Turning From a World That is Ours

The Lord Jesus promised us that the meek would inherit the earth. The prophets foretold this as well, saying that the earth would be as full of the knowledge of the Lord as the water covers the sea. They will not hurt or destroy in all the holy mountain. The apostle tells us that the world to come, the one we are in the process of inheriting, is subjected to man in Christ, and not to angels. So we are in the process of inheriting the world.

But the Bible also teaches that worldliness is a great sin—it is infidelity to Christ. We are commanded to obtain the world and at the same time to shun it. What does this mean?

It cannot be understood apart from the progress of the war we are in. We will obtain the world, but not in its current condition. The world as it is now is a world filled with corruption. We are not to love this world, meaning the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. At the same time, we are to long for a world that honors Christ with a feast of fat things, of wine on the lees, fat things filled with marrow, and wine on the lees well refined.

This kind of glorious feast has nothing whatever in common with the komoi of unbelievers. Their kind of reveling, carousing, partying, or moshing is offered to Dionysus, Paul explicitly indicates, and not to Christ. It does not belong to the day, but rather to the night.

Do you want to inherit the world? Then you must do what all faithful Christians do—you must forsake it, turning from it with contempt. Repent of trying to split the difference. You cannot cross a lake partly in a boat and partly in a car. Christ demands everything be surrendered in death. And then He gives it all back in resurrection. What a Savior!

Learning to Eat and Drink

You are what you eat. And what You are eating here (by faith alone) is the covenant body of Jesus Christ. You are being knit together, growing up into Him, bone of His bones, flesh of His flesh. This is a foundational meal, the one that informs and sanctifies all the other eating and drinking that you do. This is your primary meal.

Because the church in America has drifted away from faithful eating and drinking here, we have simultaneously drifted into a multitude of drinking problems and eating disorders. If any aspect of your eating and drinking life is out of kilter, then do not seek to fix that problem by yourself. You need to learn to put it right here.

Drinking problems originate because the lordship of Christ over all drinking is not properly acknowledged here. Learn to drink here, which means surrendering everything here, and you will learn from Christ elsewhere. Obsessive eaters who are gluttons need to learn from the simplicity of Christ here. There is no wantonness at His table. Obsessive eaters who are anorexic need to learn from the bounty of Christ, because the fat is the Lord’s.

Those who believe in salvation and healing through eating and drinking whatever the latest idolatrous fad is, whether vitamins, bee pollen, vegetables alone, etc. need to look to the worship of the true God alone as the place where they may find the signs and seals of their salvation. Your cupboards at home, whatever they contain, can be saved—but they are not, and can never be, a savior.

So, then, learn from Christ here. This does not mean figuring this Supper out, as though it were a math problem. It means eating and drinking in faith, asking God to apply His nourishing wisdom to your life, your eating and drinking habits, however He sees fit. He is giving to us; we are not giving to Him.

Why You Must Come

Let all the nations be glad. The Lord is God, and He is extending His reign to the uttermost parts of the earth. Since He is doing this, just as He promised, we cannot by our sins and compromises keep it from happening. But our sins and compromises can keep us from exulting in the glory of it, and participating in the blessing of it.

We cannot make the kingdom of God lose. But we can fall away from that kingdom, improving it by the apostasy. In other words, we can lose, and if we separate from the love of God in Christ, we will lose. Now for the elect, nothing can separate them—neither height, depth, power, principality, or any other created thing. But covenant members who love the world can fall away, and they do. They find the world and its baubles enticing.

You are assembled before God this morning as baptized believers in His Son. You are offering up prayers to Him. You will hear His Word declared to you. You will approach His Table, which He has graciously set for you. You are invited to sit down. But here is the dilemma.

If you are baptized, you are commanded to come. You must come. You may not shrink back or hesitate. But if you are living in unconfessed sin, you dare not approach. God is a jealous God, and does not permit you to eat from two tables at once. You cannot eat here and at the table the world sets. But, if you are baptized, you must eat here. Refraining is not an option, and is a great disobedience.

This means that there is only one thing you may do—repent of your desires for the other table. Turn away from it with loathing. Drop your sin. You must choose between the tables, and God has declared in your baptism what that choice must be. Here is bread and wine, set for you. There, at the table of the world, there is all manner of filth disguised as food. God has pointed the way for you. Come, humble yourself. Come, and eat. Come, and drink.

Sacralized Sentimentalism

“It may seem strange that Christians fell victim to the optimistic, humanistic, ‘romantic’ vision of love—so much so that its last strongholds are probably within Christian circles” (H.R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, p. 78).

Can”t Fight Gas With Gas

“Pop evangelical sentiments, diffused in their normal gaseous way, are utterly inadequate for resisting the spirit of our age, which wants to seep into the unsuspecting school through every available crack” (The Case for Classical Christian Education, p. 208).

The West as the True Woodstock

“It was the biblical empathy for victims that aroused a truly historical interest in ‘actual historical events,’ and it is this interest that helped define the world’s first counter-cultural culture — what we call ‘Western culture’” (Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, p. 131).

Westminster XXII: Of Lawful Oaths and Vows

1. A lawful oath is part of religious worship (Deut. 10:20), wherein, upon just occasion, the person swearing solemnly calleth God to witness what he asserteth, or promiseth, and to judge him according to the truth or falsehood of what he sweareth (Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; 2 Cor. 1:23; 2 Chron. 6:22–23).

Not only is an oath lawful, it should be considered an act of worship before God. The essence of an oath lies in calling God as a witness of what is said—invoking Him—as the ultimate judge of the truth or falsity of what is said. As an act of worship, an oath should be taken only upon just and solemn occasions—as in a wedding, or being sworn into membership in a local church.

2. The name of God only is that by which men ought to swear, and therein it is to be used with all holy fear and reverence (Deut. 6:13). Therefore, to swear vainly, or rashly, by that glorious and dreadful Name; or, to swear at all by any other thing, is sinful, and to be abhorred (Exod. 20:7; Jer. 5:7; Matt. 5:34, 37; James 5:12). Yet, as in matters of weight and moment, an oath is warranted by the Word of God, under the new testament as well as under the old (Heb. 6:16; 2 Cor. 1:23; Isa. 65:16); so a lawful oath, being imposed by lawful authority, in such matters, ought to be taken (1 Ki. 8:31; Neh. 13:25; Ezra 10:5).

When men swear, they are to do so in the name of the living God only. Because this is the only name to be used in a lawful oath, this means that the taking of an oath should be attended with fear and reverence. There are two ways of sinning in manner in an oath. The first is to swear by the name of the great and terrible God, but to do so frivolously. The other is to swear by the name of any other thing. Such things are not only sins, but sins to be abhorred. Nevertheless, when the occasion warrants, in matters that are weighty, an oath is lawful—regardless of the fact that we are under the new covenant. The New Testament contains numerous occasions of lawful oaths. Therefore, when the occasion is fitting, an oath should be taken.

3. Whosoever taketh an oath ought duly to consider the weightiness of so solemn an act, and therein to avouch nothing but what he is fully persuaded is the truth (Exod. 20:7; Jer. 4:2): neither may any man bind himself by oath to any thing but what is good and just, and what he believeth so to be, and what he is able and resolved to perform (Gen. 24:2–3, 5–6, 8–9). Yet it is a sin to refuse an oath touching any thing that is good and just, being imposed by lawful authority (Num. 5:19, 21; Neh. 5:12; Exod. 22:7–11).

With regard to the substance of an oath, only what is known to be the truth should be affirmed. Moreover, it is a sin to bind oneself by an oath to do a sinful thing, or to do bind oneself to fulfill something he cannot fulfill. One of the great concerns at the time of the Reformation was the question of vows of celibacy which many had taken. When they came out of Rome, were they obligated to continue to try to live in a celibate fashion? The Westminster theologians considered the unmarried state to be unnatural (unless God had given a gift of celibacy). For regular people, ungifted in this way, a vow of celibacy was sinful and to be rejected. In addition to this, in the original Confession, it was maintained that it was sinful to refuse to take an oath when a lawful authority required it. This is indicated by the sentence in bold, which was deleted by the first American Assembly of 1789.

4. An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation, or mental reservation (Jer. 4:2; Ps. 24:4). It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt (1 Sam. 25:22, 32–34; Ps. 15:4). Nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics, or infidels (Ezek. 17:16, 18–19; Josh. 9:18–19; 2 Sam. 21:1).

Oaths are to be interpreted according to a straightforward and honest handling of the words. If a man has bound himself to a sinful condition, the oath does not bind. Examples would include an oath to kill someone, or, as mentioned above, an oath of celibacy when one did not have the gift of celibacy. But if the oath does not bind to a sinful condition, but only to a difficult or grievous one, the oath remains in effect. The authority of the oath is not affected by the spiritual condition of the one to whom the promise was made.

5. A vow is of the like nature with a promissory oath, and ought to be made with the like religious care, and to be performed with the like faithfulness (Isa. 19:21; Eccl. 5:4–6; Ps. 61:8; 66:13–14).

The same goes for vows.

6. It is not to be made to any creature, but to God alone (Ps. 76:11; Jer. 44:25–26): and that it may be accepted, it is to be made voluntarily, out of faith, and conscience of duty, in way of thankfulness for mercy received, or for the obtaining of what we want, whereby we more strictly bind ourselves to necessary duties: or, to other things, so far and so long as they may fitly conduce thereunto (Deut 23:21–23; Ps. 50:14; Gen. 28:20–22; 1 Sam. 1:11; Ps. 66:13–14; 132:2–5).

A vow is not to be made to any creature, but only to God. It is a freewill offering, not made under compulsion. The motive force is faith and conscience of duty. The reasons we may pay our vows may be thankfulness for mercy, or for material blessings. When we receive such things, we set up fences for ourselves, in order that we may serve God effectively in our new station.

7. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he hath no promise of ability from God (Acts 23:12, 14; Mark 6:26; Numb. 30:5, 8, 12–13). In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself (Matt. 19:11–12; 1 Cor. 7:2, 9; Eph. 4:28; 1 Pet. 4:2; 1 Cor. 7:23).

To reiterate an earlier point, no man may lawfully vow to do an unlawful thing. Nor may he vow to do something which would hinder him in his duties, or make a vow he is unable to perform, and has no reason to suppose that God will enable him to perform it. Specifically, the vows of perpetual celibacy, assumed poverty, and obedience to the standards of a monastic order, are not at all examples of super-spirituality. They are actually superstitions and horrible traps, in which no Christian should remain. A good contemporary example of this kind of vow is the common vow, which many evangelicals have taken, to abstain from any alcoholic beverage in any form. In all such things, the devil is up to his regular tricks . . . taking wonderful things away from us.