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Heralding the Truth of God: Ligonier's Outreach

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 9, 2024 12:01 am

Heralding the Truth of God: Ligonier's Outreach

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 9, 2024 12:01 am

The biblical teaching of Reformed theology revolutionizes the way we think about God and the way we live. Today, Burk Parsons joins Nathan W. Bingham to discuss how the Lord is using Ligonier Ministries to equip people worldwide with this life-changing truth.

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What we are about is bringing people to Jesus Christ, but not stopping there.

We want to see them converted to Jesus Christ, and then we want to see them discipled to follow Jesus Christ, to learn to observe all that Christ commanded us. In this podcast, many of you are new to Renewing Your Mind and only just beginning to explore all that Ligonier does in service to the local church. So stay with us as we'll be joined by a special guest to discuss what we believe, some of our history, and how the Lord is using this ministry today.

Welcome to this special Friday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W. Bingham. We'll discuss the significance of this book in today's conversation, but until midnight you can request a special 100th anniversary edition of J. Gresham Machen's classic book, Christianity and Liberalism, with a gift of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Joining me in the studio is Ligonier's chief editorial officer, one of our teaching fellows, the editor of Table Talk magazine, and a man who served for many years with R.C. Sproul at St. Andrews Chapel, and is now the senior pastor there, Dr. Burke Parsons. Well, Dr. Parsons, firstly, I want to thank you for your ministry. The Lord used your ministry in my life when I was back in Australia before I moved to the U.S. to work here at Ligonier 12 plus years ago, and it's a privilege to be able to serve with you here at Ligonier Ministries and also to call you my pastor.

Thank you, Nathan. It is a joy, and it has been a great joy to serve with you alongside you here at Ligonier for these many years. And also, I should say that when you were back in Australia, you also ministered to me and your wisdom and insights as we came across each other's paths on social media.

You've ministered to me ever since, so it is a joy and a blessing to call you my friend. Well, Renewing Your Mind continues to reach new people every single week, and what's interesting is not all of them realize that Renewing Your Mind is produced by this ministry, Ligonier Ministries. So I'd like to take some time today just talking about Ligonier, what it is that we believe, some of the outreach initiatives that we do here, and why we are unwavering in our mission. So firstly, if you begin listening to Renewing Your Mind, begin reading, watching some of the material from Ligonier, you discover that we are committed to Reformed theology, and we've talked about this before.

These are truths that you personally wrestled with. So how would you define Reformed theology, and how did you become convinced that these doctrines were true? Well, Reformed theology, we can speak of it in terms of the breadth of Reformed theology as defined by the creeds and the confessions of the Reformed churches, whether it's the three forms of unity or the Westminster standards. But many people, when they speak of Reformed theology, they're speaking in particular of Reformed soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. And my way of looking at it is when you use the word Reformed, well, you have to go back to the form. If there's a reform, well, there's also a form. And when it comes to Reformed theology and Reformed soteriology, or the doctrine of salvation in particular, we are speaking of that theology, which we believe is found in Scripture and in Scripture alone. The form is given to us in Scripture. And so at the time of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, the Reformers were striving to get the church back to Scripture, back to the original form, going back to the sources, back to the original inspired and authoritative source of the word of God. So when we speak of Reformed theology, we're really just speaking of biblical theology, the biblical doctrine of salvation, the biblical doctrine of God.

That's what we're talking about. And I wrestled with this for quite some time, many years ago. I first started listening to Renewing Your Mind back in high school, actually. And I would leave high school and I would drive to our cabinet shop and I would listen to Renewing Your Mind. I would listen to Grace To You with John MacArthur.

I'd listen to Chuck Swindoll and anyone I could listen to because I just came into the church. I was just learning theology. And Dr. Sproul and Ligonier Ministries really began to shape the foundations of my understanding of God, the Bible, and all theology. And for a couple of years or so into college, I really wrestled with the sovereignty of God overall, and in particular, over salvation.

Because I couldn't quite understand how God could be sovereign over salvation and why it is that God showed grace to his elect and withheld grace from those who do not belong to him. That was a very, very difficult thing for me. And I came to a crisis point. I mean, a serious, serious crisis point, crying out to God in an open field. Because I was either having to accept the biblical doctrine of salvation as it is given to us in Scripture, or I had to reject Scripture. Because as I studied Scripture, I saw the biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty overall, and in particular, in salvation everywhere. I couldn't escape it.

And it was a liberating thing coming to that point, but it wasn't easy. Many of our listeners probably don't realize that Dr. Sproul also wrestled with these doctrines. Did he ever share any of that with you? Yeah, he did. And I think he shared it publicly as well many times throughout his ministry.

But that was one of the things that R.C. and I realized early on and are working together, is that we had a lot of the same story, from even our fathers dying at the age of 16, in my case, 17 in his case. And then wrestling with Reformed soteriology and Reformed doctrines and the sovereignty of God, I think he wrestled with it for about five years or so. And we were both sort of kicking and screaming against it with all the free will we could muster until we finally came really to our knees, humbled by the grace of God, recognizing the depravity of our hearts and recognizing that if it were not for the grace of God, if it were not for the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit within us, nobody would be saved. We recognized that when it comes to the question of why doesn't God save everyone, which is a legitimate question, we both came to realize at some point that the better biblical question, the more appropriate question is, well, why does God save anyone? Because no one is deserving of his salvation. When you came to embrace Reformed theology, was it merely an academic shift, just a changing of your mind, or did it have practical implications for your life?

Well, that's a great question. I'm glad you asked that because it revolutionized not just my mind, my heart, my entire way of thinking about God, about myself, about others, about the church. It set me on a path of an entire new way of living and thinking because that's what Reformed theology does.

When we really understand, and let's just call it biblical theology, when we really understand the character of God, the holiness of God, the love of God, the electing grace of God, the mercy of God, when we come to understand that, it helps us to rightly understand the mission of God. It helps us to rightly understand the cross of Jesus Christ and what he actually accomplished on the cross. So it revolutionizes everything. It revolutionizes how we live. It revolutionizes how we raise our children. It helps us to understand how we interact with one another, how the church is to be ordered and how it is to be governed. Because when we go to the scriptures and we really do believe that the scriptures are the only infallible rule for faith and life, when the scriptures are our authority for everything, that gives to us an entire all-encompassing life religion for faith and life and everything.

I believe it was Charles Spurgeon who said that it is the doctrine of the sovereignty of God that is the pillow upon which the believer lays their head. And I couldn't imagine going through life, trial, suffering, the responsibility of being a father, not believing that God was sovereign over all things. If I thought that God was sitting in heaven looking down, wanting to help me, wanting to change the course of life, but he was unable to, the idea of that just fills me with anxiety.

It should. I mean, if you don't believe in the sovereignty of God, you have every reason to worry about tomorrow. It affects the way we pray, because we know that our prayers don't change God's mind.

Because if they did, we should stop praying, because God who is all-knowing and all-powerful, God who has the future planned, when we go to him as God has ordained the ends of all things, he has also ordained the means of those ends. That means in our evangelism, in our discipleship, in our prayers and everything in life, it gives us a new way of looking at it, gives us new lenses. And I think one of the problems is that many people treat Reformed theology, not like you described or like Spurgeon described, as a pillow. Too many use Reformed theology like a sledgehammer and try to wallet people upside the head with it, when it's in fact a comfort.

It's a pillow on which to lay our weary heads, to bring our anxieties to the Lord and to cast them upon him. That's what Reformed theology teaches us. Dr. Sproul was so committed to use your language to propagate biblical theology, Reformed theology around the world, and Ligonier is still committed to that mission. Why are we so passionate about helping the local church around the world know the truths of the Bible? Well, it's the only hope for the world.

The only hope for the world is to know Jesus Christ. You know, in our mission statement, we talk about awakening, awakening as many people as possible to the holiness of God. And that word awakening is very, very important. Because as we look at that word as it's used biblically and theologically, we're speaking of conversion to Jesus Christ. And when people are converted to Jesus Christ, and a lot of ministries are committed to evangelistic and missional work, which is wonderful.

And we are as well. That's part of the fabric of what we are about is bringing people to Jesus Christ, but not stopping there. We want to see them converted to Jesus Christ, and then we want to see them discipled to follow Jesus Christ, to learn to observe all that Christ commanded us. And so that is ultimately why we do what we do, not just for the church in the United States, but the church throughout the world. And that's really the focus of our ministry, is to fulfill the Great Commission through making disciples and seeing people awakened to the character of God, to knowing Jesus Christ, and to be reliant upon the Spirit of God as they're awakened by the Spirit of God, led by the Spirit of God, and give glory to God. And this really is a global ministry now. We have resources in over 50 languages. We have sustained ministry in 16 right now, and our goal is to have sustained ministry in the top 20 languages.

But I've heard you say before, and I thought this was a really helpful reminder, that as we're translating the teaching material from Ligonier, our goal ultimately is not to spread the name of R.C. Sproul or Ligonier Ministries. We're calling people to go back to the sources, to the Luther's, the Kelvins, the Edwards, and ultimately back to the Word of God.

That's exactly right. And that's one of the reasons I actually came to really respect Ligonier Ministries and Dr. Sproul so many years ago. Because what I saw in Ligonier Ministries and Dr. Sproul was a different approach to ministry. It was an approach to serving the church by discipling the church with the Word of God and the theology of the Word of God. Because whenever we study Scripture, we can't avoid doing theology.

And that's what Dr. Sproul did. Through table talk, through the national conferences and the regional conferences, and now international conferences that we've been doing, that is what we're seeking to do, is to make disciples of all nations by training them in the Word of God and the theology of the Word of God, but also to help them understand how that applies to all of life. As we talk about the global church, is there an area, a country, region in the world that excites you, that as you see their hunger for the truth of the Bible, that you think Ligonier really could or is serving well? Well, the mission of the church, as you know, Nathan, is really my heartbeat.

That's what I did my doctoral work on, on missiology. And I get excited about what God is doing throughout the world, both in our neighborhood and communities here in central Florida, because there is a mission field all around us, as we both know. But I also am so excited by all the work that we get to do and be a part of what God is doing throughout Asia, throughout the Philippines. But if you're to ask me if I'm really excited about the future of what God is doing in a certain part of the world, I'm going to have to say, in Iran. That excites me, because what we see in Iran is one of the fastest growing churches in the world. And the Iranian people have a love for the Lord Jesus Christ that is contagious, and I love it. Our listeners might not realize, but Ligonier Ministries is broadcasting into Iran via satellite Dr. Sproul in Farsi. I can remember hearing one of the staff members here telling stories of Muslims that were writing to us on the Ligonier Facebook page in Farsi, who were watching the consequences of ideas. And they were not coming to Ligonier for theology, but they were engaging with Dr. Sproul because he was teaching them about philosophy. What an interesting thing to see the Lord using that as a doorway into exposing these Muslims to the truths of the Bible. One of the most exciting things that I got to do when I was in Iran in 2004 is bring cash into the country to help a Christian publisher have the money they needed to print solid Christian materials. And then I went and visited one of the churches in Tehran, and I saw in their little bookshelf case, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith by R.C.

Sproul. Wow. Dr. Parsons, you mentioned some of the outreach that Ligonier does, our conferences. But for our listeners, if you think about the work of Ligonier and all that we're doing, you can break it up into three categories. There is broadcasting, so Renewing Your Mind and the radio footprint that we have. But actually, more significantly, it's outreach via podcast, the Renewing Your Mind podcast, but our growing podcast library. And that is our broadcasting area of outreach. Then we've got events where we gather people around God's Word, both here in the U.S. and around the world. We just came back from London last September.

We were in Canada last year as well. Next month, we'll be returning to Canada for a youth apologetics event and then be in Northern Ireland later this year. Just next week, you'll be speaking at a Ligonier conference in Columbus, Ohio. So maybe you'll see some of our listeners there.

If you'd like to attend that conference, you can go to ligonier.org slash events and get all those details. But I'd like to talk to you about our third category. That is publishing. You serve here as our chief editorial officer and as a ministry. We publish a monthly magazine. We have a study Bible. We publish many books every year. But there is one book in particular that I'd like to bring up with you.

And we published this last year. It's Machen's Christianity and Liberalism. It was the 100th anniversary of that book. Why was that title so significant in the church and why did Ligonier want to republish it? Well, the book is a classic.

And the title itself says it all. Because the title is Christianity and Liberalism. And that conjunction there in the middle and is important because what J. Gresham Machen did is establish that liberalism is an entirely different religion.

It is distinguished from true biblical Christianity. And one of the reasons we wanted to publish that book on its 100th year anniversary is because we wanted to let our students and our audience know this is a book you need to read. Because it is relevant today just as it was 100 years ago. Well, today only if you'd like a copy of J. Gresham Machen's Christianity and Liberalism, we'll send you a copy for your donation of any amount at renewingyourmind.org. Well, Dr. Parsons, the Reformation Study Bible was a significant project.

It's currently available in five languages and we're actively translating those notes and the commentary into Arabic and we'll release it later this year into French. Can you just tell us a little bit about the history of this project, the Reformation Study Bible? Well, it's a long history and it really does go back to the Reformation because the Reformers themselves developed what was the Geneva Study Bible. And then in the mid-90s, Ligonier Ministries worked to publish the new Geneva Study Bible. And I remember saving up my money as a very poor college student and buying my first copy of the new Geneva Study Bible in I think 1996.

That was very, very exciting. And I still have that same copy. And what I loved about what was then titled the new Geneva Study Bible, now the Reformation Study Bible, is that the commentary was not just written by one man. It was written by some of the best Old Testament and New Testament scholars from around the world. And one of the things I love about it is that people don't know who wrote which commentary.

It was an intentional editorial decision that Dr. Sproul and the editors made back in the mid-90s, and I think it was a wise one. Because it was edited so heavily by so many editors and Dr. Sproul leading that effort that what we got, in my opinion, is the best Study Bible available today. I don't think we can overstate the impact that this Study Bible is having around the world.

It really is a theological library in one volume. As a pastor yourself, help our listeners understand how a Study Bible like this can be a help for men around the world who do not have access to the theological riches we do here in the United States. One of the most important features of the Reformation Study Bible is that it not only provides biblical commentary, but it also provides helpful theological explanations of what the Bible teaches. Not to mention all of the content at the back of the Study Bible with the creeds and the confessions and articles that help form our method of interpretation, our hermeneutics, and many other subjects that it addresses. But I think the Reformation Study Bible stands alone in that it is providing both commentary and theology. Because, again, when we study scripture, we can't avoid doing theology.

Theology is the study of God, and the Bible is the revelation of God. And the Reformation Study Bible guides people. It points them in the right direction. It doesn't just give them all the answers, it helps people come to love the Word of God and to grow more deeply in their understanding of the Word of God.

I have a couple of testimonies here that I'd like to share with our listeners. One is from a pastor in Kenya, and he says, We are truly humbled and appreciative of your commitment to spreading the Word of God and giving Study Bibles to those in need. The provision of Bibles is not only essential in promoting religious understanding and faith, but also serves as a source of solace, inspiration, and hope for those facing challenging circumstances. Your donation has enabled us to distribute these Bibles to individuals, Bible college students, and chaplains who may otherwise not have had access to the sacred text. Here's one more from a pastor in Mexico.

He says, Greetings from Mexico. I just want to thank you for your ministry. I was born in the Pentecostal movement, but I have been living the Reformed faith for some years, and I planted a Reformed church in a small city with little Reformed presence. We have adhered with impetus to every aspect of Reformed theology, something that without you, your ministry, the books of R.C.

Sproul, and other pastors in Brazil would not have been possible. Although we are very small in number after eight years of work, I know the joy of seeing the support of God in each one of you. We do not feel so lonely. So thank you very much, dear brothers, and may God continue to sustain your ministry today and always. That is really encouraging, and that's why we do what we do. We're not here for ourselves. We're not here for our own name.

As you said earlier, we're not here for anyone's name but the name of Jesus Christ. And the work that we're doing, the ministry that we're doing by the grace of God is to serve the church around the world. And thanks be to God, He is using this ministry.

And I do want to thank our Renewing Your Mind listeners as well. Your generosity as you support Renewing Your Mind also helps fuel the outreach internationally, even distributing these study Bibles. Well, Dr. Parsons, we have a number of new books coming out this year.

We just released R.C. Sproul's commentary on Ephesians. We'll soon see a book from Dr. Sproul on the life of Joseph, and later in the year from him a study in Romans. We have a couple of devotional titles, other books on the Apostle Peter, Covenant Theology, and some other titles that our listeners will want to keep their eyes open for. But let's talk about Table Talk magazine.

This is a magazine that's read by over 250,000 people every month. What are some of the themes that Table Talk magazine will be considering this year? Well, as many of our readers have already received their January and February issues on the Holy Spirit and on Augustine of Hippo. In March, we have an exciting issue on Christian liberty, and in April, we have an issue coming out that I'm very excited about, because the subject is waiting on the Lord, and how we as God's children are called to be patient, to trust Him, and to pray and to wait, knowing that His timing is perfect. And in May, we have an issue coming out on church planting, and in June, an issue that I think is going to grab the attentions of a lot of our readers on identity. I think that will be a really helpful issue, because the question of identity weighs heavily on this next generation. And our Always Ready events, when the young people come up and it's an open mic time for Q&A, they're often asking questions about that, so I'm thankful for the way that you lead that team and for Table Talk magazine.

If our listeners would like to try Table Talk, you can get three months for free simply by visiting trytabletalk.com. Dr. Parson is going all the way back to the beginning of our conversation for a first-time listener that's hearing this name Ligonier for the first time. What is a Ligonier, and how do we hope that we can help serve them? Well, that's a great question, and as you know, Nathan, we get that question from time to time, but Ligonier Ministries goes back to where the ministry was first established in a small town in Pennsylvania called Ligonier.

And so there was a study center, and Dr. Sproul was the head of that study center and was the teacher there and brought in other teachers as well from time to time. And so it just goes back to that town in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, Ligonier Ministries. And Ligonier Ministries really does exist to serve God's people, to serve the church of all ages.

That's one of the things I love about Ligonier is that we're not just serving one demographic or one age group. We are really striving to serve the church. We are really striving to serve people at all ages and at all levels of theological understanding. We really want to meet people where they are and help them to grow more deeply in their understanding of the Word of God and to love the Word of God that they might love God more with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and that we might better love our neighbor as ourselves. Well, Dr. Parsons, thank you so much for your time today and grateful again for your ministry and your leadership here and the privilege it is to be able to serve this ministry that is truly a global ministry, reaching over 100 million people every year. Thank you, Nathan.

It has been a joy to be with you today. That was Dr. Burke Parsons giving us just a glimpse of the many ways Ligonier Ministries seeks to serve you and growing Christians around the world in addition to the outreach of Renewing Your Mind. Whether you've been listening for years or weeks, perhaps there's someone you could share today's conversation with to help extend the reach of this ministry. If you give a gift today at renewingyourmind.org in support of the global gospel outreach that you just heard about today, we'll send you the 100th anniversary edition of Machen's Christianity and Liberalism. This book brings so much clarity and I recommend it as a must read. This offer ends at midnight, so call us today at 800-435-4343 or make your request at renewingyourmind.org. 1 John 4-8 reminds us that God is love and R.C. Sproul will be considering that theme all week beginning Monday here on Renewing Your Mind. .
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