Friday, November 17, 2006

Liveblogging the SGF... (that was just to bother Challies)

I am sitting here at the Sarnia Holiday Inn with my pal Tom having just returned from the first set of meetings of the Sovereign Grace Fellowship General Assembly. It has been a very good set of meetings so far with a very good message from David Daniels (head of the Toronto Jewish Mission).
Tom and I got in a little late since I had to teach this morning at TBS... and I preached on Romans 13 not too long ago. Meaning we drove 70 km/h for the last 10 km into town!
The afternoon meetings were not without some controversy, but what a great group of folks to work through disagreements with! Many were able to speak with clarity and forthrightness on both sides of the issue at hand - without falling prey to anger, divisiveness or factions. I have rarely seen this happen in a group, but it has happened with these brothers on more than one occasion. I am humbled and thankful to be joined with them in fellowship. The Biblical command to "be of one mind" does not mean that you have to agree about everything - but it does mean you have to seek to stay one in your differences of opinion. I think, if I might say so, that we got close to that tonight.
Kirk Wellum will lead the morning session as we seek to work out more specifically how it is we can structure ourselves to more effectively meet our stated goals. Pray for us, if you are able, as these kinds of discussions require attention, thought and a willingness to try new things. May the Lord give grace.
As we walked down the hall to our hotel room tonight, two guys and a girl walked past. That said hello then the young lady wheeled around and said, "Are you a pastor?" Turns out she has connections with Sovereign Grace Community Church here in Sarnia. One more reminder to love everyone you meet since you never know who they will be!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man

I am crushed for time so can only offer a brief review here, but Susan and I both feel that this latest offering from Sovereign Grace Ministries is the best thing they have put out yet. What a wonderful compilation of new and theologically rich Christmas songs - without the schmaltz! I have found my heart moved to pure joy on several occasions of listening.
I think I have listened to the whole disc about 10 times now - and some songs much more than that. Frankly, I think you need to order one and get it shipped today.
Couple of things.
1. GFC'ers will be able to buy these at church in about two weeks.
2. There is finally a Canadian distributor for SGM stuff!!! This is great news! With thanks to Jessica at SGM I offer you this:

CMC Distribution
590 York Road
Niagara-On-The Lake, Ontario
L0S 1J0Canada

You (my Canadian reader) can contact them here. What you ought to do is send them an email telling them you want this CD. As of today, they do not carry it yet. But if enough of us write, I bet they will pick up the whole line of music ASAP!!

I Ain't No Obsessive-Compulsive Challies!

Although my pal Tim has blogged for 23.7 million days in a row now, I am afraid this blog will fall silent for a few. I am off to the Sovereign Grace Fellowship's general assembly tomorrow, right after teaching for 3 hours at TBS in the morning! Then back Saturday night in time to preach twice on Sunday.

So, there won't be a lot of blog time.

The series on What to Do When you Disagree with a Brother should resume on Monday or Tuesday.

YouTube laces up deal to show NHL clips

YouTube laces up deal to show NHL clips

Will O. J. Simpson Confess in New Book? - Newsweek National News -

Will O. J. Simpson Confess in New Book? - Newsweek National News -

"Is O. J. Simpson confessing? That’s what powerhouse publisher Judith Regan teasingly promises from a new book and television extravaganza called “If I Did It.” In them, Simpson describes how he would have murdered his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and waiter Ronald Goldman—if he’d actually done it."

"Simpson is going to tell “how he would have murdered his children’s mother and an innocent person.""

Things don't get much lower than this, do they?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shameless Plug?

This is an odd post to make. Sorry!

For the last few months we have been placing pdf versions of my sermons on our sermonaudio site. This entails a little bit of work by a few people, not the least of which is the dear heart who has to transcribe my hideous notes and compare that to the preached material! The thought behind all this effortis that it might be of some benefit to someone... but that is the part we are not sure about.

We are happy to keep doing this if it is a benefit, but if those manhours can be spent doing other things, we are glad to forget about and move on. So, I am posting this link to a page that will show you all the pdf's of my recent sermons from Romans and one from Ecclesiastes (an outline of the whole book). If there is any noticeable increase in the downloads, we will probably keep this work up. But if they stay at the small numbers they are at now, we will more than likely just stop posting them.

End of public service announcement! We just wanted you to know they were there if you wanted them.

[NOTE: It is from these notes that I have been building the series on "What to Do When You Disagree with a Brother." So, if you want to read ahead... now you know where to look! :-)]

What to Do When You Disagree With a Brother [Romans 14:1-15:13] - (III)

We come now to the heart of the first paragraph of Paul's instructions on how to deal with a brother with whom you disagree on a secondary matter. Before you read this, you really need to read section one here and then section two here.

Once you have read those, come back here and note with me the first step in solving the disunity caused by differences of opinion on non-primary issues.

A. Stop the Heart Sins that Lead to Disunity (:1-3)

This is made up of two parts:

1. Strong Ones: Do not despise the weak!

We have seen this already in verse 3: “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains...”

To despise means to treat with contempt: “a powerful feeling of dislike toward someone considered to be worthless or inferior”[1] It means you cannot loathe, spurn, or look down on the weak. The strong are tempted to gather in their little huddle and chuckle at what they consider to be the immaturity of the weak. Like “evangelical aristocrats” they show an obvious disdain for those who have not seen how to apply the redeeming work of Jesus into all the broad categories of life.

“Stop it.” That is what Paul says. But he does not end there.

Not only must such divisive attitudes be thrown from you like rotten eggs on a summer’s day... you must go even further and welcome these weak ones! Paul’s word is “receive.” Receive them! Hold them in the same regard and confidence and esteem and affection that you do your fellow strong brothers. Look upon them as equal members of the family of God.

And do not welcome them just to instruct them! This is agenda-less welcoming. It is not “receive them in order that you might ‘quarrel over opinions.’” No! There is no place for that! It is welcome and receive and love them. Period. Never do we welcome a brother in order to fix him!

On the one hand, you eat anything – all things! On the other hand, the weak man eats only vegetables! Who cares! Welcome him! For – watch this now – “God has welcomed him.”

If you reject him, you are rejecting a person that God has welcomed.

This is like the boy at his pal’s birthday party that does not like, Johnny, one of the other guests. That boy screams and fusses when Johnny arrives. But the birthday boy, he has welcomed Johnny. It’s his party. Who are you to show the door to another man’s guest? It is not your party.

2. Weak Ones: Do Not Condemn the Strong!

We have seen this already in verse 3: “let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats...”

To pass judgment means to condemn. To stand as jury and judge over another believer and decree the verdict – guilty! It is to decide that what another man does is wrong. And in this context, it is deciding that without Biblical warrant.

Stop it. That is what Paul says. Why? Why can you not judge your brother? For the same reason he cannot despise you – because “God has welcomed him.”

So here I see Jesus, standing in the middle of that playing field, and looking at one end saying: “I have welcomed them.” Then down to the other end, “I have welcomed them.” So come, and be one with your brothers!

Lest he be misunderstood, Paul moves into what amounts to a theological explanation of this.

B. The Theological Reasoning Behind these Actions: God is One With Your Brother (:4-9)

This whole theological defense can be summed up in this one very profound philosophical question – “Who do you think you are?”

Who are you to look down your nose at the Lord’s servant?

And who are you to judge one for whom Christ died unfit?

Who do you think you are?

· Are you God’s special hidden motives inspector?

· Are you God’s official Helper for the Judgment of Other People’s Character?

You may think that is who you are, but you must have missed the email. You are just a fellow servant.

:4 - “Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls.”

Now this is the foundation of all that Paul is going to say in this section. God determines what is a pass. You don’t need to do that! In fact, the Lord has already determined it IS a pass!

“And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”

How can this be? How can two brothers in Christ have opposite views on a matter and both be acceptable to God?

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Both brothers are acting in humble worship of their Master. He is “not-eating” or “abstaining” out of love for God. He is eating out of love for God. Do you know what matters to Almighty God? Not whether you eat or not, but the motives behind your decision! Look at it!

7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

What does all this mean? Many things! But one fact this passage teaches is that your action: to eat or not eat, to observe one day as special or observe all days as equal... your decision in these matters must be rooted in your worship of Jesus Christ!

“Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

Tradition, liberty, preference, social pressures – these do not factor into our decision-making. You must do what you do because you believe God is pleased with it!

If the best reason you can offer for your abstaining or your partaking is:

· That’s the way we have always done it

· Or, that is what everyone else is doing

· Or, I guess I never thought about it before...

