In the previous post, we began to consider the gospel content of some Christmas carols. Again, it is important to remember that some of the best Christmas carols not only speak of Jesus as the child in the manger, but also the gospel reason for why the Christ had to come—the presence of sin that cannot be satisfied but through the peace that comes from the blood of the cross.
When church staff are being properly shepherded and led, when they know the expectations that the leaders have of them, when they have a clear sense of their purpose and significance within the greater body of the church, when they are appreciated and given adequate feedback, and when they are being equipped to carry out their tasks with greater competency and faith, leading and managing staff can be one of the most exciting aspects of pastoral ministry.
Christians are frequently reminded to “remember the reason for Christmas,” meaning, of course, that we should turn our attention away from the cultural trappings and to the fact that Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem. But this Christmas, perhaps we should fix our attention a little more closely, not just on the details of Jesus’ birth, but on the miracle of the incarnation. In so doing, we join a great cloud of Christian witnesses, who have reflected deeply on this glorious mystery.
Humans have been fascinated by themselves since the earliest times in the history of our race. From the crude stick figures painted on the walls of caves in prehistoric times through to the sophisticated image of Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, or the mathematical musings around the Fibonacci sequence in the beauty and balance of the human form, there has been a never-ending search for the perfect paradigm for humanity.
I heard a comment recently from one of the young men in our church that gave me pause for thought. He said, ‘I don’t think I have ever heard a sermon about assurance.’ My initial reaction was to frantically cast my mind back over the last 40 years trying to remember if I myself had ever addressed the subject (thankfully I have), but then I began to wonder why this vital topic has apparently been neglected both in the pulpit and in Christian literature in more recent times.
Since the rise of modern Biblical criticism, it is common in some circles to think that there are little to no predictions of a Messiah in the Old Testament. But this is not the view of the Scriptures. This is not what the New Testament explicitly teaches. Christ can be found in the Old Testament.
The Bible teaches that the believer in Jesus Christ is completely justified before God. We have peace with God (Romans 5:1) and have no condemnation (Romans 8:1). I have everything I need to stand before a holy God as “not guilty” as the God declares the verdict “righteous” over me. I have Christ’s righteousness. As we sing in the hymn, He shows his wounded hands and names me as His own.
As a Presbyterian, I often find myself in attendance at the examination of our Seminary students. Our denominational seminary lies is within the borders of our presbytery, so we have a good number of students on an ongoing basis. Like most Reformed Seminaries and Presbyterian denominations, we have students that arrive on our doorstep with little knowledge or conviction of Reformed “Faith and Life.” It is always fun and interesting to watch the students grow and develop in their knowledge, conviction, and application of those.
During the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Reformers came to the conclusion, in the face of defection and departure from biblical orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and doxology within the medieval Roman Catholic Church, that there needed to be a means whereby a true Christian church could be distinguished from a false or compromised church. Over time these men developed what have come to be called the “marks” of a true church: the faithful proclamation of the Word, the due administration of the sacraments, and proper discipline.
Editor's Note: This post has been adapted with permission from William Perkins: Architect of Puritanism, now available at ReformedResources.org.
The Westminster Standards teach that the post-fall covenants in Scripture are gracious. Although the covenants are distinct and different in some respects, they are the same in substance. This is why the Standards speak of one covenant of grace “under various dispensations” and that one covenant “was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel.” Westminster Larger Catechism 101 says that the preface to the ten commandments teaches us that God “is a God in covenant, as