Editor’s Note: Josiah is the Missions Minister at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM. This post is a summary of Mark Dever’s message from Sunday morning at Clarus, February 26, “Worship,” from Romans 12.
Many have falsely taught that worship is an experience of singing and an inward focus on our feelings—shutting out the world and our surroundings—but biblical worship is an offering of one’s whole self to God. We are living sacrifices, worshiping the Lord everywhere we are, every day of the week, in everything we do, and with everyone we know. Because of this, Mark Dever leads us through ten questions we must ask ourselves to assess whether our worship is biblical.
10 Questions to Assess our Worship
- Are you being transformed? When we rightly worship, we find ourselves becoming transformed. We display God’s character to creation and are no longer conformed to the patterns of this world. We come to this place of transformation by having our minds renewed through the studying of God’s Word.
- Are you thinking about yourself soberly? We all tend to exaggerate our own importance. Paul specifically cautions against thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought.
- Are you using your gifts? We need to look at the church body and see what the needs are and then seek to fulfill those needs. True biblical worship is using the gifts God has given us to love, bless, and edify others.
- Are you loving others? Worship is not just “me and Jesus.” Are we known for our love for others? This love is a devotion to honor others more than yourself.
- Are you persevering? We don’t persevere around suffering, we persevere through it. “Take up your cross and follow me.” Endure suffering with patience and with faithfulness in prayer.
- Are you sharing? The overflow of our affections for God and our appreciation for the gospel fuels the love that leads us to share with God’s people who are in need. We are to not only love the church, but pursue hospitality with strangers. No matter how you felt during the singing, if you are not loving the people around you, you are not worshiping God.
- Are you blessing? Worship involves blessing others. We are to say good things to and about others. We are to bless them and pray for them. True Christian worship involves blessing those who curse you. This is how God treated us.
- Are you sympathizing? Are you rejoicing with those who rejoice, and mourning with those who mourn? Some people think that Christianity is displayed through detachment from this world, but the image of God is reflected in sympathy.
- Are you being humble? Humility produces harmony. Where there is a lack of humility there will be a lack of harmony. Don’t just stick with those that share your values and interests. Cultivate relationships with those with whom you have nothing in common and that will display the gospel.
- Are you overcoming evil with good? Every time you seek revenge for evil acted against you, then you are screaming to God, “Oh God, please send me to hell!” We don’t want people to get what they deserve, but we ourselves deserve hell. Revenge is unnecessary. God will repay evil. Paul is more concerned with us not sinning and helping others to not sin, than he is with others sinning against you.
Conclusion: We are not passive worshipers, but having received grace, we are called to be exceedingly active in our sacrifice of worship. We are worshipers by nature, the question is: what or whom do we worship?
Editor’s Note: Nathan Sherman is the Pastor for Preaching Christ Church, Albuquerque, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of a panel discussion from Saturday afternoon, February 25, with Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert.
Question: What do we do with Romans 9 with God’s seeming election of ethnic Israel?
Mark Dever: Paul shows that God’s election is of individuals, not nations.
Greg Gilbert: The problem presented in Romans 9 is that most of the “elect” nation of Israel is in disbelief. So at face-value, it looks like God’s election isn’t working, but Paul explains that not all of ethnic Israel is actually of the elect.
Question: How do we reconcile that the gospel is an invitation that individuals must accept, and yet at the same time affirm God’s sovereignty?
Mark Dever: I’d recommend a great, little book called Big God, by Orlando Saer. The idea that God is sovereign does not mean that he doesn’t use means to accomplish his purposes. One of the clearest places in the Bible is in Acts 4:24 and following. We know that God is sovereign, and we know that we are responsible. We must affirm both of these and then go from there.
Question: How do you know if you’re of the elect?
Greg Gilbert: If you believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, you are of the elect. Don’t wait around wondering if you are or not. If you feel the need to repent of your sins and turn to Christ, then repent of your sins and turn to Christ! Later, you can look back on that and see that God was sovereignly calling you.
Mark Dever: Evangelical Christians have long pondered over these questions, and perhaps the divide between Calvinists and Arminians is wider than we think. We just sang “And Can It Be” by Charles Wesley who was largely Arminian but with wonderful “Calvinist” overtones. We have so much overlap and friendship.
Question: Should everyday Christians care about the Reformation?
Greg Gilbert: It’s been a long time since I’ve paid much careful attention to the details and dates of the Reformation, but the theology of the Reformers acts as a minesweeper for your own theology. They raise questions that you didn’t even know you were wrong about. There is also nothing new under the sun in error, so they are dealing with many of the same things we deal with today.
Mark Dever: Any biography that Banner of Truth publishes will bless your soul. Watch people who have run the race before us and learn.
Question: What did the Reformation change? Is justification at the top of the list?
Mark Dever: The authority of the Scripture alone actually comes before our understanding of justification. Exegetically, there is no way that when Peter hears Jesus say “upon this rock, I will build my church”, Peter then thought, “Hey, I’m the pope.” The foundation and authority of the gospel does not come from the Church—it comes from God revealed to us in Scripture. God’s people never makes God’s Word; God’s Word always makes God’s people.
Another massive doctrine that was affected was the doctrine of assurance. The Reformers and Puritans regularly talked about the “damnable doctrine of doubt.” Rome teaches that it is wrong for someone to presume that they will go to heaven when they die. When your Roman Catholic friend hears you say that you know you are saved, they hear a very prideful statement, but the doctrine of assurance is sweet to us—that we can go to sleep tonight knowing of our salvation through Christ. There was not one person in Europe in 1500 that could do that. There is a reason that the Protestant Reformation lit up Europe.
Question: What about vocation? We hear people talk about the Protestant work ethic.
Greg Gilbert: It’s not at all unrelated to what Mark was just describing. As long as justification is by faith in Christ alone, it changed everything. If I’m saved by Christ alone, then everything that I need is secure in Him and not my work. This doesn’t lead to laziness, because everything that I do is for the King. Wherever you work, you have been deployed there by the King to work with excellence and worship.
Question: Where was the gospel before the Reformation?
Mark Dever: God alone knows the answer to that. As someone who majored in Medieval History, we lament the many splendid centuries that many call the Dark Ages. There is a lot that goes on between Augustine and Luther, and a lot of it was very mixed—Augustine himself has a very Catholic ecclesiology but a very Protestant soteriology. Many people were believing, writing, and preaching many evangelical things—just not with the influence and clarity of the Reformers.
Question: Is the Reformation on-going and do we keep reforming?
Greg Gilbert: One of the battle cries of the Reformation was semper reformanda—always reforming. The same errors and temptations of the human heart to add to our salvation will be there in every generation. I had to have that kind of pride driven out of my heart, and we will have to drive it out of our children’s heart. The work of the Reformation is not that of always-changing, but that of always conforming to the gospel.
Mark Dever: We are here in New Mexico talking about the book of Romans. Why are we doing that? The same reason that Paul did—to make the gospel clear. We are continuing the work of the Reformation.
Question: Are there not saved, regenerate Christians within the Roman Catholic Church?
Greg Gilbert: A college minister of mine answered that very helpfully: “There are probably many people within the Catholic church who are actually saved by grace alone and faith alone, but if they are actually saved, then they are saved in spite of the teachings of the Catholic Church and not because of the teachings of the Church.”
If I were to meet someone in the Catholic Church whom I believed to be saved, I would urge that person to find a church that would not weekly preach against the gospel of Christ alone.
Question: When someone says that the Reformation is over, what do they mean and how do you respond?
Mark Dever: They are probably reflecting that because we live in a very secular age. We are recognizing that we share so much in common with the Roman Catholic Church. But what they are not taking into account is that all of the differences that existed in the 16th Century are still there. We have never had a debate about Jesus or grace or faith. Where we disagree is over the word “only”—that we believe that we are saved through Christ alone through grace alone through faith alone.
Question: What do you say to someone who says, “While I largely trust in Christ alone, sometimes I trust in my own salvation. Am I not saved?”
Mark Dever: You may not be. But we are sinners, even as Christians, so it’s not surprising that you would think like a sinner and trust in your own work. But having said that, it is normal for a Christian to enjoy long periods of great assurance.
Question: If the Reformation was a split from Rome, are we dividing the Church which Jesus said should not be divided?
Mark Dever: Here in this room I have talked to many from extremely diverse traditions and denominations. We didn’t need someone in a pointy hat in Italy to tell us that we had to be here. People all over the world are sharing the gospel very clearly without some earthly authority telling them to or protecting their message. Our Catholic friends think that unity should be visible or organizational. The fact that we give our missionary dollars to thousands of different organizations confuses them. But the visible and organizational structure of the church is just not found in the New Testament—it is a spiritual organization and unity.
Greg Gilbert: If the faith is based on the foundation and teaching of the apostles, then I think we need to ask who are the real schismatics? Who really left the gospel?
Question: Why do many protestants leave their churches? What is alluring about Rome?
Greg Gilbert: The folks that I have known have been unsettled that there is disagreement among Protestants—they want an earthly, authoritative voice to tell them what the Bible means. But I’ve found that many of the most fruitful times in God’s Word have been the times that I have wrestled through the text in disagreement with others.
Mark Dever: The great statistical traffic is from the Roman Catholic Church to Protestant churches and not the other way around. The only reason that the Catholic Church is not beginning to almost entirely close is because of Hispanic migration to the U.S. But I would agree with Greg—when someone leaves for the Catholic Church, it is nearly always a search for authority. If that’s you, then I would encourage you to study history. The Catholic Church has a history of just as many questions, disagreements, and debates.
Editor’s Note: Ethan Hester is the Preaching Pastor at Grace Bible Church, Las Cruces, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Mark Dever’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, February 25, “Election,” from Romans 9.
In Session 6 this afternoon Pastor Mark Dever preached on election as presented in Romans 9. He recognized the fact that while there is no subject as controversial as election, this chapter and the doctrine of election specifically have been the greatest agent of change for how many believers think about God.
After coming to the climax of his gospel presentation in Chapter 8, Paul’s mind is moved to the truth that not all will take part in God’s glorious salvation. In his mind the possibility of an objection arises. He is struck with the question of whether Israel’s rejection of Jesus means that God’s word has failed. It could easily seem that way, given that Israel has received so many blessings in being God’s chosen people, and yet they have not believed in Christ as the Messiah.
What is the answer to this problem? It is to remember that God’s word hasn’t failed and that Israel’s response to Christ as the Messiah is due to God’s electing purpose of choosing some for belief and salvation and some for unbelief. There are seven things that we should remember about God’s election.
- God’s election is not simply physical (vv. 6-7). Election doesn’t extend to all of Abraham’s physical descendants. God’s election is not the same as an outward calling. The Israelites had an outward calling, but many did not receive the promised Messiah in faith. You cannot inherit a good relationship with God.
- God’s election is based on himself (vv.8-13). God’s choice of some for salvation has nothing to do with any man’s foreseen works or faith, but rather on God and his love.
- God’s election is just (vv. 14-18). Paul anticipates that a human may be tempted to question whether or not God is just. But we are reminded that God told Moses that He has the right to show mercy and compassion on whomever he chooses (Exodus 33:19) and that He hardens whomever He will. He ironically gives the example of Pharaoh’s heart being hardened in comparison with unbelieving Jews.
- God’s election is not relieving humans of our responsibility (v. 19) Just because God chooses some, it does not mean that those who don’t believe are off the hook for their sin. On the contrary, because we sin we are all guilty before God and rightly deserve hell, though some of us are saved in spite of that fact.
- God’s election is revealing (vv.20-23) God’s election reveals God and His place as Creator, who has the right to make vessels for honorable and dishonorable uses as He sees fit.
- God’s election is international (vv.24-29) God’s election isn’t just tribal, but it is for some inside of Israel and for some outside of Israel, the Gentiles.
- God’s election was predicted (vv.30-33) God doesn’t elect those in and out of Israel because he needed a new plan after his original one failed. Instead it was always his plan that Christ, the “stumbling block”, would come and cause many inside of Israel to stumble by lacking faith in Him as the Messiah.
For those of us who may struggle with the doctrine of election, we should aim to lay down our judgment of God and His choice, and remember that He is the one who will be judging us. For those who are convinced, remember that the doctrine of election shouldn’t bring an air of superiority because of our knowledge, but instead it should lead to a heart of love for the lost as we remember that we too were once slaves to sin and that we did nothing to earn our place in God’s family.
Editor’s Note: Mike McDonald is the Lead Pastor at Faith Church, Rio Rancho, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Greg Gilbert’s message from Saturday afternoon at Clarus, February 25, “Salvation,” from Romans 8:31–39.
Greg Gilbert moved us into this next session on salvation through the study of Romans 8:31-39. Gilbert describes these verses as the crowning moment of Chapters 5-8. If you are trusting in Jesus for salvation, then you can ultimately know three things: God loves you, is for you, and nothing in the universe will ever change that. If your faith is in Jesus, then you can have rock solid confidence that you will be saved.
Because of Jesus, God is forever on your side. (v. 31-34)
Gilbert argued that since the beginning of Chapter 5, the question that Paul has been attempting to answer is this: can God save people solely through Jesus? The answer to this is a resounding yes! These verses function as the legal claim that God has upon us through the work of Christ. Gilbert continued by stating that this is not just a logical truism, but by reaching back to Chapter 5, he reminded us that those who are justified by faith have peace with God. This gives the believer confidence that our faith in Jesus causes God to be for us. Further, we are united with Jesus and like Jesus, raised to a newness of life. Gilbert argued that, “our salvation as Christians will fail only if our union to Jesus can be broken. Jesus says with fire in His eyes, that will never happen.” Gilbert concluded this argument by reminding the listener that in Romans 8 we are adopted as His children, ultimately for the glory of God. Therefore, to the degree that God is for Jesus, He is for us. Given this, no one can bring a charge against us or condemn the one that God declares to be righteous. Because of Jesus, God is forever on your side.
Because of Jesus, nothing will ever separate you from His love. (v. 35-39)
Gilbert then argued that God’s affection was not set upon His people because of their power or standing, but because of who God is. Because His love for us is rooted in His character, it can never be lost or shaken. There is nothing so special about us that should make Him love us. He loves us for His own name’s sake. Paul describes a list of legitimate trials that could cause our faith in His love to falter, and yet, these trials do the opposite. They confirm God’s love for us because we know that He is using all these things for our good. If your trust is in Jesus, those things won’t be enough to make you forsake Him. Because you are deeply and dearly loved, you are secure, no matter what trials you face.
Editor’s Note: Aaron Colyer is the Lead Pastor at First Baptist Church, Roswell, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Mark Dever’s message from Saturday morning at Clarus, February 25, “Conflict,” from Romans 7.
Dever begins by giving us some big picture ideas in the chapters leading up to Chapter 7. Gilbert previously described to us the great faith explained in Chapter 4, in which we also see our own connection to Adam in his sin. In Chapter 5 Paul discusses the peace we have by faith in Christ, and Chapter 6 reveals the newness of life every believer experiences. However Chapter 7 takes us back to the conflict we have with the law of God, revealing our sin in spite of the fact that every genuine believer is reborn. The encouragement for the Christian reading Romans 7 is found in that while sin and death continue in this life, so do grace and victory over sin through Christ!
Dever contends that Paul’s argument follows three questions:
- What is our relationship to God’s rules? The law is no longer our master, as “the law is only binding on a person as long as he lives.” As in marriage, the covenant is only broken through death, and the covenant of the law has no power in the life of a Christian because we have “died to the law through the body of Christ.” As believers we are to recognize that we are dead to the law and Christ is our new master. It is a joyous message to know that because of the death of Christ, we are freed from the threat of God’s wrath hanging over our heads. Because of His power setting us free from sin, we are free to now bear fruit for God!
- Are God’s rules good? Though we are dead to the law now, it is still good. The law made us aware of our sin, but sin is the culprit- not the law. Our ambusher, betrayer, assassin, and murderer is sin, not the law! Each person has rejected God’s truth, and in so doing we have been mortally wounded- not by the law, but by our own sin. Thus, Dever encourages us to take heed of Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the LORD is good, blessed is the man that takes refuge in him.” While it is good that the law expose our sin, we should also resist the temptation to find our identity in our sinfulness, lest we forget the Imago Dei by which we have been created. This honesty about sin only helps the Christian to celebrate the victory that is found in Christ!
- Do God’s rules kill us? Paul emphatically answers his own question quite strongly, “By No Means!” Paul’s problem was not that he was bound to the law, but that even in his vindicated, new life, he is still bound to sin. If Paul should “delight in God’s law” and yet struggle through sin, we too must be prepared to endure that same civil war in our own hearts. This war only leads us to rely on the victory that comes through Christ alone. Our triumph is in Jesus and the gospel. We don’t need more rules, we need rescue! And thanks be to God- Christ Jesus has provided that for us!
Editor’s Note: Spencer Brown is the Lead Pastor at Center City Church, Albuquerque, NM. He is a member of the Albuquerque Chapter of The Gospel Coalition. This post is a summary of Greg Gilbert’s message from Saturday morning at Clarus, February 25, “Faith,” from Romans 4:18–22.
In Session 3, Gilbert explored the source of our faith as found in Romans 4. While our culture may see faith as being weak and childish- an empty belief in the ridiculous—our faith is a strong, confident, trust in God to do everything that He has promised. A strong, confident trust in God does not mean that faith comes easy. God may promise what seems impossible, but our trust must be grounded in the God who makes the promise, not the believability of the promise.
3 Questions About Faith
- Faith is what? Paul raises the stakes as he adds components to the definition of faith in Romans 4:18-21. The final definition of faith comes at the end of the progression: Abraham was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised. Paul defines faith as believing in God’s promise in three ways: trusting when everything else around seems impossible, trusting and waiting in that promise for a long time, and believing without wavering.
- Faith in what? Abraham grounded his faith, not only in the promise of God, but in the kind of God who made that promise. The promise was made by the one God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.” What a Christian needs is not more faith, but stronger faith. It comes through increasing your understanding of who God really is, and ultimately making a decision to rest on that.
- Faith does what? The faith described in Romans 4 should affect change in our lives. Faith increases our love for God and our desire to obey Him. Our view of God is in direct proportion to our love and corresponding obedience to Him. If we see Him as small, we will have small love and small obedience. If we seem Him as great, then we will have great love and great obedience. Faith also gives us courage to defy the world, it produces joyful endurance, and it unites us to Christ- pointing us to eternity.
Conclusion: Greg concluded by reminding us of the hymn, Abide with Me, that reflects on God’s promise that we will abide with Christ in heaven for eternity. When our eyes our finally closed on this earth, they will be opened in heaven. We will watch as dawn breaks, and God fills all the universe with the knowledge of His Glory.