Godly Sorrow & Worldly Sorrow

Dear Church Family,

In the sermon this coming Sunday, we will be looking at Jonah’s prayer which he prays from the belly of the great fish (Jonah 1:17-2:10). As we examine Jonah’s prayer, we will be looking at it with an eye toward what we may learn about how we ought to pray – particularly how we ought to pray prayers of repentance. There’s much to learn from Jonah’s prayer, so I encourage you to read this passage this week and meditate upon it – perhaps even using it as a guide for your own prayers of repentance.

Sorrowing Over Sin

When we think about repentance, we usually think in terms of grieving and mourning over our sin. The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines “repentance unto life” in these words: “Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavour after, new obedience” (WSC 87). Here, the confession speaks of a sinner’s ‘grief and hatred of his sin.’

Grieving over our sin is an important element of true repentance. Yet, the Apostle Paul also warns us about the difference between godly sorrow and worldly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:8-11). In these verses, the Word of God teaches us the difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Worldly sorrow, which is marked by regret, produces death. Godly sorrow, which is marked by repentance, is according to the will of God and leads to salvation. Worldly sorrow is just another name for self-pity. Godly sorrow is filled with earnestness – a diligent pursuit of the forgiveness and grace of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Fruit of Godly Sorrow and Repentance

So, this sort of godly sorrow (in contrast to worldly sorrow) produces repentance which leads to salvation. This repentance is marked by earnestness and diligence (seriousness and sober-mindedness). But then, in verse 11 of this passage, Paul lists seven characteristics of what it means to be earnest in the midst of godly sorrow.

These are the kinds of fruit that we may expect from a godly sorrow which leads to true repentance (2 Corinthians 7:11):

(1) Vindication – the character of the church in Corinth had been called into question as to whether they were actually Christians or not, but they vindicated themselves by responding with Godly sorrow and repentance.

(2) Indignation– the Christians in Corinth were indignant not with Paul, but with themselves. The scandal in their church which had gone unchecked caused them to rectify the matter through godly repentance.

(3) Fear – fear that if they did not repent, Paul would come with the rod of discipline as the messenger of God’s judgment.

(4 & 5) Longing & Zeal – longing and zeal to be restored to fellowship with God, one another, and with Paul; and the only way they could be reconciled would be to repent and correct the problem.

(6) Avenging of wrong – meting out justice through church discipline, and putting the house and family of God in order.

(7) Innocent – sin had gone unchecked in the church in Corinth, but as far as the specific matter in question is concerned, they are pure and holy.

Regretful Sorrow

In the movie the Big Kahuna, there are three salesmen who are sent by their company to a conference in Wichita, Kansas to sell industrial lubricants. The entirety of the movie takes place in their hotel room. One of these salesmen is a Christian. But, he’s a self-righteous Christian named Bob. He thinks that he is the only one with any character of the three. Well, by the end of the movie, one of the other salesmen, Phil, played by Danny De Vito, confronts this young, self-righteous Christian. He says to him: “We were talking before about character, you were asking me about character, and we were speaking of faces. But the question is much deeper than that. The question is do you have any character at all? And if you want my honest opinion, Bob, you do not, for the simple reason that you don’t regret anything yet.”

As you can imagine, this sticks in Bob’s craw, so he says: “Are you saying I won’t have any character unless I do something I regret?”

“No, Bob,” says Phil, “I’m saying you’ve already done plenty of things to regret. You just don’t know what they are. It’s when you discover them, when you see the folly of something you’ve done, and you wish that you had it to do over again, but you know you can’t because it’s too late. So you pick that thing up and you carry it with you to remind you that life goes on, the world will spin without you, you really don’t matter in the end. Then you will attain character because honesty will reach out from inside and tattoo itself all across your face. Until that day, however, you cannot expect to go beyond a certain point.”

Danny DeVito’s character was trying to answer the right question: “What do you do with folly? What do you do with sin?” His answer was, “You confront it, you grieve over it, you pick it up and you carry it around with you.” He was so close. He was half-right.

Repentant Sorrow

But, for the Christian, for those who are living the Gospel out in their lives and in the church, the answer to the question: “What do you do with sin?” is this: You confront it, you grieve over it, and then you add…repentance – repentance, which leads to salvation.

This repentance comes from a Godly sorrow that is marked by earnestness, zeal, and diligence – trusting in the grace of God, the finished work of Christ, rooting out the sin in our lives. It is laying “aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, running with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

For, we are His bride – holy and pure. We are “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10)

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Reflections on the 41st PCA General Assembly

Dear Church Family,

As I wrote about in my last email, last week was the 41st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. It’s the highest court in our denomination which meets annually. This year there were about 1,200 delegates in attendance. There is some general information about what the General Assembly does and some links for further information in my last email; so, I refer you there if you would like to learn a little more general information. However, I thought that I would share with you this week some of my personal thoughts and reflections.

Fellowship

First of all, one of the highlights for me was the opportunity to connect with fellow ministers and ruling elders whom I have gotten to know in various places over the years. On the first night, during the opening worship service, I was surprised to find myself sitting next to a former classmate from seminary who I haven’t seen for 14-15 years. It was wonderful to catch up with him, other pastors, elders, missionaries, and chaplains throughout the week. It is encouraging to get a glimpse of what God is doing through these men, the churches where they serve, and the various ministries in which they are involved.

Seminars

Over the course of the week of General Assembly, there are many different sorts of activities. There are opportunities to attend seminars on various topics. I was able to attend some good seminars on preaching, insights into ministry to Muslims, and a special seminar on the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture presented by Ligon Duncan and Al Mohler, which was excellent. They presented a history of how this important doctrine has come under attack in the past, and the unique ways in which it is coming under attack today.

Worship Services

Each night of the Assembly (Tues, Wed, and Thurs), all of the delegates, visitors, and families in attendance gather together for a worship service. Each night, there is a different preacher (usually selected from the presbytery which is hosting the Assembly that year). The theme of the worship services and sermons this year was Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the Church, “makes all things new.”

Business

Here is a brief summary of the actions of this year’s General Assembly: http://theaquilareport.com/actions-of-the-41st-general-assembly-of-the-pca. The main purpose of the meeting of General Assembly (GA) is to conduct the business of the church. This takes many forms. The GA receives reports from the delegates of various other denominations in our nation and around the world with whom we have fraternal relations. We also receive reports from the permanent committees of our denomination and approve or disapprove their actions and requests. The PCA has nine permanent committees: Christian Education and Publication, Covenant College, Covenant Theological Seminary, PCA Retirement & Benefits, Inc., Mission to North America, Mission to the World, PCA Foundation, Ridge Haven Conference Center, Reformed University Ministries.

There are several other items of business, but one of the most important is discussion, debate, and voting on overtures which have come to the GA from individuals, sessions, or presbyteries. This year, there were 23 overtures (http://www.pcaac.org/general-assembly/commissioners/overtures/). With such a large group of people involved, parliamentary procedures are followed, and it can become a bit confusing as motions, substitute motions, amendments to motions, inquiries, and all sorts of things go one. If you’ve ever watched CSPAN and debates on the floor of the House of Representatives, you get the picture. If you’re not familiar with Roberts Rules of Order, it can all seem so very confusing and laborious; however, it is important work of the church and necessary for maintaining good order in the church.

As I say, it is all important work of the highest court of our denomination, but I want to just draw your attention to two items which, in my mind, are something that we all should at least be aware of:

(1) There were several overtures dealing with a trial in which a minister of our denomination (Peter Leithart) was tried by his presbytery for holding views which are commonly known as ‘Federal Vision Theology’ (the views of both the New Perspective on Paul & Federal Vision theologies were formally denounced as being contrary to the Westminster Standards by the GA in 2007). The minister who was in question was found not guilty by his presbytery and this judgment was upheld by our denominations Standing Judicial Commission (a group of 24 men from our denomination who are elected to try ecclesiastical court cases at the highest level in our denomination).

There are many in the PCA (myself included) who believe that this judgment was in error, that Mr. Leithart does indeed hold to and teach views which are not only contrary to the Westminster Standards, but that strike at the heart of the biblical understanding of justification by faith alone. There is a lot of background information which I don’t have time to go into at this point, but would be happy to do so at some later date.

However, at this point, there is a very practical issue that came to light last week. Any attempt to address this court case by the GA of our denomination was made impossible by the procedural rules that are currently in place. This means that, in practice, it is very difficult (if not impossible) for the highest court of our denomination (GA) to address any concerns that it may have with regard to the actions of the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC). Here is a very brief summary of issues involved (with some helpful historical context provided in the comments section): http://www.bringthebooks.org/2013/06/no-court-of-appeals-for-pca.html.

(2) In 2011, the General Assembly elected an “Ad Interim Study Committee on Insider Movements.” That committee brought two reports to the GA (one in 2012 and one this year, 2013). If you’re unfamiliar with the “Insider Movement,” it is basically an attempt on the part of missiologists and missionaries to seek ‘converts’ to Christ, while those ‘converts’ continue to maintain the forms and practices of their birth and societal religions. There are many facets to the Insider Movement, but in essence, proponents of the Insider Movement argue that a person who is converted to Christ from Islam can still attend the mosque and still partake of all of the religious and social practices associated with their former faith. They are called ‘insiders’ in that proponents see them as covert missionaries to people of other faiths. Here is an excellent, recent article which explains the problems with the Insider Movement: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/insider-movements-gutting-the-bible.php.

In 2012, the GA dealt with part one of the study committee’s report. That report mainly dealt with the issue of some Bible translations which have arisen out of the Insider Movement which remove ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ in the Scriptures as references to God. Proponents of the Insider Movement see these familial references to God in the Scriptures as obstacles to evangelizing people of certain faiths (e.g. Muslims). The report condemned such Bible translations and part one was approved by the General Assembly last year (http://theaquilareport.com/at-the-pca-general-assembly-ad-interim-study-committee-on-insider-movements-overwhelmingly-approved/).

In 2013 (last week), the GA dealt with part two of the study committee’s report. This report was a 163-page in-depth study of the history of missions and the Insider Movement, interaction with Scripture and Reformed theology, with recommendations for churches to help them in their evangelistic and mission outreach. There was also a 65-page minority report written by one man on the committee. The minority report “does not advocate for all that is represented as Muslim insider ministry, but it contends that there is a strong biblical basis for some aspects of insider ministries.” It was an attempt at a ‘via media’ (a middle way), embracing some aspects of the Insider Movement and rejecting others.

There was much debate over whether to receive and adopt the minority report. It seemed that about half of the delegates present were in favor of it. In the end, no final decision was made concerning these reports but they were referred back to the study committee for further improvement. For my part, this was the most disturbing part of this year’s General Assembly. The best that I can hope is that those who were in favor of the minority report either didn’t read it or didn’t understand it.

To be sure, there are many different reasons for which people vote on particular issues and I may be oversimplifying the issue, but it’s hard for me to see it any other way. What harmony has Christ with Belial, the believer with the unbeliever, or the temple of God with idols? The Church of Jesus Christ is the temple of the living God; He is our God and we are His people. “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:15-18).

I recommend the following article in which the author succinctly summarizes what I believe to be the crux of this debate: “If the vote to recommit the reports back to the study committee had not been narrowly won, the PCA would have been on record of accepting radically different ideas concerning the nature of religion, the nature of the church, the nature of conversion, and the exclusive connection between Jesus and his church” (http://theaquilareport.com/the-pca-insider-movement-report-mutually-assured-destruction/).

Conclusion

No church or denomination is perfect, yet the goal and motto of the Presbyterian Church in America is a noble one: “Faithful to the Scriptures, True to the Reformed Faith, Obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.” Last week at General Assembly, we learned that there is much to praise God for in His blessing of the ministry of the gospel and the work of His Church in the PCA. And, we learned that there is still much to be done. This week, at PPC, in our sermon on Sunday from the book of Jonah we were exhorted to not be arrogant isolationists, but liberal with the free offer of the gospel to all peoples. And, through VBS this week, the children who come are being discipled in the faith. There is much to praise God for in the life of our local church, and still much work to be done, as well!

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

41st PCA General Assembly

Dear Church Family,

I will be leaving on Tuesday morning to attend the 41st General Assembly of our denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). The General Assembly is the annual meeting of the pastors and elders (presbyters) in our denomination. It is the meeting where we conduct the ecclesiastical business of our church. Below are a number of links where you may find out more of what goes on, as well as stream video of the business and worship services.

About the General Assembly: http://www.pcaac.org/general-assembly/resources/about-general-assembly/

Overtures presented to the 41st PCA General Assembly: http://theaquilareport.com/overtures-for-the-41st-general-assembly-of-the-pca

Docket: http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/41st-GA-Docket-FOURTH-draft.pdf

Live Streaming: http://www.pcaac.org/general-assembly/general-assembly-streaming/

You may particularly be interested viewing the worship services each day according to the following schedule:
- Tuesday (6/18) worship service: 7:30 pm
- Wednesday (6/19) worship service: 4:30 pm
- Thursday (6/20) worship service: 7:30 pm

The Lord be with you!

- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch

Galatian Summaries

Dear Church Family,

This coming Sunday, June 16th, will be our last sermon in our Sunday morning series in the book of Galatians: “Gospel Orthopedics.” As such, I thought that it might be of some use to us all to remember the main points and summary of Paul’s epistle by way of summary. The first summary is my own attempt at creating a “Cliff Notes” rendition of Galatians. The second summary is my own attempt to think about the letter of Galatians as if it were a letter from a teacher to his second-grade math class.

So, below are my attempts to summarize the letter of Galatians in somewhat unique and different ways. My intent is not to re-write the Word of God. To quote Paul in Galatians, “May it never be!” Rather, I found this exercise helpful for me in better understanding the main points of Galatians. I hope these may be of some help to you (and maybe even a little entertaining).

A “Cliff Notes” Galatians

Hello (1:1-5), you guys are messed up (1:6-10)! Listen to me because I am not messed up; I am an Apostle: what I am telling you came straight from Jesus, Himself. So, listen up (1:11-2:14). Righteousness (justification) only comes through faith in Christ. We are all sinners, so anything we do (including keeping the law) is worthless and we will die. But because Christ died, was resurrected, and now lives in us, we will live (2:15-21). Let me prove it to you: you experienced it (3:1-5), the Old Testament proves it (3:6-4:11), I’ve experienced it (4:12-20), and here’s an illustration from the Old Testament (4:21-31). Therefore, forget about the silly, man-made rules, and serve each other in love because you are all of one faith in Jesus Christ (5:1-15). Live by the Spirit, don’t gratify your sinful nature (5:16-26). Help each other with this. You guys need all the help you can get (6:1-10). Alright, I’m done now. Let me just summarize everything that I just said in my own hand-writing so you know that this letter is from me, and how important I think this is. May God’s peace, mercy, and grace be with you (6:11-18).

A “Mathematical” Galatians

(1:1-5) Dear second-grade class: How are you doing? I am fine. I am writing to you in the name of Pythagorus, that great mathematician who has helped to define all that we know about mathematics and unites us together in one theory of numbers. I am surprised to hear that you have already turned from the truth that I told you about when I first taught you – when you came to see the light of the truth in what I said. Anyone who says any different has perverted mathematics. In fact, just by changing it, they have moved on to talk about something that is not really mathematics at all.

(1:6-2:14) You should listen to me because I have actually spent a lot of time with Pythagorus himself. He, the one who started it all, gave me his formulas and taught me about the intricacies of math in geometry, trigonometry, and even calculus. In fact, he chose me to deliver the meaning and understanding of mathematics to you. I didn’t get it from anyone else. He taught me himself. I took what he gave me and presented it to the other great mathematicians of our time (not so much to see if I was right, but to make sure that we were all on the same page). They all agreed that what I had received was truly from Pythagorus. There were a few who thought they should oppose me in my understanding of math, but I showed them that they and their followers were wrong.

(2:15-21) Here is the simple truth: one plus one equals two; one plus two does not equal two.

(3:1-5) You foolish second-graders, who taught you that one plus two equals two? You must know that this is wrong, or you would not have seen the truth when I first told you about it. Look at your own fingers. If you have one finger up on one hand, and one finger up on the other, what do you find when you put them together? Two, of course!

(3:6-4:11) I site the works of Democritus and Hippocrates as proof that this is true. Otherwise, they could not have determined the formula for the area of a pyramid. Not only that, look at the works of Euclid, Archimedes, and Apollonius. All these great mathematicians and scholars point to the fact that one plus one is two. Otherwise, they could not have determined the area of a cone.

(4:12-20) I know how you all have looked up to me. Just because I am speaking the truth and not trying to make you feel good, you should realize that I still care about you. I know from my own experience that one plus one equals two. That is one of the chief reasons that I want you to be like me and come to the full understanding of this fact. For there is so much more, once you get the basics of mathematics down.

(4:21-31) Look, ‘one plus one equals two’ and ‘one plus two equals two’ cannot both be right. How could it be? The moment that you change one of the numbers in the equation, it is no longer truth. The former equation (one plus one equals two) is true and leads to a life of freedom in mathematics. It is a glorious thing which sets you free so that you can soar on the wings of Pythagorus. However, if you return to the lie of the latter equation (one plus two equals two) then you will be enslaved to its deception. It will lead you down paths, from which you will never be able to return. Your mind will turn in on itself. You and your companions will turn on each other and you will be consumed in your own web of hypocrisy and you will surely die.

(5:1-26) Because one plus one equals two is such a simple and fundamental truth, I want you to rest in it and be assured that it will never fail you. From this simple equation, the boundaries are limitless. You are free to progress far beyond it and have fun with math. Soon you’ll be painting pictures. Wait until you see what happens when we start multiplying and dividing and applying our theorems to everyday life!

(6:1-10) Get away from that which is inside you that causes you to try and be too creative. What I have told you is really not that difficult, but you make it difficult when you begin to disbelieve it and begin to think that one plus two equals two. It can never be! You kids need to help each other in this. I know how easy it is to forget, so I need you to remind each other every day that one plus one equals two. Be kind when you do it, and remember that you are all bearers of this same truth.

(6:11-18) Well, let me close this letter with my own hand-writing so that you know that it is truly me telling you these things. Remember, one plus one equals two. Now stop making trouble for me by saying anything but ‘one plus one equals two.’ I bear the truth from Pythagorus himself. Anything that comes from anywhere else is rubbish. May you continue along the path which Pythagorus has set for us. Goodbye.

The Lord be with you!

- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch