Thursday, April 29, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Christian’s Duty to the State

The Pastor’s Perspective
“The Christian’s Duty to the State”
First Published: October 5, 2000

In our last week’s column, we observed that there are at least four “Guiding Biblical Principles” for Christian citizenship found in the Scriptures. They are: (1) Recognize that civil government (even secular, anti-Christian civil government) is ordained by God himself for the good of all people [Romans 13:1-7]. (2) Remember the commandment of Christ to “love neighbor and enemies,” especially as it informs our role in society [Matthew 5:43-48]. (3) Take seriously your “Salt and Light” Responsibilities in society [Matt 5:13-16]. (4) Bear in mind your “Stewardship Responsibilities” as they relate to government and society [Genesis 1:28; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Corinthians 10:5], according to God's word and for His glory.

Now every Bible-believing Christian is, of course, interested in obeying the teaching of the Bible as to how we are to relate to and understand the role of the state. We said last time that there are many Scriptures which explicitly address citizenship issues, but six key ones come immediately to mind: Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-21; Titus 3:1; and 1 Timothy 2:1-2. I would challenge you to study these passages and pray through them.

But what does this mean practically for me? What am I supposed to do? Well, if I were to boil down the implications of the above passages for us, Christians living in the third American century, I would make at least the following points.

Our basic requirements as believers are to: (1) submit to (obey!) lawful government authority (Romans 13:1; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13); (2) acknowledge that God himself ordained government (Romans 13:1); (3) pay your taxes (Romans 13:7; Matthew 22:21); (4) show respect to those in authority (Romans 13:7; 1 Peter 2:17); (5) pray for those in government (1 Timothy 2:1-2); (6) serve in government if called (Daniel 1-6; Esther; 2 Samuel 7; Romans 16:23); and (7) vote! There’s more to say, of course. Much more. But not less.

Peter Lillback (a PCA minister) recently sent out a letter that said: “Did you know that there are many Christians who do not vote in state and national elections? The scriptures are clear as to our responsibilities as Christian citizens. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21), and the Apostle Paul teaches that “everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).”

He continues: “Our vote is important! It is critical to the preservation of the freedoms included in our Constitutional heritage which assure personal expression of faith and belief within both the public sphere and the private domain. In his Farewell Address written over two hundred years ago on September 17, 1796, President Washington declared: ‘Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.’”

In light of this, I want to encourage you to vote on November 7th, 2000. The deadline to register to vote is coming up soon! If you have recently moved, or have never registered, or are about to turn 18, make sure you are properly registered.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Christian as Citizen

The Pastor’s Perspective
“The Christian as Citizen”
First Published: September 28, 2000

Does it amaze you that the Bible in general and the New Testament in particular have so much to say about Christian citizenship? Think of it. In the days of the earliest Christian era, believers were marginal to society and living under totalitarian regimes. Surely in such settings, the Lord was not interested in fostering their patriotic responsibilities. Well, if that’s our attitude we are wrong. For, to those politically disenfranchised and socially peripheral people, the Lord gave many instructions about how to relate to their rulers, governments and nations.

That should speak volumes to us. We live in a democratic republic. We are part of a large and influential constituency in our nation. We have more individual political influence that most early Christians. And yet sometimes we fail to exercise our God-given responsibilities and allow our feeling of alienation from the society because of our “out-of-stepness” with prevailing cultural norms to lull us into apathy about our civic duty as Christians.

There has never been a more dangerous time for such apathy. Our culture is at a turning point – really, a point of no return. Christians still have the ability to have a say in the final outcome. The raging issues of abortion, homosexual rights, and toleration/intolerance are but symptoms of the deeper conflict between worldviews: one based on transcendent truth and abiding moral principles, the other based on relativism and transient, societally-created virtues.

The Christian citizen must be concerned about these things and be prepared to do his or her utmost to honor God in civic duty as a follower of Christ. But on what basis? How? Well, the Bible (as we have already noted) gives us some principles.

