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Richard Fuller on Death

One usually doesn’t find great statements about death while reading a sermon on “Joy in the Lord,” but such was the case for me recently. I was reading a sermon by Richard Fuller, the third president of the SBC, from Series One of Sermons by Richard Fuller, and came across the following passage.

It is a noble spectacle to behold a Christian calmly meeting the last struggle, enduring with patience the pains of a protracted illness, and resigning himself tranquilly to the necessity of dying. But is it thus a Christian ought to die? Oh, no. It is the privilege of every child of God to have a desire to depart and be with Christ which is far better; to long with holy imparience for the Redeemer of his soul; to close his eyes upon the whole world and feel the sublime attractions of eternity; to exclaim, “My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of theLord, me heart and my flesh crith out for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.” It is the privilege of every child of God not only to rejoice when fig tree and vine and olive wither, but when the whole universe is receding from his vision. Then, when flesh and heart shall be failing, it will be your privilege, Christian, you consolation and joy, to look up and see the heavens opened, to triumph in an Almighty Saviour who is the strength of your heart and your portion forever, to rejoice in the Lord, to exult with transports ineffable and full of glory in the God of your salvation.

Fuller brings up an important distinction. Too often Christians speak of “dying well” as just resigning oneself to death–not whining, not complaining, just dying. Rather, “dying well,” is longing to be with Christ, longing to be free from this life, longing to see one’s God and Savior. “Dying well,” is a privilege that Christians have because of Christ and his work, and it is a privilege of which Christians too often do not avail themselves. We can and should do more than just resign ourselves to death. Even pagans and atheists can do that. The philosopher Epicurus said, “Death, therefore, the most awful of evils, is nothing to us, seeing that, when we are, death is not come, and, when death is come, we are not.” But this stiff-upper-lip kind of resignation to death is not the Christian’s portion. Rather, we have a hope, secure in heaven. We have a righteousness seated at the right hand of the Father. We have a reason to long to be free from this life that the unbeliever does not have. Let us change our thinking so that we long with a holy longing, even from the earliest ages, to be with Christ, which is far better.

Baptist Identity After The Revolution

Anyone familiar with the events that have taken place in the Southern Baptist Convention over the past year knows that there is a shift taking place. For those of you who haven't followed SBC life closely, you should know that almost every SBC institution has been or is in the controversial spotlight. The reasons for this are many.

A few of these can be found in the latest issue of First Things. You'll find them in an article written by theologian Dr. Timothy George. His article, entitled "Southern Baptists After the Revolution", takes a look at movements that are presently affecting SBC life. He doesn't write the article simply to recount all of the drama that has taken place, although there is plenty to be said about it. Instead, he analyzes these happenings and concludes that they all point to a historic shift that is taking place in the SBC. 

The main reason for such a statement, Dr. George argues, can be seen in the election of underdog presidential candidate Dr. Frank Page. The election of Dr. Page serves as one of very few times in which a presidential candidate was elected without the endorsed of the most prominent SBC leaders. 

Dr. George writes about several small groups within the SBC that contributed to this election and might contribute to, what Dr. George calls, a historic shift. These groups consist of the Charismatics, Neo-Calvinists, Women's Missionary Union, Baptist Bloggers, and the Young Moderates. While these groups are gifted at networking and nitpicking, Dr. George argues, they are not likely to have great influence they lack vision compelling enough to ignite a revolution in the SBC. 

I think that this is an article that Southern Baptists should read. There's a lot of insight in it. But I don't think that these rumblings will lead to the kind of upheavel that the SBC saw in the Conservative Resurgence. Why? Well, I think that our current situation is missing an element that was critical to the implementation and success of the Conservative Resurgence, theological disconnect. 

The Conservative Resurgence gained more and more support as Southern Baptists learned what was happening at the Southern Baptist Institutions. Initially, people were hesitant to get involved because they did not realize how bad things were at the seminaries, missions agencies, and all the rest. They didn't know that professors were teaching that the Bible had errors. They assumed that the men and women who they supported through the Cooperative Program were just like themselves. They were wrong. And as they learned how wrong they were, as they learned of their betrayal, they joined the Resurgence ranks. These events have created a skepticism (that can be healthy) towards SBC institutions that remains to this day. I even remember the warnings I received as I left for seminary, warnings not to lose my faith and passion for Christ. 

Regardless of what some might say, the situation we are in today is quite different. The more people discover what kind of people are teaching and leading our institutions and what they are teaching and leading Southern Baptists to do, the more their skepticism and frustration towards those whom they've elected will be alleviated. I think this will prevent the kind of shift that many might think is in our future.

This doesn't mean that there aren't many issues that must be addressed. Each of these groups represent an issue that is going to have to be dealt with. I think one of the most pressing issues that Southern Baptists will have to deal with will come from the charismatic party. We will have decide whether or not the Baptist Faith and Message should include another statement, one that speaks to charismatic issues. There's already work being done towards understanding the Calvinist issues. In fact, Dr. George speaks about the way that Dr. Mohler and Dr. Patterson, two seminary presidents, have initiated this important conversation.  And the list goes on.

Whatever the result, it is clear that in the SBC the times they are a changing. The extent to which they change and how they change is yet to be seen. Revolution isn't always necessary, reform is.     

Is Baptism a Requirement for Church Membership?

The answer is "yes," at least according to Jim Elliff and Daryl Wingerd of Christian Communicator's Worldwide. In their insightful article on the subject, these brothers argue for the historic Baptist (and biblical!) perspective on the relationship between baptism and the local church. This is a timely article in a day when many Baptists are considering an open membership policy that allows for both immersed and sprinkled Christians to be church members.

Holiness and Holy Writ

Spurgeon's BibleEarlier this week Josh Powell posted Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s famous quote about holiness. Since holiness is such an important attribute for ministers, cultivating holiness is one of the primary concerns that each of us should have as a goal in our lives. We should constantly be striving to reflect the holiness of our Lord Jesus rather than being conformed to the passions of our former ignorance (1 Peter 1:13-16).

So how does we cultivate holiness? How do we begin to live out the holy lives to which we were called? What disciplines that we have help produce holiness in our lives? One of the most important, and most beneficial disciplines that we can pursue is memorizing scripture. One should not be content with merely reading and reflecting upon scripture. Actually knowing it should be our goal. Knowing scripture is vital for preaching, teaching, witnessing, and most importantly, for killing sin. To that end, I would like to recommend two websites that offer two different methods for memorizing scripture.

The first site is the “An Approach to Extended Memorization of Scripture” section of the First Baptist Church, Durhan, North Carolina. This site gives helpful instructions for how to daily use short periods of repetition to memorize large portions of scripture–even whole books of the Bible–over time. I have known numberous people who found this site beneficial to their souls, and I am thankful for this site.

The second site is the Figure 8 Scripture Memory System website. This system encourages reading and medidtating upon a chapter of scripture eight times a day for eight days. By doing this, one begins to master whole chapters of scripture. The system is a little more detailed than what I have described, so I recommend that you stop by the site and read up on the system.

Both of these sites are extremely valuable resources to believers. If holiness is one God’s goals for us, would we not be wise to avail ourselves of these means to its end?

College Football Contest Week 1

Here at the Witness we are going to do a weekly college football contest. We are going to have people comment on who they think will win the games of the week in college football. College Football has always been around our household an avenue of fellowship and fun that we can enjoy together. Also, it is another wonderful way for believers to fellowship and “hang out” together. Enjoy the weekend with friends, family, and the church. So I hope that this will be a fun activity here at the Witness.

Week One:

football helmetsHere