Looking for Signs to Assure Us of Salvation?

Photo by  Austin Chan  on  Unsplash

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

In the Westminster Confession of Faith, the divines addressed the nature of our assurance of salvation. While many in our day strive after special signs or think they need a verbal affirmation from God before they'll be assured, we believe that the ordinary use of the means of grace is the greatest source of assurance to us! Why? Because these are the means the Holy Spirit uses to build up our faith and direct our lives! We don't need neon signs or fleeces (see story of Gideon in the book of Judges) - we need the Word of God!

Westminster Confession of Faith 18.1, 3

Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with
false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation
(which hope of theirs shall perish): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love
him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, 
be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the
glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.
This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true
believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties before he be partaker of it: 
yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, 
he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain
thereunto. And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his call-
ing and election sure, that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the
Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the
duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance; so far is it from inclining men to

On the Office of Deacon...

On the occasion of Mr. Gerald Epp's ordination as a deacon in our congregation (for which we give thanks!), we reflected together on 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and what the Lord says regarding the elders and deacons which are to serve in each congregation of Christ. We take this instruction very seriously and believe that churches which do not have elders or deacons (or worse, fail to have either office) will surely be weak. Why? Because this is to neglect the means that Christ Jesus has established for his church!

So what is the particular calling of the deacons?

In brief, they are to serve as stewards of the needy and caretakers of the church. 

Arising from the division of responsibilities in the book of Acts, chapter 6, the calling of the deacon is to be of service to those who are in need – first to the widows of the Greeks who were being overlooked in the distribution of bread to alleviate poverty – and through the history of the church as those who minister to the various needs of those who are beset by sickness or accidents or hardships of many kinds. 

The office of the deacon was established by Christ through his apostles so that the poor and distressed may be relieved and comforted, according to their needs.

We should see in the deacons the hand of mercy of our LORD and his recognition that the weak and weary, the hungry and poor, are so precious to Him that he prepares men with a particular calling to oversee and provide for their care. 

This doesn't alleviate you of any responsibility to the needy but rather it directs us to be responsibly giving to others and ensuring their well-being. 

Much more could be said about the hundreds of ways that the deacons can actively take up their service – for they are much more than just the offering collectors and bill-payers for the church. They are men of dignity and thoughtfulness – who hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. They are Christ Jesus' gift to the church and the church knows great blessing through the active ministry of the deacons!

What is the general office of believer?

What is the general office of believer?

It is the calling that we have to serve as a prophet upholding the word of God and confessing the name of Christ, as a priest who is being presented as a living sacrifice of thanks, and as a king who strives with a good conscience against sin and the devil in this life.

One of the things that the church of Jesus Christ through the ages has struggled to understand and teach properly is the value and joy of serving as a steward of God's grace without being involved in a particular calling as a minister, elder, or deacon.

All too often the general office of believer, to serve as a prophet, priest and king of Christ, is downplayed or diminished and to tragic consequences.

The servants who do the master's will are variously given a variety of gifts – and there is no place for the claim that the office of believer is somehow of less significance than the giving of talents for those who have these particular callings in the church.

The great multitude of the Church of Jesus Christ, composed of children, women, and men, are made up of many who have been given 5 talents!

Do you see in your life the evidence of a great gifting from God?

That's your five talents – to be used in service of God, to bring Him glory, and in service of your neighbour, to bring them relief and care!

"Do Not Forsake the Work of Your Hands" -- Psalm 138

The Psalmist David closes Psalm 138 with a remarkable plea that we echo as believers in this age: 

"Do not forsake the work of your hands."

Dean John. W. Burgon, an Anglican preacher from the 19th century, composed a beautiful reflection on David's plea in which he wrote: 

“His creating hands formed our souls at the beginning;
His nail-pierced hands redeemed them on Calvary;
His glorified hands will hold our souls fast and not let them go forever.

Unto His hands let us commend our spirits, sure that even though the work of our hands have made void the works of His hands,
Yet His hands will again perfect all that our hands have unmade.”

Augustine, the great 4th century church father, also wrote similarly in his Confessions: 

“Behold in me thy work, not mine;

for mine, if thou seest, thou condemnest;

Thine, if thou seest, thou crownest.

For whatever good works there be of mine, from Thee are they to me;

and so they are more Thine than mine.”

As you reflect on this, our prayer that the Lord will build you up in Christ Jesus and assure you with the confidence of the Apostle Paul: 

I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6)

Are You Looking for a Christian Church? (1)

At its heart, the Christian church is committed to the declaration that Christ Jesus is Lord of all. 

We unashamedly want you to hear and believe the message that there is one way to be right with God: by faith in Jesus Christ who came to save us from our sins and grant to us everlasting life that is free from the judgment which is due for sins committed against a most holy God. 

If you've considered attending a Christian church, you are on the right track. We plead with you to come hear the authoritative proclamation of the Word of God with which our hearts and souls are fed every Sunday. Come meet Christ Jesus as he is made known in the Word!

For consider well what C.S. Lewis so helpfully argues for in his classic book Mere Christianity. 

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 
― C.S. LewisMere Christianity

Are You Looking for a Reformed Church in Vancouver?

We invite you to visit us and learn more about what it means to be Christians holding to the Reformed creeds and confessions which have been studied, refined, and passed down through the generations. 

What does it mean to be Reformed? Are you just learning about the Reformed tradition? We'd love to explain this to you in person but over the next while I (Pastor Norm) will be posting more thoughts on what it means to be a Reformed Church in Vancouver, BC and what the implications are for us when we declare publicly that we are a self-consciously Reformed church. We are laying claim to a tradition that is longstanding and robustly biblical in our doctrine and practice of personal piety. 

Dr. R. Scott Clark helpfully explains, 

“What makes us Reformed is how we understand Scripture, and this understanding is summarized in our confession. If we thought that our confession was not biblical, we would not use it, and if anyone can show that our confession is unbiblical, the church ought to revise it to bring it into conformity with Scripture.” 
― R. Scott ClarkRecovering the Reformed Confession: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice

A Comprehensive Portrait of a Christian Disciple

“The beatitudes [in Matthew 5:1-12] paint a comprehensive portrait of a Christian disciple.

We see him first alone on his knees before God, acknowledging his spiritual poverty and mourning over it. This makes him meek or gentle in all his relationships, since honesty compels him to allow others to think of him what before God he confesses himself to be. Yet he is far from acquiescing in his sinfulness, for he hungers and thirsts after righteousness, longing to grow in grace and in goodness.

We see him next with others, out in the human community. His relationship with God does not cause him to withdraw from society, nor is he insulated from the world’s pain. On the contrary, he is in the thick of it, showing mercy to those battered by adversity and sin. He is transparently sincere in all his dealings and seeks to play a constructive role as a peacemaker.

Yet he is not thanked for his efforts, but rather opposed, slandered, insulted, and persecuted on account of the righteousness for which he stands and the Christ with whom he is identified.” (John Stott, "The Message of the Sermon on the Mount", p. 54)

New Book on the Psalms of Ascents

This past Lord's Day, we read from Psalm 123 and Pastor Norm preached a sermon on this text entitled "The Soundtrack of the Sermon on the Mount." Well, one day later an email arrived from the Banner of Truth publications crew with details of a forthcoming book about the Psalms of Ascents. 

If such a book interests you, read on to learn more about this work by Rhett Dodson: 

The Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-134) were sung by Israelites as they made their way to Jerusalem for the annual feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. As pilgrim songs, they provide a way for believers to express their fears, needs, and aspirations as they journey through this life.

These psalms are also the songs of Jesus. In Marching to Zion you will discover how these ancient songs of Israel affect our faith today, point us to the future, and help keep our eyes on Christ every step of the way.
— Marching to Zion: Ancient Psalms for Modern Pilgrims

Don't Forget: Remember What Is Important!

"The means God appointed to help the children of Israel were to remember what was important. In his dealings with Moses, God had established a set of repetitive processes by which the Israelites would be constantly reminded of all that God had done for them. Thus, for example, in Exodus 12, God establishes the Passover Feast, the performance of which is designed in part to provoke later generations to ask the question of why this is done. This will then require parents to tell their children about God’s great act of saving grace in bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt even as this was by means of an awesome and terrifying judgment against the Egyptians.

The Passover is just one example of many rituals outlined in the Torah which functioned on one level as reminders of who God was, who the Israelites were, and how they related to each other. Thus, when we come in to the Promised Land and we find the Israelites suffering persistent recurrences of amnesia, it does not take a genius to assume that part of the immediate cause of this was their abject neglect of the means which God had established for keeping his name and his acts fresh in their minds.

What this kind of amnesia tells us is that we need constant reminders of who God is and what he has done if we are to stay on the straight and narrow; and that these are provided by the routines and rituals which God specifies in Scripture. For the Christian, under the terms of the NT age, these are the Word of God, read and preached and heard, and the sacraments, or, if you are a Baptist, the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These things are given to remind us of who God is; and the neglect of them will only help to accelerate any proclivities towards forgetfulness that our instinctive rebellion of God encourages."

(Carl Trueman, "Lest We Forget" in Themelios 34.3 Nov 2009: http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/lest-we-forget)


On the Psalms and Ephesians 5

From 150 Questions about the Psalter by Bradley Johnston:

Q13. Why does the Apostle Paul use the words 'psalms and hymns and songs' to teach the churches about singing?

A. The Apostle Paul uses the three words 'psalms and hymns and songs' to teach the churches about singing because they were featured in the Greek Old Testament (LXX) used by his original readers. The inscriptions of the Greek Psalter use 'psalm' 67 times, 'hymn' 6 times, and 'song' 36 times. All three words are used repeatedly in the text of the Psalter itself.

For a more in depth treatment of this subject, consider reading the RPCNA Report on Psalmody in the Church (accessible here)

Photo by Matt Briney on Unsplash