Calvin on the Substitution of Christ

“Thus we perceive Christ representing the character of a sinner and a criminal, while, at the same time, his innocence shines forth, and it becomes manifest that he suffers for another’s and not for his own crime. He therefore suffered under Pontius Pilate, being thus, by the formal sentence of the judge, ranked among criminals, and yet he is declared innocent by the same judge, when he affirms that he finds no cause of death in him. Our acquittal is in this – that the guilt which made us liable to punishment was transferred to the head of the Son of God (Isa. 53:12). We must specially remember this substitutaion in order that we may not be all our lives in trepidation and anxiety, as if the just vengeance which the Son of God transferred to himself, were still impending over us. ” Institutes II.16.5

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Thoughts on Campus Ministry: A Letter To My Supporters

Dear friends and supporters,

Now that I’ve finished my two year internship immersed in campus ministry, I want to leave you with a few reflections on why I so highly value the work of the Navigators and students ministries. Over the past few months I’ve been thinking about why I committed my time to the Navigators and what I wanted to accomplish. I’ve asked myself many questions including: What am I passionate about? What is the purpose God has for me to accomplish for him, here, in this place and time? What can I learn from this and do better? As I thought about these questions, I realized that much of the reason I am working to help students get to know and follow Jesus is because it was here in university that I first came to know Christ myself. Today, I’d like to share with you all a bit of my story and give you some thoughts on why I believe campus ministry is integral to meeting the needs of Christian students and engaging our culture with the Gospel of Jesus.

From my story to His story

In my first year at university, through the new friendship of several Christians and a life changing encounter with God’s Word, I became a Christian. I had come to university an Atheist. Introduced to the Christian faith at a young age but never buying into religion as whole, I brushed it aside as unimportant and irrational. But then I met Josh. Josh grew up in a Christian family and was living out his faith in his second year at university. We met at a bike shop Josh worked at and had met up on campus to bike together. After only a few conversations, it was clear that Josh’s faith in Christ was rational, well thought out, and vitally important to his life, values and relationships. Josh’s faith was challenging to my own personal philosophies which after further examination, held no water. Eventually, after encountering other Christians and reading several books including C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, I was convinced there was a God and that Christianity made sense, but I needed to find out about Jesus for myself. I decided one night to read the New Testament. I picked up a Bible from my parent’s book shelf and decided to read a bit of one of the Gospels to get a firsthand account of what it said about Jesus. I turned to Mark because it was the shortest of the Gospels and I was astonished. I had never read anything like it. Jesus’ words and miracles came to life for me. I read the account of Jesus’ life and ministry with a new heart. I finished Mark in one sitting, and when I closed the Bible on my lap, I simply breathed out, knowing that what I had just read was true; that Jesus had really done and said those things and that he really was from God, sent to die for my sins and raised up on the third day from death. I believed for the first time it was true that I could die to my old self and be raised up with Jesus and be in heaven with him when I died. It wasn’t an adrenalin rush sort of experience, but it was certainly miraculous and I spent the next hour on my knees, praying for the first time since I was a child.

After I shared my experience of new birth with Josh and other Christian friends, I was quickly introduced to the Navigators, which became a staple of spiritual growth for me in the first few years of my new life, and a strong source of community and encouragement. My experience at university is not unique, and I believe that many others have benefited from the solid foundation that a community of believers on campus provides, and many more will come to know Christ and to be built up in him because of the investment of followers of Jesus who have given their lives to brining the Kingdom of God to the university campus.

Campus Ministry is…

As I experienced first hand, campus ministry is integral to connecting with new believers and young churched students who are finding their own way to Christ. As I considered how this works out and what exactly campus minstry provides, I’ve identified at least six good reasons for campus ministry to be a priority of the Christian church today.

.…a community for believers away from home

Christian students are often away from home and any of their usual support networks. Campus ministry is an easy way for them to connect with other believers. We have an opportunity being on campus to pursue these new students, and let them know that even though they’re in a new city and on their own, there are people that love them and want to invest in their spiritual lives. A community of believers on campus makes it possible to easily connect students with one another giving them the opportunity to help, tutor, encourage in faith, and pray for one another’s similar struggles and life challenges. This facilitates a great place for students to explore their faith apart from Mom and Dad. Statistically, so many kids who’ve grown up in Christian homes are likely to drop their faith by the end of their first year away from home without others to support them in living counter cultural lives for Jesus.

