Author Archives: Ben

Wednesday Is for Worship: “Come, Thou Almighty King”

Wednesday Is for Worship

This Wednesday I’m in the middle of Vacation Bible School week, and we’re thoroughly enjoying Group’s Kingdom Rock.  One of the reasons that we always do Group’s VBS material is their great music, which is geared more toward actual worship than other VBS music seems to be.  They do a great job of introducing our kids to contemporary and historic hymns of the faith.  This year I’ve been particularly struck by their version of “Come, Thou Almighty King.”

While it’s clear that Fe­lice de Gi­ar­di­ni wrote the melody in 1769, the author, who probably penned the lyrics in the 1740s, is debated.  Many attribute the song to Charles Wesley, but there is only circumstantial proof that he wrote it.  Therefore, most simply accredit it to “Anonymous.”  Interestingly enough, there’s a good reason the writer wanted to remain anonymous.  Mark Creech relates the story—which he learned from the the 1926 edition of A Junior Hymnal with Song Stories and Worship Programs from The Standard Publishing Company and compiled by J.E. Stugis and W.S. Martin—in this way:

The book provides some history on “Come, Thou Almighty King” that I’ve never read anywhere else, which may throw some light on why the hymn’s authorship is in question. What is more, the story is a patriotic one that demonstrates America’s deep roots in the Christian religion.

The book recounts a time in our nation’s history when we were in deep trouble – that period when America was struggling for its independence from the tyranny of England’s King. The crisis was so intense the people could hardly bear it and a company of them who lived in Long Island gathered together for worship in their church.

England, as we know, had a national song, “God Save the King,” the first verse of which reads:

“God save our gracious King,
Long live our noble King,
God save the King.
Send him victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the King.”

The words were sung to the same tune as our own, “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.”

When these patriotic followers of Christ were meeting in church for worship, a company of British soldiers showed up and their commander had them march up the aisle. It was an extremely threatening and fearful situation. When the commander reached the front of the sanctuary, he turned to the congregants and demanded: “Sing, ‘God Save the King.'” The organist began playing the tune everyone knew so well, but instead of singing “God, Save the King,” they sang this prayer:

“Come, Thou Almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise:
Father all glorious,
O’er all victorious,
Come, and reign over us,
Ancient of days!”

The commander and the soldiers were so taken aback – so moved by such deep spirituality – so moved by this earnest prayer to God and its devotion to Christ as King – they marched out of the church without any further threats or intimidations.

Though the book’s story doesn’t give specifics such as the date, name of the church, etc., it certainly seems plausible and consistent with similar records of history for the same time period. One Crown-appointed British governor wrote back to Great Britain complaining: “If you ask an American who is his master, he’ll tell you he has none. And he has no governor but Jesus Christ.” A motto of the American Revolution directed against King George III was: “No King but King Jesus!”

Perhaps one of the reasons the authorship of this hymn has never been clear is because that is the way the author wanted it. Whatever name had been associated with its text would have likely been executed for treason to the Crown. [citation]

Wow!  What an awesome story!!  No king but King Jesus, indeed!!!

I’m going to share with you today the Kingdom Rock version of “Come, Thou Almighty King,” which simply repeats the first verse.  If you have the 1991 or 2008 version of the Baptist Hymnal, it’s in there.  Get it out, and sing praise to King Jesus!

1. Come, Thou almighty King,
Help us Thy name to sing,
Help us to praise!
Father all-glorious,
O’er all victorious,
Come and reign over us,
Ancient of Days.

2. Come, Thou Incarnate Word,
Gird on Thy mighty sword,
Our prayer attend;
Come and Thy people bless
And give Thy Word success;
Stablish Thy righteousness,
Savior and Friend!

3. Come, holy Comforter,
Thy sacred witness bear
In this glad hour.
Thou, who almighty art,
Now rule in every heart
And ne’er from us depart,
Spirit of Power!

4. To the great One in Three
Eternal praises be
Hence evermore!
His sovereign majesty
May we in glory see
And to eternity
Love and adore!

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“Heroes of the Pulpit” – W. A. Criswell

Over the summer, I want to draw attention to some of my preaching heroes.  Not only do I commend them to you, but I also want to give you an example of their pulpit ministry.

___________________

WA Criswell

Wallie Amos Criswell, better known by his initials W.  A., lived from December 19, 1909 to January 10, 2002.  He is one of the greatest Southern Baptist preachers of all time.  Although he served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention from 1968 to 1970 and was a favorite at evangelism and pastors conferences, he is best known for being the pastor of FBC Dallas, TX for 50 years (from 1944 to 1993), where that congregation’s membership grew from 7,800 to 26,000, with weekly Sunday School attendance in excess of 5,000. Not only did he found Criswell College, which is a fine evangelical school, most folks see Criswell as the patriarch of the “Conservative Resurgence” that returned the SBC to its Bible-believing roots.  During his ministry, he preached over 4,000 messages and undoubtedly is one of the 20th century’s greatest expository preachers.

 

THE LOVE OF GOD

Dr. W. A. Criswell

1 John 4:10

Preached June 3, 1973

 

The title of the message is “The Love of God.”  And the reading is a very famous passage in 1 John chapter 4, beginning at verse 7:

Beloved, let us love one another:  for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loves us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation, the hilasmos, the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

No man hath seen God at any time.  If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit.

And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.

And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us.  God is love;

And he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.

Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment:  because as He is, so are we in the world.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear:  because fear hath torment.  He that feareth is not made perfect in love.

We love Him, because He first loved us.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar:  for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

[1 John 4:7-21]

 

And the text is in the tenth verse, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that God loves us, and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins; that God loves us.”  Three little words, monosyllabic words; but how weighty and meaningful, how significant they are—“God loves us.”

He whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain loves us.  We are moved if a dog loves us.  We are moved if a baby loves us, if a friend loves us.  But that God should love us, how little we are in this vast big world.  Almost eliminable in its creation and even our planet is like a speck of dust in the infinitude of God’s handiwork; yet the Lord loves us, we who are just ciphers in this big city.  We’re like candle flies that die before the dawn.  We’re like autumn leaves that fall unheated to the ground.  Yet God loves us.

It is a marvel of condescension that He should.  If two noblemen who are peers, they are both wealthy, they are both affluent, they are of the royal household, they are of the royal blood, if these two peers respect and honor one another we look upon it as something that would be quite natural.  But if a nobleman of fame and affluence loved a poor crippled peasant, and took care of him, and ministered to him, shielded him, comforted him, how wonderful it is to look upon such love, such devotion.  It’s just like God.  For God is like that:  the infinite loving the finite and the pure and holy looking with affection upon the unlovely and the unholy.

And that leads me to a second thing about the love of God:  not only the marvel of His great condescension, that He stoops down to love us, the great Mighty One of the heaven of heavens, that in condescension He looks down in affection upon us, but oh the blessedness, the marvel that He does that in our sin and human frailty.  The Lord looks in pity upon our wretchedness, brought upon us by the curse of sin.  “As I live,” saith the Lord, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live:  turn ye, turn ye; for why will ye die?” [Ezekiel 33:11].   And yet not turning, and remaining in our sin, God still loves us.  “For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die:  yet peradventure for a good man some would dare to die.  But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” [Romans 5:6-8].  The Lord, looking upon us from heaven, loves us; not because we are lovely, not because we are sinless, guiltless, pure, but God loves us in our necessity, in our frailty.  God pities us.  He is moved with compassion upon us.  The one hundred third Psalm and the thirteenth verse, “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that love Him.  For He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust.”

There was a father who had two sons.  One of them was in college, a senior in the university, a fine, magnificent, good looking athlete.  He was a wonder of a boy in every way to be admired.  He had a twelve year old brother.  And that boy had every prospect of being as tall, as strong, as handsome, as athletic as his older brother.  And upon a day, upon a day, somehow that twelve year old boy got tangled up with a big truck on his bicycle.  And in the hospital the doctor stood by the side of the father and said, “To save the boy’s life I must amputate his right arm and his left leg.”  Across the bed stood the father’s older son, the senior in the university, fine and strong.  And the father looked down into the face of his younger boy and heard again in his heart the words of the surgeon, “I must amputate his right arm and his left leg.”  And the father said, in a testimony at the church, “For the first time I knew what that Scripture meant, ‘As a father pitieth his son, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him’” [Psalm 103:13].

The Lord does not look down upon us in hatred or in bitterness.  The Lord looks down upon us in condescending love and compassionate mercy.  God is not against us.  God is always for us.  “For God loves us, and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”  God loves us in our need, our frailty, our necessity.

Again, I not only see that in His condescension, I not only feel that in His pity for our frailty, but I see it also in the unwearying blessednesses of His daily providences.  These are for the years, these are for the centuries, these are for the generations, these are for the forever; and we experience them with all of God’s children.  Look.  Even God’s law that is so condemnatory, even God’s law is for our blessing.  God’s law is like a marker on a highway:  this is a dangerous curve, or, the bridge is washed out here.  I one time heard an evangelist – heard him as a boy, shows how the word that he said made an impression upon my heart, I’ve never forgotten it – he said, “In the New Testament, one hundred five times does God warn the man about hell.”  Then the evangelist said, “Just think, a man driving down a highway, and he passes one hundred five signs saying, ‘This road leads to hell.’”  The signs are compassionate.  God is telling us…they are like these skull and cross bones that you see on medicines, warning us that they are fatal and poisonous…God’s laws are like our interdictions of the little children we’re rearing in the house.  It isn’t because you hate the child that you say, “You must not do this,” or, “Do this and I will punish you”; it is because of our love for the child that we say these interdictions and lay down these rules.  And the child is blessed by them.  So God’s children are blessed by His laws.  The purpose of them is to rear us up in the love and nurture of the Lord.

Those providences that daily surround us are not only in the laws, the signs, the admonitions, the interdictions by which He seeks to bring us up unto Himself; but we see them in His daily providential mercies.  Ah!  Think of how blessed it was that God placed us, or at least most of us, in the circle of a Christian family.  When I opened my eyes on this world, I looked up into the face of a mother who loved Jesus and named His name.  I was nourished from her breasts.  And that mother loved God.  And I grew up in that kind of a home.  There are children that are taught to steal and to curse; there are girls that are sold into prostitution; there are families that are vile and degraded; how sweet the goodnesses of God that I grew up in a home with a father and a mother like that.  And the providences of God’s daily love surrounding our lives are unfailing, undiminished, without measure.  Every night when I go to sleep, the guardian care of the Lord surrounds me like a silken curtain.  His love, God’s love opens every day.  And His Spirit encourages and blesses for the assignment of the work that lies ahead.  God loves us.

But after I have spoken of His condescension, and after I have spoken of His compassion and pity, and after I have spoken of His daily providences, yet have I not named the most beautiful and wonderful and precious of all the signs and tokens of God’s loving affection for us.  It is this:  “He loves us, and sent His Son to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins”; translated here in this text, “the propitiation for our sins,” the hilasmos.  The hilasterion  is the mercy seat.  And God sent Jesus to be the hilasmos, the sacrifice, whose blood was offered on the hilasterion, the mercy seat.  Think of that!  Lost, facing death and judgment, God sent not a seraph, not a cherub, not an angel; but God sent Himself.  He came down.  We know Him as our Savior, God’s Son.  And He offered Himself a sacrifice for our atonement, that we might be right with God, that we might see God’s face and live, that we might be saved, that our sins might be washed away.  The love of God flows through a crimson stained glass window and forever after it is red; it is crimson.  The light of the love of God that shines in the face of Jesus Christ is always red; it is always crimson.  It is stained by His blood.  “God loves us and sent His Son, an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