Well, to you I say, beware! You must learn to do all that you do because you believe that by your actions God is pleased.

C. The Concluding Warning (:10-12)

:10-12 Why do you (weak brothers) pass judgment on your (strong) brother? Or you (strong brothers), why do you despise your (weak) brother?

For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall confess [2] to God.”

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

I am not your judge in these matters. You are not my judge in these matters. God is the Judge in these matters. So, Christian, you had best be sure that whether you eat or drink, you do all things to the glory of God!

You will settle accounts with your Creator one day soon. This thought alone ought to completely crush any thought of despising or condemning a brother. By your own measure shall you be judged.

Friend, what are another Believer’s actions to you, as long as they do not take the place of Jesus? You don’t have to like what that brother does, but you had better like that brother.

Weak brothers: Do Not Condemn!

Strong Brothers: Do Not Despise! Welcome!


All of you, come to the middle of the field. Look your fellow Christian in the eye. Welcome him. Love him. Show that the grace of God is real in your life. Agree to disagree about secondary matters. Pursue peace and the love of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Adapted from Encarta Online Dictionary.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What to Do When You Disagree With a Brother [Romans 14:1-15:13] - (II)

In my first look at Romans 14 and the “weaker brother,” I laid some groundwork by pointing out that everyone involved in this disunity was a Christian, and that the cause of the disunity was a difference of opinion on secondary matters. There are a few more foundational matters to consider:

4. The “Weak” and “Strong” Designations

In the passage you have two groups of people, the “weak” and the “strong.” Whenever you read this, the tendency is to see yourself as one of the strong! That is what pride does in a man! Who wants to be one of the weak? “Over here in the weak corner, weighing in at a measly 98 lbs, with pencil arms and a concave chest...the Weak Brother!” No one wants to be THAT guy!

But let’s see how Paul defines weak and strong, then consider which of the two accurately represents us. Clearly, in this passage, it is better to be part of the “strong.” But it does nothing for the good of our unity to deny you are the “weak” if that is what you really are!

Who Are The Weak?

They are “weak [in] with respect to faith.” This does not mean “barely a Christian.” Nor does it mean “partly a Christian, but for who knows for how long!” These folks are weak in the sense of their convictions about what faith in Christ allows or prohibits.[1] They have not yet worked out all the implications of justification by grace alone through faith alone. They are good Christians, but they have not yet figured out the full extent of their liberation from some external observances, practices or denials.

Three examples are given of “weak-faith behaviour.”

  1. Refusing to eat meat.
  2. Observing one day above another day.
  3. Refusing to drink wine.

Funny, isn’t it, how each of these is still very much an issue 2000 years later!

Now, notice that at no point are the people who are refusing meats and wine and observing one day as being above another day – at no point are they doing this to justify themselves before God. This is not legalism or asceticism or any-other-ism. These are not Judaizers who are saying that we have to keep the OT Laws on top of faith in Christ. These are Christians with weak-faith convictions – but they do not do certain things, or observe certain days “in honor of the Lord.” To them it is a part of following God.

Who Are The Strong?

The strong are the opposite of the weak in that they have worked out more of the implications of justification by grace alone through faith alone. They have more fully understood the extent of their liberation from some external observances.

The strong man believes he may eat anything, he esteems all days alike and he drinks wine - all “in honor of the Lord.” The strong understand the reach of grace into all areas of life. They are not libertines – “let us sin that grace might abound!” – but they have freedom of conscience in these areas. They eat, drink wine and treat every day the same as unto the Lord.

Just for clarity. They are all in the same church. They are all Christians. But they are on the verge of disunity.

Why Does All This Matter?

What are the things splitting these Christians apart? Food, drink and days. Tsk, tsk. Imagine that! Things as simple as this splitting a church! Driving a wedge into the harmony of the local church. My these immature Romans!

Are there any issues like this that we face?

· Movies

· Internet

· Vegetarianism

· Drinking alcoholic beverages

· Christmas

· Home-schooling / Christian schooling / Public schooling

· Types of clothing

· Halloween

Do Christians ever pull back from other Christians because of differences of opinion on things like these? I know for a fact that there are some very different views, strongly held views, in my local church on every matter I just listed. Very strong views.

And I am going to suggest that what we are studying here in Romans 14 is directly applicable to that situation. And depending on what your views are on any one of these matters you may fall into the weak category or the strong category. You may go down the list and say weak here, strong there... And this one fact is for certain. You are being tempted by the devil, the world and your flesh to either despise or condemn those who hold a different view from yours.

Yes, I Mean You!

Depending on whether you are weak or strong, you are being tempted to despise other members of this church or condemn other members of this church. If you deny that, you deny God’s Word. Paul does not say, some of you are in this weak/strong struggle. No, he says all of us fall into one or the other classification.

There is no grandstand to this battle. Everyone is on the playing field. If you say “this does not apply to me” you are like a man decked out in a ManU soccer uniform, cleats and headband, on the field, and about to receive the ball. You may not think you are there, but there you are! You are in the game.

Ah! But I see in my mind’s eye that the sport is not soccer. It is the sport of unity. And in this sport it is your aim to get to the middle of the field and enjoy close fellowship with your friends in the Gospel. But I also see that there are many who are running away from the middle! Some are running to one end of the field – it is called DESPISE! And here they get together with other Despisers and look down their long noses at those gathered on the opposite end of the field. The name of that end of the field is CONDEMN! And there are gathered a great throng of Condemners who wonder aloud if the Despisers are really saved or not!

And both the Despisers and the Condemners think they are playing the game right. In fact, in their blindness, they think that all those saints in the middle are on their team... and they cannot figure out why they are staying in the middle! They can’t see, that all those players in the middle are gathered around Another. Listening to Him, watching Him, enjoying Him... and only turning around now and then to the crowds at either end of the field to wave them over! “Come and fellowship with us!”

5. The Two Temptations

The Temptation of the Strong

If you are strong in faith. If you understand the reach of grace into all areas of life. You are not a libertine, God has graciously granted you a freedom of conscience. If this is you, you are going to be sorely tempted to be a Despiser. To feel nothing but contempt for your weak brother.

3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains...

The Temptation of the Weak

And, if you are weak in faith about a certain matter – and thereby limit yourself from it, or hold it in special regard, whatever the case. If you believe that some external thing must be done or never done in order for you to walk rightly before the Lord. You have not fleshed out the full extent of your liberation from some external things in Christ. If this is you, then you are going to be tempted to look at the strong with condemnation –

:3 let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats...

Let me explain this by way of illustration.

One Christian in our church sees wine as a gift from God. He never gets drunk, nor does he get nearly drunk... but he believes that this beverage is given by God to make men’s hearts glad and he drinks it worshipfully, glorifying God. In the course of conversation he hears another brother mention that he never drinks wine or any alcoholic beverage because he believes this brings the most honour to God. This second brother is not trusting in his non-drinking to save him or increase his justification. He is not drinking wine worshipfully and out of love and gratitude for God.

In this example, the one who drinks is strong and the one who does not drink is weak.

How do these brothers treat one another?

A Bad Solution

The strong brother says in his heart, “Oh great, another one of these ridiculous teetotalers! So country! So backwards! If I had a Labatt Blue here I would open it in his face!”

And the weak brother thinks, “My land, he drinks beer! How can he do that? I wonder if he is saved? God is surely displeased with him!”

And both run to opposite ends of the field. Disunity.

The Good Solution

We will look at that in our next post!

[1] See Moo, page 836 especially footnote 43.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Obey: Do it now - Do it all - Do it with a happy heart!

girl talk: "Mamma's Word"

Kristin Chesemore has a very nice little post on teaching our little ones to obey - not for our comfort or idolatry, but for their spiritual good.

She quotes Elizabeth Prentiss from Stepping Heavenward (ladies have you read this classic?):

“With her children she was a model disciplinarian, exceedingly strict, a wise lawmaker; nevertheless a most tender, devoted, self-sacrificing mother. I have never seen such exact obedience required and given, or a more idolized mother. ‘Mamma’s’ word was indeed law, but—O happy combination!—it was also gospel.”

If You Pray in Public, Make Sure You Tip Well!

Reformation21 » The Dreaded Christian Table

It has long been a beef of mine how rudely some Christians treat the wait staff at restaurants or hotels. I have cringed more than thrice at rude remarks, bitter complaining and worst of all - a rotten tip.

Restaurants are one of the those places you can use your mammon to make friends for the Gospel. If you can, try and tip well. And if you are going to leave a tract with your bill, then tip WAY better than average!

