Concerning God’s Law and Royal Weddings

When I clicked on the computer yesterday morning I should not have been surprised with all of the Facebook traffic concerning the “royal wedding.” The giddiness and gaiety from the fairer sex could only be compared to the excitement that many men feel when their favorite college football team finally makes the BCS National Championship Game (of course, as a fan of the Arkansas Razorbacks, I have absolutely no idea how that might feel).

All of that being said, what crossed my mind was this simple question, “Doesn’t the fact that William and Kate have been living together for months take some of the luster off of the grand event?” In November of last year MSNBC ran an article entitled, “Royal shack-up: Kate and William moved in months ago.” The most telling sentence about the present level of cultural morality (or better yet, cultural immorality) is to be found near the end of the article where it states simply, “If Her Majesty’s royal subjects are aghast at the disclosure that William and Kate have been cohabiting, they haven’t shown it. But then again, it is 2010.”

I realize that I may be a “lone voice crying in the wilderness,” but God’s Law is the same today (in 2011) as it was when Moses brought the tablets down from Mt. Sinai. Whether it involves pre-marital infidelity, adultery, homosexuality, pornography, polygamy, or some other form of sexual deviancy, sexual sin is still sexual sin. Granted, I know that I should not expect non-Christians to live like Christians, but if it’s all right with you, I will be “aghast at the disclosure that William and Kate have been cohabiting.” Better yet, I will be “aghast” at the sin that I see in my own life.

Let me openly confess that the sin in my life is as dark and as deep as anyone’s; and apart from the grace of God poured out through the life and death of His only Son, I would have no hope either in this world or in the world to come. So what should the Christian’s attitude be toward sin in general and especially the sin in his own life? I close with these words from the Book of Romans to those who have been justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self1 was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free1 from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,1 you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. 20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:1-23)

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The Man Behind the Billboards, Part V

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey has published part five of his series of blog posts about the aberrant teaching of Harold Camping’s declaration that May 21, 2011 will be Judgment Day. Dr. Godfrey is the President of Westminster Seminary California and gives a personal glimpse into the life of this man who has led so many astray. I appreciate Dr. Godfrey’s cogent analysis of Camping’s failure to “rightly divide the Word of Truth.” This article can be found at the Westminster Seminary California site.

“There is but one only, living, and true God”

I have been really busy the last few weeks which meant that The Rankin File was the component of my life that was put on the back burner. Saturday I had written a cranky blog post  about people showing up at corporate worship on Easter Sunday after neglecting the weekly worship of the living God all year, but after reading it, I felt it would be best for all concerned if I just hit the “delete” button; so I did. I suppose that knowing when to speak and when to be silent is a trait that I have not yet mastered, but, by God’s grace, I am working on it.

Today I would like to simply leave you with these words from the Westminster Confession of Faith which reminds us that there is only one true God, and that we owe our all to Him:

“There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous
will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, “Of God, and of the Holy Trinity,” paragraph 1)

The Man Behind the Billboards, Part IV

Dr. W. Robert Godfrey has published part four of his series of blog posts about the aberrant teaching of Harold Camping’s declaration that May 21, 2011 will be Judgment Day. Dr. Godfrey is the President of Westminster Seminary California and gives a personal glimpse of the life of this man who has led so many astray. One can read the full article here.

“Old Friends”

Old friends, old friends,
Sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blown through the grass
Falls on the round toes
of the high shoes of the old friends.

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sunset
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settle like dust on the shoulders of the old friends.

Can you imagine us years from today,
Sharing a parkbench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy.

Old friends, memory brushes the same years,
Silently sharing the same fears.
(Simon and Garfunkel, “Old Friends,” from Bookends)

The first time I heard “Old Friends” was the day that I spent my hard-earned grass-mowing money to buy Simon and Garfunkel’s Bookends album (for those of you who do not know what an album is, it contained music and looked somewhat like a compact disc) in 1968. I have since down-loaded it to my Ipod and “reconnected” with it. It is so different now, than it was when I first heard it. Then, as an eighth grader, I identified with the phrase, “Can you imagine us years from today, Sharing a parkbench quietly? How terribly strange to be seventy.” Now, at fifty-six, I am closer to the “round toes of the high shoes” than “feeling strange to be seventy.”

I have pretty much come to grips with the fact that if the Lord chooses to bless me by allowing me to grow to be “old and full of days,” I only have another thirty years or so before I go the “way of all men.” But, I also realize, that it is possible that “my day” could come much sooner, as not a few of my high school classmates have discovered.

However, in all of those years I have found something that remains constant: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23) I am still trusting in the same Lord at fifty-six that I was at fourteen, not so much because I have held on to Him, but because He has held on to me. The same God who justified me by His grace so many years ago will make sure that I will certainly “persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”

So I don’t fear the “round toes of the high shoes” or “being lost in [my] overcoat,” and I don’t really plan to “wait for the sunset,” but I will, by His grace, “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Martin Luther and “Tavern Music”

“If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that Martin Luther used tavern music for his hymns and that ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God’ was a drinking song, I would be a wealthy man. Yet such assertions are simply not true. These are falsehoods perpetrated on the evangelical world.” Thus, Paul S. Jones begins his chapter entitled, “Luther and the Bar Song: The Truth, Please!” in his excellent 2006 work, Singing and Making Music: Issues in Church Music Today.

Jones clearly dispels the myth that EIN’ FESTE BURG was a popular tavern song that Luther “stole” for the tune of his great hymn. He also puts to death the popular belief that Luther quipped, “Why should the Devil have all the good music?” (There is no record that he ever said that)

What is the truth concerning “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God?” According to Jones, “Luther’s battle hymn, ‘A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,’ is not a tavern song, nor is it based on one. Luther composed both the text (based on Psalm 46) and the original tune for this chorale in 1529. Luther was a good composer, who worked closely with eminent musicians Johann Walter and Conrad Rupff. While some of his pieces were derived from Gregorian chant or other preexisting compositions, only one was even based on a secular tune—an extant folk song used for his Christmas hymn, ‘From Heaven above to Earth I Come.’” Moreover, even that tune was replaced over time because Luther was aghast to hear the tune of one of his hymns being sung in “inns and dance halls.”

Luther understood the importance of both the lyrics and tune being appropriate for the corporate worship of a holy God. Granted, as a teenager, I thought it was “cool” to sing the words of “Amazing Grace” to the tune of “The House of the Rising Sun” while sadly never quite comprehending the disconnect that I was singing about God’s grace to a tune associated with a house of ill repute in New Orleans.

From where did the idea that Luther’s masterpiece was a “tavern song?” Probably because it was written in “bar form,” which is “a standard German music and literature form of the Middle Ages,” which has nothing to do with taverns, yet it was not a long jump from “bar form” to “bar song.” Sadly, I, too, in my ignorance, helped to perpetuate this myth in the past, but this is my humble attempt spread a little knowledge to an unaware world.

Tuesday Hymns: “When This Passing World is Done”

This past Sunday I preached about the Christian’s glorification, so accordingly, we sang our Tuesday Hymn of the Week, Robert Murray McCheyne’s, “When This Passing World is Done.” McCheyne was a pastor in the Church of Scotland from 1835 until his death in 1843. He is maybe best known for his Bible reading plan followed by many (such as I), and can be found online at this site.

This hymn is a wonderful reminder that our salvation is by grace alone. Although we are aware of that as we live between “the Already” and “the Not Yet,” it will be even clearer to us on that glorious day, when, because of what Christ has done on our behalf, we hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” We sang it to the tune of REDHEAD.

When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon radiant sun,
When I stand with Christ on high,
Looking o’er life’s history,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

Chosen not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour’s side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show
By my love how much I owe.

Oft I walk beneath a cloud,
Dark as midnight’s gloomy shroud;
But, when fear is at its height,
Jesus comes, and all is light;
Blessed Jesus, bid me show
Doubting saints how much I owe.

When the praise of heav’n I hear,
Loud as thunders to the ear,
Loud as many waters’ noise,
Sweet as harp’s melodious voice,
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.

The Man Behind the Billboards, Part III

W. Robert Godfrey has published part three of his series of blog posts about the aberrant teaching of Harold Camping’s declaration that May 21, 2011 will be Judgment Day. Dr. Godfrey is the President of Westminster Seminary California and gives a personal glimpse of the life of this man who has led so many astray. One can read the full article here.

Tuesday Hymns: “O for a Closer Walk with God”

This past Sunday our offertory hymn was William Cowper’s (pronounced, “Cooper”), “O for a Closer Walk with God.” This hymn speaks of the Lord’s sanctifying work in the lives of His people, primarily through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It speaks of the Christian’s responsibilities, “walking,” “hating,” “dying to sin,” and “living unto righteousness,” but also reminds us that we are able to do those things only through God’s grace and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” In The Trinity Hymnal, this hymn is sung to the tune, BEATITUDO C.M. by John B. Dykes.

O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!

Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.

The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.

So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.

The Man Behind the Billboards, Part II

W. Robert Godfrey has published part two of his series of blog posts about the aberrant teaching of Harold Camping’s declaration that May 21, 2011 will be Judgment Day. He says in part that “Jesus may of course return on May 21, 2011. Since we do not and cannot know when he is returning, May 21 is a possibility. But if Jesus does come then, Harold Camping will not have calculated it correctly. “Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come….Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Mt. 24:42, 25:13).”

To read all of Dr. Godfrey’s article go to the Westminster Seminary California Blog.

HT: The Heidelblog