You know, the amazement of that is this:  He did not come into this world because we desired Him or plead for Him or begged for Him; the love of God was given to us, bestowed upon us when we did not desire it, when we did not want it.  That is the most beautiful and precious love in the world, when it is offered whether it is desired or wanted or not.  Why, you look.  When Adam fell and the curse was pronounced on his head, did Adam, do you have this in the Bible, did Adam fall down on his knees before God and plead for mercy and plead for a Savior?  He did not.  But God, out of the full love and compassion of His soul, God promised a redeeming Savior.  He loves us, whether we return His love or not.  Listen, it is more than that:  God loves us, and Jesus came to die for us, when He was received with jeers and blasphemies and rejections.  When that gift of God’s love was bestowed upon us, the children of old man Adam cried, saying, “Away with Him!  Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  And they pulled out His beard, and they spat in His face; they crowned Him with thorns, and they beat Him with thongs; and they nailed Him to a tree, and they watched Him die, and rubbed their hands in glee to see Him suffer.  Yet, God loved us.

More, more: not only did God send His Son when we didn’t ask for Him, not only did God love us when we didn’t even want His love, and not only was the gift of His Son received with violence, and rejection, and finally  crucifixion and death, but more.  In that raging flood when the Savior’s soul sank in agony, He became sin itself and God turned His face away.  And the suffering Savior cried, “Eli, My God, Eli, My God, lama sabachthani, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  [Matthew 27:46].

 

The love of God is greater far

Than tongue or pen could ever tell;

It goes beyond the highest star,

And reaches to the lowest hell;

The guilty pair

bowed down with care,

God gave His Son to win;

His erring child He reconciled,

And pardoned from his sin.

Could we with ink the oceans fill,

And were the skies a parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill,

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above,

Would drain the oceans dry.

Nor could the scroll contain the whole,

Though stretched from sky to sky.

Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints’ and angels’ song.

 [“The Love of God”; Fred­er­ick M. Leh­man]

Moved to repentance by the goodness of God: let me continue for the moment.  “We love Him because He first loved us.”  The fountain of our response to the Lord is found in Him, “We love Him because He first loved us.”  He first loved us.  Before I was born, before I could name His name, before I repented, before I had faith, before I made a public confession of His name, before the world was made, before a star did shine, God loved us.  He first loved us.  Before the little trickling rill that rushes to the sea came out of the ocean itself, and before those mighty rivers that pour their floods into the deep came from the sea itself, He first loved us.  The stars that shine are but reflections of the glorious sun.  And our response is something that comes from what God first has done for us.

Look at this, briefly.  “Everyone that loveth is born of God” [1 John 4:7].  That is a sign that you have been regenerated, when you love the Lord.  “Yea Lord, Thou knowest everything about me.  You know that I love You,” that is a sign of being born again.  It is a sign that we know the Lord.  “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”  A man can know all the tomes of theology and recite all of the creeds, but loving God is something in the soul and not in the head.  When a man preaches, to preach from his head is one thing, to be academic, to be intellectual, to be smart, to be gifted; but that is not it, really.  It is loving God—that is how the man knows the Lord—we know Him loving Him.

Or again, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another” [1 John 4:11].  Love is ever dynamic and active; it is never phlegmatic apathetic and dormant.  Love, if it is true love, seeks an expression; always.  A boy loves a girl, he’ll find ways to show her.  If a man loves his wife, he expresses it; he can’t help it.  And to command a man not to express it is to command his love not to be.  So it is the out flowing of our love for one another:  “If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”  By this do we know that we passed from death into live, because we love God’s people, our brethren.

Or, once again, “In this we have boldness in the day of judgment.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.  Fear hath torment; he that feareth is not made whole”; he is still immature.  For that maturity finds itself only in love; casts out fear—fear of death, fear of the judgment?—no!  There is no fear in love, “perfect love casteth out fear” [1 John 4:17-18].  So to the child of God, as he faces any tomorrow, God is in it.  I need not be full of anxiety or dread or foreboding, the Lord is my helper; in Him will I trust.  And I have no need to be afraid.  And in death and the judgment there is just the love and goodness of God, “perfect love casts out fear.”

Yesterday afternoon, burying a man, a member of this church, cut down in the very prime of life, I stood at the head of the casket, and his mother, his old mother, stood there, looked upon the silent face of her son, and talked to him, just as though he could hear.  Did she say, “Son, I am afraid.  Oh, Son!  Soon I shall die, and I am filled with torment and foreboding.  Oh, Son!  Soon I shall be called to meet God in the judgment, and my soul trembles!”?  She is a great Christian woman.  Looking into the face of that son, she said, “My son, my son!  You are in heaven, and my son, I will soon be there too.  God bless you and keep you till I see you again.”  That is Christian, “perfect love casteth out fear”; nothing to be afraid of, just someday the full-orbed manifestation of the compassionate mercy and love of Jesus.

In a moment we stand to sing our hymn of appeal; and while we sing it, a family, a couple, or just you, on the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairways, or into the aisle and to the front, “Pastor, today I decide for Christ, and here I come.”  Or, “This day I am putting my life in the circle and fellowship of this dear church, and here I come.”  As the Holy Spirit shall press the appeal to your heart, answer now with your life.  Do it now, come now, make it now, while we stand and while we sing.

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Wednesday Is for Worship: “Lord, I Need You”

Wednesday Is for Worship

On this Wednesday, what are you in need of?  The list very well may be long, but at the top must be the Lord.  He is what you need more than anything else.  He created you, He’s sustaining you, and He’s made a way for you to be saved.  Even those who right now either reject that they have a need of the Lord or are ignorant of their need of Him nevertheless need the Lord.  That’s why today’s song is so relevant.  It’s simply called “Lord, I Need You.”

Written in 2011 for that year’s Passion conference by Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, and Matt Maher and published through worshiptogether.com songs, this song has as its hook just enough of a nugget of the classic hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour” to remind us of that great tune.  However, everything else in it is completely new in this prayer of desperation sung to God.

The chorus declares that there’s not a moment when we don’t need the Lord.  Twenty-four/seven dependence, particularly for his protection and righteousness!  The first verse reminds us that in God we find rest, stability, and guidance.  Verse 2 beautifully captures the glory of God’s grace covering over sins, freeing us through Jesus Christ to be holy for the Lord.  The bridge simply asks the Lord to help the worshiper to lean on Him, especially in temptation.

What I love about Maher’s version of the song below is the authentic, folksy desperation with which he delivers the vocals, making your heart long for the Lord.  Excellent!

Alright, so worship the Lord right now.  You know you need Him!

VERSE 1
Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart

CHORUS
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You

VERSE 2
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more
Where grace is found is where You are
And where You are, Lord, I am free
Holiness is Christ in me

BRIDGE
Teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay

____________________

You can hear from Matt and Kristian how the song came together at this edition of New Song Café.

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10 Ways My Mind Has Been Renewed by the Word

Did anybody ever sign your yearbook with, “Don’t ever change!”?  That was pretty common in my neck of the woods, but what terrible advice!  I once heard a man say that the only folks that don’t like to be changed are babies.

Renewed MindChange can certainly be a bad thing, but when we change as God would have us to change, in fact, when we let God change us, it’s a blessing, and it’s glorious.  God indeed desires to change all of His children whom He adopts.  Every one of our sorry selves, He wants to transform us by conforming us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ, and Romans 12:2 tells that He does so by the renewing of our mind.

