.

Dear Friends,

We stand on the shoulders of generations of faithful men and women who have called St. Andrew’s home for almost 200 years. The change this country has navigated in those two centuries is almost unimaginable. And yet, the men and women of this church rose to meet every challenge they faced.

Similarly, in our day, we are witnessing a profound cultural revolution – a revolution on par with some of the most colossal in history. There are many causes for this profound change, but one that must not be overlooked, particularly for churches, is what sociologists have come to describe as secularism. Simply stated, secularism is the emptying of God from the public spaces; leaving many of our friends and family members to wrestle with the issues of life without recourse to God.

In the face of rising cultural secularism some churches/leaders are advocating a retreat from the public square, effectively abandoning their public witness, and turning their churches into enclaves protecting them from this cultural shift. This has not been our approach at St. Andrew’s nor will it be our approach. We believe that even in these challenging times the offer of the Lord Jesus has not grown weary, neither has the Gospel lost its power. In fact, we believe that this is our kairos moment, our moment of divinely given opportunity.

For the better part of the last decade the leadership of St. Andrew’s has been studying and praying about how we grow the kingdom – how we best connect people to the presence and power of Jesus Christ. We gathered data. We explored options. We listened to the thoughts of many folks inside and outside St. Andrew’s. All the while our ministries were expanding and our impact was growing. The culmination of this process was the decision to launch a capital campaign, planning for the next 25 years of mission and ministry. We are calling our campaign, Imagine 2040.

Today, I want to update you on our status.

Where We Are

Over the past the past few months we have laid the foundation of the campaign by:

  • Presenting our vision for St. Andrew’s for the next 25 years. You can listen to that sermon here.
  • Developing (and continuing to develop) videos highlighting the breadth and depth of ministry offerings that have shaped our church and equipped our members to live the Christian life. It is through our ministry growth and expansion that we will further our mission and grow the kingdom.
  • Establishing a leadership team to direct and oversee our work. This leadership team is comprised of people from across the spectrum of St. Andrew’s.
  • We have secured Beau Clowney Architects and Building God’s Way as our architects.
  • We have secured Fred Reinhard as our Owner’s Representative.
  • We have secured Hill Construction as our contractor.
  • We have secured Thomas & Hutton as our civil engineers.
  • We have secured Dale Watson as our design illustrator.
  • We have designated Lewis Middleton as the contact person for the Imagine 2040 You may contact him at any time for an up-to-date status report.
  • We have held an informational meeting for all of the previous Senior Wardens of our Vestry to cast the vision and seek their input and garner their support.
  • We have held an informational meeting for our LifeGroup leaders to both present our ideas and solicit their input and support.
  • We have held neighborhood meetings for our immediate neighbors whose lives will be directly impacted by our building project.
  • We have appeared before the Mt. Pleasant Board of Zoning Appeals to present our conceptual plan and to gain the variances needed to proceed.
  • We have had an initial meeting with the Old Village Historic District Commission to present our conceptual plan and solicit their input.

What’s Next?

  • We will appear before the Old Village Historic District Commission for their approval in August.
  • Working with our architects we will develop construction documents for our project.
  • With the plans and documents completed and approved we will be able to formally kick off Imagine 2040 this fall and present to you the full scope of the project and invite your participation.
  • We will continue to keep you informed with a campaign newsletter.
  • We will establish a website dedicated to the ongoing campaign providing you regular updates of our project.

What Can You Do?

You will continue to hear more details about our plans to meet our calling over the coming months. What I want you to take away is that our efforts are ultimately focused on growing the kingdom – about deepening faith, about equipping people to be a witness wherever they are called – whether that’s their neighborhood, their workplace, in a church plant, or an international mission field.

Please pray about your part in this project that will have global impact. I invite you see this moment of divine opportunity and to put your hand to the plough with other members of this church and labor in Christ’s harvest field. This is our time to rise to the challenge of sowing the seed of the Kingdom of God in our community and the world.

To God alone be the glory,

+Steve

 

GREAT rendition (h/t Dwight Huthwaite)

Around the Horn 7.14.16

July 14, 2016

How Can Blacks And Whites Stand Together On Racial Injustice
A conversation with Garrett Kell (DelRay Baptist Church), Darryl Williamson (Living Faith Bible Church) and John Onwuchekwa (Cornerstone Church)

Are We On The Road To National Ruin?
Blood was in the streets last week — victims of police violence in two cities and slain cops in another. America’s leadership crisis looked dire. The F.B.I. director’s statements reminded us that Hillary Clinton is willing to blatantly lie to preserve her career. Donald Trump, of course, lies continually and without compunction.

Grieving Racial Injustice As Citizens of the Kingdom of God
Do not retreat to your racial, economic, or privileged tribes, but retreat with your brothers and sisters from every tongue, tribe, people, and nation, to the gospel tribe. Retreat to Jesus. And seek refuge in him as you weep and pray and work for justice.

On Abortion and Racism: Why There is A Greater Evil in This Election 
From Thabiti Anyabwile – What was the same in each instance was the dreadful sense that African-American lives were nothing to be respected, protected or celebrated. What was largely the same in those instances was an encounter with what generally felt like white American and Christian indifference, antipathy and resentment.

What’s Going On?
Marvin Gaye wrote these words in light of the political and social turmoil of the late 60s and early 70s. And yet, as we look out on the landscape of our time we could easily and rightly raise the question again, “What’s Going On?”

Our Fractured Society: A Conversation with Yuval Levin
MP3.  Levin is the Hertog Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the founder and editor of the journal National Affairs. He is a former White House and congressional staffer and a contributing editor to National Review and the Weekly Standard.

What Shootings and Racial Justice Means for the Body of Christ
What we should understand, first, is that this crisis is not new. Many white evangelicals will point to specific cases, and argue that the particulars are more complex in those situations than initial news reports might show. But how can anyone deny, after seeing the sheer number of cases and after seeing those in which the situation is all too clear, that there is a problem in terms of the safety of African-Americans before the law. That’s especially true when one considers the history of a country in which African-Americans have lived with trauma from the very beginning, the initial trauma being the kidnapping and forced enslavement of an entire people with no standing whatsoever before the law. For the black community, these present situations often reverberate with a history of state-sanctioned violence, in a way that many white Americans—including white evangelicals—often don’t understand.

Three Compelling Questions for Us All
From Ray Ortlund: Brothers and sisters, we must come to grips with three hard questions. And because they are hard, we need help from Jesus.

How To Pray In Our Time of National Crisis
Our country is in pain.  A series of inexplicable killings, including five police officers in Dallas, has occurred this week. Many of us are anxious and hurting. All of us are confused.

 

Around-the-Horn[1]How To Recognize A Spirit-Filled Church
Are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Webcam.  Should You?
Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, recently shared a picture of himself celebrating a milestone: Instagram now has five hundred million active users each month. There was Zuckerberg in his office holding an Instagram-like frame in front of himself. The picture would have been unremarkable and quickly forgotten but for this: Astute observers noticed that his laptop was on the desk behind him and that he had placed tape over the camera and the microphone. Those are small but significant details.

Character in Leadership – Does It Still Matter?
In the coming weeks, we are going to be learning a great deal more about the presidential candidates. But it’s also increasingly true that we’re going to be learning a great deal about ourselves as evangelical Christians in America. Perhaps we had better brace ourselves for what we’re going to learn.

7 Lies We Tell Our Children
We all lie to our kids. Sometimes it’s on purpose and for what we deem a good purpose. Sometimes it’s because we so want them to believe something, to feel better, to overcome a challenge, or to work through pain that we will say anything to try to help.

5 Reasons Your Teenager Needs to Know Theology
The world can be really confusing for teenagers. We’re coming of age in a shifting moral landscape, where the most pressing challenges and culture’s loudest critics are ever changing and perpetually conflicting. We see scandals and sound-bites, terrorism and Trump, new sexual ethics and harsh racial tensions, and we wonder, “How am I supposed to think about all this?”

It’s Time To Talk: 10 Reasons You Should Break-up With Joel Osteen
Yes we know, he makes you feel good . . . and he’s sooo nice. But let’s be honest: he’s not good for you.

California’s Religious Liberty Moment Coming to A State Near You
From Ed Stetzer: The California legislature is poised to consider legislation that could destroy the ability of numerous faith-based colleges and universities to pursue the mission for which they were created.

Serving in Church When Your Spiritual Gift Isn’t Changing Diapers
The consumer mentality of church members and church-goers is not unique to my generation. It can be found in nearly every demographic in almost every church. Where I most often see it, and where I am most often guilty of it myself, is in the area of service.

 

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One of my favorites.  Sorry (for me) to see his passing.

From Geoffrey Himes in the Washington Post,

When Ralph Stanley died on Thursday at age 89, we lost more than the last surviving founding father of bluegrass. We lost one of our last links to a pre-television America.

He was a short, gaunt man in a white cowboy hat and gray suit, his features seemingly chipped from granite with a stony gaze to match. When he sang “O Death” at Wolf Trap in 2006 as part of the Great High Mountain Tour, Stanley’s scratchy high tenor made the Grim Reaper sound like an acquaintance of long standing. This traditional lament had revived his career when he sang it in the Coen brothers’ 2000 movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” but Stanley’s ghostly vocal made clear that the song was older than that movie, older than the whole history of talking movies.

Even in the 21st century, there was an echo in his voice of 19th-century mining and lumbering (his father worked in an old-fashioned sawmill) and of the 17th-century songs that immigrants from the British Isles brought to the Appalachian Mountains. It was in the southwest corner of Virginia, in Dickerson County under the shadow of Clinch Mountain, that Ralph Stanley was born on Feb. 25, 1927. Together with his brother Carter, two years older, Ralph learned the eerie harmonies of a cappella Sacred Harp singing in church and the spry rhythms of old-time string-band music at dances.

Read the rest.

packerIf we recognize the covenantal character of the sacrament of Baptism, and follow the teaching of Articles 25 and 27, and go in principle with the first of view of baptismal regeneration that was set out above, we shall see the rite as given by God to focus and confirm faith in Jesus Christ and the gospel, and in the reality of the new covenant that binds God and ourselves to each other. We shall see Baptism as given to symbolize and pictorialize God’s bestowal of the key 7 promised blessings of the gospel (union with Christ in resurrection life in his body, the church; forgiveness of sins, through the cross; and adoption as God’s sons and heirs; as Article 27 states); and to assure believers that these blessings are theirs now. But then, what was said earlier about infant Baptism might seem to need revisiting. Can it really be appropriate, after all, to baptize babies who are not yet capable of faith, and to pray for them as regenerate persons once they have been baptized, as has been standard Anglican practice historically?

Read it all.

Around-the-Horn[1]Garrison Keillor: Bob McDonnell and Rolex Christians
Jesus didn’t wear a Rolex. He did not hit up the Pharisees for thousands of shekels so the apostles could have rib-eye steak and a 35 B.C. cabernet at the Last Supper.

Pope Francis Denounces the Prosperity Gospel
via Vatican Radio: [The Pope] criticized the so-called “theology of prosperity”— according to which “God shows you that you are just if He give you great riches,” saying those who follow it are mistaken. The problem lies in being attached to wealth, because, as the Pope recalled, “You cannot serve both God and riches.” These become “chains” that “take away the freedom to follow Jesus.”

Feeling Good vs Doing Good
 “What prompts people to rally around destructive policies? The answer, I think, is that many people make up their minds on the issues of the day not according to the facts, but according to how it makes them feel about themselves.”

Majority of American Christians Do Not Find Bible Reading and Church Attendance as Essential
When you imagine “a week in the life of a Christian” you might imagine a church visit, an occasional Bible reading before bed, and some community involvement after school or work. However, this is not likely the case, if American Christians act in accordance with what they find essential to their faith.

You Are Not Your Sexuality
It’s no longer news that Western culture has undergone a dramatic sea change in its attitude toward homosexuality. Less often noted is where a key impetus for this change has come: the power of narrative.