See Phil Ryken's thoughts here.

What to Do When You Disagree With a Brother over a Secondary Matter [Romans 14:1-15:13] - (I)

Have you ever thought about how diverse the church is in its make up? In our own congregation are folks from many different countries. Besides these ethnic distinctions, there are some who were born into Christian families, others who are the only Christian in their family. There are old, young, - male, female – educated, non-educated – doctors, mechanics, teachers, analysts, paramedics, tool and dye men, administrators, painters, homemakers, retired bus drivers, engineers, web-site designers, salesmen, students, stock traders, office workers, day-labourers... the diversity is remarkable!

And the rallying point for all these folks is the gospel – that is what binds us together. The cross is the shared experience which causes us to get out of our beds every week and walk into a gym with people we would otherwise have no contact with.

BUT, and this is a large “but,” all this diversity opens wide the door to misunderstanding, division, dissensions, strife, jealousy, anger and disunity, especially when you recall that enemy outpost in our hearts. So many different people with different backgrounds and different ideas and different values means it would be very easy for ruptures to occur in the unity we so treasure.

In Romans 14:1-15:13, the Apostle Paul addresses one kind of disunity that can occur in every church. It is disunity caused by differences on secondary matters – Gospel non-essentials. As saved sinners, we often do not handle differences of conviction on matters like this with much grace! So, we must see what the Lord would have us do when a brother comes to a different conclusion than us.

Now, to understand this passage, you must first grasp five foundational ideas. I will include two with this post.

1. The People Involved: Everyone involved in this disunity is a Christian

The most important thing to understand about this whole section is that the people involved are all Christians. All the terms of reference (“brothers” etc) speak of those who have repented of sin and are trusting in Christ alone for salvation. This is not a division between the saved and lost / the sheep and the wolves. That means:

A) Christians can disagree with one another
That may seem very simple, but I have met too many folks who think if you disagree with someone that means i) the other person is automatically not a Christian and/or, ii) it is time to leave the church!

B) That being “of the same mind” does not require “thinking the exact same” on every issue. There are some issues where we must agree – deity of Jesus, His substitutionary atonement, the reliability of the Word of God... but there can be other issues that we agree to disagree on. More on this afterward.

2. What the Problem is Not...

So, Paul is dealing here with genuine Christians. This is very important to keep in mind when comparing the situation in Rome to that which was taking place in Galatia or Colossae. Paul addresses similar troubles in each of these churches regarding things like what is to be eaten, drank or observed. But in Galatia, Paul curses those who promote the observance of certain days. He does not do anything like this in Romans. In Colossians, he denounces those who take on an ascetic lifestyle. He does no such thing in Romans.

Why? What is the difference?

The difference lies both in the particulars of what these folks were doing and, most importantly, in the motives behind the actions. In Galatia, it was a return to Judaism and the Old Covenant as necessary for justification that Paul cursed (anathema!). Acceptance with God is through Christ alone.

In Colossae, the asceticism being promoted was held up as more important than Christ – the preeminence of Christ as Mediator was being denied. And Paul views these people as non-Christians. Why? Because they replace Jesus with works.

3. What the Problem Is...

So you can see, what is happening in Rome is not this. People are not replacing Christ with vegetarianism. They are not relying on the eating of garden herbs alone to get them to God. They are not adding the Old Covenant rituals to Christ or trusting their asceticism as a better mediator than Christ. Rather, they are viewing their vegetarianism as something good and pleasing to the God they are trusting in, through Jesus Christ. And there is a world of difference.

In Colossae and Galatia, the Gospel was being perverted. Here the problem is a growing disunity caused by very different views on secondary matters. The problem in Rome is disunity caused by differences of opinion on secondary matters among these Christians. It has not escalated to the point of division – although you might say these believers are as close to the line as you can get.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Tonight I had the privilege of meeting Adrian Warnock, the greatest UK evangelical blogger in the world!

It was a great night and I am glad to make a new friend. Challies joined us, along with another Toronto church-planter, Andrew Fountain. Andrew will serve as Adrian's host for a few days.

But while we were all off having a nice meal, there was Phil Johnson mocking Adrian! At the very least, I think it was a subtle jab!

Poor Adrian! Well, at least we had a great dinner.