Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Gleanings from the Field - A Look At Ligonier Part II

The statue of John Knox outside the Church of the Holy Rood
in Stirling, Scotland where he preached.
     In part one of my reflections on the Ligonier Conference we attended, I covered the need for prayer for our pastors and leaders, the truth as presented to our world in our Lord Jesus Christ and the inerrancy of the Scripture.  All of these are important encouragements to us as believers and help us take a stand of "No Compromise" to a world bent and twisted by sin.  To further carry on this theme, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C. and professor of systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary made an outstanding presentation on doctrine.
     Dr. Ferguson opened with Romans 12:1-2:  "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  This powerful passage indicates that the road to our sanctification is paved with study of God's Word which alone makes us wise unto salvation and able to discern truth from error.  It changes our thinking.
     One of the key questions which Dr. Ferguson raised was how did Christians in general get to a place where they claim that doctrine divides?  Somehow, they place experience over doctrine leading to faulty theology.  He indicated that the problem began in a period of history called the Enlightenment when men became the measure of all things and God seemed a remote being that no one could really have relationship with.  A key German theologian of the time Friedrich Schleiermacher who tried to reconcile the Enlightenment with protestant orthodoxy only muddied the waters by suggesting that true religion does not live in doctrinal positions.  With this thought now unleashed, many in the church and in colleges founded by the church began to teach that experience was more important than doctrine. However, Dr. Ferguson pointed out that "If you think doctrine divides, you will end up on the road where you can't tell one experience from another."  What happens in today's praise and worship time is often more about "me" or "I" rather than focusing on the God of the universe we are there to lift up.  He clearly pointed out that our salvation does not lie in our experience but is fully dependent upon Christ.  Furthermore, he stated that many believers today know little history of the church or even doctrine.  What we need, he said, is to have a biblical viewpoint.  The doctrine of the Bible develops our experience not the other way around.  The Word of God is filled with doctrine and Christians need to know what they believe in order to have a right experience with Christ.  He concluded his talk with two very poignant statements:  1) "We don't know Christ by all the things we need to do.  We know Him when He reveals Himself through doctrine and the Word.  Our thoughts must be the thoughts of Christ."  2) "Today, we need not only systematic, expository preaching, but we also need catechizing in the church.  Catechizing allows truth to stick to our hearts.  The church that doesn't teach doctrine will not last (John Calvin)."
     Following this wonderful look at the value of sound doctrine, Dr. Alistair Begg brought a message on mercy.  He opened by stating that "God's goodness is expressed by God's mercy."  His key passage of scripture came from Luke 6:27-36 where Jesus speaks of loving our enemies and turning the other cheek.  Dr. Begg stated, "Failure to practice this will not be excused due to ignorance."  Then he asked a question, "How well do you think Christianity in America is doing alongside Jesus' commands and instructions?"  Instead of being a loving, merciful people he pointed out that there is a spirit of grumbling, complaining and slandering abroad in our country.  Then, he pointed out the example of the proud, pompous religious Pharisee who prayed in the Temple saying he was glad he was not like the sinful tax collector who was seen repenting of his sins (Luke 18:9-14).  However, the tax collector was aware of who God was and who he was.  As a result, he could see his sin before the Lord whereas the Pharisee was blinded to his own sinfulness.  Dr. Begg stated that a heart of mercy recognizes sin, repents of it and then lives accordingly also granting mercy to his fellow sinners.  In his final statements,  concerning mercy, he said that as believers we need good manners along with courtesy and humility.  These attributes are grounded in God's mercy towards all people.  This is what we are to extend to others not hating our enemies but praying for them instead.
Over 5,000 of us young and old came to hear God's Word
     Another exhortation that proved beneficial was entitled "A Good Offense" presented by Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr.  He pointed out in his message that when God says something He shouldn't have to repeat Himself.  However, He does so at times so we do not forget it.  Unfortunately, we are a forgetful people.  God also repeats things to keep us out of trouble.  For that I am very thankful!  One area which God repeats over and over again is that we will be hated by the world.  In His high priestly prayer before His crucifixion, Jesus prays for believers.  In John 17:14, He says:  "I have given them Your Word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world."
     Unfortunately, we tend to love the world and want to be accepted by it, but the world will hate us because we belong to Jesus Christ.  Dr. Sproul stated that today Christians are mocked and belittled.  This makes us want to jump up and defend ourselves, but we must remember that our strength is in Christ who has over come this world and Satan.  The Gates of Hell will not prevail against the church and all who are called by the name of Christ.  Dr. Sproul reminded us that Jesus promised us that we will triumph over the strongholds of the enemy and that "the best offense is a good offense."  Therefore, when the world strongly objects to us, this is where we need to go with the Gospel.  The world objects to judgment and people don't like the fact that the Word is true.  Perhaps their greatest objection, though, is that our faith calls them to put their sin behind them.  Nevertheless, we are to shine a light in the darkness wherever we find it and remember that in the end we will triumph in Jesus Christ.
     After listening to these messages, I was encouraged and challenged.  The truth about sound doctrine, having mercy, loving our enemies and knowing that the world will hate us all are key to our Christian maturity.  God has told us plainly in the Bible how we are to live in this world.  I pray that this has encouraged you today.  I will bring this series to a close in Part III with the talk given by Dr. Ravi Zacharius and some closing thoughts.
     My goal in sharing this with you is to encourage and bless you as I pass along the truths shared from God's Word.  Think on these things and take time to look up the Scriptures for yourself.  May the Lord bless you as you do.  Selah!


Patricia said...

I'm sure it was a great conference. I discovered this morning that you can watch all the sessions for free online now here:

Barbara Thayer said...

It was wonderful. Filled with Scripture and fellowship time as well. Hymn singing that sounded like a rehearsal of heaven's choir. I am concluding with my thoughts about Ravi Zacharius and yes, I did discover that all sessions are available for free on Ligonier. God is so good to us! Thanks for sharing Pat.