It’s been a while since I’ve posted a new “From the Pastor’s Study” because I’ve been absent from the pastor’s study. At least that was true two weeks ago: from June 11th – 15th I was in Wheaton, Illinois, as a commissioner to the OPC’s General Assembly (more below on that). As for last week, I was back home but preoccupied with an unexpected pastoral crisis. So this morning I am finally back on the church blog and ready to post.
Part of being Presbyterian means involvement in the work of the church at the regional and national levels. I go to our presbytery meetings twice a year but the last time I attended a General Assembly (GA) was a full twelve years ago (astonishingly, the OPC has managed to get along without me throughout that time!). I was long overdue. So when I learned a couple of months ago that our presbytery needed one more commissioner to send to this summer’s GA meeting, I volunteered to go. And I’m glad I did.
The fellowship with brothers in Christ was a great joy. An added blessing at this GA was the opportunity to meet fellow pastors and elders from a sister denomination, the United Reformed Churches of North America (URC). The OPC and URC met together this year for our respective assemblies to celebrate the completion of a joint publishing project, the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. All our singing when we met for meetings or worship was from this new Psalter-Hymnal. What a blessing to hear 500 voices singing praise to God with the Psalms and with the great hymns of our faith!
As for the business of our GA, one significant decision we made was to establish a committee to draft a revised version of the Westminster Standards with modernized language. The committee’s mandate explicitly forbids any doctrinal revisions; it only calls for updates to the 17th-century language of our standards. I voted for this measure with the belief that the Westminster standards in updated language could be a great help to our churches in teaching the Scriptural truths we confess and hold dear. I’m looking forward to the results (though of course they may be a long time coming).
This past Lord’s Day I preached from Luke 9:23-27, in which Jesus declares: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The cross doesn’t stand for some especially trying affliction, but it is a symbol of death. As someone has said, “when Christ calls a man he bids him come and die.”
Salvation in Christ is all of free grace – we can do no works to earn forgiveness and eternal life; only by resting in the finished work of Jesus Christ can we be saved from sin and death. Nevertheless, salvation is costly. It cost the Father his beloved, eternally-begotten Son. It cost the Son his very life. And there is a cost for us, too, if we are to be saved. We must give up our natural self-rule and self-centeredness and submit to Christ’s rule and orient our lives around his will instead of our own. This is what it means to take up our cross daily – daily we die to ourselves that we may live to Christ.
Finally, two quick book notes. I just finished reading a very helpful and eye-opening explanation of transgender ideology, When Harry Became Sally by Ryan T. Anderson. Anderson writes compassionately of those who struggle with their sexual identities, but he shows how transgender ideology is dangerous both to transgender people (especially children) and to society at large. Though written from the perspective of natural law (that is, Anderson makes no appeal to Scripture), nevertheless this book confirms the biblical worldview that God created man male and female and we can only be happy when we accept the gender God has given us.
Also, I just started reading For to Me to Live Is Christ by Davis A. Young. This is a son’s biographical tribute to his father E. J. Young, the great Old Testament scholar and Orthodox Presbyterian churchman. Young was a brilliant linguist (he had a reading knowledge of 25 – 30 languages, ancient and modern), a first-rate scholar, and a committed Christian who held fast to the authority of Scripture and the Reformed faith. It’s humbling to read about such extraordinary saints – truly we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Soli Deo Gloria!