Friday, November 10, 2006

relationship not a religion?

Among many evangelicals the word "religion" is quite literally an anathema. The slogan that real Christianity is a "Relationship not a Religion" is everywhere. For many it is the key content of evangelism, "What God wants is for you to respond to His invitation to join Him in a relationship", they say. For others it is a crucial principle of church growth theory. Potential church members are supposed to be looking for fulfillment, meaning, balance, relationships, mentors, a sense of community, and, first and foremost, "Relationship, not Religion."

As with all slogans there is an element of truth distorted by generalisation. Slogans were never meant to be definitions but simply an advertising technique. Of course it's possible to make religion an end in itself and to be very religious but miss salvation altogether. Those that go about to establish their own righteousness through religion but have not submitted to the righteousness of God which is by faith. The problem is not so much with religion itself but with the way in which people use it. If we are to despise everything God-given that man in his depravity can abuse we will be left with nothing.

The definition that "Religion is the human effort to reach God through rules and rituals" is a bit off the mark. What they have defined is salvation by works, some religions are based upon that but not all have to be. Of course we need to be apprehended of Christ in salvation and to come into union and communion with Him by faith. But there is also the vital matter of obedience as an evidence of that union and communion. "If ye love me, keep my commandments" (Jn 14:15). There is relationship and religion but they are not being opposed. "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." (1 John 2:3-5). The claim to a relationship without any fruit of holiness and obedience is just as empty as religion that has no true bond with the Saviour.

The problem is that the Bible uses the word religion, and it uses it in a positive way. What about the pure and undefiled religion of James 1:27? Keeping oneself unspotted from the world - isn't there rules and regulations in that? Religion involves a distinctive set of beliefs as well as distinctive life and worship. It isn't just a claim to "know Jesus" without making it clear who the Lord Jesus Christ is, how He is to be worshipped and served. The word relationship can mean lots of things. There are many kinds of relationships. It seems to allow for the cherished idea of "unconditional love no matter what we do". Forgiveness is a precious doctrine and reality but so is sanctification.

The root problem is with popular evangelicalism rather than with religion itself. It has turned conversion into mental assent, worship into a carnal feel-good factor, and made obeying Christ as Lord into an optional extra. They have attracted people that come to church for the music and the friends, the relationships but yet they are not really converted. Is it any wonder that they are finding that there is very little reality in this at all?

The word religion comes from a Latin word which means "to be bound back". We ought to be bound back to God by covenant. We must have been drawn by His lovingkindness (Jer. 31:3), with the cords of a man (Hosea 11:4) and held by covenant grace. When we are baptised we are engaged to be His, there are covenant obligations sealed in that ordinance, that we should love and serve God all the days of our lives. The name of Christ is upon those that have been baptised, in the most solemn of vows. As the Puritan Christopher Nesse puts it: "The covenant of your God is upon you, the bond of the covenant should bind you fast (as the word 'religion' signifies) unto God and godliness. O break not those bands, nor cast away those cords from you, for then you are sure to be broken as a potter's vessel that cannot be patched up again...[as] he that breaks His covenant with the great God who will assuredly avenge the quarrel of His covenant. O keep yourselves in the love of God and continue in Christ's love, which constrains you to obedience and holiness." O to know that sweet constraint, the constraint of true religion 2 COR 5:14 "the love of Christ constraineth us". A constraint that enables us to put sin to death and to keep ourselves from the world. "I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart" (Psalm 119:32).

Monday, November 06, 2006

what 5 November means for Scotland

Scots have a reason to remember the 5 November 1688, the beginning of the glorious revolution, when William III landed at Torbay at the head of 15,000 men in order to save Protestantism. Eventually he displaced the Romanist Stuart king James II from the throne. James was determined upon restoring Roman Catholicism in Britain. In the spring of 1688 he ordered his Declaration of Indulgence, suspending the penal laws against Catholics, to be read from every Anglican pulpit in the land. The Church of England and its staunchest supporters, the peers and gentry, were outraged. The birth of an heir, James Francis Stuart (later known as the Old Pretender) increased public concern about a Roman Catholic dynasty; fears confirmed when the baby was baptised into the Romanist faith. Open favour to the Roman Catholic cause was in fact manifest when the official commemoration of the Gunpowder Plot in Edinburgh (Fountainhalls Notices, 5 November 1685) was discontinued; no sermon was preached and no salute of cannon from the castle ramparts took place. The object apparently was not to upset any papists.

In Scotland James had waged war upon the Covenanters and they were hunted across the mountains and moors. According to Daniel Defoe's report to the English Parliament during the Killing Times over 18,000 men, women and children were killed or suffered severe hardship in the furnace of persecution, he reckoned that “above 18,000 people have suffered the utmost extremities their enemies could inflict”. It was a war still continuing in 1688. As Alexander Shields, the author of A Hind Let Loose, a defence of the Covenanters first printed in Holland in 1687, says: 'The more they (i.e. the authorities) insisted in this inquisition, the more did the number of witnesses multiply, with a growing increase of undauntedness, so that the then shed blood of the martyrs became the seed of the Church; and as, by hearing and seeing them so signally countenanced of the Lord, many were reclaimed from their courses of compliance, so others were daily more and more confirmed in the ways of the Lord, and so strengthened by His grace that they chose rather to endure all torture and embrace death in its most terrible aspect, than to give the tyrant and his accomplices any acknowledgement, yea not so much as to say, God save the King, which was offered as the price of their life'.

James Renwick, Scottish Covenanter, was born on February 15, 1662 and was executed on February 17, 1688. He was the last Covenanter minister to be martyred for the faith during the "Killing Times." In June 1688, in Sorn, Scotland, the Royalists interrogated a sixteen-year-old boy called George Wood. hoping for leads. When he proved unable or unwilling to tell them anything they shot him. Wood was officially the last and youngest victim of the Killing Times. The most notorious and vicious of the persecutors was John Graham, Earl of Claverhouse, Viscount of Dundee known as "Bloody Clavers" because of his brutality. In 1688 when William of Orange invaded, James II made Graham second-in-command of the Scottish army and named him Viscount Dundee. Less than a year later he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Killikrankie.

On 5 November 1688 the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion and they were as men that dreamed. It was a revolution which ended the Stuart tyranny and extinguished the fires of persecution. As John Willison of Dundee, the evangelical minister of the 18th Century put it:

"BUT behold how the mercy of God appeared for us, after innumerable provocations, and when all ranks had made fearful defections from God and their engagements to him. And after this church had lien under oppression for near twenty eight years, and Popery was far advanced, and the civil power in the hands of Papists, and there was but little wanting to accomplish the ruin both of our civil and religious liberties; the mighty Lord stept in, and in made a wonderful appearance for us, by sending over the Prince of Orange (afterwards proclaimed king) in November 1688, to rescue us from Popery and tyranny, and that at a time after several attempts for our relief had misgiven, and the hearts of all true Protestants were beginning to faint within them, and the Popish faction had a numerous army to support them. Yet now, when God's time was come, our deliverance was brought about with great facility, through the wonderful working and concurrence of Divine Providence: So that it was not our own arm, but the Lord's right hand, that wrought this salvation for us; a salvation never to be forgotten by the friends of religion and liberty.—In particular, the church of Scotland ought always to commemorate the glorious deliverance and revolution in 1688, whereby she was raised out of the dust, and to be thankful to the great God the Author thereof, and to have a savoury remembrance of the name of king William the happy instrument of it under God."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

sins of omission and the 10 commandments

Does God require a perfect conformity to His law?

Yes; there is a curse pronounced against every one that continues not in all
things written in the book of the law to do them, Gal. 3:10. Every deviation
from God's holy law, in terms of omitting what it commands is sin, Isaiah

What are the sins of omission relating to the first commandment?