…an embassy of the Kingdom of God on campus

The university campus is a small town unto itself. It’s virtually self-sufficient, and with the tunnels my alma mater has connecting every building under-ground, it’s not uncommon to see light-deprived students making their way to class in their pyjamas. Campus ministry provides an open door to the Kingdom of God in the campus neighbourhood. Many students would go months without crossing paths with the front door of a church, and campus ministry is an amazing opportunity to provide a point of contact with non-Christian students to the community of faith and the Gospel. This embassy on campus is a place of rest for believers and a platform for them to reach out and invite their non-Christian friends to see and become a part of the community without the skepticism associated with being invited to “church”. The embassy on campus embeds Christ’s followers in the university culture, rather than pulling them out and away where they can have no influence. Ambassadors without an embassy in the country they are posted to have no platform to form relationships or communicate, and campus ministry provides just that opportunity in our universities.

…a place to serve and grow in Christ

Students are busy, and sometimes churches just aren’t close or convenient to get to when you live on campus. For many Christian students, the campus groups are a convenient locus for growth and service. On and off campus we provide bible studies on campus, large group meetings nearby with food, teaching and discussion, one on one mentorship on the student’s turf, and opportunities for groups of students to serve the disadvantaged in their community by various volunteer programs. These are also great opportunities to invite non-Christian students to join other students in serving the needy, before they’re ready to set foot in a bible study or church. Campus ministers are also in a position to really invest in students who want to develop their leadership skills and a vision for reaching their campus and friends for Christ. This is a vision they can carry on into whatever workplace or social group they find themselves in after university.

…a launch pad to get involved in the local church and community

Though there are many great opportunities that campus ministry affords, I want to make it clear that campus ministry is no replacement for the local church. Campus ministry is really only successful in its mission if, by being a point of first contact with many Christian and non-Christian students alike, it is able to get students plugged into a local church to continue to grow, serve and positively change their community. If students are to be impacted for eternity, they need to find themselves in an environment where they can continue to grow beyond the four years they’re on campus. The group of students campus ministers serve is inherently transient and four years goes by in a flash. Ultimately, it’s a matter of using our time wisely as God directs, and finding ways to encourage students to seek Christ and love their neighbours (whether on campus, in the suburbs, or in the workplace) for the rest of their lives.

…a strategic opportunity

University is a very formative season in every student’s life. It’s the first time that many explore their identity apart from their parents and begin to form life patterns and philosophies that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Most universities are secular environments that are skeptical of faith, and present many opposing worldviews to their students. It’s crucial for the church to have an influence on students at this stage of their lives in order to show them the love of Christ and give them the opportunity to see that Christianity is a coherent and rational worldview worthy of being considered.

…overseas missions in our own backyard

An astounding number of international students attend our Canadian universities. We have the opportunity to reach out to these individuals, many of whom have never heard about Jesus and come from countries that are hostile to Christianity. Many of these students would never dream of visiting a local Christian church, and for the most part, are required to live and work on campus so they spend little time outside the university. While we as a church need to be sending and supporting missionaries overseas and in every nation, we can’t miss out on the amazing fact that many of the nations have come to us. Every single international student has the potential to know Christ and return to his or her country with the Gospel in hand and heart to share with their families, friends and neighbours from within their own cultural context.

I hope you are encouraged by this. Campus ministry is a crucial opportunity in our culture which places such tremendous value on higher education. It is an opportunity to reach out to young people struggling to find their way in the world. Thousands of new students come onto campus every year, hungry to learn and and figure out who they are. I trust that God is using his people on campus to draw many of these students to himself, to be changed for eternity. Thank you for supporting this cause and my work in it over the past two years. I really believe it is an awesome part of God’s cause too. May he do it and use us for his glory.


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Thoughts on Baptism and Covenant

The paedobaptist view often cites two major factors (among others) in it’s justification for baptizing infants. First, the Old Testament precedent of circumcising infants as member of the covenant and second, the baptism of entire households in the New Testament. Regarding the former, it is clear to me that baptism is different in both form and function from circumcision. It’s referred to in the New Testemant as being an outward symbol of an inward spiritual reality, namely the new birth that takes place inside a person’s heart, resulting in faith. In baptism, Christians physically express being buried, having died, and being resurrected with Jesus into a new life. The New Covenant is made of up people of faith, not of physical birth:

Galatians 3:25-27
“But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For was many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

Romans 6:3-4
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Colossians 2:12
“…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.”

Now on to the latter argument. Despite the household baptisms recorded in the book of Acts, we see in each example of baptism in the New Testament that faith precedes the outward symbol. The new covenant members are those who have faith, and those who have faith are baptized into Christ’s death. I think it’s safe to assume that even if there were infant members of the household, they would not have been baptized along with those professing faith. When the people of Israel took an oath and entered into a covenant with God in Nehemiah 10, it says that in v.28 that “the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who have separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the Law of God, their wives, their sons, their daughters…”  all took part in the covenant to “enter into a curse and an oath to walk in God’s Law that was given by Moses the servant of God…” (v.29). But Nehemiah gives us one more crucial detail. Although he says “the rest of the people,” and mentions sons and daughters, in v.28 he distinguishes them as “…all who have knowledge and understanding…” Certainly this could not have included infants. As members of a household, those infants would have grown up as partakers of the covenant by proxy, but as they grew to a point of understanding and knowledge, would have had to make the choice for themselves whether to join with their fathers and follow the law of God. Though Nehemiah says “all”, he means all who had understanding and knowledge enough to make the decision in faith. So when the New Testament says that “all” of a household is baptized, certainly it is reasonable to assume that based on the New Testament precedent of faith before baptism and the explicit meaning of baptism, only those with knowledge and understanding (the capacity for faith), would have been included.

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Thoughts on “The Bondage of the Will”

This is from J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston’s concluding thoughts from the introduction to their translation of Martin Luther’s The Bondage of the Will. Packer and Johnston wrote this almost prophetic introduction in 1957. In my mind, it’s a message that is just as important today as it was more than 50 years ago.

Free will was no academic question to Luther; the whole Gospel of the grace of God, he held, was bound up with it, and stood or fell according to the way one decided it. . . [T]he doctrine of The Bondage of the Will in particular was the cornerstone of the Gospel and the foundation of faith. In particular, the denial of free will was to Luther the foundation of the Biblical doctrine of grace, and a hearty endorsement of that denial was the first step for anyone who would understand the Gospel and come to faith in God. The man who has not yet practically and experimentally learned the bondage of his will in sin has not yet comprehended any part of the Gospel…Justification by faith alone is a truth that needs interpretation. The principle of sola fide [by faith alone] is not rightly understood till it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia [by grace alone] . . . for to rely on oneself for faith is not different in principle from relying on oneself for works. The Bible teaches that faith itself is and has to be a gift of God, by grace, and not of self (Ephesians 2:8). It is safe to deduce that for Luther, any evangelist who advocates free will has not only “not yet comprehended any part of the Gospel,” but also that he has not yet preached the Gospel at all; his is a counterfeit gospel…

These things need to be pondered by Protestants today. With what right may we call ourselves children of the reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognised by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are foreced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther’s day and our own. Has not Protestantism today become more Erasmian than Luther? Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters? Or do we now, with Erasmus, rate a deceptive appearance of unity as more importance than truth? Have we not grown used to an Erasmian brand of teaching from our pulpits – a message that rests on the same shallow synergistic conceptions which Luther refuted, picturing God and man approaching each other almost on equal terms, each having his own contribution to make to man’s slavation and each depending on the dutiful co-operation of the other for the attainment of that end? – as if God exists for man’s convenience, rather than man for God’s glory? Is it not true, conversely, that it is rare today to hear proclaimed the diagnosis of our predicament which Luther – and Scripture – put forward: that man is hopeless and helpless in sin, fast bound in Satan’s slavery, at enmity with God, blind and dead to the things of the Spirit? And hence, how rarely do we hear faith spoken of as Scripture depicts it – as it is expressed in the cry of self-committal with which the contrite heart, humbled to see its need and made conscious of its own utter helplessness even to trust, casts itself in the God-given confidence of self-despair upon the mercy of Christ Jesus –’Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief!’ Can we deny the essential rightness of Luther’s exegesis of the texts? And if not, dare we ignore the implications of his exposition?

To accept the principles which Martin Luther vidicates in The Bondage of the Will would certainly involve a mental and spiritual revolution for many Christians at the present time. It would involve a radically different approach to preaching and the practice of evenaglism, and to most other departments of theology and pastoral work as well. God-centred thinking is out of fashion today, and its recovery will involve something of a Copernican revolution in our outlook on many matters. But ought we to shrink from this? Do we not stand in urgent need of such teaching as Luther here gives us—teaching which humbles man, strengthens faith, and glorifies God—and is not the contemporary Church weak for the lack of it? The issue is clear. We are compelled to ask ourselves: If the Almighty God of the Bible is to be our God, if the New Testament gospel is to be our message, if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever—is any other position than Luther’s possible? Are not in all honesty bound to stand with him in ascribing all might, and majesty, and dominion, and power, and all the glory of our slavation to God alone? Surely no more important or far-reaching question confronts the Church today.

I am grateful to God for the resurgence of reformed doctrine in many churches today. Still, there is a long road ahead. Reformed doctrine is certainly a bitter pill for evangelicals whose pallets are accustomed to sugar-coated, gel-capsule theology. So the truth may be bitter, but when taken in faith, it is good and true medicine for our souls.

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“…therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes”

Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook,
Or press down his tongue with a cord?
Can you put a rope in his nose or pierce his jaw with a hook?
Will he make many pleas to you? Will he speak to you soft words?
Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever?

6ft Megalodon Jaw Reconstruction

Will you play with him as with a bird,
Or will you put him on a leash for your girls?
Will traders bargain over him? Will they divide him up among the merchants?
Can you fill his skin with harpoons or his head with fishing spears?

Lay your hands on him: remember the battle–you will not do it again!
Behold, the hope of a man is false; he is laid low even at the sight of him.
No one is so fierce that he dares to stir him up,
Who then is he who can stand before me?
Who has first given to me, that I should repay him?
Whatever is under the whole heaven is mine.
-Job 41:1-11

Megalodon tooth next to Great White Shark teeth

O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all:
The earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide, which teams with creatures innumerable,
Living things both small and great.
There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
-Psalm 104:24-26

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Thoughts on Being Men of Honor

I thought I’d share my outline from a talk I gave to a group of guys for a Navigators discussion supper on Sexuality and the Gospel. The men and women in the group split up for the evening to discuss issues of sexuality, dating, and righteousness. Needless to say, the turnout was pretty significant compared to the average night. This is huge topic and there is a pressing hunger for truth and guidance in this area of life. It’s no wonder sexual sin is one of the most mentioned in the New Testament. My talk was one of three for the evening, the other two centering primarily on why and how Jesus meets our every need. My talk is just a piece of the puzzle, and focuses on how God has told us to live out our lives as men in dependence on Christ.

PART 1 – Foundations of Honor

1. God made man in his Image and for a purpose.
2. Our Culture has it wrong.
-promises honor and glory by: sleeping with as many women as possible, getting the best grades, having the best car/job/house, being the best at sports/video games, etc…
3. The Bible has it right: God has given us a higher calling
-better than the honor and glory our culture promises
-has nothing to do with physical strength, academic abilities or material wealth
-be strong in the faith (1 Cor 16:13)
-run the race (1 Cor 9:24)
-fight the good fight (Ephesians 6:101 Tim 1:18-19)
-Jesus died so that we could be clean and have a new spirit/desire/love and offers us this adventure of faith (1 Tim 2:1-13)
4. My Own Call of Duty experience.
-uninstalling the video game was the best thing I ever did – freed me up to pursue my responsibilities and calling
-taking that leap of faith, not finding my sense of worth as a man in my sniping abilities or score card while neglecting the real-life responsibilities God gave me.
-Example of Paul at the end of his life – ran the race (2 Tim 4:7)

PART II – God’s Call of Duty: To be the true men he has made us to be

What God has made MEN to BE: Leaders, Protectors, Providers

1.Worship Exclusively (spiritually monogamous)
-Christ Alone (Col 1:15-20)

2. Lead (by example)
-in guarding our hearts (Prov 4:23)
-in right living (Rom 13:13) (Phil 1:20)(personal responsibility for our actions, holiness, trusting in God’s plan and his commands)
-in pursuing Jesus first (Phil: 3:3-10)
-in courage and perseverance (John 16:331 Cor 16:13)

3. Love (self-sacrificially)
-protect the purity(SS 8:8-9), (Matt 5:28) (2 Tim 1:7)/heart/physical well-being of our sisters-in-Christ
-serve others, pick up our cross and lay down our lives for others

4. Provide (as God enables)
chivalryhealthy environments (make women feel safe and respected, appreciated for who they are and not what they can do/be for you), encouragement (spiritual, and in modesty – help her pursue modesty and godliness by showing her that that is what you value)
-if married: financially, emotionally, physically (Eph 5:25)

-Conclusion: God has given us the tools to be Men of Honor – Ephesians 6: Armor of God. So Answer his Call of Duty and find life in being the man he made you to be, with God as your strength (remember Ephesian 6:10 says be strong in the Lord) and your portion forever (PSALM 73:25-26)

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How My Daughter Taught Me to Love the Lost

I love my daughter very much. This may seem self-evident, but it’s a profound mystery to me. Even before I met her, I loved her. When N was born, my heart burst with love for this tiny human being that I had just met. I knew nothing about her except the colour of her hair and all she did was cry. She had no real personality, no likeable qualities (except being really cute), no intellectual accomplishments, no kind acts, no good works under her belt, and yet, I loved her more than I ever thought possible.

Even though I had just met her, I was already prepared to give up my life for N. This was the first time in my Christian life that I really understood our God’s great love for us. Just as our God’s love is unconditional, so too is my love for N. No matter what she does in her life, I won’t stop loving her.

As much as I love N, I am not naïve about her spiritual condition. I know that from the conception she was dead in her sin. She needs Jesus. Every parent of young children knows that they can be just as rebellious, disobedient, and impatient as they can be cute, sweet and loving. N is so young and yet she has not escaped the influence of sin in her heart. For N to be saved from sin, God needs to work a miracle in her heart.

Jesus said “Truly, Truly I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Prior to this new birth, we are spiritually dead. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1-3 that you and I “were dead in the trespasses and sin in which you once walked, following the course of this world…” and that “…we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” Romans 8:7-8 says that “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

In his book, Gospel Powered Parenting, William P. Farley writes that “Even a child’s testimony that he “accepted Jesus” or “asked Jesus into his heart” means very little by itself. That is because it is God who initiates new birth. Of course, the child is responsible to God to respond with faith and repentance, but a child can go through these steps and not have the saving faith, repentance and fruit that point to new birth. That is why it is foolish for parents to presume upon new birth. New birth is a radical change of heart that ushers in new desires, new loves, and a new life direction.”(p.28) First John 3:9 underscores the point that new birth is an act of God. “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God”.

My greatest desire for N is not that she will do well in school, have a great job and be self-fulfilled. More than anything, I want N to know and love Jesus Christ, because he is our only hope. My love for N drives me to preach the Gospel to her constantly. I want her to know who Jesus is and how he has changed my life, because nothing else really matters.

My love for N is inexpressible though she is not yet a born-again follower of Christ. The fact is that my love for her will be the same even if she chooses a life of sin. Knowledge of my daughter’s inherent enmity towards God and spiritual deadness does not change my love for her or my ability to enjoy her, care for her, and give up my life for her. I pray expectantly that God will act in her heart to turn her to Christ and that He would use me to show her the way.

And why should it be any different for any other lost soul; especially those amongst whom God has placed me and given me opportunity to love and tell about Jesus? It is so easy to categorize non-christians as “the other” as though they are part of another species. The fact is, they are our mothers and fathers, our sisters, brothers, friends, and children. Some of the dearest people in my life are spiritually dead and yet I have no problem loving them. N has taught me that the lost are not a people group that we must separate ourselves from. They are people that I am called to love, to connect with, to build relationships of trust with, and to show the way to a relationship with Jesus. The lost are real people, with real pain and deep wounds from their bondage to sin. I trust that God will act in N’s heart, and I believe that as I pray for my friends and family who don’t know Jesus and tell them the Good News of God’s grace, He will act in their hearts too.


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