“Big Bethel”, as it is affectionately and reverently known, was founded in 1847, the same year educator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass began publishing his anti-slavery newspaper The North Star, and the slave Dred Scott filed a lawsuit in St. Louis Circuit Court claiming his temporary residence in a free territory should have made him a free man.
But, I digress.
For all its notoriety as the oldest predominantly black congregation in Atlanta, Big Bethel is equally renown, if not more so, for a simple two-word message which, for nearly a century, has stood conspicuously affixed atop the church steeple against the backdrop of an ever-expanding Atlanta skyline.
It reads: Jesus Saves.
The message that “Jesus Saves” has been
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Theologians have commonly divided up the ten commandments into two parts (or “tables”). The first part consists of the first four commandments (i.e. Exodus 20:3-11), while the second part consists of the last six commandments (i.e. Exodus 20:12-17). The first four commandments deal with our relationship to God, while the last six commandments deal with […]
‘Do you hear what I hear?’ In one sense this is the question Jesus Christ, the head of the church, presses on all the congregations in Revelation 2 and 3. At the close of every specific message to each specific congregation, He urges all of the assemblies of God’s people to use their ears properly, tuning them to the instruction of the Spirit of God.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
A few questions to ponder…
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In Reformed Baptist Covenant Theology and Biblical Theology (found in the volume Recovering a Covenantal Heritage), Micah and Samuel Renihan explain New Covenant union with Christ.
Jesus Christ has been and always will be the federal head of the covenant of grace/New Covenant. To be federally united to him you must be 1) promised to him outside of time in the covenant of redemption and 2) brought into union with him in time by the Holy Spirit.
The Son was the one elected by the Father to win the redemption of the elect. All of this is accomplished in the New Covenant, which is the historical climax of the covenant of grace. To be in the covenant of grace/New Covenant, you must be united to Christ, its federal head.17
Since the covenant of grace is the retro-active application of the New Covenant, if we posit that Christ is the mediator…
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Happy Birthday Canada!
Kings have authority but they are also under authority if they understand God’s design for the country they govern.
On the eve of Canada’s 150th birthday, join me in some reflective meditation on Psalm 72, from which Canada derives her motto “From sea to sea” (v.8). But first a short quote from my dad’s copy of The Ontario Public School History of Canada, penned by George M. Wrong, M.A., LL.D., Professor of History in the University of Toronto. It bears a copyright of 1921.
“Earlier constitutions of Canada had been framed by British statesmen. This one the Canadians framed for themselves. The name CANADA for the federation was agreed upon, and both Upper and Lower Canada abandoned the use of this name, the one to become Ontario, the other Quebec. The delegates desired to call their creation “The Kingdom of Canada,” which should some day rank with the United Kingdom…
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A few words to a new pastor…
I love you, Brother, and I am delighted that God has called you to this great work. I have long sensed that God had such a task in store for you. No one will pray for you more or respond more quickly if you need help than I.
I know you will receive this advice in the spirit in which I give it. I do not presume that you do not know these things but they bear repetition.
Get to know your congregation as quickly as you can. Get to know where they live, how they live and why they live. Map a route to their hearts as well as to their houses.
Get to know your community as well as you can. Meet the business owners, the factory managers, the local, county and state leaders. Learn the neighborhoods and their histories, the schools and their mascots, the police and the firemen and the first responders. Familiarize yourself with the hospitals, urgent cares, nursing homes and retirement centers; introduce yourself to every funeral director.
Get to know your connectIons – Missionaries, local and national ministries your church cares about and why they care. Take a census of your congregation’s extended families, friends and neighbors.
Get to know the calendar. Learn what dates matter and why. Learn every birthday, anniversary and local festival, schools schedules and holiday patterns.
Get to know the converts whose salvation you will be seeking. Make evangelism a public and private priority.
Get to know your companion better – your wife. Involve her in your plans, invest her with your priorities. Never take her for granted.
Get to know Christ better. Use the lens of a new place, a new position to sharpen your focus on your Savior. It is His church you pastor; it is His kingdom in which you labor.
Get to work.
There is a great deal of ignorance and confusion regarding the subject of sanctification in our day. Perhaps that has always been the case. There are, however, some very helpful books on the subject that are available to the modern reader. (See here.) Thankfully, you can add this recent book by Sinclair Ferguson to that list as well.
The title of the book points the reader to Ferguson’s working definition of holiness or sanctification as primarily involving devotion. He writes:
“To be holy, to be sanctified, therefore, to be a ‘saint’, is in simple terms to be devoted to God.” (p.4)
This is not exactly your typical book on sanctification (not that books on that particular subject are by any means common to begin with). As Ferguson himself puts it in his Introduction:
“This is not so much a ‘how to’ book as it is a ‘how God does it’…
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In his book, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, John Murray writes the following about the sanctification of the believer in Christ:
There is a total difference between surviving sin and reigning sin, the regenerate in conflict with sin and the unregenerate complacent to sin. It is one thing for sin to live in us: it is another for us to live in sin. (p.145)
If you are a Christian and you struggle with sin . . . welcome to the club! That is not a cause for worry or despair. The work of the Lord in your sanctification is ongoing; it is lifelong. You will spend the rest of your life repenting of sin, and you will do that because of the grace of God at work in you!
The time to worry (as Murray says) is if you are complacent in and about your sin. That is…
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