How is this done?  To have your mind renewed is to begin to think as God thinks.  Our mind, even at conception, are naturally set against God and does not think like God does.  Furthermore, over the course of our lives, our minds are shaped by the many worldly influences we come into contact with so that move farther away from the way God thinks.  But, when a person comes to trust Jesus as Savior and Lord, is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and begins to study God’s, they begin that transition to be conformed to Christ, theologically known as sanctification.  In submission to Christ, they begin to read the Word of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, they begin to understand and apply that Word to their life.  Over the course of this process, their mind becomes renewed so that they think like God thinks.

I want to share with you today as a testimony the power that God’s Word has had on my life.  I am convinced of these things by the Word of God but will not here argue for these things from the Word of God.  I simply offer these as a testimony.  If you believe that I’ve missed the Bible’s teaching on something, then I’ll be glad to engage the Bible at that point.  What a glorious thing it is to be changed to think how God thinks!

#1 – I used to think that I would be good enough to enter into Heaven, but I’ve been renewed in mind to understand that I’m morally bankrupt and that Jesus’ righteousness is my only hope to enter into Heaven.

#2 – I used to think that abortion should be safe, legal,and rare, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that life is sacred from conception to natural death and should be protected.

#3 – I used to think that human reproduction should be limited because children are a burden, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that children are a blessing from the Lord and that we should be open to His leading concerning concerning how many we have.

#4 – I used to think that the world revolved around me and my desires, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that God and His desires are the center of the universe and not me.

#5 – I used to think that work is a bother and should be avoided as much as possible, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that work is a gift from God and that even the most menial task should be done unto His glory.

#6 – I used to think that sex is no big deal and should enjoyed as much as possible with as many people as possible, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that sex is sacred and is to be enjoyed within God’s bounds only.

#7 – I used to think that revenge is sweet, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that vengeance is the Lord’s; He will repay.

#8 – I used to think that life is full of randomness, chance, and meaninglessness, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that God is working everything after the counsel of His will so that everything is according to His plan and has a purpose.

#9 – I used to think that success in life is measured by the amount of money, power, and prestige one could gain, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that success in life is measured by how faithful to God one is.

#10 – I used to think that we should eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we’ll die, but I’ve been renewed in my mind to understand that life is to be lived with an eternal perspective, knowing that physical death is the end of no one and that we’ll all stand before God in judgment in the age to come.

“Don’t ever change,”?  No thanks!  I pray we won’t ever stop changing until we become fully conformed to Jesus Christ through the renewing of our minds!!

Now it’s your turn to respond. What are the major ways that God has renewed your mind?  Have I missed the Bible on any of my shifts in thinking?

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Calvinist Coexistence, Bob Hadley Says “No!”

Bob HadleyMost folks outside of Westside Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, FL, where Bob Hadley pastors, probably don’t know who Bob Hadley is. That’s not a put down because most folks outside of West Main Baptist Church in Alexandria, TN, where I pastor, don’t know who Ben Simpson is. Bob Hadley and I are like the great majority of pastors in the world: we pour our lives out before the Lord to our congregations, serving faithfully in relative obscurity.

Nevertheless, the internet in general and the blog world in particular have given avenues for men like Hadley and myself to voice our opinions to wider audiences. Bob is a frequent commenter on several of the prominent Southern Baptist blogs and even writes for three of his own—SBC and Calvinism, Transformed Theology, and SBC Issues. It is Bob’s recent article at SBC Issues that warrants response.

On May 22, 2013, Bob posted an article entitled, “Calvinism in the SBC: A Point of No Return.” In it, Bob laments “the divide that calvinism [sic] is causing in the SBC.” Certainly, division is always lamentable because it undoubtedly grieves the heart of God! However, I’m not sure that Calvinism is causing the division, but let’s just give Bob the benefit of the doubt here, and go with his theory.

He boils the division down to one simple dichotomy: “Either God is the One who solely determines who is or is not saved or His decision on my eternity is based on my decision with respect to Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection. Either God decides who spends eternity in heaven or His decision is based on my decision.” That certainly is one area of contention in the soteriological debate within the SBC. Although he could have been more precise in his either/or proposition, Bob has indeed hit the nail on the head, at least with a glancing blow. To be more exact concerning the doctrine of election, we should say that the first cause of a sinner receiving grace unto salvation is either the person’s choice of God or God’s choice of the person. Those indeed are the positions being debated, and nobody who has followed Bob in the blogosphere in the least bit is ignorant of the fact that Bob emphatically believes the first cause of a sinner receiving grace unto salvation is the person’s choice of God.

Bob then continues on in his article and correctly asserts about the diametric nature of the positions, “At best, one of these two positions is true and the other false. It is entirely possible that BOTH could be wrong but one thing is absolutely true: both of these positions cannot be correct.” I agree with that statement 100%.

Unfortunately, Bob’s article then takes a turn for the worse. He states, “I believe the SBC is going to have to determine which side it wants to stand on, where the issue of calvinism [sic] in the SBC is concerned.” Excuse me? The SBC has been home to Calvinists and nonCalvinists alike since 1845 when it was established. They’ve coexisted for nearly 170 years in the SBC precisely because the SBC has determined its stand: the doctrine of election is not a dividing issue. Why must the SBC now change its position by choosing a side in the debate?

Bob continues, “The issue has escalated, like it or not, to a winner take all position and it is time for that decision to be made.” First of all, has the issue really become that escalated? Hardly, Hadley! Second, Bob seems to think that Calvinists and nonCalvinists are in a competition with each other. “Winner take all”? That statement in itself shows the worldly and mistaken mindset of Bob concerning this denomination. The SBC churches and leaders are not in a competition, but rather a cooperation. We are to work together, Calvinist and nonCalvinist with linked arms, to expand the kingdom of God on the face of the earth through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both groups within the SBC agree that God has called us to work to see sinners saved through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both groups agree that nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel and believe on Jesus. Both groups agree that we must take the gospel to every corner of the planet with haste. Both groups agree that every person who wants to be saved will be saved. Both groups agree that the proof of a person’s election is their faith in Jesus Christ. My goodness, there’s a lot we agree upon concerning the task of evangelism! In this task, we’re not in competition. We are in cooperation!

Bob had already run off the road with those last statements but sadly didn’t have the sagacity to hit the brakes before running right off the metaphorical cliff. In fact, he put the pedal to the metal by going on to say, “We cannot co-exist [sic] as a denomination at this point.” What an absurd statement! Despite the fact that we have coexisted as a denomination up to this point, Bob is convinced that we cannot any longer. By making that statement, Bob has just placed himself in the extreme minority of the SBC. While the majority of Southern Baptists are nonCalvinists, the vast majority of that majority is also willing to cooperate with Southern Baptist Calvinists, like has always been the case, for the sake of the SBC mission, which I believe is the mission of Christ.

Unfortunately, with that last statement, Bob has put himself outside of the SBC circle because the very essence of the Southern Baptist Convention is to cooperate with every person who affirms the Baptist Faith and Message and is willing to engage in the Cooperative Program. No, there is not complete agreement on every nuance of doctrine, but that was never the point. The point was to make a tent just big enough to where all sorts of Bible-believing, evangelical Baptists could join together to do great things for the advancement of the Kingdom of God. Bob’s spirit of uncooperation flies right in the face of everything SBC!

When Bob says, “We cannot co-exist [sic] as a denomination at this point,” he has a decision to make. The Calvinists aren’t leaving the SBC. The nonCalvinists who are willing to cooperate with the Calvinists aren’t leaving the SBC either. If Bob and his minority cohort cannot coexist in this denomination with Calvinists, then perhaps the SBC is not for them anymore. I’d rather see him change his mind and coexist in cooperation with Calvinists, but if his conscience will not let him, then he should leave the SBC, along with his cohort, and either lead his church to become independent or work to construct a smaller denominational tent where there is more doctrinal unity. If he’s convinced that coexistence isn’t possible in the SBC and if he’s a man of integrity who’s not just running off his mouth with sensationalized rhetoric, then that’s just what he’ll do.

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