Self-Righteousness in Believers
Jonathan Edwards noted the great danger of falling into the sin of self-righteousness as a believer. He explained:
And let particular persons strictly examine themselves whether they hadn’t been lifted up with their particular experiences. I think, according to what observations I have made—as I have had [more] opportunity of very extensive observation than any other person in the town—that is has been a pretty prevailing error in the town, that persons are not sufficiently sensible of the danger of self-righteousness after conversion. They seem to be sensible that persons are in danger of it before they are converted, but they think that when a man is converted, he is brought off wholly from his own righteousness, just as if there was no danger of any workings of self-righteousness afterwards.
But this is from a great mistake of what is intended by a man’s being brought wholly off from his own righteousness when he is converted. ‘Tis not meant that a self-righteous principle is wholly done away, that there is no remains of such a disposition in the heart. There is as much of the remains of that as there is of any other corruption of the heart.
The Regulative Principle of Worship
by John Calvin
Moreover, the rule which distinguishes between pure and vitiated worship is of universal application, in order that we may not adopt any device which seems fit to ourselves, but look to the injunction of Him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have Him to approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed. For there is a twofold reason why the Lord, in condemning and prohibiting all fictitious worship, requires us to give obedience only to his own voice. First, it tends greatly to establish His authority that we do not follow our own pleasures but depend entirely on his sovereignty; and, secondly, such is our folly, that when we are left at liberty, all we are able to do is to go astray. And then when once we have turned aside from the right path, there is no end to our wanderings, until we get buried under a multitude of superstitions. Justly, therefore, does the Lord, in order to assert his full right of dominion, strictly enjoin what he wishes us to do, and at once reject all human devices which are at variance with his command. Justly, too, does he, in express terms, define our limits that we may not, by fabricating perverse modes of worship, provoke His anger against us.
I know how difficult it is to persuade the world that God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by His Word. The opposite persuasion which cleaves to them, being seated, as it were, in their very bones and marrow, is, that whatever they do has in itself a sufficient sanction, provided it exhibits some kind of zeal for the honor of God.
Why is the Reformation Still Important?
by Dr. James White
Why is the Reformation still important? Why is it proper for us to focus upon it this year in celebration of 500 years? Why do I pray that by the end of 2017 more and more of God’s people will embrace the Reformation, and Reformed theology as a whole? Well, here is a tweet from the current Pope. He encourages Roman Catholics to “entrust the new year to Mary.” Doing this, evidently, will result in “peace and mercy” growing throughout the world. And here I thought that could only happen as men and women bow the knee not to Mary, but to the Lord Jesus, in repentance and faith, trusting in His once-for-all work upon the cross as the perfect Savior. Rome’s departure from the Gospel remains complete, and defiant. She continues to blaspheme the cross every time a man-made “priest” pretends to “re-present” the once-for-all sacrifice of Calvary upon a Roman altar. And she continues to enslave men with her endless gospel of sacraments and penances, which can never bring them peace. And in this tweet the Pope demonstrates once again the grossly idolatrous nature of modern Roman teaching concerning Mary.
How many non-Roman Catholics today understand why they do not bow the knee to Rome? In what is loosely called Evangelicalism, very few. One either has the wild-eyed bigotry of the Jack Chick variety anti-Catholicism, or the luke-warm “it’s just a matter of taste” variety of synergistic Tiber-paddling that is so common today. May the number of those who knowingly, and out of a true commitment to sound biblical doctrine, reject Rome’s pretensions, grow in this the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
If you are more passionate about politics than advancing the gospel of Christ among the lost, then perhaps you should ask yourself where you are placing your hope and which kingdom are you are a citizen of. (John 18:36, Phil. 3:20)
God is Changing Us—But How?
by David Powlison
“Sanctification” is the five syllable word used to describe the process by which we are reborn and then grow in a new way of life as followers of Jesus. But how does your growth in grace actually work? And how does ministry encourage and support growth in someone else? We need to pay attention to how God changes people. One interesting characteristic is that all Christians already have some first-hand experience. Every Christian can say: “This was key in helping me when I struggled with that in those circumstances.” Those stories teach us a lot.
But first-hand experience also presents a danger. It is easy to turn your own experience into a general rule: “This must be the key for everyone.” Both Scripture and personal testimony teach us that there is no single formula for the kinds of problems that call for our sanctification. There is no single formula for the kinds of change that sanctification produces in us. There is no single formula for the truths and other factors that produce change. There is variety in how God changes people. Here are two stories from my own walk with Jesus to illustrate the key things that helped me—with my particular struggles in my particular circumstances.
Story 1. August 31, 1975
When I was 25 years old I came to Christian faith. My conversion was dramatic. In high school I had become preoccupied with existential questions: “What lasts? What is meaningful? Who am I?” Four lines of development gave force and shape to my search.
First, in my teens I became estranged from the nominal version of church-going in which I had been raised. I never heard that Jesus Christ was anything more than a moral example. Christianity, as I experienced it, seemed like a polite veneer for people who didn’t want to face hard realities.