This morning at Covenant I am beginning a five sermon series on what has been called, The Five Points of Calvinism. Among reformed and non-reformed people there is a great deal of misunderstanding of the background of these five points, as well as the meaning of the five points. I will seek to explain the background in this article.
Looking at the title one could reasonably assume that the Five Points were written by John Calvin. But in actuality, Calvin died fifty-five years prior to these five points being formulated. But they do reflect the teaching of Calvin during his long career in Geneva.
Today Pope Francis will issue an encyclical that will focus on the environment. There will be outcries from some who are opposed to his environmental views. But there will also be negative cries about the Pope getting involved in politics. My response is, “Why not?”
I am not defending the Pope’s positions on the environment. He and I probably disagree on some key areas. But I am defending his speaking out on the issue. I believe that those who want the church to be silent on issues other than religion have mistaken notions about the church and Scripture.
Many Christians today see denominations as a necessary evil or something to avoid. It is more and more popular to change church names to hide one’s denominational association. I want to present another perspective – why I believe being part of a Bible practicing Presbyterian church has great benefits.
I am a pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. But the reasons listed below apply to any church with Presbyterian church government that takes it seriously.
Here are some benefits to being Presbyterian.
Protection from authoritative or tyrannical pastors
We would like to think that all pastors are godly, humble, and seek only that which is best for the flock. But reality and experience tell us that is not always the case. There are pastors who lack wisdom and plow ahead with no accountability. There are pastors who demand their way and will breech no one second guessing them. There are pastors who will drive out of the church anyone who appears to be opposed to them.
Recently I had the opportunity to visit my Aunt Anne in Minneapolis. I knew that this would be my last visit with her. She was dying and was in hospice. Thankfully she was very alert and we had four wonderful days together that I will never forget.
Psalm 78 is a story in the form of a song that covers redemptive history up to the time of David. Asaph wrote the psalm in order to convey to future generations the great work the Lord had done for his people. History was not written down then as much as it was passed on orally from generation to generation. Around fires and tables families told stories so that new generations would know.
There are many Christians who assume that if they obey God, He is obligated to bless them. This comes up in different forms:
- God owes me this promotion because I have been tithing
- God must save my son. I have been faithful in praying for him.
- God ought to heal Aunt Mary in light of her many years of serving Him.
We are not always so crude, but the thoughts are often there.
But Scripture gives us another answer. In fact, Scripture makes it clear that obedience will sometimes be costly.
We are at the half way point in 2014. Instead of waiting until the end of the year, I thought it would be good for us to have a mid-year spiritual check-up. The seven questions you will find below are not the only questions that are important, but I hope they will spur you on to thoughtful evaluation of how things are going for you spiritually so far this year.
The Bible tells us that Jesus spent about six hours on the cross. It was a time of agony, both physically and spiritually. Before the cross he had endured a sleepless night, a beating with rods and a scourging with whips. On the cross he was exhausted but still had to lift himself up in order to breath. The last three hours were especially hard, as he experienced the wrath of and separation from his Father.
The next to the last recorded thing that Jesus said was, “It is finished.” Under the circumstances it is understandable how his statement could have been understood as defeat – “I’ve had it.” “No more.” But it was not a statement of defeat but of triumphant.
What was it that was finished that made Jesus feel triumphant just prior to his death. There are three things: