In the Company of a Dispatched Shepherd

I have taken great solace and found great hope in the Farewell Sermon which Jonathan Edwards preached to his congregation at Northampton after they unceremoniously fired him for taking a scriptural view of admission to the Lord’s table contrary to that of Solomon Stoddard (Edwards’ grandfather) who was Edwards’ longtime predecessor at Northampton.

In applying the principles of his sermon, Edwards concluded his Farewell Sermon by saying:

“…although I have often been troubled on every side, yet I have not been distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; cast down, but not destroyed. — But now I have reason to think my work is finished which I had to do as your minister: you have publicly rejected me, and my opportunities cease.

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“How highly therefore does it now become us to consider of that time when we must meet one another before the chief Shepherd! When I must give an account of my stewardship, of the service I have done for, and the reception and treatment I have had among the people to whom he sent me. And you must give an account of your own conduct towards me, and the improvement you have made of these three and twenty years of my ministry. For then both you and I must appear together, and we both must give an account, in order to an infallible, righteous and eternal sentence to be passed upon us, by him who will judge us with respect to all that we have said or done in our meeting here, and all our conduct one towards another in the house of God and elsewhere.

[He] will try our hearts, and manifest our thoughts, and the principles and frames of our minds. He will judge us with respect to all the controversies which have subsisted between us, with the strictest impartiality, and will examine our treatment of each other in those controversies. There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid which shall not be known. All will be examined in the searching, penetrating light of God’s omniscience and glory, and by him whose eyes are as a flame of fire. Truth and right shall be made plainly to appear, being stripped of every veil. And all error, falsehood, unrighteousness, and injury shall be laid open, stripped of every disguise. Every specious pretense, every cavil, and all false reasoning shall vanish in a moment, as not being able to bear the light of that day. And then our hearts will be turned inside out, and the secrets of them will be made more plainly to appear than our outward actions do now.”

Edwards then spoke these words which bear eerie resemblance to the ungodly way my twelves years of ministry at Oakbrooke Bible Church were ended on Sunday, July 28:

“And then (at the day of judgment when all is illumined by the light of the glory of the righteous Judge, Jesus Christ)  it will appear whether my people have done their duty to their pastor with respect to this matter; whether they have shown a right temper and spirit on this occasion; whether they have done me justice in hearing, attending to and considering what I had to say in evidence of what I believed and taught as part of the counsel of God; whether I have been treated with that impartiality, candor, and regard which the just Judge esteemed due; and whether, in the many steps which have been taken, and the many things that have been said and done in the course of this controversy, righteousness, and charity, and Christian decorum have been maintained; or, if otherwise, to how great a degree these things have been violated. Then every step of the conduct of each of us in this affair, from first to last, and the spirit we have exercised in all, shall be examined and manifested, and our own consciences shall speak plain and loud, and each of us shall be convinced, and the world shall know; and never shall there be any more mistake, misrepresentation, or misapprehension of the affair to eternity.”

The foundation of my joy in God in the wake of the ungodly way my family and I have been treated, leading to my departure from the pulpit of Oakbrooke Bible Church, is in the truth that He is the final judge of all things.  He is my Judge first and foremost, and it is in the righteousness of Jesus Christ alone I stand before Him, lest I stand before Him condemned and ultimately consumed by His glory.

May the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ bring reconciliation and revival where presently there is is confusion and every evil work.

Interview with Carolyn Weber, Former Oxford Agnostic

When Carolyn Weber arrived at Oxford for her graduate studies in Romantic literature, she felt no need for God. Her childhood in a broken but loving family taught her to rely on reason and intellect—not faith—for survival. What she didn’t know was that she was about to embark on a love story of her own—one much deeper, more colorful, and more surprisingly God-shaped than any she’d read before.

From issues of fatherhood, feminism, and doubt to doctrine and love, Weber explores the intricacies of coming to faith with an aching honesty and insight echoing that of the poets and writers she studied. Rich with illustration and literary references, Surprised by Oxford is at once gritty and lyrical; both humorous and spiritually perceptive.

Organized according to the Oxford Liturgical academic calendar, Surprised by Oxford tells the real-life tale of a young woman’s search for—and eventual discovery of—purpose, identity, faith and what it really means to be human.

Carolyn Weber blogs at www.pressingsave.com.

Paul’s Interview with Carolyn Weber:

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About Carolyn Weber

Carolyn Weber 200Carolyn Weber graduated summa cum laude from Huron College, University of Western Ontario, Canada. She was awarded the Canadian Commonwealth Scholarship to study at Oxford University in England, where she completed her M.Phil and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Romantic Literature. Also at Oxford, she taught undergraduates and became the first female Dean of St. Peter’s College. Most recently, Dr Weber has been Associate Professor of Romantic Literature at Seattle University.  She has also taught as an Assistant professor at the University of San Francisco, and as a visiting professor at Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Patriotism and Christian Worship

I am certain there will be no small amount of flag waving in many of our churches this coming Sunday, given we have just celebrated the 237th anniversary of our nation’s independence. In 2010, July 4th fell on a Sunday. I used the opportunity to preach a message detailing the reasons why I believe patriotic themes and elements have no place in Christian worship. I gave five reasons why:

  • Because patriotic elements in worship risk placing country on the same level as God and God will not share his glory with any other entity or person: Isaiah 48:11

Objection: But here in America we have unique freedoms to worship God, therefore we should honor the country in our worship because it grants us this and other freedoms.

Response: “We are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.” America has not given us our liberty. We worship God not because we are free to do so but because God demands our worship.

In the context of public Christian worship, we recognize no other Sovereign but the Lord Jesus.

  • Because of the Nature of Worldly Kingdoms: John 18:36

No matter how benevolent, the kingdoms of this world are ruled by fallen men and women who have been corrupted by sin.

  • Because the Church is “one holy catholic” Church

Christians are a people called out from every other kingdom on the earth in order to be a kingdom of priests to God:

John 15:18-19 Colossians 3:11 1 Peter 2:9-10

The priority of the Church is the good news about Jesus to all the nations of the world, not just America.

  • Because the Church as the visible representative of Christ’s Kingdom on earth is higher in authority than any earthly kingdom: Revelation 15:3-4; Revelation 11:15

The Church does not exist because America exists. America exists because the Church exists.

The State, as divinely appointed by God, fulfills roles and functions (specifically rendering justice and keeping the peace) for which the Church gives thanks to God. Romans 13

From the Barmen Declaration:

“The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the Church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.

“We reject the false doctrine, as though the Church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.”

  • Because the Church is the exclusive domain of Christ as King and must be free from all other competing allegiances.

This is the overarching principle that governs our life together as God’s redeemed people: “Christ is all and in all.” Nothing we do in our worship should serve to advance the notion that anything is competing for the honor and glory due Jesus as our Sovereign King and Lord.

PDF NOTES: Why Patriotic Elements in Worship are Incompatible with the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”