First, the Scripture contains a number of passages which explicitly instruct Christians in matters of our relationship to rulers and government.

Second, Jesus’ neighbor and enemy command comes into play.

Third, Jesus’ teaching on our “salt and light” responsibilities are directly relevant to our citizenship obligations.

Fourth, our stewardship responsibilities (part of the original creation mandates given by God to Adam, and to all people) inform our role as citizens. Let’s explore some of these passages and then draw some conclusions.

The First “Guiding Biblical Principle” for Christian citizenship is to obey the teaching of the Bible as to how we are to relate to and understand the role of the state. There are many Scriptures which explicitly address citizenship issues, but six key ones come immediately to mind: Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Matt 17:24-27; 22:17-21; Titus 3:1; and 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

In Romans 13:1-7, Paul says: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”

There is more to say about this passage than space available allows, so we will return to this subject again.

Your friend,
Ligon Duncan

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ryle on the Success Syndrome

We learn, from this passage, how ready Christians are to be puffed up with success.
It is written, that the seventy returned from their first mission with joy, "saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through your name." There was much false fire in that joy. There was evidently self-satisfaction in that report of achievements. The whole tenor of the passage leads us to this conclusion. The remarkable expression which our Lord uses about Satan's fall from heaven, was most probably meant to be a caution. He read the hearts of the young and inexperienced soldiers before Him. He saw how much they were lifted up by their first victory. He wisely checks them in their undue exultation. He warns there against pride.

The lesson is one which all who work for Christ should mark and remember. Success is what all faithful laborers in the Gospel field desire. The minister at home and the missionary abroad, the district visitor and the city missionary, the tract distributor and the Sunday-school teacher, all alike long for success. All long to see Satan's kingdom pulled down, and souls converted to God. We cannot wonder. The desire is right and good.

Let it, however, never be forgotten, that the time of success is a time of danger to the Christian's soul. The very hearts that are depressed when all things seem against them are often unduly exalted in the day of prosperity. Few men are like Samson, and can kill a lion without telling others of it. (Judges 14:6.) No wonder that Paul says of a bishop, that he ought not to be "a novice, lest being lifted up with pride, he fall into the condemnation of the devil." (1 Tim. 3:6.) Most of Christ's laborers probably have as much success as their souls can bear.

Let us pray much for humility, and especially for humility in our days of peace and success. When everything around us seems to prosper, and all our plans work well--when family trials and sicknesses are kept from us, and the course of our worldly affairs runs smooth--when our daily crosses are light, and all within and without like a morning without clouds--then, then is the time when our souls are in danger! Then is the time when we have need to be doubly watchful over our own hearts. Then is the time when seeds of evil are sown within us by the devil, which may one day astound as by their growth and strength.

There are few Christians who can carry a full cup with a steady hand. There are few whose souls prosper in their days of uninterrupted success. We are all inclined to sacrifice to our net, and burn incense to our own drag. (Hab. 1:16.) We are ready to think that our own might and our own wisdom have procured us the victory. The caution of the passage before us ought never to be forgotten. In the midst of our triumphs, let us cry earnestly, "Lord, clothe us with humility."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Uniting to Transform Because We Have Been Transformed

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Uniting to Transform Because We Have Been Transformed”
First Published: August 31, 2000

My mind is flooded with many responses to such a moral outrage. Too many to mention here. But among them are these thoughts. I wonder if we (conservative Christians living in this Beulah Land of Mississippi) have been desensitized to the infanticide going on all around us in our own land. Does it shock us any more? I wonder how long it will be before our culture will be able to embrace, with only the faintest suppressed twinge of conscience, euthanasia and infanticide – careening as it is down the road in that direction. Will Planned Parenthood and the Hemlock society win the moral high ground? They will. They surely will, if we remain silent and passive.

Now, how can you address anything else in a column when you’ve mentioned something like that? Well, probably, you can’t. But I’ll beg your indulgence.

As we face a world trying to kill itself, we simply must face it as a family: a deliberate, Christian, caring family. I’m profoundly thankful for what the WIC are doing to minister in this regard. A few months ago, Winona Costello reminded me of a convicting comment from John Stott, says: “the world’s...challenge, then, concerns the quality of the church’s fellowship. We proclaim that God is love, and that Jesus Christ offers true community. We insist that the church is part of the gospel. God's purpose, we say, is not merely to save isolated individuals, and so perpetuate their loneliness, but to build a church, to create a new society, even a new humanity, in which racial, national, social and sexual barriers have been abolished. Moreover, this new community of Jesus dares to present itself as the true alternative society, which eclipses the values and standards of the world. It is a high-sounding claim. But the tragedy is that the church has consistently failed to live up to its own ideals. Its theological understanding of its calling may be impeccable. But comparatively speaking, there is little acceptance, little caring and little supportive love among us.”

That hits where it hurts. Do we really care for one another as we ought? Is the fact that we are fellow believers part of a local congregation called First Presbyterian, something that really transcends all our differences and knits us together? If it doesn’t then it is a sure sign that we don’t know just how radical is the biblical idea of the Church.

What could make us this way, then? What could transform us? Drummond was surely right about this when he said: “Souls are not made sweet by taking [ill tempers] out, but by putting something in: a great Love, a new Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Christ, the Spirit of Christ, interpenetrating ours, sweetens, purifies, transforms all. This can only eradicate what is wrong, renovate and regenerate, and rehabilitate the inner man. Will-power does not change men. Time does not change men. Christ does. Therefore ‘Let that mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.’” (Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World [1892])

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, April 19, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Short Term Mission Report from Scotland

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Short Term Mission Report from Scotland”
First Published, August 18, 2000

Just the other day I received an email report from Dr. Bob Ackroyd (the Associate Minister of Buccleuch and Greyfriars Free Church of Scotland in Edinburgh, the church with whom our summer missions team is working) recounting some of the work they’ve done so far. By the way, Buccleuch is pronounced “Buh-clue.” I’ve also spoken with Don Breazeale, our Ruling Elder who, along with Duncan Rankin, is leading the team. I thought you’d be interested to hear what they’ve been up to.

“Day 4 – Thursday, August 10, 2000, Edinburgh, Scotland
Greetings to Friends in Jackson. We have been very encouraged by the mission so far. The team
from Jackson and the team from Edinburgh have worked very well together and much has been accomplished!

“Children’s Club: We have run a children’s club every morning and we have attracted between 20 and 30 children between the ages of 3 and 11. Every one now has a North Jackson
League Baseball shirt! There is a family evening planned on Friday to highlight what the children have been doing (including an episode of the drama which has been enjoyed by one and all!) and we hope that many parents will come along. Please pray that this would go well and that the Gospel message would be well received.

“Outreach Café: In the afternoon and evening we run an outreach Café at St. Columba’s church, which is on the Royal mile just a few hundred yards from the castle. Every day thousands of people pass by and we are there serving tea and coffee and distributing tracts and other Christian literature. At most times our café is standing room only. Several interesting conversations have already occurred and through the literature we hope and pray that seeds
will be sown. Also, every day a tour of Edinburgh’s Christian heritage sites is given by Mr Anderson – an expert on Church history and able to answer any question about Scotland. We are also donating all money received through the tour and café to the Bethany Christian Trust which helps the homeless in Edinburgh and beyond.

“Door–to–Door Visitation: Also in the afternoon and evening, the team from Jackson and the team from Buccleuch are paired up for door to door visitation. We have covered quite a wide
area. Our primary objective is to let people know about our church and invite them to special services which are to be held on Sunday. On Sunday morning there is a family service and in the evening is a guest service for visitors and friends of the congregation. The title of the evening service is “One man came in the name of love” and I will preach on John 3:16. Please pray for this service that those who have been invited will come and hear the good news about Jesus. There have been many good contacts made through this visitation and some conversations have lasted almost 2 hours! We in Buccleuch are very encouraged by these visits.

“With warmest greetings and wishing you every blessing in Christ. Thank you for your prayerful support.” - Bob Akroyd.

I Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”
Let’s continue to pray for the work of our summer missions teams and give thanks for the witness that they have borne to Christ.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

[editorial note: for information about this year’s STM opportunities, email Pete Whitney,]


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Fathers Stemming the Tide

The Pastor’s Perspective
"Fathers Stemming the Tide"
First Published: August 11, 2000

A week or so ago, this interesting information came through in the weekly. It is thought-provoking. Here’s the nub of it.

“Four highly reputable health care groups made an unusual joint statement [recently]. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry agreed that ‘Children exposed to violent programming at a young age have a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life than children who are not so exposed.’ The statement was released at a media violence summit organized by Kansas Senator Sam Brownback and three other senators. For years now, we have heard opinions thrown about concerning the media and its influence on our children.”

“Now, we appear to have a wake-up call with some authority behind it. Dads, it's time to be more active in the fight for the hearts and minds of our children. Where should we direct our efforts--fighting the media, or more vigilant parenting? Both, of course. We can all be more active about expressing our opinions and desires about the television programs, movies, video games, and music that is available to children. That's half the battle.”

“We must also act to protect our children from dangerous influences. Looking at TV alone, the average child witnesses 200,000 acts of TV violence (including 16,000 murders) by
age 18. Children spend more time watching television than they spend in the classroom. Kids are able to recount the details of their favorite movies and TV programs, but cannot recognize the names or accomplishments of our Founding Fathers. We can't stand by and let our children be swept up in the downward spiral.” (Ken Canfield)

Now, of course, violence isn’t the only problem with television. The overwhelming sexual content that pervades almost everything (especially the commercials, which every child instinctively knows are the most important content of TV!), the godless world-view, the anti-Christian bias, the left-wing slant and so on all present challenges for concerned Christian parents. If violence on TV impacts kids, how about these things?

In light of this conundrum, I offer the following (drawn and modified from Ken Canfield’s “ACTION POINTS for Committed Fathers” in weekly).

1. Watch or listen to your child(ren)’s favorite media. Find something positive to point out, if possible. Take action where necessary.

2. Model the lifestyle you expect from your children. What TV programs and movies are you watching? What music are you listening to?

3. A great first step toward protecting your child is to be more aware of his world. Talk with your spouse about what your child cares about and enjoys, and what causes him frustration and fear.

4. Ask for your child's opinion about some controversial issue--even one that you may disagree about. Express your own views only after you have listened carefully. Make it into a good discussion.

5. When your child evidences good character, praise him.

Now, one more unrelated thing. Iain Murray’s new book Evangelicalism Divided: A Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000 is hot off the press. It is hard-hitting, but fair and important. It is not light reading, but all of you who are interested in cultural and religious trends, and the future of the conservative evangelical churches should consider reading it. More about that later.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspectives: Marriage Matters

The Pastor’s Perspective

“Marriage Matters”

First Published: July 20, 2000

I get a number of spiritually-related news items each week via email, fax and other media. Often the information helps me to keep abreast of cultural trends. Other times it gives me ideas for issues that need to be addressed here at First Presbyterian. One such interesting piece that I saw this week came from Ken Canfield and the NATIONAL CENTER for FATHERING.

He relates this in his weekly email/fax update (from June 14, 2000): “In Denver several weeks ago, over 100 prominent scholars and religious and civic leaders joined together to release a joint statement called, ‘The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles.’ The pledge states that ‘in this decade we will turn the tide on marriage and reduce divorce and unmarried childbearing, so that each year more children will grow up protected by their own two happily married parents and more adults' marriage dreams will come true.’”

“Diane Sollee, Director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, said, ‘Our current policies are based on acceptance of family breakdown and are focused on dealing with the aftermath and fallout. This statement leads the way to positive, preventable supports for marriage. It's filled with hope.’”

Canfield goes on to comment that “If you were to ask some average American adults to list the benefits of marriage, you would probably get a lot of sarcasm and maybe even laughter. Marriage has gotten a bad rap in recent years. But, as Glenn Stanton has shown in his book, Why Marriage Matters, there are some very real and tangible benefits to being married. For example, alcoholism is least common among those who are married, and married alcoholics tend to suffer less in that condition than those who aren't married. Studies found similar results with suicide.”

“Research also shows that, believe it or not, a married man with heart disease can be expected to live, on average, 1400 days longer than an unmarried man with a healthy heart. That 's also true for married men who have cancer or are 20 pounds overweight, as compared to their healthy, unmarried counterparts. Married men also recover more quickly from illness and disease, are better able to handle stress, and are less susceptible to depression and other mental illness. And, not surprisingly, adults who are married generally do better as parents.”

Of course, ultimately, “why marriage matters” is because God created it and he says it does, and thus the reason we should honor and defend it is for his glory and not merely for our benefit. But it should not surprise us the God’s way of doing things has practical benefits for his creatures! After all, one of the sublime things about his redeeming plan is that it simultaneously promotes his glory and our good.

I have been looking forward to being at the Southern Baptist Founders’ Conference in Birmingham, Alabama this week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). We are meeting at the Reid Chapel at Samford University. I’ve been asked to preach the main evening messages on the subject of “God’s Providence.” What a privilege. I’m the lone Presbyterian on a platform with many good Baptist brothers! J. L. Dagg, the excellent Baptist theologian once said: “God . . . did not, on making the world, leave it to itself, or commit it into other hands; but it is an object of his constant care, and his hand is concerned in all its movements. Whether we look on the right hand, or on the left, we can see where he doth work; and, in the display of his wisdom, power, and goodness, which at every moment meets our eyes, we find continued incitements to adore and love.” May the Lord bless our studies of the loving providence! If you want to see what we’re up to check out

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, April 12, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Need for Vigilant and Faithful Churches

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 33 Num. 23
“The Need for Vigilant and Faithful Churches”
First Published: June 1, 2000

I trust that you were able to enjoy the Memorial Day holiday with your family and gain some refreshment. Summer is already here in Jackson, so Anne and the kiddoes and I fled to the pool early and often!

Thanks to so many who have expressed their appreciation for the message on Romans 1:26-27 which dealt with, in part, the issue of homosexuality. It is not an easy subject to address in our times. However, it is important. Our young people are bombarded from their earliest years with politically correct propaganda and are indoctrinated into the regnant philosophy of “toleration” that declares that anyone who takes issue with the project for the normalization of homosexual behavior in our society is a homophobic bigot indulging in hate speech. Such has been the fate of “Dr. Laura.”

My goals were (1) to set the passage in context (Paul’s main point is not to single out homosexuality as the worst sin in the world, but rather to show that homosexuality is yet another evidence of the degeneration of an idolatrous society and of the pervasiveness of depravity). (2) To illustrate the Bible’s uniform condemnation of homosexual cravings and behavior (Paul, following Moses and Jesus, condemns homosexual desires and acts comprehensively). And, (3) to emphasize the hope and power of Paul’s gospel (Paul knew from experience that the gospel is mighty enough to transform even the most radical sinner). The Christian’s message to the homosexual is, thus, one of truth, love and hope.

It was ironic that, just a few days after I mentioned the mainline churches’ deterioration on this issue, the Family Research Council in Washington circulated this report: “The top court in the Presbyterian Church (USA) has endorsed so-called holy unions for same-sex couples. This action could set the stage for a major confrontation when the 2.5 million-member denomination holds its General Assembly in June. The church court sought to limit the range of its ruling by saying that local congregations that continue the practice of sanctioning same-sex unions should be careful to emphasize that these unions are not marriages. Conservatives in the denomination are expected to carry the case for the defense of marriage to the floor of the General Assembly next month.” This discussion in the PC(USA) is symptomatic, and evidences one reason why there is a PCA and why First Presbyterian is PCA. Let’s do pray for the evangelicals within the PC(USA) who are trying to hold on against the torrent of unbiblical thought that pervades the bureaucracy.

On Sunday evenings, we have been working through Genesis and the life of Joseph. The last couple of lessons have dealt with the reunion and reconciliation of the brothers, and the resettlement of Jacob in Egypt. The whole story has been a sweet reminder of providence to me. One of the keys to healthy Christian living is to trust in both the goodness and sovereignty of God, even in the face of dark circumstances. Cindy Mercer shared a Calvin quote with me the other day that catches this point perfectly: "It is essentially necessary, if we would fortify our minds against temptation, to have suitably exalted views of the power and mercy of God, since nothing will more effectually preserve us in a straight and undeviating course, than a firm persuasion that all events are in the hand of God, and that he is as merciful as he is mighty. The man who disciplines himself to the contemplation of these two attributes, which ought never to be dissociated in our minds from the idea of God, is certain to stand erect and immovable under the fiercest assaults of temptation; while, on the other hand, by losing sight of the all-sufficiency of God, (which we are too apt to do,) we lay ourselves open to be overwhelmed in the first encounter." Precisely! Thanks, Cindy.

Your friend,
Ligon Duncan


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Gospel and Cultural Vigilance

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 33 Num. 18
“The Gospel and Cultural Vigilance”
First Published: April 28, 2000

This past Lord’s Day, I got so carried away on point one of the sermon that I hardly did point three justice in either morning service. So, I wanted to pause here to make a few comments. We were looking at Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."” In verse 17, Paul does something dramatic and surprising. He tells us that the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God. That’s not how we would have put it. If we were trying to explain why the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, we would have said that it’s the saving power of God because in it the grace of God is revealed. Or, we might have emphasized that in it the mercy of God is revealed. Or, we might have gloried that in it the love of God is revealed. But that’s not what Paul says.
When Paul explains how the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, he puts it this way: in it there is a divine righteousness obtained by faith. What does Paul mean by this? Well, in verse 17, he is telling us that the Gospel reveals God’s covenantal righteousness. That is, he is righteous in keeping his promise and he is righteous in the way he saves us. God saves us because of his gracious covenant promises, and thus he shows himself to be righteous in keeping his word. And furthermore, he saves us (by the atoning sacrifice of his Son, as Paul will elaborate on later) and thus shows himself to be perfectly just in the way he extends mercy to us. That thought blows Paul away.
Paul goes on to say that the righteousness of God is revealed to and in us by faith, and he proves that this is the one way of salvation in Old and New Testaments by appealing to Habakkuk. What are we to make of this? How should we be encouraged by it? The answer is both simple and profound. It is learning to glory in the righteousness of God in the Gospel that will bring about assurance. Only when we realize that God’s way of salvation is both righteousness and gracious, will we be confident of our eternal security and appreciative of the greatness of his grace.
Now on to something completely different. While our country has been preoccupied with the Elian Gonzalez case, and debating its handling, some significant things have been transpiring in the news here on the Mississippi home front. For one thing, as some of you may be aware, our State legislature has passed a bill to prohibit gay adoption in Mississippi. That is, this bill prohibits homosexual couples from adopting children in our state. The bill is on the way to Governor Musgrove, who has promised to sign it. Many people in our congregation worked to make yourselves heard on this issue. For this, I am profoundly thankful.
Family issues are on the front-burner of the agenda to change the culture of our great country. If Christians are not vigilant, if we will not think Christianly and act on that thinking in our approach to pressing social issues in our day, we will lose the whole battle for the whole culture. Those who would jettison the concept of the traditional marriage and family, and rob it of its cultural status, know exactly what they are doing.
For instance, listen to this paraphrase of a report that I received from one of our physicians who was active in monitoring the gay adoption bill. “The deviousness of many supporters of gay adoption is breathtaking. They consistently made the argument that this bill was not needed, because no gay couple had tried to adopt in Mississippi, and thus this was a meaningless, time-wasting procedure. However, we argued that if action was not taken, then when the situation did arise, the opposition would be quick to point out that there was no law on the books. How prophetic this was. Now that the bill has passed, the ACLU has announced that it would sue on behalf of a gay couple that had already begun preliminary efforts to adopt a child here in Mississippi.”

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan
April 25, 2000


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Looking back at God’s Providence

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 33 Num. 15
“Looking back at God’s Providence”
First Published: April 14, 2000

We have been contemplating God’s providence in the life of Joseph over the last few weeks, and it struck me this morning, we have seen so many evidences of his fatherly rule in these days. I was struck by it as the Session voted last night to significantly support two new Reformed University Ministries (RUM) works on the campuses of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and at the University of Maryland. One campus minister is a Mississippian who greatly benefitted from the Gospel labors of this church – God’s providence. First Presbyterian has been, in God’s grace, used to support RUM works, not just in the South and Southeast, but all over the country – God’s providence. I wonder, how many lives will be gripped by Christ, through your generosity and kingdom vision, and in God’s providence what are his plans for prospering the work of your hands?

I thought about God’s providence as the Session voted to expand our support of the Christian Medical and Dental Society (CMDS) and the ministry of Jimmy Turner at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. First, God has plopped us down right in the middle of this state’s major hospital complex (with Baptist, UMC and St. Dominic’s close by, and Riveroaks and CMMC not far away). Second, he has filled our church with healthcare professionals (close to 200 doctors, nurses, PT’s, administrators and such, and who knows how many students). Third, he has brought Jimmy Turner, former assistant and youth minister here at FPC, back to Jackson to carry out a dynamic ministry through CMDS. Jimmy’s group may be the largest on-campus CMDS group in the country. Fourth, God has burdened a number of our physicians and staff to reach out to the medical community.
Your friend,

Ligon Duncan


Monday, April 05, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Easter Myth?

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 33 Num. 17

“Easter Myth?”

First Published: April 21, 2000

With Easter coming upon us, the various media will be gearing up for the annual exercise of demythologizing Christianity. Whether it’s Time or Newsweek or the New York Times or PBS or whatever, somebody will explain to us that Jesus was not a historical person, or that he never claimed to be divine, or that we can’t take those claims seriously, or that the resurrection is a myth, or some other boring, old hat liberal cliché.

So, if you are besieged by such nonsense and you’d like to trade it in for some good old-fashioned orthodox common sense, then let me suggest that you set your VCR’s on this week’s “One to One with John McLaughlin.” Our friend, Dr. Mark Dever (Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church) will be one of the debaters. He’ll be touching on issues relating to the origins of Christianity.

The show was taped a couple of weeks ago and I got an intriguing description of the process from Matt Schmucker (Director of the Center for Church Reform). He said: “The taping of "One on One with John McLaughlin" went very well. They switched Mark’s "opponent" at the last minute. So instead of Mark going up against a liberal female Christian, he went up against a conservative Muslim—the first ever chaplain appointed to serve the Muslims on the campus of Georgetown University here in D.C. Fortunately, the man was very kind and there was little controversy.”

Matt went on to comment that John McLaughlin himself was an extraordinary and intriguing personality, and that John was impressed with Mark. Matt says: “I think John liked Mark because Mark can be very short and to the point when he wants to be, which makes for good television. So, for instance, John would begin by saying, "Dr. Dever, isn't it true..." and Mark would come back with, "No, John, that's false." John would just about jump out of his chair yelling, "What, What?" It was all quite entertaining.”

The show airs on Easter on NBC and some PBS stations—usually in the morning so you'll have to set your VCR or find a faithful friend who’s figured out how to set his.

By the way, this is a wonderful time of year to strike up Gospel conversations with non-Christian, skeptical or agnostic friends relating to the claims of Christ. You might invite them to watch the video of “One to One” and discuss it over a cup of coffee. Or you might download my article on “The Divinity of Christ” from the church website and give it to a friend to read, and then ask him to discuss it over a meal. Be looking for opportunities to bear witness in this time of year when even pagans and nominal Christians pay some brief attention to Christianity.

Another non-threatening thing you could do is invite an unchurched friend to the choir’s presentation of Brahms’ “Requiem” on Easter Sunday evening. It is one of the greatest pieces of sacred choral music ever written, and the theology of the texts Brahms selected is rich. Some who might not be comfortable coming to our church at other times might be persuaded to come to the “Requiem.” This, in turn, might open the door for a Gospel conversation.

Let’s prayerfully prepare for this Lord’s Day’s worship. We will probably have many visitors in our midst and thus an opportunity to show Christian interest and hospitality. Let’s pray, too, for the message. We couldn’t ask for a better text than we have: Romans 1:16-17. In these verses Paul defines the Gospel! May the Lord bless his word.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

[Editorial Note, the interview of One on One with John McLaughlin was Season 15 episode 30, the transcript is not yet available online]


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Visiting Louisville

The Pastor’s Perspective

Vol. 33 Num. 13

“Visiting Louisville

First Published: March 14, 2000

Last week, I mentioned my recent visit (Tuesday, March 7) to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. The President of the Seminary, Dr. Albert Mohler is a dear friend and brother in the Lord. Dr. Mohler kindly invited me, a number of months ago, to come preach the Seminary chapel service. I was delighted to do so, not only because of my love and esteem for Al (who is a winsome, intelligent and articulate spokesman for the Christian faith¾perhaps you have seen him on TV news and talk shows), but also because of my excitement about the “turnaround” of Southern Seminary.

Many of you may know that in the 1970’s a movement began to return the Southern Baptist Convention to its historic, conservative, evangelical roots. Liberals (who liked to call themselves “Moderates”) had taken over the denomination’s agencies and institutions. Rank and file Southern Baptists would have been shocked if they had known just how left-leaning were some of the theological “leaders” in those days. As a young self-consciously conservative Presbyterian, I attended a university that was then affiliated with the State Baptist Convention in South Carolina (Furman) and was regularly irritated by the spectacle of liberal Baptist religion professors who took particular delight in wrecking the faith of young Southern Baptists.

At any rate, that was often the case at Southern Seminary in those days. There were faculty members who denied fundamental Christian doctrinal truths, as well as a general anti-conservative spirit on the campus. Indeed, I had many friends that went from Furman to Southern to prepare for ministry, who had their faith in the Word of God weakened by their experience in the classrooms at Southern. For instance, the last time I stood on the platform in Alumni Memorial Chapel at Southern in Louisville was in 1982, when the Furman Singers were on spring tour. That very year, a close friend who was a student there had his Christian faith shaken to the foundations, simply by taking an Old Testament and New Testament introduction course!

Into that situation, Dr. Mohler was called as President in the early 1990’s. He was only 33 years old at the time. He was hand-picked as one of the brightest young leaders in the Convention and as a conservative evangelical. Al determined, in humble reliance upon divine grace, to restore the original vision of the institution (as expressed in the Abstract of Principles). God has blessed his labors abundantly. Though Al has been brutally attacked and maligned by the secular press and by opponents of historic Christianity within the church, his mission has been prospered beyond our wildest dreams. Today, Southern is a bastion of evangelical orthodoxy and evangelistic missionary zeal. The campus has managed to achieve new heights of academic excellence and at the same time foster Bible-believing Christianity in the classroom. It was such an encouragement to see what is going on there.

I have known of Al, since he was the editor of “The Christian Index,” the State Baptist periodical in Georgia. Our mutual friend, Dr. Mark Dever (who preached the Mid-South Men’s Rally last year) introduced us. So, I was thrilled at the invitation to come preach. The chapel service was filled with about 900 students, spouses, faculty and staff. These services are broadcast twice weekly on the local Cable TV network. Al tells me that many Christians who live in the “Kentuckiana” area and are hungry for expository preaching tune in regularly. May the Lord prosper his work there!

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan