Baptism – Part II

Last week, we learned that through baptism God is actually at work, signing and sealing his covenant of grace to us and adopting us into his family. The language of signs and seals may be foreign to the 21st century reader. Let’s unpack them. First, though, let’s state the obvious. By applying the scriptural language of signs and seals to baptism, the Reformed tradition emphasizes that it is God doing something in the sacraments, not us.

Seals highlight the trustworthiness of God and give us tangible, visible Words that his promise is sure.

He is giving us a sign of something he has done or promises to do, things we cannot see with the naked eye, and He is sealing us. In the sacraments, then, we are pointed away from anything that we have done or … Read More »

Baptism

There are several differences between our understanding of baptism and those in other branches of Christendom. Consider the mode of baptism. Some baptize by immersion and others prefer sprinkling or pouring. Similarly, consider the subjects of baptism. Some baptize on profession of faith only (i.e., adult converts) while others also baptize the children of believers. There are other differences too. Some traditions will re-baptize people who have fallen away after baptism and return to the faith. I once saw a young man baptized for the third time after he “re-dedicated” his life to Christ. Finally, there is great discussion about what baptism does or doesn’t do. In order to insure that this series of reflections and instructions will be the most beneficial, we will begin this week with a brief historical … Read More »

Public Reception of New Members

This week we will be receiving a number of people who have joined our fellowship, so this WWDWWD will focus on church membership. Shortly after my conversion I was part of a church that rejected the idea of church membership. Couple this idea with the low commitment level that permeates Southern California and public reception of members seems like an odd thing.

Confession of Faith

Last year we used the Children’s Catechism and Westminster Shorter Catechism as a means of affirming and confessing our faith. We have also used the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. And this year we are using the Heidelberg Catechism. This practice raises a number of questions. This week we will tackle the questions, “What are the documents?” and “Why are we not using the Bible?” Next week we will tackle “why” we use them.

First, as far as confessions go, everyone has a confession.

The short answer to the first question is that these are an historic expression of the Christian faith handed down to us by the church, which codify for us what Christians believe and why we believe it. Christians believe certain things about what the Bible teaches. If we reject those … Read More »

Assurance Of Pardon

Having confessed our sins is there a way to know that we are forgiven? The assurance of forgiveness comes from the pronouncement of the minister: “Your sins are forgiven.” If the confession of sin makes low-church evangelicals uncomfortable, the assurance of pardon makes them downright concerned. Can the minister really pardon sins? That is the real question we need to take up. The answer is both yes and no. The minister inherently lacks the ability to pardon sin. That is a prerogative of God alone because of the work of Christ applied to the believer. Therefore, the answer is no. Viewed differently, however, the answer is yes. God has entrusted the keys of the kingdom to the church so that “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and … Read More »

The Confession of Sin

An element of traditional worship has curiously dropped out of much Protestant worship. I am speaking of the confession of sin. After my conversion I never attended a church service wherein the congregation confessed their sins during worship until coming to New Life. For many, the confession of sin smacks of sacerdotalism, at best, and Roman Catholicism, at worst. Therefore, to avoid all things sacerdotal the confession of sin has been deleted from many liturgies. What is so striking about this, however, is that Scripture is replete with examples of God’s people confessing their sin and seeking his mercy. One thinks of the Psalms and hears the Psalmist over and over again crying out for God’s mercy and confessing his sins (cf. Ps. 32; 51; 130). We are reminded of Daniel’s prayer (Dan. … Read More »

Regulated By Scripture II

Recently I had an interesting and enlightening experience. One of our high school students was given the opportunity to receive extra credit for a class if she would attend an Ash Wednesday service. So I took Trinity along and we joined her family in attendance at a local Episcopal Church. You might be thinking my interesting experience related to the ashes placed on our foreheads. Nope. What was interesting was the amount of Scripture we were exposed to. As far as I can tell this was a liberal Episcopal Church (is there any other kind? There are a few ones still). And yet, in spite of that, we heard read and read responsively together almost five entire chapters of Scripture (Ps. 51; 103; Joel 2; Matt. 6; 2 Cor. 5).

At one level … Read More »

Regulated by Scripture I

These are not good days for worship in evangelical and mainline churches. While the Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and high-church Episcopalians/Anglicans have for the most part stuck with their traditions, evangelical and mainline churches have opted for a “newer” and “fresher” approach. There seems to be no end to their “creativity.” I have been awestruck by what I have seen taking place in evangelical and mainline churches during worship. In one worship service I viewed online a man led the congregation in song while two women painted him!

In a church in our area the Forth of July service has actual fireworks in the sanctuary during worship!

IOur tradition has always insisted that we must worship in a way that is acceptable to God (Heb. 12:28)

There is of course the ubiquitous drama “teams.” I have seen syncopated dance “teams”, … Read More »

Holy Day or Holiday?

The practice of setting aside one day in seven for the worship of God, the rest of the body, the extension of mercy and the refrain from “worldly” activities enjoyed nearly universal acceptance in American Christian practice from 1776 until 1960. Obviously, no longer is this the case. What happened? A lot. Theological liberalism and dispensationalism happened. Television, sports and malls happened. As a result Sunday has become less of a holy day and more of a holiday.Sunday has become less set aside for mercy, worship and rest and more for errands, entertainment and recreation. That’s not to say Christians have stopped worshipping. They haven’t done that. But worship has become an “add-on.” For some worship is done on Saturday so as to leave all of Sunday “open” for other activities. For others worship is, in fact ,reserved for Sunday … Read More »