Excellent article by Albert Mohler.
When the Puritans landed on Plymouth Rock (I.e. the “Pilgrims”) they were seeking something thing – freedom to worship. But not just the idea of freedom to worship as is commonly understood; but to worship God rightly. They could not do this in England. even though the Church of England was a product of the Reformation (and politics between the King and Pope) it still needed reforming. The Puritans wanted the Church to continue to follow in the footsteps of the Reformers such as Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli, and get back to the Gospel.
When they felt this was not going to happen in the Church of England, they left so they could worship God rightly; as He has commanded as to worship Him. So yes, it was freedom of worship, but not a liberal worship-however-you-want; it was a freedom to obey God rather than man.
This is a great parallel to our experience in salvation. We do not have freedom of will until we are made alive by God. Romans 6 tells us that we are slaves to sin. It is only when we have been given the heart of flesh, and not stone, that we are free to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and with thankfulness. But again, as Romans 6 warns us, it is not a freedom to do whatever we want; it is a freedom to obey God as He has commanded us.
We should not balk at that word command either. God’s commands are not edicts of a totalitarian dictator, they are love. The Psalmist says “Oh how I love thy law; it is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97). God’s laws are life and He gives us them because He loves us who are His creation.
And something that sets the Christian apart from the unbelieving person is that we have someone to give thanks too, because we know that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
To truly be able to give thanks for every blessing and person in your life, you must know whom those blessings come from. You may be thankful for things in your life..but where is that thankfulness aimed? If someone gives you a gift, you are thankful for that gift but it is directed toward the person who gave you that gift.
That doesn’t mean unbelievers aren’t thankful, they just do not realize and are not acknowledging from whom those things came from. They are not able to truly worship with thanksgiving. They are missing the true meaning and depth that Thanksgiving means and brings.
The Puritans knew this truth, they risked their lives for this truth. So this Thanksgiving Day think of your freedom to worship, but to worship God rightly and how He has asked us to worship Him, and with thanksgiving; because only in this freedom to worship rightly, of which thanksgiving is foundational, is true spiritual life and communion with God able to be achieved.
This episode is the beginning of a conversation on how different churches view ecclesiology-basically, how churches church. Since one of us is a Baptist and one a Presbyterian, we have some differing views on this topic to be sure.
Here are the links to some additional, short and sweet, resources.
This is a follow up lesson I (Samuel) did at my church to a previous topic on my churches theology of outreach and evangelism. The first lesson was a scatter gun approach where I threw a ton of information out. This lesson focuses specifically on New Testament reliability and the Reformed understanding of the “problem of evil”.
Also, here is the link to the video I mention in the lecture. James White evaluates his debate over against Frank Turek’s debate with David Silverman (served as president of American Atheists). Same topic, but it shows why your theology matters when answering the “problem of evil” (well, it matters in all things but here is how it matters on this topic specifically).
Here is a lesson covering a philosophy of Christian outreach and the churches role in it, comparing two methods of apologetics, and some hot button issues every Christian should be able to defend.
“Though Christianity seems at first to be all about morality, all about duties and rules and guilt, and virtue, yet it leads you on, out of all that, into something beyond. One has a glimpse of a country where they do not talk of those things, except perhaps as a joke. Every one there is filled full with what should call goodness as a mirror is filled with light. But they do not call it goodness. They do not call it anything. They are not thinking of it. They are too busy looking at the source from which it comes. But this is near the stage where the road passes over the rim of our world.”
I think I’ll need to write a follow up post with the opposite title just to remain balanced theologically but until then…
Often when I am in turmoil, the last place I want to turn is to the pages of Scripture, primarily for fear of condemnation. But what most often happens is I find the forgiveness and love that God promised. This seems so basic. Isn’t this the entire message of the Gospel? We are sinners, living in rebellion to a Holy God, but that God made a way in which we could be reconciled to Him.
Why? Because He loves His creation and His people. It really is that simple.
Yes, sin matters and it matters a great deal-it’s the cause of our separation from Him and will be the cause of our just punishment unless we acknowledge this fact and see our need for God’s work on our behalf. Again, this is nothing novel, insightful, or profound in terms of high theology. It’s the Gospel 101. It’s the basics. Yet I so often forget the basics-at least practically. Intellectually I could quote to you the “Romans Road” half asleep-but this means nothing if not applied to the heart and mind.
The pages of Scripture are absolutely saturated with comfort, love and forgiveness. Yes, there is judgment, punishment, and condemnation-but this contrasts and helps us understand what we are being saved from. This is it’s own comfort. God has paid the penalty Himself for our sin, just like He promised He would do all the way back in the garden (Get 3:15) and to Abraham when God walked through the pieces instead of Abraham (Gen 15), and all throughout the Old Testament until He fulfilled His promises in the New.
One of the absolutely most profound and complex, yet simplest (the Bible is full of wonderful paradoxes) verses in all of Scripture is this “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” I John 4:7-8
“God is love”. What does that even mean? It’s not “God is loving”-though He is; it’s not “God loves”-though He does; it’s God is love. This is His essence. This is who He is.
It may not always seem that way. God continually brings situations into my life that I think I would have been much better to do without. He places me into situations that hurt, that are complicated, that are seemingly almost impossible to navigate and to overcome. But again, the Scriptures step in and say “The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Prov 16:9) and “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11).
I understand this last passage was given in a specific context to the exiled Israelites, however we have the affirmation of this truth for God’s people (all the saved) in the New Testament: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:6).
God places us into situations that we cannot understand, but Scripture is clear that He has a purpose in all these things; no matter how much we feel like we mess it up, or make wrong decisions, or have feelings that we do not understand. Sometimes He breaks our hearts to bring us near to Him.
But this is all found in the pages of Scripture. Read it, don’t fear it. This I must remind myself of daily.