Jun 29, 2008

My Response to 218th GA from TPC Pulpit

Our Heritage
2 Timothy 3:14-17

What a difference 100 years make! Here are some statistics from the year 1907:
• The average life expectancy was 47 years.
• Only 14% of the homes in the US had bathtubs.
• Only 8% of the homes had telephones.
• A three minute call from Denver to New York City cost $11.
• There were only 8,000 cars in the US and only 144 miles of paved roads.
• The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10mph.
• Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, and Tennessee were each more populated than California.
• The average wage in the US was 22 cents per hour.
• The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year.
o A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year,
o a dentist $2,500 per year,
o a mechanical engineer $5,000 per year.
• More than 95% of all births in the US took place at home.
• Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.
• 90% of all US doctors had no college education!
• Five leading causes of death in the US were:
1) Pneumonia and influenza
2) Tuberculosis
3) Diarrhea
4) Heart Disease
5) Stroke
• Only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high school.

One more item that was not on that list that we could have counted on was that Christ-followers a century ago believed the Bible to be God’s authoritative word and that we were to submit to the authority of scripture.

I just returned from the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This was one of the most difficult GA’s I’ve been to in the last decade. Just about everything that could have gone wrong, did. This General Assembly made it clear that it no longer views the scriptures as authoritative, and instead will go with the flow of modern culture.

Our text this morning begins with “But as for you…”

In order to understand the context of this passage, we have to look at what came before.

Verses 12-13 read, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.”

Listen, we are not told that persecution might happen. It is a fact. If you stand for Christ in today’s culture, you will be persecuted.

Evil men and imposters will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

The attacks against the church will not come from outsiders. Deception will come from within the ranks of the clergy and within the life of the church. Their aim is to deceive and the result of their actions will go from bad to worse.

We have debated the ordination of gays and lesbians in the life of the church for the past 30 years. And for the first time, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has finally made real the chasm that has existed for 30 years.

Here is a brief synopsis of the actions taken by the recent assembly.

The General Assembly added a new Authoritative Interpretation of the constitution that is specifically designed to allow sessions and presbyteries to ordain persons who do not abide by the constitutional standards for ordination.

This isn’t just about homosexuality. Just was we would not ordain a person unfaithful to their spouse or those engaged in sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage between husband and wife, we do not ordain persons engaged in homosexual sex because that is sin.

But now, two thousands years of church stance on this issue has been overturned. The General Assembly has removed those standards.

The General Assembly also voted to send to the presbyteries for their vote an amendment to the constitution, namely the deletion of the “fidelity and chastity” standard and the addition of language that says a sincere effort to obey one’s personal interpretation of scripture is the standard for ordination.

The General Assembly voted to change the language of the Hiedelburg Confession that specifically names homosexuality, by deleting that specific language.

The General Assembly also voted to set aside two million dollars to assist presbyteries who are fighting churches wishing to leave the denomination with their properties and bank accounts. While the General Assembly nickled and dimed over finding funds to do the ministry and the mission of the church, the General Assembly did not think twice about setting a designated fund to go after congregations who can no longer remain faithful in the Presbyterian denomination.

All these actions combined make a clear and loud announcement – the chasm between those who stand under the authority of scripture and those who do not is an undeniable reality.

So today’s word and today’s service of celebrating our heritage is absolutely apropos.
But as for you, we are told. As for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wife for salvation through Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and become convinced of.

First, what God is calling on the church to do is to continue in what you have learned and become convinced of.

Learning doesn’t just happen. Learning is intentional. More than ever what we need today is people who are learned in scripture. Learning biblical truths has to become a priority in a Christ-follower. You have to set aside time and effort to make this a reality.

Second, let’s take a look at the things we have learned from our Presbyterian and reformed heritage.

Presbyterians have historically been Christ-centered and Biblically based. The crying call of the reformation is sola scriptura, sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, and soli deo gloria.

Sola is the Latin word only.

Sola scritpura – Scripture alone. No other book, no other revelation, no other authority than the scripture alone. This has always been our heritage.

Sola fide – faith alone. We are justified by faith alone. We are made right with God never by our own actions but by accepting by faith what God has done through Jesus Christ on the cross of calvary.

Sola gratia – grace alone. We are only made right with God through God’s unmerited favor. We have received grace in two forms – by not getting what we rightly deserve – damnation, and by receiving what we could never deserve – eternal life in Christ Jesus.

Solus Christus – Christ alone. Salvation is found in no one else but Jesus Christ. There is no other name by which we must be saved but Jesus. Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only way we can gain entry to eternal life.

Soli deo gloria – For the glory of God alone. All glory is to be due to God alone, since salvation is accomplished solely through His will and action. Whatever we do, in everything we do, we do it all for the glory of God.

This has always been our heritage. It is an awesome heritage. So continue in what you have learned and become convinced of – sola scritpura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, and soli deo gloria. Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, and all for the glory of God.

Church hold on to the truth we have been handed down through the generations. There is no power in the created universe that can thwart the will of God – certainly not the actions of one renegade general assembly.

As we have learned from our Presbyterian forefathers, there has always been a rebellious streak in us. Just as the first Presbyterians rebelled against the British oppression, there has always been a rebel streak in the Presbyterian form of the Christian faith that goes against the flow.

And this trait is more necessary today than ever before. The Christian faith as we know it is being assaulted from the cultural values of political correctness in America, and the willingness of many within the church to succumb to this pressure. The battle cry of the reformation – scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone is as relevant today as it was during the first reformation.

As we hold on to our rich heritage as Presbyterians, God will fully equip the church for every good work.

We have an awesome and rich heritage. The actions of the recent General Assembly makes it abundantly clear that this rich and awesome heritage needs to be recalled and articulated in fresh and relevant ways for today’s daunting culture.

Let me close with a few words of encouragement.

First, there may be those of you thinking, “What’s the use? Let’s just leave and go to a church or denomination that doesn’t wrestle with these issues.”

That is a very attractive option. There are many times when I am tempted by these same thoughts. But here’s something we must be aware of. This secularism, relativism, this watering down of the Christian faith thing isn’t going away any time soon. The church has always had to face and overcome these challenges. If you want to cocoon yourself and become totally cut off from where the rest of the culture is, you have given up on the hope of Christ to transform the world.

God calls on the church to go out into the world with the good news of Jesus Christ. The only way we can engage that world is to get better at demonstrating the hope of Christ in this secular, pluralistic world. And that is exactly why Trinity Presbyterian Church continues to engage in this fight rather than building up walls to keep the lost world out. We will continue to attack the defenses of the darkness with the hope and the truth of Jesus Christ.

Finally, friends, I want you to know that the leadership of this church is committed to our reformed heritage. We will continue to fight the good fight of faith. God has not given up on this generation and neither will we. We will do everything we can to continue growing new Christians and do whatever it takes to grow faithful disciples of Jesus Christ.

I ask you as your pastor for your commitment for your intentional investment to become students of Biblical truth, and for your ongoing commitment to take the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that desperately needs it. For the glory of Jesus Christ! Amen!

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