Tuesday, June 09, 2020

2020.06.08 Session Meeting Digest

Hopewell Session Meeting Digest
Stated Meeting, June 8, 2020
The Session is grateful for your prayers, service, and encouragements. The following are some highlights of important items and actions from this month’s regular (stated) meeting.

▪The elders continue to study the Scriptural teaching on delighting in the Lord in and by means of His day. Each month, Elder Patterson assigns to each elder a portion of that month’s chapter in the book, The Day of Worship. This month’s chapter was on thinking through the idea of “Legalism” in connection with the 4th commandment and the Christian life:
pp119–122 (led by Elder Paterson). Those who begin to keep the Lord’s Day biblically most often find themselves accused with being legalists. God’s law is so important to His Word and to Him. God wrote His law on the heart of Adam, and with His own finger on the tablets of stone which were kept in the ark, and promises in the New Covenant in Christ’s blood to write that same law on our hearts. Christ does this, and continually does this, in the lives of those whom He redeems. With such an emphasis upon God’s law in Scripture, it is necessary for us to distinguish what legalism is and isn’t.

pp123–126 (led by Elder Rentschler). “What Legalism Is Not.” Although many have their own definitions of legalism, but legalism in its proper sense is not when we think that we are bound by the law; rather, legalism is when we misuse the law. The law, properly used, defines sin for us, convicts us of sin in the first place, and continues to show us our remaining sin. “Obedience to Christ does not entail keeping the law as a covenant of works in order to justify ourselves in the sight of God. Obedience to Christ is keeping the law of God out of gratitude in a spirit of worship and thanksgiving as a response to the covenant of grace.” Both the one who attempts to justify himself, and the one who does not think they need to obey, deny the grace of God. One denies that he needs God’s grace to do what he must do; the other denies that God’s grace is needed, because the law has been dispensed with.

pp127–136 (led by Pastor Hakim). “What Legalism Is.” There are three things that we call legalism.
legalism is thinking that we are made right with God by what we do. This is utterly impossible, since we have never done anything that is worthily good; and, it is a denial of grace (which is at the very heart of the gospel and God’s glory in it), since it makes God our debtor.

legalism is adding to or taking away from God’s law. Either one of these actions replaces God’s law with our own, putting ourselves into God’s place. The Pharisees were expert at both of these things, adding to God’s law commandments of their own imagination, and taking from it much that they found unkeepable, so that Christ spends much of His own exposition of the law showing that it required far more than the people had been taught. So, the question becomes, “what exactly does God’s law require?” If God’s law requires a day be consecrated as holy for His purposes, as it does, then it is those who try to dilute or reduce this requirement who are actually guilty of this Pharisaic form of legalism.

legalism is thinking that we can advance in sanctification by what we do. God’s law defines what sanctification looks like, and God gives us much instruction about the means that He uses to grow us in grace. But our use of the means cannot earn this grace. The only strength in which we are able to hope to be sanctified is Christ’s strength. The only worthiness for which we can hope that God’s grace will sanctify us is Christ’s worthiness. Christian prayer and effort in repentance and in use of God’s means is hope-based prayer and effort. It stems not from the question of whether we will be sincere or diligent enough, but rather from the absolute certainty that God cannot fail to do as He has promised.
pp136–141 (led by Elder Rentschler). “What Is the Solution?” We have the free grace of God in our lives. We should learn to base our love for the law of God in our love for the God of the law. God actually promises (in places like Ezekiel) to do this for us, and to restore us to a place where His law is perfectly upon our hearts.

pp141–143 (led by Elder Mangum). Legalism and antinomianism are two sides of the same thing, divorcing the law and the grace of Christ from one another. We should not be surprised when it is difficult to keep God’s law, because Scripture teaches us how great are the demands of God’s law, and how impossible it is for us to keep it. Therefore, this should keep us from trying in our own strength to keep it, but rather depending upon Him. And, this should stir up for us a longing for the day that is coming, when we will love God in truth with all our heart.

When we do hear charges of legalism against Sabbath-keeping, it gives us an opportunity to think more carefully about proper Christian interaction with the law of God.
The law perfectly describes Christ, and perfectly describes what Christ is doing in us, so we need to be careful about how we use the word “legalism.” He closes with a quote from Ryle on how the perennial problem when it comes to the fourth commandment is not to focus on it too much, but to change its requirements or discard it altogether, which historically has destroyed true Christianity everywhere that this has been done. Elder Mangum reported that reading this book with his family has been moving and rewarding for him.

The Diaconate suggested expanding the monthly men’s breakfast to include a monthly service project after breakfast, where service can be exercised, others can be helped, and men young and old can build skills. This was a great idea and heartily approved.

The treasurer reported a total checking balance that is significantly decreased, due in large part to an insurance payment and supplies purchased for the workday projects. There will be a forthcoming note from the diaconate presenting pros and cons of painting v.s. siding the Chapel, and one of the things that may hinder siding it is that we are nearing the required buffer level in the checking balance.

We are grateful to God for His continued provision, and we look to Him to continue to stir up our hearts generously, to provide for all of this congregation’s needs material and spiritual, and to give us wisdom as we employ what He has entrusted to us.

In light of mass confusion not just in the culture, but even in the churches, on several important subjects, we’re going to pause the current series in the class after finishing up justification this week. Beginning June 21, we will devote several class periods to presenting biblical truth in order to counter generally accepted (even in many/most churches) cultural ideas about race, racial reconciliation, authority and submission in civil government, and evidence of God’s judgment against a nation and what to do about it.

As usual, there were a number of issues of spiritual care for particular people that were discussed, planned for, and prayed for.

▪The Session plans to have its next regular monthly (stated) meeting on July 20 at 6p.m. Those who wish to meet with the Session need not wait until this time. Contact the Moderator (Pastor), and we can appoint a couple of us as a committee to meet with you in whatever place or time is convenient.

Thank you for praying for us!

Pastor James

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