Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Carolina Commentary can now be accessed on the Cornerstone Baptist Church website.

Read Full Post »

That we live in strange times is akin to saying the sun is bright. Conservative Americans have seen their country’s moral universe turned inside out, especially with the 5-4 edict of the Supreme Court last summer pronouncing same-sex marriage the law of the land.

Not only is same-sex marriage now law, we are seeing that sexual freedom trumps religious freedom. Christian bakers and florists have been targeted by same-sex marriage folk in order to force those Christians to embrace homosexual weddings or face legal retribution. Under threats from the National Football League and big entertainment and big business, the governor of Georgia vetoed a state bill that would have protected ministers from having to perform such weddings. The Wall Street Journal described the bill in this way: “The ‘Free Exercise Protection Act,’ passed earlier this month, allows faith-based organizations to decline services or fire employees over discordant religious beliefs. The bill also aims to protect religious officials from having to perform marriage ceremonies or other services ‘in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion,’ according to the legislation.”

North Carolina’s state legislature passed and its governor signed a law that requires persons to use the restroom of their biological gender. That is hardly radical, is it? The state has come under fire from liberal groups who think that transgender persons should be able to use the rest room of their perceived psychological gender, not biological.

So this is the slide into radical depravity down which western culture is descending and, in truth, should not be unsurprising. The apostle Paul wrote almost two millennia ago: “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error” (Romans 1:24–27).

As sad it is to watch our culture’s collapse into moral degeneracy, not to mention what this will mean for our children and grandchildren, it is beyond sad to watch professing Christians follow the culture. Have breathed the philosophical air of secular education and popular entertainment, many professing Christians, including both younger and older persons, see little, if anything at all, wrong with sexual intimacy (either heterosexual or homosexual) outside of marriage, same-sex unions, or people changing their sexual identification. Others, who are more traditional about such matters, openly and proudly support political candidates who support abortion rights or who boast about their sexual “conquests.”

Why is this? Why do the folk next door who are in church on Sunday follow the popular trends of culture? Many right answers could be offered, but one stands out: the Bible simply is not viewed as authoritative over our lives. It may be “the good Book,” but it is held as a book of general guidelines instead of specific precepts.

It really does not matter how much of the Bible we know, how much we memorize, how many times we read it, or how much we revere it if we do not believe that it is the written Word of God that has authority over our thinking and our actions. Jesus’ condemnation of the religious leaders of his day could be given to many of our day: “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:7–9).

Read Full Post »

If ignorance is indeed bliss, then those Americans unaware of this year’s presidential primary are of all people most blessed! One major Democratic candidate could (and probably should) be facing a federal indictment over how top-secret state communications were handled. The other top Democratic candidate is a self-described socialist. Not long ago, he would have been relegated to an asterisk as an inconsequential third-party extremist. This is a different America, indeed.

The leading Republican candidate has boasted of his adulterous “conquests.” He appeared on the cover of “Playboy” with a model wearing only his tuxedo jacket covering her body. His casino in New Jersey was the first in America to open a strip club. He attempted to displace a widow through eminent domain to build a limousine parking lot for his casino. And he has been personally endorsed by the president of Liberty University, the world’s largest evangelical university. These are strange times, indeed.

The almost universal mantra of Christians who support the leading Republican candidate goes something like this, “We’re electing the Commander-in-Chief, not the Pastor-in-Chief.” If one says that often enough, one can use it to cover a multitude of sins. Indeed, Americans are not voting for the nation’s chief pastor and no candidate is perfect, but does that mean that character, virtue, and vice do not matter?

The Democratic primary is down to two contenders. Both are vocal supporters of abortion and same-sex marriage. How can Christians support such candidates? Again, people say, “My candidate believes in other things that are good. Besides, even though I personally don’t agree with abortion or same-sex marriage, I must not impose my Christianity upon other people.”

Here is the question that Christians must answer: Does the lordship of Christ over their lives matter outside the church? Does the lordship of Christ carry over to decisions we make at our voting precinct?

Let’s be clear: the Bible knows nothing about dichotomizing one’s life into realms of “sacred” and “secular.” For the Christian, all of life is sacred. Nothing exists outside the Lordship of Christ. For those who disagree, think deeply about these stark words of Jesus: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt 7:21-23).

To the one who protests that Jesus is referring to “religious” things (the ones condemned speak of their prophesying, exorcising demons, and doing miracles in Christ’s name), think about 1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” If activities as seemingly banal as eating and drinking are to be done to the glory of God, then surely our vote for leaders of our country ought to be done to the glory of God.

What we must do is think deeply about those for whom we vote. The best candidate may not be a Christian, but at least he should be a person of common decency and virtue, a person who has demonstrated a consistency lifestyle and decision-making that does not blatantly contradict scriptural precepts. Is this person honest? Does he exhibit a concern for others? Has he been faithful in his most intimate relationships with others? How does he treat his opposition – with grace or retribution? Does he exhibit, not merely with words but with life, that there is a just and righteous God who rules over us and to whom we are accountable?

This is the question that we need to answer about our decision: Can I justify to God the reason for my vote? Superficial answers won’t do.

Read Full Post »

Amanda Criss has provided some very helpful thoughts in how to respond properly to criticism. Here’s a taste:

I realize now that my feelings were so hurt because my pride was so devastated. A proud heart like mine is shocked and offended at an accusation of imperfection. I want to be liked and admired, but instead, my desperate need for a Savior was shamefully exposed.

But the gospel frees me to receive criticism without anger and indignation. In the reflection of God’s holiness, I realize and embrace that I am much more sinful than my accuser can ever think to express. Even if the specific accusations I receive are without merit, when it comes to my deceitful heart, they don’t know the half of it.

Read Full Post »

The word “reformed” helps theologically minded people understand something about us, but the term means little to others, so they ask, “What is a Reformed Baptist church?”

First things first: we are Baptists in the historical sense. While we officially use the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message as informed by the Abstract of Principles (1858) of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, we find our beliefs more explicitly stated in what is known as the Second London Baptist Confession, or the Baptist Confession of 1689. Early Baptists typically identified as either Particular Baptists or General Baptists, and the distinction was primarily over the extent of Christ’s atonement. Because Particular Baptists believed in the doctrines of grace (we’ll get to those doctrines in a bit), they believed that Christ died effectually for those who would believe upon him (particular atonement), not potentially for everyone in the world (general atonement). Consequently, Cornerstone is in the tradition of Particular Baptists.

Particular Baptists arose out of the settled dust of the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther and John Calvin notably defended the New Testament doctrine of the sovereignty of God in all things generally and in individual salvation specifically. Particular Baptists would primarily differ from the earlier Protestants over the subjects of salvation. Baptism was an ordinance reserved for believers in Christ only, not for infants.

Cornerstone holds to the five solas of the Reformation to summarize our beliefs and practices: sola fide, by faith alone; sola scriptura, by Scripture alone; solus Christus, through Christ alone; sola gratia, by grace alone; and soli Deo gloria, glory to God alone.

As mentioned above, Reformed Baptists hold to the doctrines of grace: total depravity, unconditional election, limited or particular atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints. We believe in the total depravity of man, that all humans are corrupted by sin. Total depravity does not mean that we are as evil as we could be, but all of us are corrupted with evil (Romans 3:10-12). If God did not work in our hearts, none of us would ever seek him because we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

We believe that God has chosen his people unto salvation unconditionally (Ephesians 1:3-11). God does not base his choice of us before the foundation of the world on a decision to follow him that he sees will occur in the future. We are saved by God’s grace through faith, so we have nothing in ourselves about which to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We believe that the atoning death of Christ is expressly for those who believe upon him, not for each and every person who has ever been conceived, regardless of their belief in Christ. Jesus said that he gave his life for the sheep (John 10:11, 15). But is not Christ “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the world” (1 John 2:2)? He is indeed, having died not just for certain believers but for believers throughout the world, regardless of ethnicity, language, social status, gender, or any other way groups of people are set against others.

We believe that God’s grace is irresistible. God regenerates the unbelieving heart to desire to repent of sin and trust in Christ: “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44), and he later said, “No one can come to me unless it has been granted him by the Father” (John 6:65).

We believe that all those who truly come to Christ will persevere in their faith throughout their lives. Those in the church who turn aside from Christ “went out from us, but they were not of us, for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us” (1 John 2:19).

In addition to the doctrines of grace, we believe in the centrality of preaching the Scriptures, the Word of God, in the gathered worship of the church. The Bible alone reveals who Jesus is and what God requires. Everything flows from the Scriptures, whether the subject is who God is, what salvation requires, how Christians are to live, how worship should be order, how a local church should be organized, whatever it may be. “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). A Reformed Baptist church is guided not by whatever will “work” but by what the Scriptures say.

Cornerstone is established as a Reformed Baptist fellowship, and we want always to be reforming our understanding of the church and our lives in light of the Scriptures. Unto God alone be the glory.

Read Full Post »

When we consider the activity of a local church, we too often bring our own preconceptions in deciding what should be done or not done. What we must overcome, however, are our own preconceptions, whatever they may be.

Many people see the local church as a business and run it as a business. The purpose of a business is to turn a profit and grow, and so many churches have incorporated methodologies to lead to that growth. Others see the local church through the lens of common sense, and still others see the local church through the filter of their previous church experience.

Relatively few intentionally seek to make the Scriptures the basis for their practices. One problem that brought us to where we are today is that the latter part of the nineteenth century saw an intentional change in how the local church operated. “What is scriptural?” was often replaced with “What works?” How churches operated were changed in order to bring in more people and have a greater presence in the community. That trend continued and gained greater traction in the twentieth century and remains with us in the twenty-first century.

Cornerstone is by no means the ideal church, but we seek to be biblical in how we operate. The Bible is the basis for our theology and for our methodology. We may be a little different from what folks have experienced elsewhere, but if we were going to be like everyone else, there really is not a good reason for our existence.

Why do we have elders? Most Baptist churches do not have a plurality of elders. Most have one elder, the pastor, and several deacons that basically function as a board of elder. The Bible, though, indicates that local churches should have a plurality of elders. Elders were appointed in “every church” (Acts 14:23) and in every town (Titus 1:5). If someone is sick, “let him call for the elders of the church” (James 5:14).

Why are only men ordained as elders and teach mixed-gender adult classes? The New Testament provides for male leadership in churches. In 1 Timothy, one of Paul’s epistles that focuses upon life in the church, the apostles writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14). Paul roots the practice all the way back to creation.

It’s become fashionable in some churches to have a Saturday evening worship service in order to attract more people who don’t want to “mess up” their Sundays with church. Why do we meet at all, and why is Sunday set aside for our primary corporate worship service? We have former members who questioned this. The Bible exhorts us to come together as an assembly, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). We meet on Sunday because that was the practice of the early church, meeting on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians16:1-2; Revelation 1:10-11).

Why do we practice church discipline? Jesus instructs us to do so (Matthew 18:15-20), and Paul provides specific commands (1 Corinthians 5; Titus 3:10-11).

To be sure, some things are matters of preference. We meet on Wednesday evenings for fellowship and prayer and Bible study. Scripture does not require this, those the Scriptures do exhort us to fellowship and pray and study the Bible. The early church in Jerusalem did it daily (Acts 2:42-47).

What time should we meet on Sundays? The Bible does not say, so this is a matter of preference. We are used to churches meeting during the latter part of Sunday morning and then again that evening. What is the reason for this schedule? Perhaps in an agrarian culture, the early morning and mid-afternoon of a Sunday were spent doing necessary things around the farm, such as feeding livestock, milking the cows, or collecting eggs. We live in a different day. Some churches now have one extended gathering, meeting on Sunday morning with Bible study and worship. They then fellowship over a simple lunch and afterwards have a devotional or sermon or maybe a discussion about the Sunday morning sermon or a theological issue. By 2:00 or so, they depart for their homes for rest and preparation for the coming week.

Read Full Post »

“How do you respond to non-believers who accuse Christians of being hateful to people who support lifestyles that are not according to the precepts of our faith?”

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: