Contend Earnestly: March 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Battle for the Beginning

I am currently reading MacArthur's The Battle for the Beginning (among other things) and although it is not as well done as I thought is would have been there have been some good thoughts on the subject. I will give you a full run down on my disappointments when I am done reading. I wanted to share a great point made in the book when dealing with those "old earth" guys on this weekend's edition of "Contend Earnestly Plagarizes Once Again."

The fact remains, however, that Adam certainly had many features associated with maturity. He wasn’t created as an embryo or an infant. He was a fully grown man. There is no reason to doubt that he had normal adult features; he certainly would have had fully developed muscles; and we know he was created with enough knowledge to tend the garden, name the animals, and talk with God. Without any growth, history, or experience, he was still a mature adult man.
Suppose a modern scientist could travel back in time and arrive in the garden moments after Adam’s creation. If he examined Adam, he would see adult features. If he could converse with Adam, he would find a man with adult knowledge and fully formed language skills. But if he interpreted those things as conclusive proof that Adam was more than one hour old, he would simply be wrong. When we’re dealing with things created ex nihilo, evidences of maturity or signs of age do not constitute proof of antiquity.

And what if that same time–traveling scientist did a botanical study of a newly created oak tree? He would observe the size of the tree, note the tree’s fruit (acorns), and probably conclude that the tree itself was many years old. What if he cut down one of the trees to examine its growth rings? Would he find growth rings inside, indicating that the tree had been there for many seasons? Why not? Those rings of xylem and phloem are not only signs of the tree’s age, but they also compose the tree’s vascular system. They are essential to the strength of a large tree as well. But if our imaginary scientist concluded on the basis of tree rings that the tree was ninety years old, he would be wrong again. The garden itself was created mature, fully functional, and therefore with the appearance of age.
The garden was no doubt filled with creatures that had every appearance of age. On day seven, when the Lord rested from His labor, everything was fully mature and fully functional. The eagles soaring overhead might appear to be thirty years old, but they were less than a week old. Elephants roaming around might have had full tusks and appeared to be fifty years old, but they were merely one day old. Any mountains, rivers, or other geological features probably also appeared to have been there for some time. There were no doubt beautiful waterfalls and canyons, and other features that the typical geologist would surmise had been formed by several ages of wind and water or volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. But the fact is that they were all made in one day. And when Adam looked up into the heavens and saw that incredible expanse with millions of bright stars, he was seeing light from millions of light–years away—even though those stars had all had been there less than four days. The light he saw was itself part of God’s creation
MacArthur, J. (2001). The battle for the beginning : The Bible on creation and the fall of Adam (55). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Calvin's Institutes

Here is another "snippet" from my current reading of the Institutes. Notice here that what Calvin is pointing out that those studying in the sciences should in reality be MORE convinced of God because of the intimacy that they spend with God's creation. Instead, they are more and more becoming atheists, or so they think (Rom 1)!

In attestation of his wondrous wisdom, both the heavens and the earth present us with innumerable proofs not only those more recondite proofs which astronomy, medicine, and all the natural sciences, are designed to illustrate, but proofs which force themselves on the notice of the most illiterate peasant, who cannot open his eyes without beholding them. It is true, indeed, that those who are more or less intimately acquainted with those liberal studies are thereby assisted and enabled to obtain a deeper insight into the secret workings of divine wisdom.D10 No man, however, though he be ignorant of these, is incapacitated for discerning such proofs of creative wisdom as may well cause him to break forth in admiration of the Creator. To investigate the motions of the heavenly bodies, to determine their positions, measure their distances, and ascertain their properties, demands skill, and a more careful examination; and where these are so employed, as the Providence of God is thereby more fully unfolded, so it is reasonable to suppose that the mind takes a loftier flight, and obtains brighter views of his glory.58 Still, none who have the use of their eyes can be ignorant of the divine skill manifested so conspicuously in the endless variety, yet distinct and well ordered array, of the heavenly host; and, therefore, it is plain that the Lord has furnished every man with abundant proofs of his wisdom. The same is true in regard to the structure of the human frame. To determine the connection of its parts, its symmetry and beauty, with the skill of a Galen (Lib. De Usu Partium), requires singular acuteness; and yet all men acknowledge that the human body bears on its face such proofs of ingenious contrivance as are sufficient to proclaim the admirable wisdom of its Maker.

Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846. (I, v, 2). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Book Review Highlight

Our book review blog doesn't get much play...and that's cool, it's new and up and coming, kind of like Giff Visick; hopefully. Sorry Giff...but you did get a shout out...

Anyway...I thought I would highlight a review I just did on a new book from the emerging church. Have at it, and me, if your so inclined.

I was pretty apprehensive about reading this book. I really didn't know what to expect and didn't know really what the approach was going to be with this book. To be honest, the only reason that I picked up the book is because I went to the Resurgence Conference and Mark Driscoll was one of the contributors. I am glad I didn't "judge" Driscoll for being a part of this book before I read this, because I thought he was distancing himself from the people that contributed to this book. After reading, let's just say that Driscoll is definitely NOT a part of what is commonly known as the Emergent church and he is really a lot different than those a part of the wider used term, "emerging church."

The only thing that I got from this book, besides Driscoll admonishing the other contributors (Burke, Kimball, Pagitt, Ward), is to make sure that our theology is put into practice. I can say that it did make me think from that perspective. Outside of that, this book was very shallow and far from, and I mean FAR FROM, biblical ecclesiology. Mark Driscoll had to continually "exhort sound doctrine" to these other "pastors" and return them to the Scriptures. Driscoll was the only pastor that truly held to Sola Scriptura, while the others look more to our culture and those around them to form their ecclesiology, orthopraxy, and most dangerous: orthodoxy.

The two "pastors" that people need to really be warned of is Doug Pagitt and Karen Ward. They are far from Christendom (which they would admit and happily accept) and should not be given an ear to listen to. Burke and Kimball were on the edge but still held to the complete authority of Scripture, although I would definitely not adhere to a lot of the ways that they practice their theology and more specifically, their ecclesiology.

Again, Driscoll was the lone bright spot and because of the far reaching post-modern ideas of the other contributors, Driscoll sounded like John MacArthur more than an emerging pastor. Througout the discussion, just when you thought Driscoll was getting "soft" he "brought it" again.

As far as the frame of the book, it is set up to give each "pastor" a chapter with the other four being able to respond to that pasor's contribution. The original intent was for each author to show their thoughts on the Trinity, the atonement and Scripture. I found only Driscoll's chapter to be the only one who "followed the rules." But, what else should we expect from these emerging leaders? The sad thing is that since the authors were so shallow, Driscoll was forced to defend basic orthodoxy and wasn't able to give a great in depth study or defense of the above said topics.

If you would like to read about these different views on the emerging church, I guess it is okay to read, but it is just so messed up as far as their thinking on how church should be run that it is hard for me to recommend. I am glad I read it so that I could see that Driscoll is NOT Emergent in any way. He is far from Pagitt and McLaren and should be seen as the lone bright spot out of these that contributed to the book.

Please be discerning if you pick this book up and like a Berean, test all teachings to Scripture.

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Kenneth Copeland Gets a Little Exposed

Sorry Justin for blogging over you, but I'll be brief and won't make too long. I first saw this at Unsealed Prophecy and thought people would be interested. It exposes the ministry of Kenneth Copeland and TBN and their use of the money that is donated as "seed" money to their "ministry."

Philanthropic Donations Come From the Heart -- Where Do They End Up?

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A Bitter Response

As you read the book of Jonah, one of the most striking features is the abruptness with how the book ends. Jonah, having been questioned by God, simply does not answer and goes to build a shelter to "see what would happen in the city" of Nineveh (vs 5). Apparently, he was still hoping for God to render judgment on this foreign nation.

Then we read the following verses:

Jonah 4:6-8
So the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about the plant. But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered. When the sun came up God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah's head so that he became faint and begged with all his soul to die, saying, "Death is better to me than life."

Again, we see the focus on the sovereign power of God to bring about a supernatural event with the plant and the worm. The text tells us specifically that both of these "God appointed". But He did so, not for the sake of something supernatural in and of itself. He is going to illustrate, once again, Jonah's staggering pride and hate for the nation of Nineveh.

First, YHWH appoints a plant to rapidly grow and provide him comfort. Notice that the text says "Jonah was extremely happy". The vivid words used here are to stand in stark contrast against his displeasure with God's display of mercy on Nineveh. And, as we will see, this is the purpose of God's intervention.

In verse 7, God then appointed a worm to attack the plant, and it withered. Finally, God appoints a "scorching east wind" to exacerbate Jonah's discomfort. Jonah's response? He again dwells on death.

God then asks him a question which is similar to His first question in verse 4, which Jonah did not answer. "Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?" The response that we see is the last words from this bitter and unrepentant prophet:

vs 9b
"I have good reason to be angry, even to death"

Our "hero" of this story has saved his "best" for last. Not only are his last words filled with selfishness, but the force of the Hebrew indicates that he uses vulgar language in his reply to YHWH! And without being vulgar in return, the words "death" and "hell" are very close in the original. You can do the math on what Jonah is saying.

And so Jonah ends with this unthinkable response to the Lord of glory. God then explains the meaning behind His visual metaphor of the plant, the worm, and the scorching wind.

vss 10-11
Then the LORD said, "You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight.
"Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?"

In other words, how could Jonah show so much concern over a plant, yet care so little for the souls of the Ninevites who are of such infinite value in the site of God? Jonah cared over a plant for which he "did not work and which (he) did not cause to grow". Yet God created the people of Nineveh, and His heart expresses infinite mercy in extending salvation to them.

In verse 11, God makes His point even stronger. In essence, He shows Jonah that the illustration with the plant perfectly communicates Jonah's lack of proper love for the lost. He is so blinded by prejudice that he cared nothing for the souls of 120,000 person "who did not know the difference between their right and left hand." In other words, these people were wicked and did not even know right from wrong. They were in a desperate circumstance of evil. And yet God, the righteous Judge, the only One who could rightly condemn, showed compassion. Then the Lord ends the book rather abruptly by saying "Jonah, you did not care even for the animals". This depiction shows Jonah's utter lack of concern for what truly mattered. "You don't care about these people? To show you how wrong you have been, do you even care for the animals?". The hyperbole is a stinging rebuke to Jonah.

And as we end this series, it strikes me that we were no better than the Ninevites before we were saved. The Scriptures tell us that we were enemies of God (Rom 5:10). We were haters of God (Rom 1:30). Yet God in His grace and mercy made us alive even when dead in, and blinded to, our trespasses (Eph 2:5).

May we as the redeemed people of God, now alive by faith, never look on the lost with a heart of prejudice or hatred. But let's go to all the nations and declare that "there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On church attendance

Dr. Barrick is the Professor of Old Testament and Director of Th.D. Studies at The Master's Seminary, and he had the following post regarding the importance of not forsaking the assembling of God's people (Heb 10:24-25). Yes, today is Tuesday and this should be my final post on the book of Jonah. But being that there is a large pile of dirt in my front lawn, I will unashamedly plagiarize, though the quote is great.

Dr. Barrick came across this quote when studying for Psalm 26. It comes from C.H. Spurgeon's "Treasury of David", and originally was a quote from a one "K. Arvine". If you can follow that all the way back, well done. We are now four generations out on this quote!

"'I have in my congregation,' said a venerable minister of the gospel, 'a worthy, aged woman, who has for many years been so deaf as not to distinguish the loudest sound, and yet she is always one of the first in the meeting. On asking the reason of her constant attendance (as it was impossible for her to hear my voice), she answered, "Though I cannot hear you, I come to God's house because I love it, and would be found in his ways; and he gives me many a sweet thought upon the text when it is pointed out to me: another reason is, because there I am in the best company, in the more immediate presence of God, and among his saints, the honourable of the earth. I am not satisfied with serving God in private; it is my duty and privilege to honour him regularly in public."' What a reproof this is to those who have their hearing, and yet always come to a place of worship late, or not at all!" -- K. Arvine (1859) as cited in C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, 3 vols. (reprinted; Peabody, Mass.: Henrickson Publishers, n.d.), 1/1:425.

I love the dedication to the sobering responsibility of being serious about the things of God. We should err toward the side of caution rather than flippancy when we gather. Maybe I'll post someday on my belief that we should not hold coffee during the corporate singing time (and to be clear, that last part was tongue-in-cheek....kind of).

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Resurgence Conference Review

This past weekend my Pastor, Justin and myself headed off to the Resurgence Conference at Mars Hill in our home city of Seattle. We were all very excited to go and yet wondering what we would encounter in a church that is so different from us and our conservative ecclesiology. The conference was called "Where the Hand of God and the Hands of Men Meet" and the guest speaker was Dr. Bruce Ware from Southern Seminary. The three different sessions were to discuss the Providence of God in Process, Open Theism, Arminianism and Reformed Theology. Since I had read Ware's book on Open Theism, I was excited to hear him speak on the topic and was excited that I was going to have the opportunity to ask him some questions on some of his conclusions on this "theology."

I used to attend Mars Hill back in the early 2000's before they bought and moved into their new warehouse, so I was excited to see their new building and see Driscoll's passion for a facility in the downtown area come to life. As we walked in to the building we were immediately welcomed by a young man in his, you got it, mid 20's. Which is what I was expecting since that is exactly the type of person Driscoll first desired (not saying this is bad) to see saved in our unchurched area up here in the great northwest. As we looked around the foyer there was little difference between this church and any other mainstream church in any city in America. As we moved into the sanctuary it was apparent that there was some difference here though. The warehouse is very "raw" in that it looks like a concert venue, which is exactly what Driscoll was aiming for. The video equipment and sound system is top of the line and in Driscoll's book I found out that the church was GIVEN this equipment by a major manufacturer and it was worth $500,000. Not only that but the one who designs Disney's sound came in and donated his time as well to design the sound and video for Mars Hill, amazing. (If you would like to learn a little more about Driscoll, Adrian Warnock has a great interview with him and also some good articles at the bottom of the interview)

As we sat down, we were welcomed and we started worship. I found it, as I did back in the early 2000's a little "showy" instead of worshipful but that is probably just cause I am not used to it. What I do not question is the love and spirit that Pastor Tim (their worship pastor) and the congregants have for our Lord. I could tell that I was in the middle of a crowd whose main concern was Jesus Christ and His name exalted.

The first night of the conference Dr. Ware started to speak on Process Theology and Open Theism. Dr. Ware hammered on this for about an hour and half and had some great points and refutations straight from Scripture. Let's just say that it became so ridiculous in our minds (the thought that Open Theism was orthodoxy) that people in the crowd started to laugh at some of the points being made by Dr. Ware when explaining Open Theism. One of the key points that Dr. Ware made against Open Theism was Isaiah 41:21-24 which explains that to prove one is a god, they must be able to tell us of all the past events and also pronounce what is to come. But because YHWH is the only God who can do this (Open Theism denies God can do this), all others are false. So, Isaiah states that if you believe in these false gods that cannot predict the future YOU are an abomination. This, Dr. Ware stated, was basically a definition of Open Theism and even said that he has told those whom he has debated that they must be careful because this is describing them.

Then came the Q & A. One gentleman got up and simply asked. Dr. Ware, as pastors should we warn our flock that Open Theism is heresy and that the teachers are wolves in sheep's clothing? I will tell you that I thought this was almost an absurd question. This seemed like a question that Dr. Ware would just say, "yes" and then turn to answer another question. He had led "this horse to the water." I was ready to drink, my mouth was dry and knew that Dr. Ware would satisfy my thirst of thinking this was heresy. Then Dr. Ware said, "no, I am not ready to call this heresy. There are too many similarities in our beliefs." I was floored. I had to refute this. I had to ask him how he could come to this conclusion. So, I stood and simply asked, "Dr. Ware I was surprised that you said this isn't a heresy. Did you not state that Isaiah 41 is a description of Open Theism?" He agreed. I then asked, when in the Bible does God ever call the elect an abomination?" Further I stated that Mormons also believe a lot of the same doctrines that we hold but it isn't our similarities that make us call them brothers, but it is our differences that make us call them heretics and a cult. He wasn't able to give me a satisfactory answer in my opinion and he did say that he felt like he was "waffling" because of him calling Open Theists brothers when calling the Mormons heretics. I did probably "outstay my welcome" at the mic and probably pushed too much, because I do respect Dr. Ware. But, the next day when I asked another question I did apologize if he felt he was disrespected. He said he was not, and so I continued to ask my question on double predestination.

The rest of the weekend went very well and I really enjoyed, not only Dr. Ware and his explanation of Arminian and Reformed view of providence, but also enjoyed the people of Mars Hill. I was expecting some more "heated" questions that were against the reformed position but most of the questions were sincere "clarity" questions by people just simply wanting to learn. Dr. Ware has some interesting views on compatible freedom and the atonement but both are going to cause me to make sure that I study more before coming to my conclusions.

I believed before this conference that Open Theism is heresy and, whether Dr. Ware likes it or not, he just solidified this thought. Open Theists believe in a false god that cannot ordain nor foreknow the future and Isaiah 41 tells us that those people who "chooses them are an abomination."

There will be free MP3 downloads and video from the conference coming in a couple of weeks and I will link there when they become available. I have the outlines from all three sessions, and if you would like to download the notes click below:

Session 1 - Process Theology/Open Theism

Session 2 - Arminianism

Session 3 - Reformed Theology

I respect Dr. Ware greatly and thank him for his studies in this area and pray that God would continue to use him. I also thank God for Mars Hill church and their love for the gospel and to see people's lives transformed by its power. I just read Driscoll's book on the biography of Mars Hill and you can check out that review here. May God transform all of us to loving Him more so we can love others more and show them the grace that God offers.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

YHWH Speaks

I read a post today by John Piper that was a great encouragement to me regarding the all-encompassing sufficiency of the written word of God. May we never waiver on this truth.

The morning I heard the voice of God

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Solus Christus - Part II

Christ Alone is our Mediator

As the Roman Catholic faith would agree in principal to our first point we must push the envelope, per se, to further this thought of Solus Christus that states that Christ alone is our Mediator between God and man. We further assert that He alone is our Mediator and not a pope, not a priest, not Mary, not a saint, not a sacrament and not a mass.

So what is a mediator? We see this usage in 1 Tim 2:5

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

This word “mediator” means one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, or for ratifying a covenant. In the Hellenistic period it meant “the neutral whom both parties could trust and who also guarantees agreement” So in reality to us, Christ is the one whom both God and man can put full trust in, to settle the disagreement. Which is that there is wrath due upon us for our sin and, because of Christ, that debt is paid by the imputation of His righteousness.

Again, there is only one mediator between us and God. Before Christ we were separated from God, said to be enemies of God, God haters and said that without Him that our foot would slip in due time in Deut 32:35.

for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
Ephesians 2:18

This Greek word “through” means “because of or on account of” and the word “access” means, when pertaining to God: that relationship with God whereby we are acceptable to him and have assurance that he is favourably disposed towards him.

Not only is Jesus Christ our only way of access and our only Mediator but is said to be our only Advocate with the Father. Let’s go through these verses then expound:

by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh
Heb 10:20

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
1 John 2:1

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Romans 8:33,34

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
Hebrews 7:25

What is amazing about Jesus Christ is that not only did He die for us and is our only way to God but He also is the One that intercedes on our behalf.

So what is this Advocate and intercessor on our behalf?

Advocate: (Parakletos) (also used of the Holy Spirit) summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid. A one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate. B one who pleads another’s cause with one, an intercessor. of Christ in his exaltation at God’s right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins. in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant. of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom. (Strongs)

Because of these truths in the Bible the reformers realized that going to a priest or to ask a saint or the virgin Mary to intercede for them on their behalf, was a slap in the face to the Lord Jesus Christ. It was saying that Christ could not do His job correctly and that we don’t have access to the Father through Christ but that we need another advocate or another to intercede. If this is true, why ask in Jesus name? Why ask anything in Christ’s name if it isn’t sufficient? Revelation 1 and 1 Peter 2 both call us priests ourselves, the saints. If this is true then we have direct access to our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who lives to make intercession for us.

Christ Alone is to be Glorified

As we take a look at this we must understand where we come to here and is something that is changing in our culture and was not ultimately understood fully by the reformers. It really started with the Great Awakening of Lordship Salvation, with the false ways of evangelism that was started with Charles Finney and then countered biblically with Asahel Nettleton in the early 19th century. It is now coming down the road with popular evangelistic tools like Campus Crusade for Christ, the name it and claim it gospel with Benny Hinn, and all of TBN, and also The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. These all center on, “God has a wonderful plan for your life”

These all drive to self esteem and the improvement of life instead of what we are called to do in our lives for Christ: Surrender to Christ and deny ourselves

We used to use the word surrender all the time in the English language. It means to “
give into the hands of another to be used for their purpose and power”

Instead most, now, use the word, “commit.” Commit your lives to Christ, commit your ways to Him. This word was not even apart of the English language before the 19th century.

But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
Romans 6:17,18

It is said that when a new word is used it replaces another in the language. Anyone want to guess what word “commit” replaced? Surrender.

In our text of Romans 6:17 the word that is used is committed, the actual Greek word that is used is the word surrender.

We are called to surrender to Christ, He is our Lord, we are His slaves. We are called to be humble, which means to lower one’s self to abasement or to a low esteem. We are called to deny ourselves, Paul said that it is not he who lives but Christ who lives in me. What happens when you commit to something? You can commit to a job, a diet and so on. What happens when you surrender in a war? The difference between surrendering and committing to Christ is the difference that commitment can be negated where surrendering cannot.

We are not called to a wonderful plan or a high self esteem that the world would think of, but we are called to a life that is spiritually wonderful and spiritually high in Christ’s esteem not our own.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.
Mark 8:34,35

Solus Christus denies this gospel of the “you gospel” and turns that on its head and says like Isaiah did, “Here am I, send me

The only time that you will understand God’s love for you, and understand the grace and mercy that He bestowed on you is when you understand how filthy and sinful you are with absolutely no hope without Christ. Once you understand this, how low and that you are like Paul said, “the chief of sinners” only then, can you start to comprehend the love of Christ.

It is not a “me gospel” but a “because of Him gospel” We will be hated, persecuted, spit upon, killed, hurt and despised, but all for the cause of Christ and the hope and assurance of Christ’s voice, “Well done good and faithful servant

When we see that the whole sum of our salvation, and every single part of it, are comprehended in Christ, we must beware of deriving even the minutes portion of it from any other quarter. If we seek salvation, we are taught by the very name of Jesus that he possesses it;270 if we seek any other gifts of the Spirit, we shall find them in his unction; strength in his government; purity in his conception; indulgence in his nativity, in which he was made like us in all respects, in order that he might learn to sympathise with us: if we seek redemption, we shall find it in his passion; acquittal in his condemnation; remission of the curse in his cross; satisfaction in his sacrifice; purification in his blood; reconciliation in his descent to hell; mortification of the flesh in his tomb; newness of life in his resurrection; immortality also in his resurrection; the inheritance of a celestial kingdom in his entrance into heaven; protection, security, and the abundant supply of all blessings, in his kingdom; secure anticipation of judgment in the power of judging committed to him. In fine, since in him all kinds of blessings are treasured up, let us draw a full supply from him, and none from any other quarter. Those who, not satisfied with him alone, entertain various hopes from others, though they may continue to look to him chiefly, deviate from the right path by the simple fact, that some portion of their thought takes a different direction. No distrust of this description can arise when once the abundance of his blessings is properly known.
Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin

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"Do you have good reason to be angry?"

In our previous installment of our study of the book of Jonah, we looked at the biblical definition of repentance. Early on in this series, there was a great discussion about whether Jonah showed true biblical repentance while in the belly of the fish. Chapter 4 makes it clear, however, that he did not.

Notice that in verse 1, it states that Jonah “became angry”. Verse 2 explains the reason for his anger:

“He prayed to the LORD and said, "Please LORD, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.”

What staggering pride! Jonah, in essence, is saying “ I told you so” to YHWH in an attempt to justify his ungodly reaction to the salvation of a foreign nation. Remember that it was this same sin that caused him to flee in chapter 1. I would argue that if he truly were repentant in chapter 2, this would not be his reaction to the salvation of so many souls.

He then, still clouded by his own sin, uses one of the most common descriptions of God in the Old Testament for an attempt at further evidence that he is right in his reaction. In a twisted fashion, he attempts to claim the truth that God is “slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness” as proof positive that he has been right all along. And, is characteristic throughout this story, Jonah again dwells on death (1:12, 2:2, 2:5, 4:3, 4:8). “Death is better than life”, he says. You would think that with such an intimate look at the prospect of death in chapter 2, he would have been shaken free from this line of thinking. The Lord responds with a single question:

“The Lord said, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry?’”

Notice, however, that Jonah does not even respond to the Lord. He simply walks away and begins to build his shelter. What unbelievable sin, to refuse to answer your Creator. In our next, and last installment in this series, we will consider the unique way in which the Lord dramatically shows Jonah his sinful attitude.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Loving the Lost

I found this at Irish Calvinist and it really hits hard. May we all continue to seek and save the lost, and see them in the way that Christ did: Dead and in need of a Saviour.

In this vein I was struck by Alex Montoya’s words in his helpful book, Preaching with Passion. Montoya is a professor at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, CA.

Montoya writing in the context of losing compassion for people:

“That is when I retreat to a small taco stand in the barrio of East Los Angeles, to a place where real people live. I order a cup of coffee and sit with my back against the wall. Then I watch, I observe, I read, and I listen intently for the heart cry.

A group of gang-bangers come in for a snack—one in four will die before the age of eighteen; two of the others will end up in prison. All are doomed to a hard life. A young mother comes in with her brood of youngsters. It is obvious they are poor. They share drinks. They live in poverty; some will never see a forest or snow. An old drunk staggers in, begging for a meal. He is quickly thrown out. That was somebody’s baby boy. A mother at one time cradled that man and nursed him….I look, I listen until I hear their cries, until their souls cry out to me, “Please help, I’m perishing!” until the tears pour forth from my melted heart! I am in love with humanity once again.”

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Interrogating the Legalist Within

I found this at Reformed Evangelist. This is a great article...please don't pass this up, great reminders!

Interrogating the Legalist Within
by C.J. Mahaney

Pause for a moment and remember.

Remember where you were, and what it was like … that moment when you understood the cross for the first time … when you really grasped what happened at Calvary, and what it truly means that Christ died for your sins, what it truly means to be saved.

Remember the passion for Jesus you had? Remember the joy and overwhelming gratitude to God that came from knowing your sins were forgiven?

Now think about your Christian life today. Have you moved on to other things? Maybe you’re primarily focused on fighting lust, or pursuing godly relationships with the opposite sex, or battling pride, or cultivating patience.

If so, life is probably quite different for you now. Perhaps you often lack joy, or wonder why you can’t make greater progress in spiritual maturity, or feel condemned when you sin. So you study your Bible more, or attend another small-group meeting, or serve in new ways at church, or read the latest book.

All these practices are good. Some are vital. But let me suggest the likely root cause of your problems: Perhaps you have simply drifted from the message that saved you. If you lack passion for God, if you sometimes wonder where the joy went, then consider: Are you still clinging to the gospel? Whether you grew up in church or were saved on the streets, you were saved by the same simple message: Christ died for your sins.

The way we began this walk of faith should be the way we continue. We began with the gospel. We should continue with the same simple faith in the same profound gospel. Our tendency to drift away from the message we began with isn’t new. Paul the Apostle addressed this tendency when he wrote:

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:1-3, ESV)

Paul reminds the church of the message the church began with: “Jesus Christ … crucified.” The cross is where we should be planted. The cross reminds us that our best efforts could never achieve forgiveness from God. And the cross reminds us that Christ’s work on our behalf is forever finished, so our best efforts can never add to His work.

How quickly we drift from this essential message! We begin basing our relationship with God on our performance. We want to substitute our works — our Bible reading, our church attendance, our church participation — for Christ’s finished work. We easily fall into the subtle but serious trap of legalism, because every one of us has a legalist lurking within.

If you’re unfamiliar with this term, here is how I like to define legalism: Legalism is seeking to achieve forgiveness from God, justification before God, and acceptance by God, through our obedience to God.

In other words, a legalist is anyone who behaves as if he or she can earn God’s approval and forgiveness through performance. At its heart legalism is self-atonement for the purpose of self-glorification and ultimately self-worship. Many of us (and I include myself here) can approach legalism casually. But legalism is serious and it is deadly.

I can assure you that in the next 24 hours you and I will face the temptation of legalism — we will once again be challenged and confronted by the legalist within. In order to combat this sinful tendency in our own hearts, it’s critical for us to stay planted in the good of the gospel — to continue in the message we began with.

Here are three ways you can seek to remain planted in the good of the gospel on a daily basis.

First, remember the cross. “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” Paul reminded the Galatians of the cross, and he reminds us as well, because our daily tendency and temptation is to forget the cross. Recognize this tendency in yourself and remind yourself often of the cross. Read cross-centered books, listen to cross-centered preaching, and memorize Scripture verses pertaining to Christ’s work on the cross.

Second, recall your conversion. “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” With this question, Paul points us all back to the message that saved us. He wants us to begin interrogating the legalist within, whenever legalism rises up to try to dilute or deny the unique saving power of God’s grace. To recall how we were converted is to be reminded of grace. As a practice, I seize every opportunity to share my testimony with other Christians, and I ask them to share theirs. I find this practice helps us marvel at grace together.

Third, review your hope. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Here is another telling question for your inner legalist and mine. So please be very clear about this: You will never be more justified — more accepted by God and righteous in his sight — than you are right now or than you were that first moment you exercised the gift of faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Our hope for each day is not in trying to earn God’s forgiveness, but to look outward and upward, trusting in the work of God’s Son on our behalf, for our justification is in Him, permanently and forever.

I recommend these practices because I’m very aware of my temptation and tendency to attempt to smuggle some of my own character into God’s work of grace. I try to add what I do to what Christ has already done. I face the constant temptation to legalism. But planting myself near the cross helps me, by God’s grace, to turn away from legalism.

There is hope for us in the gospel. The gospel helps us break free from legalism. The gospel takes my eyes off myself and puts them on God. So in your fight against the legalist within, remember the cross. Recall your conversion. Review your hope.

Only in the sure and certain hope of the gospel can we find again that fullness of God-centered joy, passion, and gratitude. You began with the gospel, so stick with the gospel.

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Five Solas of the Reformation - Solus Christus - Part 1

As we enter into our second of the Five Solas, this again, like we will probably find with most of the Solas, we will agree with the concept but must challenge ourselves to agree practically as well. Most confessing Christians, would agree with the second sola, Christ Alone.

If I just say Christ Alone what are some thoughts that are brought to your attention?

For me when we proclaim Christ Alone we stand here stating that we are closed minded, that we alone have the truth, that we alone are going to heaven, that we alone have access to the true God, Creator of all things.

By saying, “Christ Alone” we draw a line in the sand against all who disagree and to those Christ says:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. ”
Matthew 7:13,14

We are called many things for this belief in Christ alone, but we must stand for this truth as it saves us from our sins and sets us apart to be sanctified.

Solus Christus states the belief that the Scriptures and Christ have been secularized and has gone away from a Christ centered faith. At the time of the reformation it was to return to Christ alone is our salvation and our only mediator between God and man. As we have come along we have also seen that Christ alone opposes those things which are built upon the belief of self esteem, feelings instead of belief, man’s wisdom instead of the wisdom found only in Christ, the so called, “What will Christ give me gospel?” It stands in the face of “God has a wonderful plan for your life” and instead states “serve Christ because He alone died for you.”

Solus Christus stands, only on, everything we do and exalt is Christ centered and on Him alone.

Hopefully we will be challenged through this study to understand what we state when we cry out “Solus Christus” but know that our voice is not in solitary, our voice is heard and our voice, because of Christ, reaches to the ears of our Father in heaven.

We are going to look at three aspects of this truth:

Christ Alone is our Salvation
Christ Alone is our Mediator
Christ Alone is to be Glorified

First: Christ Alone is our Salvation

Have you ever told anyone that if they don’t believe in Christ that they will go to hell? What was the reaction? Most of the time the first thing they will say is, "I am a good person and not as bad as ::enter name:: so God will allow me into heaven." Or, that there are many roads to heaven and if you believe in Jesus and someone else believes in Buddha that God will see the good that they have done and they will be accepted as a child of God.

Maybe you have run into a secular humanist, claiming that there is no God and we are the only ones that can save ourselves. Maybe you have run into a postmodernist that believes that there is no absolute truths so to believe that Jesus is the Messiah for all people of all time is a misunderstanding of truth.

Maybe you have run into a universalist that believes that all will be saved and that there is no hell but that we will all enjoy heaven together.

Whichever of these you have run into, they are all the same: none of them believes the Reformation doctrine of “Solus Christus” as our Saviour. But where did the reformers find this doctrine? Well because we have defended and illustrated Sola Scriptura we know where they find these truths: The Bible

Because of the vastness of this subject we must concentrate our time on John 14:6 from Christ’s own mouth in what He claimed.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Notice why Jesus even came to this statement, look to Thomas’ question in verse 5:

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”

Thomas’ real question to Christ was, "where are you going?" But, Christ, knowing the eternal impact of the question answers perfectly, as He always does, not where He is going, because He could have just as easily said, “I am going to heaven” but in actuality He gives Thomas three answers to His question and then insight on His exclusivity. With His three prong answer Christ uses the emphatic article, “the” to denote singleness or inclusively of His statement.

Jesus says that He alone is the way, or for us here in our life as a Christian, this is the start of our walk with God, when we understand this, this is our justification: He is the way. As Jesus then puts it, He is the truth. As we live our Christian life we must understand that He alone is the truth and we find it no where else, this is our progressive sanctification. Lastly; He is the life. This is our glorification, this is when we see Him face to face and enjoy Him forever. Jesus’ answer to Thomas shows the entire embodiment of a believer’s new life. And Christ, making sure that His commands are understood, says it again by saying, “no one comes to the Father but through Me.” It is almost like when Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” in Phil 4:4 or when Paul says to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thess 5:17. Paul could have just said, “Pray” because that is in the present tense and in the Greek would mean to never cease from doing so, but he follows it up with the repetitive, “without ceasing”

This is what Christ is doing here. He is displaying to His apostles that He alone is the way to God, He alone is the truth, He alone is the life. What does this mean? If He alone is the way, there are no other ways, if He alone is the truth, everything else is a lie, if He alone is the life, everything else is death. And in case you didn’t get it; no one can come to the Father but through Christ.

This use of “no one” is important to understand. The term literally means “nothing or not a thing; denying absolutely; particularly placing emphasis as not even one, not the least and differing from mēdeís (3367) which would be conditional on certain circumstances.

So, Jesus is stating that under no circumstance can anything or anyone come to the Father except through Him no matter the circumstance. This is an absolute statement and if Christ meant for their to be other ways He could have used the Greek term “medeis” instead of the term that He actually used, which was “oudeis.”

There are absolutes, and this is one and the most important one: No one can come to the Father but through Christ, Solus Christus.

Followed up with these is Acts 4:12 that states:

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be

Of course, as we know that Scripture is breathed out by God and perfect, the word for “no one” is again our term “oudeis” that we just discussed in John 14:6. There are many other important verses and statements by Christ affirming that He alone is our salvation but none more than His declaration in John 14:6

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Calvin's Institute's of the Christian Religion

I am finally going through a study of Calvin's Institutes and so far, I have to say, the hype was no joke. I have enjoyed them immensely and know that I can't wait to continue to dive into them. I am going through them with another brother and we are going through them together so that we don't just "skim" or just "take Calvin's word for it" as we go through his works. So far, I have yet to disagree with him on any points, but we just started. I am interested to get his fourth book and his arguments for paedo-baptism. Anyway, enough is enough here is my favorite part of book one so far, I hope you enjoy.

On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also—He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.

Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846. (I, i, 2). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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A Preachers Prayer

I have a good friend who is a Pastor in Delaware. Occasionally I am blessed with an article or quote that he sends to certain people as a means of encouragement and exhortation. I feel privileged to have "made the cut" on his distribution list, as I am always edified to see how the mind of a godly man operates. And, the stuff he sends is just great. Below is such an email.

The Preachers Prayer
My Lord, Let not my ministry be approved only by men,
or merely win the esteem and affections of people;
But do the work of grace in their hearts,
call in thy elect,
seal and edify the regenerate ones,
and command eternal blessing on their souls.
Save me from self-opinion and self-seeking;
Water the hearts of those who hear thy Word,
that seed sown in weakness may be raised in power;
Cause me and those that hear me
to behold thee here in the light of special faith,
and hereafter in the blaze of endless glory;
Make my every sermon a means of grace to myself;
and help me to experience the power of thy dying love,
for thy blood is balm,
thy presence bliss,
thy smile heaven,
thy cross the place where truth and mercy meet.
Look upon the doubts and discouragements of my ministry
and keep me from self-importance;
I beg pardon for my many sins, omissions, infirmities,
as a man, as a minister;
Command thy blessing on my weak, unworthy labours,
and on the message of salvation given;
Stay with thy people,
and may thy presence be their portion and mine.
When I preach to others let not my words by merely elegant and masterly,
my reasoning polished and refined,
my performance powerless and tasteless,
by may I exalt thee and humble sinners.
O Lord of power and grace,
all hearts are in thy hands, all events at thy disposal,
set the seal of thy almighty will upon my ministry.

Arthur Bennett - The Valley of Vision

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Scriptura - Part II

God’s View of His Word

The first thing we must understand is that we should strive to be like God. We are told in Leviticus 19:2 be holy, for I the Lord your God is holy, 1 John 2:6 says to walk in the same manner that He walked.

So in the area of His Word we must also regard it as important as He does. So let us take a look at how important God’s word is to Him so that we can follow in His steps.

The most important passage that I have seen in this area is Psalm 138:2c.

For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.

As we take a look at this small part of Scripture hidden almost behind the great 139th Psalm, which speaks of God’s omniscience and omnipresence, we see this phrase: God has magnified His word according to all His name.

Let’s break this down:

God has magnified, or made great or has promoted, His word, according, which means to make above, to all Your name. The word name, to the Jews, meant not just how to identify their family but meant their entire essence, it was who they were, it meant their reputation or their glory.

So, God puts His word above His own essence and glory, making His word supreme and most important so that it is not ashamed by men. If God does this of His word how much should we also make the word of God so important.

God also has some warnings according to His word:

Deut 4:2 says not to add or subtract from His word; Deut 18:20 and Zechariah 13:3 say that if a prophet acts presumptuously or who says something that the Lord has not commanded; he shall die.

Because of this and because of the unity of the Godhead, when Christ came, He must also do the same if these things are true. He is the Word that became flesh, and Christ also is said to have come not for peace but with a sword, which is the same Greek word also spoken of in Hebrews 4:12, when the word of God is said to be sharper than any two edged sword. We also see Christ putting this in practice.

And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Luke 24:25-27

Christ also refuted the temptation by the devil only by Scripture. He spoke of His death and resurrection by the story of Jonah, and spoke of who He was many a times by Scripture, especially when He read in the synagogue from Isaiah 61 to proclaim who He was. Christ actually uses their traditions to refute them when He uses the term: “you have heard it said” all through the Sermon on the Mount.

The Apostles View of the Word

Let’s take a look at 2 Peter 1:16-21

Notice first that Peter is saying that even though He saw the living Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration that the word of God is still more sure than even that. Or can also be interpreted: We have the even more sure prophetic word. The statement “more sure” means literally to be more stable and firm. Peter is stating that seeing Christ is nothing compared to the word of God.

Peter is also saying that experience, even in seeing Christ in His glorified state, does not match the Word of God. Peter did not say, we have man’s wisdom, man’s revelation, man’s tradition or anything else made more sure; no, only the word of God is made more sure. Very important to understand. Peter is relying only on God’s word and It alone.

Then we see in verse 21 that that no prophecy was by an act of human will but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

This same word for “moved” is the same word used in 2 Timothy 4:13 when Paul tells Timothy to “bring the cloak which I left” The Holy Spirit did the same to these writers. He moved them. Understand that these men weren’t just dummies taking orders, nor were they just told what to write as a scribe would be told. We will never fully understand how this actually took place but we can have confidence that every single word that was penned by these men were made sure and breathed by God.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Galatians 1:8,9

Notice that the Gospel has been received, not will receive or will receive more fully, but this is past tense, you received. If the canon is not closed, if there is revelation apart from God’s holy word, how can you adhere to this text of Scripture?

The God-breathed Text

Finally, let’s look at the clincher: 2 Tim 3:16,17

As we read this text it is vital to know some background.

Who wrote 2 Timothy? Paul
To whom? Timothy in 66ad great fire was 64 a.d
What is Paul’s relationship to Timothy? His elder and mentor, led Timothy to Christ
Is the date important? During Nero’s reign (54-66 ad)
Timing? Last epistle of Paul before he died
What is the book’s theme? Handbook for the soldier of Christ; Fighting against heretical teachers and standing firm in the faith
What is the prior verses speaking of? The delusion of hater’s of God
What is the succeeding verses speaking of? Preaching the word
Main subject of verses 16 and 17: Scripture (Peter calls Paul’s letters scripture: 2 Peter 3:15,16)
What parts of scripture? All Scripture: Both Old and New Testaments (1 Tim 5:18; 2 Peter 3:16) Notice that Paul uses this illustration in 1 Tim and now we look in 2 Tim when he says, all Scripture…Paul knew what they were writing was Scripture. Inspired: only use in NT, means divinely breathed into, so then ties the OT with the NT when the prophets would say, “God spoke to me saying…” also can be seen in Jeremiah 1:9 when God said that He put the words in Jeremiah’s mouth
Teach: edify the church, doctrine
Reproof: only used one other time in NT, means to correct error and to convict a sinner
Correction: (only use in NT) bring back those who are backsliding
Training in righteousness: sanctification after justification
Man of God: Used only one other time in NT and that was in 1 Tim 6:11
Adequate: means perfect or complete (only use in NT)
Equipped: means to be equipped fully or thoroughly (only used one other time in NT)
Every: literally means all, any, every, the whole
Good work: same as used in Mark 10:18 when Jesus calls God the Father “good” and same as used in James 1:17 when James says that every good gift comes from above

In the end as we see these verses, Scripture is mentioned to refute haters of God and is Paul’s last instruction to Timothy as the way to run the church as we found in teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness.

Think of this: Scripture does everything according to Paul. It really shows the pattern of the person who is unsaved all the way to the life of the saved. (follow along with me in 2 Timothy 3:16,17)Scripture teaches doctrine, then it rebukes sin, then it corrects sin in those lives and then, once saved, it instructs to righteousness. Why? So that we as men would be perfect (remember be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect in Matthew 5:48), and thoroughly equipped or maybe better put, the only way to be equipped fully, for every single good work for God.

It is the only way that he mentions that makes the man of God perfect to do God’s good work. Romans 8:8 says no one in the flesh can please God. So how does Paul now tell us how we can do good, how can we live good and how will we be equipped to do good?

He only mentions Scripture, he doesn’t mention tradition, he doesn’t mention experience, he doesn’t mention cultural changes, he doesn’t mention a pope, and he doesn’t mention marketing schemes: he mentions Scripture.

What is Timothy told to do with this Scripture in the next chapter? Preach it in season and out of season! We must understand how special this passage of Scripture is, for so many words are used here that are hardly used elsewhere, I think this is important and intended to continue to draw attention to the detail not only of this part of Scripture but to Scripture itself.

I cannot help but draw our attention back to the great reformers words when Luther said:

My conscience is captive to the Word of God, I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither honest nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.

Martin Luther (as he stood at the Diet of Worms)

Where is your confidence? Where are your convictions? How do you answer those questions posed by men seeking knowledge? Do you rely on your own attempts to describe an infinite God by a foolish man? Or do you rely solely on the inspired word that was forever ordained in heaven by the Creator Himself.

This Sola stands between you and a study that will enrich you deeply. If you adhere to Sola Scriptura we have a common ground to move forward to the next four Solas. If you do not, I am afraid that the gap that has grown between you and I has grown to a width too far for me to cross.

When someone asks how can an axe head float, how can a man walk on water, how can a dead man come to life, how can a few loaves become a thousand? I simply ask: How can a finite creature question his infinite Creator.

May you be able to say the same.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Then God relented"

We recently started a Systematic Theology class with our adult Sunday School. As a normal order of the subjects involved in such a study, we started with the inspiration, authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures. After establishing this truth, we then go to the Scriptures as we learn about all of the other topics. The first of which is called Theology Proper; the doctrine of the Person of God.

As we began to delve into His attributes, we came to His immutability; God cannot change. Malachi 3:6a puts it plainly and clearly:

"For I, the LORD, do not change"

So, when we come to Jonah 3:10 we read the following:

"When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it."

Does this verse suggest that God can change? Did He plan to do something that He does not do?

Assuming that we believe the Bible to be inspired by God Himself (2 Tim 3:16-17), these passages do not contradict each other. There are two aspects that need to be brought out in regards to a statement like this. First, we know that the Bible uses anthropomorphic language to describe God in a way that we can comprehend. Remember that He is infinite (2. 1 Kings 8:27, Job 36:26, Ps 90:2, John 8:58, Acts 17:24-28, Rev 1:8, 4:8). Inherently, we as finite beings cannot fully comprehend Him or His ways. So He must condescend to our level so that we can know something/anything about Him. Antrhopomorphic language uses human attributes to describe YHWH. We read, for example, in Genesis 6 that "Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD" (vs 8). Since God is Spirit, and does not have a body (John 4:24), we know that Moses did not intend for us to think that God has a literal set of eyes. But we understand that God had favor on Noah, according to His gracious, divine perspective and provision. These types of descriptions are found all throughout Scripture.

Is 52:10
"The LORD has bared His holy arm In the sight of all the nations, That all the ends of the earth may see The salvation of our God."

2 Chron 16:9
"For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His."

Our anthropomorphic understanding of a verse like this helps us to know that God does not have eyes, nor that His eyes are literally and independently traveling around the planet. We understand, without even having to consciously process the thought, the intend of the author.

So, from a human perspective, it does appear that God actually changed His actions in Jonah 3:10. He declared calamity, and relented from doing it when they repented. But we must temper this with the understanding that God knows all things, actual and possible, including future events (Ps 2:11, 37:18, 139:1-6, 1 Sam 23:10-14, Matt 11:20-24, 1 John 3:20b)

Is 46:10
“Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

So God knew that Jonah would finally go to Nineveh. He knew that the city would repent. He knew that the King would declare that all were to repent. He knew all of these things not simply because He can see the future, but because He decreed that it would happen. Did God change? Certainly not.

Secondly, in a rather simplistic approach to explaining this passage, consider what actually changed in the account. Did God change? Or, did the people change? Did the circumstances of Nineveh change? It is clear that the people are the ones who changed, who repented, not the YHWH. Let's continue a bit further in the Isaiah passage from above:

Is 46:10-13
Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it. "Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, Who are far from righteousness. "I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; And My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, And My glory for Israel."

For those why try to define, describe or limit God based on human perception or reason, remember that we are finite, fallen and "stubborn-minded". His ways are higher than ours (Is 55:9), and we must submit our thinking to the truth revealed in the Scriptures.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sackcloth and Ashes

Jonah proclaims. The city of Nineveh repents. Not possible, right? A whole city? Ok, we've struggled a bit with the large fish, but c'mon. How can an entire city repent when just one man preaches on one day, potentially only saying 6 words total, especially when the city is a "three days walk"? Good questions to ask, but the answer will be revealing of your belief in the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture.

The word of God is inerrant! It contains no errors or mistakes. But it is also infallible. That is, it is incapable of being false! That is because it is the word of the living God (2 Tim 3:16-17, Heb 4:12), and it cannot be broken (John 10:35). The God who created the world by divine fiats would have no problem preserving his prophet for three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. And as an even more amazing display of His power, we see His arm of salvation move each time a single person repents and is made alive from being dead in sin (Is 59:16, Eph 2:1). And so we see in this account that YHWH moves on the hearts of an entire city and the largest recorded response to salvation comes to pass. A city repents. "(F)rom the greatest to the least of them" (vs 5). And as we saw earlier, Jesus Himself confirms the validity of this historical account:

Matt 12:41
"The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here."

This account is not hard to accept if we also remember that repentance is a work of the Lord:

Acts 5:30-1
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross. He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. "

2 Tim 2:24-26
The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will." (emphasis added)

Oh, how our flesh hates to hear that God must initiate in our repentance. How can that be? How can we be held responsible for rejecting Christ if we cannot initiate our own belief? The Scripture teaches both, equally and strongly, that we are responsible to respond, are culpable for rejection, but yet are incapable without His initiating grace. For "there is none righteous, not even one. There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God" (Rom 3:10-11). His ways are higher than ours (Is 55:9)!

And as we continue, we see the response of the people in the city of Nineveh, from a human perspective, we see the message spread from the people to the King:

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes.

As Jonah preaches on the first day, the people then take up the message and spread it through the city to the King. And amazingly, when the King hears what the people have started, he responds in faith as well. For Kings do not follow the leading of the common people. Further proof that this was a divine message. And as to the quickness of their response, we have already considered that true repentance is a work of God. But even from a human standpoint, the proclamation is that the city will be overthrown in 40 days. Not that the destruction would begin in 40 days. It could begin at any moment. It is a reasonable assumption that the King may have realized that since God sent one to announce the coming judgment, there is still a chance to turn. Why, after all, would there be a proclamation of judgment that could not be escaped? Sodom and Gomorrah shows us an example of destruction without warning to the guilty.

The King "arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth and sat on the ashes" (vs 6). He declares that the everyone is to do the same. Again, it is not the Kings proclamation that forces the people to show signs of repentance that are not genuine. The people are the ones who brought the message to the king. They are certainly willing to repent as well. But it is also noteworthy that the King felt compelled to do this despite the lack of assurance that the city would be saved:

"Who knows, God may turn and relent and withdraw His burning anger so that we will not perish."

Who knows....God may turn. He may not. But the hearts had been compelled to bow low before YHWH. After all, they understood clearly that it was a "burning anger". How our preaching today must compel people that God is angry with sinners.

And so we come to that verse that seems to show that God somehow changes. Does He? Can He? What does it mean that "God relented" (vs 10). We will take a look at this next time.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Scriptura - Part I

As we jump into our study of the Five Solas of the Reformation we start at where we find our foundation. If we find these Solas starting at the Reformation let us take a look again at some quotes of the fathers of the Reformation:

My conscience is captive to the Word of God, I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither honest nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.

Martin Luther (as he stood at the Diet of Worms)

Holy Scripture is the permanent authority for every Christian, and the rule of faith and of all human perfection, then it became of prime importance to have the scriptures in the language of the people. For as much as the bible contains Christ, that is all that is necessary for salvation, it is necessary for all men, nor for priests alone. It alone is the supreme law that is to rule Church, State, and Christian life, without human tradition and statutes.

John Wyclif

We, those who adhere to Sola Scriptura, stand on the shoulders of these giants of faith. Before we get into our teaching of this great Sola, let us first define it:

We find no where else to guide our lives, our knowledge of God or His plan for our lives. Not in tradition, not in man, not in creation, not in ourselves, not in reason, but our full and complete rule of faith only comes from Sola Scriptura.

Also, it is important to know that Sola Scriptura is NOT Scripture with no fellowship or teaching from anyone else. Don’t get the two confused. But we stand with the Berean’s instead and believe as they:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so
Acts 17:11

Like Wyclif and the Bereans, I believe that Scripture alone is our guide and rule of faith, only explained and expounded on by men, but not of men nor of traditions in of themselves solely.

I believe that many say they believe in this doctrine but don’t fully live this out. To understand Solus Christus, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide and Soli Deo Gloria fully; you must believe this doctrine first and then practice it. Any time we state, “this is the way I see it” we are abandoning Scripture alone. Your beliefs of everything pertaining to life and godliness should reflect sound exegesis and exposition of the Holy Scriptures and them alone.

Only when I truly started to do this did I turn from the belief of free will and reason, to bondage of the will and God’s truth. But we will get into that when going through Sola Gratia. So let us look at our study on this great subject that was so critical in the protestant reformation.

A Little on the Canon of Scripture

I will not be exhaustive here so bear with me. If you have additional questions regarding the canon of Scripture I am more than willing to discuss further through comments or email. The first thing to understand is simply this:

Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
Psalm 119:89

What is great about this passage is that when we think of forever as humans we think of only the future. But, this Hebrew word means for eternity past and eternity future. We need to understand the importance of God’s word as it has forever in eternity past and future has been settled, or better put, appointed or established.

This is why David could say that in Psalm 139 that his days were already numbered and that God knew his words before they were said. God is eternal and so is His word and neither Him nor His word can be moved or changed.

If God’s word is forever settled in heaven then it is only acceptable for His people to understand that if it has already been settled God does not react to man’s disobedience, as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses would contend. They both reinterpret “man’s mistakes” in the word because of man’s error. Both contend that they were told by God that we had it all wrong and needed a better interpretation.

The Mormons take it a step further and came out with a completely new revelation with the Book of Mormon. I would contend that if these cults are true this means that no one has been saved since the days of the apostles and therefore God needed to “react” to man’s sin; this cannot and does not happen. Because, forever God’s word has been preordained in Heaven.

As far as the Canon of Scripture the first to “formally” put together a list, and I use that word, formally, loosely, was Athanasius in 367. This list was then complimented by Jerome and Augustine putting their stamp of approval on the matter. Done so as almost a, “of course” statements by the two. Jerome, who translated what Catholics use in the Latin Vulgate (405 AD), said that the 66 books were inspired, yet, the Apocrypha, while helpful, were only to be used for history and were not inspired.

This list was not formally refuted until the Council of Trent in 1545 by the Roman Catholics to refute the Reformers. The reason is because the Apocrypha is the only source that contains such things as purgatory, penance, indulgences, praying for the dead, etc. And those references are vague at their very best.

Just a quick sidenote, 1 Maccabees 9:27 and 14:41 state that there were no prophets at the time that these revolts were happening, that is why it is known as the period of silence by God between the time of Malachi and John the Baptist.

Hebrews 1:1,2 sum up my beliefs on the issue:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the fworld.
Hebrews 1:1,2

And when he speaks of the last times (or last days), he intimates that there is no longer any reason to expect any new revelation; for it was not a word in part that Christ brought, but the final conclusion. It is in this sense that the Apostles take the last times and the last days. And Paul means the same when he says, “Upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11.) If God then has spoken now for the last time, it is right to advance thus far; so also when you come to Christ, you ought not to go farther: and these two things it is very needful for us to know.
John Calvin

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

The "Irish Bog" Scrolls?

Seth and I recently had the opportunity to go and view a display of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Seattle Pacific Science Center. Needless to say, it was amazing to see these items which are a testimony to the Lord's faithfulness to preserve His written word. Some of the items were on display for the first time outside of Israel. So, if the exhibition comes anywhere close to where you live, they are a must see.

In light of that, I wanted to post an internet article that did not seem to receive a lot of press, but is nonetheless very interesting.

I will let it speak for itself:

Medieval Psalmbook Dug Out of Irish Bog
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
DUBLIN, Ireland

Irish archaeologists heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog. The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration and facing years of painstaking analysis before being put on public display. "There's two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it's unlikely that something this fragile could survive buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing."

He said an engineer was digging up bogland last week to create commercial potting soil somewhere in Ireland's midlands when, "just beyond the bucket of his bulldozer, he spotted something." Wallace would not specify where the book was found because a team of archaeologists is still exploring the site.

"The owner of the bog has had dealings with us in past and is very much in favor of archaeological discovery and reporting it," Wallace said. Crucially, he said, the bog owner covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed overnight, he said, "it could have dried out and just vanished, blown away."

The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

Wallace said several experts spent Tuesday analyzing only that page — the number of letters on each line, lines on each page, size of page — and the book's binding and cover, which he described as "leather velum, very thick wallet in appearance." It could take months of study, he said, just to identify the safest way to pry open the pages without damaging or destroying them. He ruled out the use of X-rays to investigate without moving the pages.

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