They are the omission or neglect of anything due to God, required in this
commandment;[Isa. 43:22-24]:
not knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God
and also not having and avouching him for God, and our God;[1]
not worshipping and glorifying Him accordingly,[2]
not thinking on Him [3]
not meditating on Him,[4]
not remembering Him,[5]
not highly esteeming Him,[6]
not honouring Him,[7]
not adoring Him,[8]
not choosing Him,[9]
not loving Him,[10]
not desiring Him,[11]
not fearing Him;[12]
not believing Him[13] trusting,[14] hoping,[15] delighting,[16] rejoicing in
not being zealous for Him;[18]
not calling upon Him, giving all praise and thanks,[19] or yielding all
obedience and submission to Him with the whole man;[20]
not being careful in all things to please him,[21] or sorrowful when in
anything he is offended;[22]
and not walking humbly with him.[23]

1. I Chr. 28:9; Deut 26:17; Isa. 43:10; Jer. 14:22; Psa. 81:11
2. Psa. 29:2; 95:6-7; Matt. 4:10
3. Mal. 3:16
4. Psa. 63:6
5. Eccl. 12:1
6. Psa. 71:19
7. Mal. 1:6
8. Isa. 45:28
9. Josh. 24:15, 22
10. Deut. 6:5
11. Psa. 73:25
12. Isa. 8:13
13. Exod. 14:31
14. Isa. 26:4
15. Psa. 130:7
16. Psa. 37:4
17. Psa. 32:11
18. Rom. 12:11; Num. 25:11
19. Phil. 4:6
20. Jer. 7:28; James 4:7
21. I John 3:22
22. Jer. 31:18; Psa. 119:136
23. Micah 6:8

What are the sins of omission relating to the second commandment?

They are:
not receiving, observing, and keeping pure and entire, all such religious
worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in his word;[1] particularly
prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ;[2] the reading, preaching,
and hearing of the word;[3] the administration and receiving of the
sacraments;[4] church government and discipline;[5] the ministry and
maintenance thereof;[6] religious fasting;[7] swearing by the name of
God,[8] and vowing unto him:[9]
not disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship;[10] or, not
according to our place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of

1. Deut. 32:46-47; Matt. 28:30; Acts 2:42; I Tim. 6:13-14
2. Phil. 4:6; Eph. 5:20
3. Deut. 17:18-19; Acts 10:88; 15:21; II Tim. 4:2; James 1:21-22
4. Matt. 28:19; I Cor. 11:23-30
5. Matt. 16:19; 18:15-17; I Cor. ch. 5; 12:28
6. Eph. 4:11-12; I Tim. 5:17-18; I Cor. 9:1-15
7. Joel 2:12-13; I Cor. 7:5
8. Deut. 6:13
9. Isa. 19:21; Psa. 76:11
10. Acts 17:16-17; Psa. 16:4
11. Deut. 7:5; Isa. 30:22

What are the sins of omission relating to the third commandment?

They are not using of God's name as is required;[Mal. 2:2] especially:
not using holily and reverently the name of God or any means whereby he
makes himself known, in terms of His titles, attributes,[1] ordinances,[2]
the word,[3] sacraments,[4] prayer,[5] oaths,[6] vows,[7] lots,[8] His
not using these holily and reverently in thought,[10] meditation,[11]
word,[12] and writing;[13] by an holy profession,[14] and answerable
conversation,[15] to the glory of God,[16] and the good of ourselves,[17]
and others.[18]

1. Matt. 6:9; Deut. 28:58; Psa. 29:2; 68:4; Rev. 15:3-4
2. Mal. 1:14; Eccl. 5:1
3. Psa. 138:2
4. I Cor. 11:24-25, 28-29
5. I Tim. 2:8
6. Jer. 4:2
7. Eccl. 5:2, 4-6
8. Acts 1:24, 26
9. Job 36:24
10. Mal. 3:16
11. Psa. 8:1, 3-4, 9
12. Col. 3:17; Psa. 105:2, 5
13. Psa. 102:18
14. I Peter 3:15; Micah 4:5
15. Phil. 1:27
16. I Cor. 10:31
17. Jer. 32:39
18. I Peter 2:12

What are the sins of omission relating to the fourth commandment?

They are not sanctifying or keeping holy to God the Christian sabbath, or
The Lord's day.
not holy resting all the day,[1] from such works as are at all times sinful,
or from worldly employments and recreations as are on other days lawful;[2]
not making it our delight to spend the whole time (except so much of it as
is to betaken up in works of necessity and mercy)[3] in the public and
private exercises of God's worship:[4]
not preparing our hearts, and with such foresight, diligence, and
moderation, to dispose and seasonably dispatch our worldly business, that we
may be the more free and fit for the duties of that day.[5]
omitting any duty required on the sabbath,[6]
omitting from the quality of those duties through a careless, negligent, and
unprofitable performing of them, and being weary of them;[7].

1. Exod. 20:8, 10
2. Exod. 16:25-28; Neh. 13:15-22; Jer. 17:21-22
3. Matt. 12:1-13
4. Isa. 58:18; 66:23; Luke 4:16; Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16:1-2; Psa. ch. 92; Lev.
5. Exod. 16:22, 25-26, 29; 20:8; Luke 23:54, 56; Neh. 13:19
6. Ezek. 22:26
7. Acts 15:7, 9; Ezek. 33:30-32; Amos 8:5; Mal. 1:13

In the case of heads of families, employers and rulers, sins of omission are
not ensuring that the sabbath is observed by all those that are under their
charge; and not ensuring that they require nothing which would prevent the
proper observance of the day[1]

1. Exod. 20:10; 23:12; Josh. 24:15; Neh. 13:15, 17; Jer. 17:20-22

What are the sins of omission relating to the fifth commandment?

In considering the fifth commandment we should remember that its general
scope covers the duties which we mutually owe in our several relations, as
inferiors, superiors, or equals.[1]

1. Eph. 5:21; I Peter 2:17; Rom. 12:10

Inferiors are prone to omitting duties required to superiors [Matt. 15:4-6],
due reverence in heart,[1] word,[2] and behaviour towards their
prayer and thanksgiving for them;[4]
imitation of their virtues and graces;[5]
willing obedience to their lawful commands and counsels;[6]
due submission to their corrections;[7]
fidelity to,[8] defense [9] and maintenance of their persons and authority,
according to their several ranks, and the nature of their places;[10]
bearing with their infirmities, and covering them in love, that so they may
be an honour to them and to their government.[11]

1. Mal. 1:6; Lev. 19:3
2. Prov. 31:28; I Peter 3:6
3. Lev. 19:32; I Kings 2:19
4. I Tim. 2:1-2
5. Heb. 13:7; Phil. 3:17
6. Eph. 6:1-2, 5-7; I Peter 2:13-14; Rom. 13:1-5; Heb. 13:17; Prov. 4:3-4;
23:22; Exod. 18:19, 24
7. Heb. 12:9; I Peter 2:18-20
8. Titus 2:9-10
9. I Sam. 26:15-16; II Sam. 18:3; Est.. 6:2
10. Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:6-7; I Tim. 5:17-18; Gal. 6:6; Gen. 45:11; 47:12
11. Psa. 127:3-5; Prov. 31:23

Superiors are prone to neglect of the duties required of them towards
inferiors,[Ezek. 34:2-4] especially according to that power they receive
from God, and that relation wherein they stand:
to love,[1] pray for,[2] and bless their inferiors;[3]
to instruct,[4] counsel, and admonish them;[5]
countenancing,[6] commending,[7] and rewarding such as do well;[8]
discountenancing,[9] reproving, and chastising such as do ill;[10]
protecting,[11] and providing for them all things necessary for soul [12]
and body:[13]
grave, wise, holy, and exemplary carriage, to procure glory to God,[14]
honour to themselves,[15] and so to preserve that authority which God hath
put upon them.[16]

1. Col. 3:19; Titus 2:4
2. I Sam. 12:28; Job 1:5
3. I Kings 8:55-56; Heb. 7:7; Gen. 49:28
4. Deut. 6:6-7
5. Eph. 6:4
6. I Peter 3:7
7. I Peter 2:14; Rom. 13:3
8. Esth. 6:3
9. Rom. 13:3-4
10. Prov. 29:15; I Peter 2:14
11. Job 29:12-17; Isa. 1:10, 17
12. Eph. 6:4
13. I Tim. 5:8
14. I Tim. 4:12; Titus 2:3-5
15. I Kings 3:28
16. Titus 2:15

Equals are prone to omitting the duties required by this commandment [Rom.
13:8] in:
not regarding the dignity and worth of each other,[1]
not giving honour to go one before another;[2]
not rejoicing in each other's gifts and advancement, as their own.[3]

1. I Peter 2:17
2. Rom. 12:10
3. Rom. 12:15-16; Phil. 2:3-4

What are the sins of omission relating to the sixth commandment?

We omit from the requirements of the sixth commandment by:
not carefully and lawfully endeavouring, to preserve the life of ourselves
[1] and others [2] by resisting all thoughts and purposes,[3] subduing all
not avoiding all occasions,[5] temptations,[6] and practices, which tend to
the unjust taking away the life of any;[7]
not justly defending the lives of any against violence,[8]
not patient bearing of the hand of God,[9] quietness of mind,[10]
cheerfulness of spirit;[11]
not making sober use of meat,[12] drink,[13] medicine,[14] sleep,[15]
labour,[16] and recreations;[17]
not displaying charitable thoughts,[18] love,[19] compassion,[20] meekness,
gentleness, kindness;[21] peaceable,[22] mild and courteous speeches and
behavior;[23] forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and
forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil;[24]
not comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending
the innocent.[25]

1. Eph. 5:28-29
2. I Kings 18:4
3. Jer. 26:15-16; Acts 23:12, 16-17, 21, 27
4. Eph. 4:26-27
5. II Sam. 2:22; Deut. 22:8
6. Matt. 4:6-7; Prov. 1:10-11, 15-16
7. I Sam. 24:2; 26:9-11; Gen. 37:21-22
8. Psa. 82:4; Prov. 24:11-12; I Sam. 14:45
9. James 5:7-11; Heb. 12:9
10. I Thess. 4:11; I Peter 3:3-4; Psa. 37:8-11
11. Prov. 17:22
12. Prov. 25:16, 27
13. I Tim. 5:23
14. Isa. 38:21
15. Psa. 127:2
16. Eccl. 5:12; II Thess. 3:10, 12; Prov. 16:26
17. Eccl. 3:4, 11
18. I Sam. 19:4-5; 22:13-14
19. Rom. 13:10
20. Luke 10:33-34
21. Col. 3:12-13
22. James 3:17
23. I Peter 3:8-11; Prov. 15:1; Judg. 8:1-3
24. Matt. 5:24; Eph. 4:2, 32; Rom. 12:17, 20-21
25. I Thess. 5:14; Job 31:19-20; Matt. 25:35-36; Prov. 31:8-9

What duties are we prone to omit from the seventh commandment?

Sins of omission in connection with the seventh commandment are,
not maintaining chastity in body, mind, affections,[1] words,[2] and
not seeking to preserve chastity in ourselves and others;[4]
not having a watchfulness over the eyes and all the senses;[5]
not having temperance,[6]
not keeping chaste company,[7]
not being modest in apparel;[8]
not marrying when we do not have the gift of continency,[9]
not showing conjugal love,[10] and cohabitation;[11]
not labouring diligently in our callings;[12]
not shunning all occasions of uncleanness, and resisting temptations

1. I Thess. 4:4; Job 31:1; I Cor. 7:34; Prov. 5:7
2. Col. 4:6
3. I Peter 2:3
4. I Cor. 7:2, 35-36
5. Job 31:1
6. Acts 24:24
7. Prov. 2:16-20
8. I Tim. 2:9
9. I Cor. 7:2, 9
10. Prov. 5:19-20
11. I Peter 3:7
12. Prov. 31:11, 27-28
13. Prov. 5:8; Gen. 39:8-10

What duties are we prone to omit from the eighth commandment?
The sins of omission in connection with the eighth commandment are:
not maintaining truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce
between man and man;[1]
not rendering to everyone his due;[2]
not making restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners
not giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the
necessities of others;[4]
not maintaining moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections
concerning worldly goods;[5]
not ensuring a provident care and study to get,[6] keep, use, and dispose
these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our
nature, and suitable to our condition;[7]
not pursuing a lawful calling,[8] and diligence in it;[9]
not maintaining frugality;[10]
not avoiding unnecessary lawsuits [11] and suretyship, or other like
not endeavouring, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and
further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.[13]

1. Psa. 15:2, 4; Zech. 7:4, 10; 8:16-17; James 2:15-16; I John 3:17
2. Rom. 13:7
3. Lev. 6:2-5; Luke 19:8
4. Luke 6:30, 38; I John 3:17; Eph. 4:28; Gal. 6:10
5. I Tim. 6:6-9; Gal. 6:14
6. I Tim. 5:8
7. Prov. 27:23-27; Eccl. 2:24; 3:12-13; I Tim. 6:17-18; Isa. 38:1; Matt.
8. I Cor. 7:20; Gen. 2:15, 3:19
9. Eph. 4:28; Prov. 10:4
10. John 6:12; Prov. 21:20
11. I Cor. 6:1-9
12. Prov. 6:1-6; 11:15
13. Lev. 25:35; Deut. 22:1-4; Exod. 23:4-5; Gen. 47:14, 20; Phil. 2:4, Matt.

What are the sins of omission relating to the ninth commandment?

The particular sins of omission relating to this commandment are:
not preserving and promoting of truth between man and man,[1] and the good
name of our neighbour, as well as our own;[12]
not appearing and standing for the truth;[3] and not from the heart,[4]
sincerely,[5] freely,[6] clearly,[7] and fully,[8] speaking the truth, and
only the truth, in matters of judgment and justice,[9] and in all other
things whatsoever;[10]
not having a charitable esteem of our neighbors;[11]
not loving, desiring, and rejoicing in their good name;[12] sorrowing
for,[13] and covering of their infirmities;[14]
not freely acknowledging of their gifts and graces,[15] defending their
not readily receiving of a good report,[17] and being unwilling to admit of
an evil report,[18] concerning them;
not discouraging talebearers,[19] flatterers,[20] and slanderers;[21]
not showing love and care of our own good name, and defending it when need
not keeping of lawful promises;[23]
not studying and practicing of whatsoever things are true, honest, lovely,
and of good report.[24]

1. Zech. 8:16
2. III John 1:12
3. Prov. 31:8-9
4. Psa. 15:2
5. II Chr. 19:9
6. I Sam. 19:4-5
7. Josh. 7:19
8. II Sam. 14:18-20
9. Lev. 19:15; Prov. 14:5, 25
10. II Cor. 1:17-18; Eph. 4:25
11. Heb. 6:9; I Cor. 13:7
12. Rom. 1:8; II John 1:4; III John 1:3-4
13. II Cor. 2:4; 12:21
14. Prov. 17:9; I Peter 4:8
15. I Cor. 1:4-5, 7; II Tim. 1:4-5
16. I Sam. 22:14
17. I Cor. 13:6-7
18. Psa. 15:3
19. Prov. 25:23
20. Prov. 26:24-25
21. Psa. 101:5
22. Prov. 22:1; John 8:49
23. Psa. 15:4
24. Phil. 4:8

What are the sins of omission relating to the tenth commandment?

We are guilty of sins of omission relating to the tenth commandment when we
do not have a full contentment with our own condition,[1] and such a
charitable frame of the whole soul toward our neighbor, as that all our
inward motions and affections respecting him, tend unto, and further all
that good which is his.[2]

1. Heb. 13:5; I Tim. 6:6
2. Job 31:29; Psa. 122:79; I Tim. 1:5; Est. 10:3; I Cor. 13:4-7