Contend Earnestly: April 2007

Monday, April 30, 2007

A Tract by Corrie ten Boom's Aunt

I am currently reading the biography of Corrie ten Boom and ran across a tract by her Aunt Jans. This is said to be one of her "milder" tracts that she would hand out across town. Tell me your thoughts:

Have you ever introduced Jesus to someone else? Then I doubt that you know Him. Jesus has said, "I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God." (Luke 12:8,9)

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Friday, April 27, 2007

The "Sinner's Prayer"

When one hears someone say "the sinner's prayer" much probably comes to the mind. For me it reminds me of growing up Southern Baptist and at the end of the worship service we would sing a heartfelt song, such as "Just As I Am," someone would walk forward, repeat what the pastor prayed and then they were "saved." What I noticed growing up is that it was almost the prayer that saved and not the actuality of life changing faith. This faith being only the faith that God gives. I have been going through this in Sola Fide, so check out those posts for my thoughts on that subject.

Because of this false belief in prayer saving people, I believe some have gone way over on the other side. Some now say that there is no prayer needed to be saved at all. There is no confession needed, but one is saved once God regenerates, which I completely disagree with. If you would like to read a wonderful book on regeneration check out Peter Van Mastricht's "A Treatise on Regeneration."

The reason I am writing this post is to get your thoughts on the subject. From what I see Romans 10:9-11,13 is pretty clear.

that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." for WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."

There is used in this short passage of Scripture three instances using a confession with the mouth. In short, a sinner's prayer. I do believe that this only comes forth in a truthful way when "with the heart a person believes" but nevertheless I do believe in the sinner's prayer. Maybe not like I used to when I was growing up, but there is a process that happens when someone is saved, and one "cog" is the confession with the mouth. We actually see this very clearly in Luke 18:10-14

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: 'God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, the sinner!' I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.

We know that when God regenerates and then effectually calls that man, he will repent. Part of this repentance is confession with the mouth: The Sinner's Prayer.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Fide - Part II

Defining and Defending Sola Fide

From the last post we can now understand that faith is a gift and we can actually define faith alone. As we understand faith alone, we are speaking of salvation. Salvation is only by faith and by no other means. This faith is given to us, so that in no way can we claim merit or claim ourselves in having any part of this salvation that was bestowed on us by the grace of God.

To understand this fully we must look at this in two texts to prove this: Romans 3:21-4:5 compared to James 2:14-26

Most protestants confess belief in faith alone but if a Roman Catholic were to confront us with James 2 I think most of us would be thoroughly confused. We need to take a look at these two. So for the sake of space click on the verses: Romans 3:21-4:5 and James 2:14-26

First, who are the two writers writing to? This might be the most crucial to understand. Paul was writing to the Gentile Roman Church (ad 57) and James was writing (ad 48) at the time that the church was predominately Jewish.

We have two things at work here as well. The Jews, used to obeying the Torah, were throwing out all works under the name of Christ. They were sinning and didn’t care because Christ died for their sins, this is called antinomianism. The Gentiles on the other hand, were being led astray by later Jewish Christians, called the Judaizers, who believed in a mixed form of religion. Namely, one had to be circumcised and follow some of the laws of the Torah and believe in Christ. They believed in a works justification.

So, these two men are addressing two different classes of people in completely different times. Please grasp this.

Here is the real fight between the two texts of Scripture:

Romans 3:28 verses James 2:24

We know exactly where Paul stands on this issue, we also see him write in Eph 2:8,9

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Then we really get into problems with the two texts because they both speak of the same man, Abraham and his righteousness.

Here is where we need to know understand the themes of each book: Whose justification is Paul seeking to determine in Romans? God’s. Look to
Romans 4:5

Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness,

Ready for the kicker? Who is James’ justification seeking? Look at James 1:3 and you have the thesis.

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance

Also, take a look at these verses in the book of James:

James 1:6 says to ask in faith without doubting
James 1:12 blessed is the man who perseveres under trial
James 1:22 prove yourselves doers of the word
James 1:26 if anyone thinks he is religious, yet does not bridle his tongue but deceived his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless
James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.
James 3:10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
James 3:13 Who among you is wise and understanding? aLet him show by his bgood behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
James 4:4 You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.

I could continue but I will not, you get the point? James is speaking of the justification
for ourselves and those around us, not God’s justification. This is a vital difference when taking a look at these two verses, if one does not see this difference they have some real problems, whether Catholic or Protestant.

Further, we can see that when James speaks of the justification of Abraham and speaks of Abraham’s deeds when offering Isaac this comes 7 chapters after God’s justification of Abraham in
Genesis 15:6

Abraham’s deeds did not justify him before God, but in reality justified him in his own heart. His works proved his faith, not for God but for Abraham and us. I am not going to take time to fully exegete this, but if you believe that God waited to see Abraham’s faith to justify him then you believe that God is a liar and not omniscient. The reason is that God justified Abraham in Gen 15 meaning the act was done, or else God is a liar, and God knew Abraham would do all he did in Genesis 22 so God didn’t “learn” from what Abraham did or He is not omniscient and is not perfect. If God can learn, this destroys the Trinity and God Himself. Genesis 15:6 uses the word "reckoned." Notice first that it is in the past tense and is the same term that is used "to make a judgment." It is a judgment now past tense and made by the highest court. This is why Paul can say in Romans 8:33

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies

James makes sure we understand this as he then points to Rahab. Hebrews 11:31 tells us that by faith Rahab did not perish, but read straight from the source. Read Joshua 2

Take note of these verses:

11 “When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.
12 “Now therefore, please swear to me by the LORD, since I have dealt kindly with you, that you also will deal kindly with my father’s household, and give me a pledge of truth,

Notice the change in Rahab. First, in verse 11, calls the Lord “your God” and then says, swear to me by “the Lord.” in verse 12. This change is crucial. Rahab went from showing the spies that her faith changed from a "far away god" to the only omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotant El Shaddai. Know also that Rahab truly fears God, if this is true she has been given a new heart to fear God because we know from Romans 3:18 which is quoting Psalm 36:1 that no one fears God because of their sin.

Do you see this? We see clearly what James is trying to get across here. Rahab was justified just like Abraham. Her faith justified her by God, but proven by works to the spies. She justified her faith in works to humans not God. God knows our faith, because He gave it to us. This is why the spies were sent to Rahab. God knew her faith and sent the spies to her house. They, as humans, still needed confirmation of her faith by saying in verse 14 to do “this” and we will believe you. This comes right after her confession of faith.

If God justified us by our works would that not mean that God was learning? God cannot learn like man. We learn of those who are in the faith because we see their works, God infuses faith and because of His knowledge we come to faith, not the other way around. We are the ones doing the learning, not God.

By this he again shews, that the question here is not respecting the cause of our salvation, but whether works necessarily accompany faith; for in this sense it is said to have been perfected by works, because it was not idle. It is said to have been perfected by works, not because it received thence its own perfection, but because it was thus proved to be true. Hence this was not the perfection of his faith, nor did it then for the first time put on its form. James then understood no other thing, than that the integrity of his faith then appeared, because it brought forth that remarkable fruit of obedience.

John Calvin

I have heard John Piper say: we do not believe that salvation is faith plus works but a salvation that works.


Sola Fide really fights two fronts. One that faith is not something drummed up inside you so that you can some day “wake up” and believe. It is not a faith that takes a look at evidence and makes a rational choice between two ways. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is given to us by our Creator so that we can humbly bow our head in knowing that no amount of evidence could have convinced us if wasn’t the Spirit of God drawing us to the Saviour's feet.

The second front is that our justification before God is entirely of faith in Him. We realize as James points out that there are two different faiths, one that is dead and one that works. The one that is dead, will never save because the true faith that God gives you is a working faith.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
Ezekiel 36:26,27

Notice that when God gives you this new heart that HE CAUSES YOU TO WALK, because it is only by Him that we can walk in His statutes, and if it is not by Him you cannot walk in His statutes.

We are truly saved by faith alone, justified by God. This is why when they cried out “What must we do to be saved?” The apostles told them to repent and believe. God justifies your heart, your works justify you before men.

May we all hold fast to what Paul said in
Romans 5:1,2

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Some Prayer

This week Justin is headed off to the "Children Desiring God" conference at John Piper's church back in Minnesota. He is there to learn more about a godly way to run and administer our children's ministry, so we are very excited to this opportunity arise for him to go. Please pray that Justin would learn much and also be able to implement what God would desire in our church.

Also, please continue to pray for my time this Friday night with the cop. I don't know how much I will be able to minister to the homeless and drug addicted, but I pray that God would show me when to speak and when to listen. Pray that God's word would go out and not return void.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Couple of Book Review Highlights

I thought I would highlight a couple of book reviews. These two are books that I greatly enjoyed and just wanted to share them with all. As always, you can see all my book reviews at Contend Earnestly Books.

John Piper hit it on the head in this book. Piper is known for his zeal and love for the cross and the preaching of the word and he does not let up in this small book all centered on preaching God. The first half of the book is centered on the Trinity and their "roles" in preaching.

First, is the Goal of Preaching: The Glory of God. Piper really nails down the reason we preach and teach is all for God's glory and nothing else. He focuses the reader on understanding the preaching of the holiness of God will bring people to their knees.

Second, is the Ground of Preaching: The Cross of Christ. If one has succeeded in the preaching of holiness of God then the hearers should really be at the point of understanding their sin in light of God's holiness. This is where the blood stained cross comes in. Piper then goes to explain the humility of preaching the cross, understanding its power and its purpose. Piper is really echoing 1 Cor 2:1-5.

Thirdly, is the Gift of Preaching: The Power of the Holy Spirit. Piper now focuses on the revelation of the Spirit through the word of God and also the power the Spirit gives to a preacher who relies on Him. Piper uses the acronym APTAT every week before he preaches: A (ADMIT to the Lord that without Him I can do nothing) P (therefore, I PRAY for help) T (TRUST, not merely in a general way in God's goodness, but in a specific promise for the upcoming hour) A (ACT in confidence that God will fulfill his word) T (THANK God at the end of the service that I was sustained and the truth of His word were preached)

Piper then goes to speak of the "Gravity of Gladness" in preaching. This quote hit me really hard and I completely agree with it:

Another answer is that a pastor who is not manifestly glad in God does not glorify God. He cannot make God look glorious if knowing and serving this God gives no gladness to his soul. A bored and unenthusiastic tour guide in the Alps contradicts and dishonors the majesty of the mountains.

For the last half of the book Piper focuses on the ministry of Jonathan Edwards and all that he has learned from this great man of the faith. He discusses keeping God central, submitting to God's sovereignty and also making God supreme.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and if you are a pastor it is a must read over and over again. Link to Buy.

This book is excellent. Authored by Stuart Scott and the forward by John MacArthur. A couple of years ago I went to a conference where they focused one of the sessions on this book throughout the week. I will tell you that at that time I came back and begged forgiveness from my wife. Since that time I never actually read the book until now. It had some great reminders and also some insight that time did not permit at the conference.

The book is laid out in four sections:

1. A Husband's Recognitions: Foundational Truths for the Exemplary Husband

This section focuses on understanding God's sovereignty, sin, relationships and the husband's role. This really sets up the foundation for the husband and the man of God in the marriage role. Understanding who God is and who the man isn't.

2. A Husband's Responsibilities: Faithful Commitments of the Husband

This section focuses on worship, love, leadership, physical intimacy and
stewardship. I found this to be a section that deals with a subject that is often avoided: sexual intimacy. There were great reminders and also some great thoughts on the subject on the importance of sexual intimacy, but also the reminder that our marriages are not completely revolving around sexual intimacy. Sometimes, we as husbands, wish it were.

3. A Husband's Resolves: Fundamental Commitments of the Exemplary Husband

This section focuses on humility and service, sensitivity, helping wife with sin, communication and conflict resolution. This was a great section that lists out issues of those with pride and also shows you the aspects of a humble person. I really enjoyed this section as it showed me some things I really need to work on with pride and communication. Very practical and easy to follow.

4. A Husband's Regrets: Fatal Sins to the Exemplary Husband

This section deals with anger, axiety, fear and lust. It completely helps
the husband "nip these problems in the bud" and deal with them biblically.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend this book to any and all husbands and also for those who are engaged as well. Very biblical book that focuses the attention on our calling from a biblical standpoint instead of some of the misconceptions of the secular viewpoint of what the Bible calls the man to be. The author changes the thought of the man being a dictator to the man being the godly leader who submits to Christ and readies his wife for eternity. Link to Buy

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Follow Up on "Playing Church"

I have been very busy the last three or four days because of my wife's 29th birthday this last Saturday and have not been able to keep up on the comments on my post, "Genuine verses Counterfeit Christianity." I wanted to follow up by taking some time to answer the questions that were asked in a post today.

First, I really appreciate the readers and commenters on Contend Earnestly who continue to make Justin and I strive for content that continuously exalts Christ and humbles ourselves. With that said, I want all to know that in no way do I mean to exalt myself through this post but just want to share my heart and also what is coming up in my life as I take a look at the ministries God has placed me in. I am not going to give you the ins and outs at this point of the amazement of my church and God seemingly lifting me out of a pit and placing me at Taylor Creek Church, but if you knew the story you would be amazed to see God's work in my life.

What I have been learning through my pastor and also the sharpening of iron with my close brother Justin, is the heart of my post on Genuine verses Counterfeit Christianity, namely, I cannot improve on my justification. This is really easy to say, for I have been saying it since I was 8 years old, but I think I have only recently really had a true heart change in this area. I was listening to a message by Matt Chandler this morning and he asked, "Why are you righteous?" and also "Is God pleased with you?" If most of us were to answer this, I know this was me, I would start pointing out things like my ministries, Bible study, theological knowledge. Of course I would never "point these out" on a verbal level but at a heart level. Then, I would respond outwardly correctly, by saying, "Because of Christ." So, for a long time my outward and inward have been warring with one another. Knowing the correct answer to give but not really living that out. I was well pleased to go to church, be a Youth Pastor, evangelize and study and that was it, that was my life. In my heart really believing, and this is hard to confess, that I felt like I was "meriting my salvation" instead of doing all these things because of the cross of Christ.

I hope you know what I am speaking of. I would do the things that was "required" of a "good Christian man" and not doing the true things that Christ tells us, to love God and keep His commandments. Not out of trying to appease a wrathful dictator, but doing these things because the love of Christ controls us (2 Cor 5:14).

Sarah, from Amazing Grace, asked a great question: Now what? What are you doing with these convictions. So, I will answer her in humility and hope that Christ is glorified with this answer and my thoughts on where I see His will guiding me.

The first ministry that we are undertaking to better serve our Lord is a new homeless ministry. It is a ministry that was in place, before, with another church, but it fell off. There is a place in Seattle that has a place for the homeless to come and take showers, so we are going to start by going there every other month (to start) and hand out sack lunches with tube socks and also tracts inside the lunches. If God permits we will also speak the truth to these people who are in so much need of a Saviour.

The second is a ministry I am going in with my eyes closed and just trusting God. I will be riding with a cop this Friday night. He is K-9 drug unit so when he is called in he usually gets called in on drug busts and it can get pretty hairy. So, when the shots have ceased he said he will call me out of the van and I can then go around to those standing around to hand out Bibles and tracts. If the night is slow, he said we can go to where he knows the homeless teens hang out in the middle of the night and give me the chance to share the truth with them as well. Who knows what I am getting myself into, I just pray that God is glorified and will show me what these people need, both physically and spiritually.

Lastly, my wife is looking at starting a prison ministry at a youth detention center that is about 20 minutes away from us. Many of the young women are from the streets and many have children even though they are all under the age of 18. We are still in the infancy stages at this point and are asking for prayer on what God would have for us.

These are some of the things in my life that I feel that God has guided me to. I pray that I am doing the will of my Father and not what I believe I want to do. I pray that you would be in prayer for me as I go out with the cop for the first time this Friday night, April 27th. His shift is from 7pm to 3am so I will be right in the middle of it all and pray that God will open opportunities to share Christ to those I come in contact with. I don't know how much danger I will be in, but I don't pray for my safety, I pray that God would be exalted and His word would go forth.

May I live for Him, not out of merit but out of love.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Fide - Part I

If you did not read the intro to Sola Fide, please read that first as it will give you an important look to the background of where we find this Sola. click here

Faith is a Gift from God

With Sola Gratia we hopefully challenged you in understanding that God grace is given to whom He chooses and whom He wills. If you remember we went through Romans 9 and answered some questions that are natural in the understanding of this doctrine.

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9:14-16

We looked at man’s deadness in sin. We saw that men were not merely sick, merely blind, almost dead; no, men are completely dead in sin without capacity to search for God as found in Romans 3:10. So, if all this is true, how can anyone believe?

We state that people are saved by faith alone, but how can they have a faith if they are totally dead in sin? Would not this faith be constituted as some good in man instead of the opposite? Here is the kicker: saving faith is given to God’s elect so that they will respond to the call of the Gospel.

I won’t completely exegete this passage, but look to John 6:37

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.

If faith was generic, given to all men equally, so that all could respond, how could Christ say that ALL that the Father gives Me will come to Me? Notice that further down in John 6:39 that Christ says that He loses none of them but will raise them up on the last day. So, we see that Christ gives some absolute statements here.

- All the Father gives will come
- Christ loses none of these that come
- Christ raises these up, or better put in John 10:27,28

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Do you see the parallel here? How do the sheep come as spoken of in John 6:37? Jesus calls them with His voice and the sheep hear, and come.

John 6:44 continues to reveal this to us

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

So, now John 6:44 continues to tell us that only those that are drawn by God can come to Him, no one else is able to. This Greek word for “can” where we see “no one can come” is this:

to be able, have power whether by virtue of one’s own ability and resources, or of a state of mind, or through favourable circumstances, or by permission of law or custom

So, no one is able to by their own power, ability or resources come to God unless He draws them. This also reveals that God does not draw all men, for if He did, all would come and all would be raised up, or saved.

So what does God do in order so that they can come when He draws them? He gives them the saving faith in Him.

We will look to two verses in particular to define this for us, but also, when you have time, look who Paul thanks when referring to the faith of those in Colossae and Thessalonica. If this faith was because of the people you would expect Paul to thank the believers, but since it is given by God, Paul thanks God for their faith, not the people themselves.

First verse is Phil 1:29

For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,

Some have taken this verse and said that through Christ suffering is a possibility but not always a reality. So, Christ made faith a possibility but not a reality. First, rule in interpreting Scripture? Scripture interprets Scripture…

Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
2 Timothy 3:12

There is no doubt this is an absolute statement. If you want to live godly you will be persecuted, not maybe, not might be, but absolutely. Don’t blame Scripture if you are not persecuted for your faith, because the faith that God gives is always persecuted. Jesus even said in John 15:19 that the world will hate you, then the apostle John follows this up again in 1 John 3:13. Maybe if you are not being persecuted or hated, it is time to do some self evaluating to see if you are truly in the God fearing, God exalting, God proclaiming faith.

So, then if we can see this absolute, that it has been granted to us to suffer for Christ, then the proof lies that it has been granted to us to believe in Him, or granted to us to have the faith that saves.

This word “granted” is used in a lot of places in Scripture, but let me ask; What does a blind man do to receive sight from God? Does Christ use the little light or shades of light that the blind man has to restore his sight? Or did Jesus give the sight to the blind man freely by Christ’s power?

At that very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind.
Luke 7:21

The word for “gave” when saying “He gave sight to many…” is the exact same word for “granted” when telling us that it has been granted to us to believe.

Notice the other proof text of this understanding: 2 Peter 1:1

Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

This word for received means: to receive by divine allotment

I don’t want to beat a dead horse but when we think of love, peace, wisdom, understanding and good; are these not all understood to have one that is given by God and one that is given or adhered to by man? Is there not a difference between a godly love, a godly peace, godly wisdom, godly understanding, and godly good, compared to human love, human peace, human wisdom, human understanding and human good….

We actually find this different, human faith in James 2:14

What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him?

James goes on to prove that there is a difference between the human faith, that is dead and the God given faith that works. So, when we come to the doctrine of faith alone, Sola Fide, we must understand that our faith was given to us, when you believe this you cannot fall into the trap of thinking that your faith was anything meritorious for your salvation. How can it be? It was given to you, you did nothing to receive this faith.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Phil 1:6

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith
Heb 12:2a

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Genuine verses Counterfeit Christianity

I don't know about you but I am really tired of "playing church." I am tired of learning for the sake of learning. I am tired of reading my Bible for the sake of reading my Bible. I am tired of praying for the sake of praying. I am tired of singing for the sake of singing. I am tired of evangelizing for the sake of evangelizing.

You might be asking, "What are you talking about?" I want to do all these not for the sake of themselves, but because Jesus Christ died in my place to take away my sin. I want to know how corrupt I am, how nasty and dirty I am, how perverted I am so that I can know the love of God more. Only when we know that all their righteous deeds are like a menstrual rag (Isaiah 64:6) and that our mouths are full of deceit, that the poison of asps are under our lips and that we don't fear God, only then, will we stop "playing church." I am tired of going through the motions, doing it this way or that way cause, "that's how we have always done it!" I want, as the song says, "that old time religion." Cause you know what that old time religion did? It went out and saved souls with the all abiding word of truth! Think of it. Think of Luther, Calvin, Bunyan, Knox, Edwards, Whitefield, Wesley and Spurgeon. These men went out, they didn't stay where they were (unless they were like Bunyan and locked up), but went to the masses and preached to them Christ and Him crucified.

I am tired of "toying with religion" I want to be a Christian. Christ tells us what this looks like. First, He tells us that it is a religion that goes to the prisons, feeds and clothes the homeless, visiting the sick and welcoming them into your home(Matthew 25:31-46).

Do we truly understand that there are millions of people that Christ is gathering where He wants to use you and I to go and show them, yes I said SHOW them, the love of Christ. We love preaching about the love of Christ on the Lord's Day, but how many of us leave church and go and show people the love of Christ? We'll even write in on our blogs and tell it to our other Christian friends, then we'll sit down and watch a stupid TV show and laugh, while people are digging through trash cans and eating food that a cat just peed on. What are we doing?!

What is the reason that we study God's word, pray to God and debate different theology if we then just sit around and do nothing about it? Is this not Pharisaic at its best? I love to learn about God, to study about His word, to ask Him of His will, to debate different topics of theology, but if those things don't change us and cause us to go out and show and share Christ, what use is it?

How do we change? I contend that we must continue to preach the word on Sunday mornings all the time every week, no matter the year (2 Tim 4:2). We are to come together and worship our Creator together as God's people and thank Him that He didn't kill us this last week because of all our sin. Amazing in itself. But afterwards, we need to GO! We need to do exactly as Christ told us to do in Matthew 28:18-20, make disciples. Which means we don't just share Christ with someone and walk away, but we share Christ, then show them the love of Christ and aid them in their walk.

Where is our real religion?

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27

Notice YOU VISIT THEM. You don't wait for them to come through the doors. Notice also that you will be amongst the sinners, as Christ was. Christ was among the sinner so much that the Pharisees said,

“The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

But also notice that you can be among the sinners without engaging in sin. Our friend Justin heard a quote one time that said Christ ate with the tax collectors but that doesn't mean that he collected taxes with them. This is why James 1:27 ends with "to keep oneself unstained by the world." We are to be in the world but not be conformed to the world (1 John 2:15). Paul tells us:

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13

We must be in the world and impact the world, not let it impact us! We must associate with the immoral people! This word "associate" can mean to be intimate with someone. We are to intimately know the immoral man so that we can show them Jesus Christ!

I guess I am just tired of "playing church." My pastor has taught me a lot on this subject. He has taught me how to love, he has taught me how to care, he has taught me how to be a shepherd. Now I must do exactly what Paul told Timothy:

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:2

The question is, am I a faithful man and do I suffer hardship for the cause of the cross of my Saviour?

We need to quit sitting on our comfortable couch and go encounter the broken man under the bridge eating trash. May he be won for the cause of Christ.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
Romans 10:14

May God bless you today, and may you share with others His blessing.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Intro to Sola Fide

We have entered into some of the most prevalent issues when dealing with some of our thoughts on the Five Solas and they have hopefully challenged you in your thinking of the true biblical doctrines of Scripture, Christ, Grace, man and the Gospel. As we continue, we come to the Sola that, behind Sola Scriptura, is probably the most fought between Rome and the Protestant Church. I must use Protestant loosely though, as some say “Sola Fide” but they really have a list of rules one must do to be saved.

Sola Fide is a Sola that, in reality, calls the church of Rome, heresy. We saw hints of this in Solus Christus and Grace alone, but Sola Fide comes right out and draws a line in the sand and makes sure that no one can blur that line with any dogma or any orthodoxy.

Our definition of Sola Fide is this:

Faith alone asserts that only faith is the substance of the gospel, not any merit or favor achieved. Faith alone is what saves, not any method or human understanding of how to persuade men to Christ.

Faith alone believes in the power of the gospel and that the power of the gospel alone is what saves, nothing else.

Faith alone is almost the conclusion to grace alone and Christ alone as these happen or happened first. First God in His grace chose not only that Christ should die for fallen man but also chose for Himself an elect people, and through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, or better put, propitiation, is anyone ever saved.

How are they saved? By the faith that is given by the Holy Spirit through regeneration and the power of the Gospel, and by this faith, given by God, alone. The gospel declares what Christ did for us on the cross, not what we need to do to reach Him.

To give you some background to this Sola, we find it in the life of Luther as he was studying Romans in the year 1515. The great reformation and the 95 theses would not come for another 2 years, but in this year, in this study, Luther was brought face to face with the Almighty God and the gift that God gives in Sola Fide. Luther read:

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Romans 1:17

Luther saw that it was God’s righteousness that was given to man by and through faith alone, not by the man’s merit. Let the journey begin.

The whole of the 95 Theses is wrapped up in this Sola. Luther argued against indulgences and penances that were being sold to build St Peter’s Basilica, and John Tetzel angered Luther when he tromped through his city exclaiming: Once the coin into the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs.

Luther could take it no more. It all came to a head as explained by R.C. Sproul in his book, “Faith Alone”

April 17, 1521: On this day in history the Augustinian monk Martin Luther, already embroiled in controversy, under the condemnation of the papal bull Exsurge Domine issued by Leo X, stood before the imperial Diet of Worms. The newly elected Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, had summoned Luther to this place for a hearing regarding his teachings. Such a hearing had been urged by Luther’s protector, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony.
Luther, in danger and in fear of his life, made the journey bearing letters of safe conduct issued by the emperor and various German princes. The trip, undertaken in a covered wagon, required fifteen days. Luther was accompanied by a few friends—colleagues from the university, a student, and a fellow monk. Luther arrived at Worms on April 16, a scene described by Gordon Rupp: “On the morning of April 16th, a trumpet sounded and the crowd pressed towards the gates . . . as a proud cavalcade of nobles and knights clattered by; at the end the little covered wagon swaying round the bend. The crowd stared and murmured their fill at the Black monk who stared back with quick, shining eyes.”
Luther came to Worms in fear and trembling. There was boldness and courage to be sure. But it was a courage required by the piercing fear that haunted the man. Rupp writes:
It was the climax of months of inner struggle. For Luther was no loud-mouthed fanatic with a hide like a rhinoceros. The taunts flung at him by his enemies found an echo in his own tormented self-questioning. “How often has my trembling heart palpitated—are you alone the wise one? Are all the others in error? Have so many centuries walked in ignorance? What if it should be you who err, and drag so many with you into error, to be eternally damned?”
Luther spoke openly to his friends Philipp Melanchthon and Georg Spalatin about his struggle: “‘I shall enter Worms under my Captain, Christ, despite the gates of Hell,’ he told Philipp, and ‘I come, my Spalatin, and we shall enter Worms despite the gates of Hell, and the powers of the air.’”
Luther later recalled the day: “. . . the condemnation had already been published in every town, so that the herald himself asked me whether I still intended to go to Worms. Though, in truth I was physically afraid and trembling, I replied to him: ‘I will repair thither, though I should find there as many devils as there are tiles on the house tops.’”

Then we have the following that would unravel the great protestant reformation, where we thank Luther and the faith that was given to him by our One and only Holy Father.

On the morrow Luther appeared once more before the diet. This hearing was held in a larger and even more crowded auditorium. The hall was dark, illumined only by smoking flares. Johann Eck began with a stern rebuke:
His Imperial Majesty has assigned this time to you, Martin Luther, to answer for the books which you yesterday openly acknowledged to be yours. You asked time to deliberate on the question whether you would take back part of what you had said or would stand by all of it. You did not deserve this respite, which has now come to an end, for you knew long before why you were summoned. And every one—especially a professor of theology—ought to be so certain of his faith that whenever questioned about it he can give a sure and positive answer. Now at last reply to the demand of his Majesty, whose clemency you have experienced in obtaining time to deliberate. Do you wish to defend all of your books or to retract part of them?
Luther responded with a lengthy speech in which he divided his writings into various classes and directly recanted nothing. Eck responded with annoyed irritation:
Luther, you have not answered to the point. You ought not to call in question what has been decided and condemned by councils. Therefore I beg you to give a simple, unsophisticated answer without horns (non cornutum). Will you recant or not?
To this direct mandate Luther gave his historic reply:
Since your Majesty and your Lordships ask for a plain answer, I will give you one without either horns or teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture or by right reason (for I trust neither in popes nor in councils, since they have often erred and contradicted themselves)—unless I am thus convinced, I am bound by the texts of the Bible, my conscience is captive to the Word of God, I neither can nor will recant anything, since it is neither right nor safe to act against conscience. God help me. Amen.

So this is our setting where we first find this Sola defended in the courts of the Roman Catholic church and forever we will continue to defend it against their gates.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spurgeon Sermon

This is an excerpt from a Spurgeon sermon titled, "God or Self-Which?" and is number 438, if you use the Spurgeon Sermon archive or have his sermons in his volumes of sermons.

But now I shall turn to a wider circle for a moment or two. BY THIS WE MAY TEST ALL THE OTHER RELIGIOUS ACTS OF MEN.
Many a brave deed has been done with the sound of which the world has rung for years which nevertheless has never been received by the Most High. Some have served God out of ostentation, that they might show what great things they could do. Remember Jehu when he said, “Come, see my zeal for the Lord God of Hosts.” Jehu has many imitators. “Lend me your pen, Sir.” “Yes.” “I hereby write my name for five thousand pounds at the head of the list. Is not that an acceptable offering to God? There are very few in England that will give as much as I have—report it in all the newspapers. Shouldn’t the world know that there still exists one liberal man?” Is not that splendid gift accepted? No, Brethren, certainly not, because it was given for his own praise and for his own glory and not for the glory of God.

If it is our earnestness in preaching the Gospel, if we are only earnest in order that people may think us earnest—if we are only zealous that men may say of us, “That man does more than the rest. What a zealous, earnest man he is”—we have offered nothing to God. We have been sacrificing on our own shrines and offering incense before our own image. A certain king had a minstrel and he bade him play before him. It was a day of high feasting. The cups were flowing and many great guests were assembled. The minstrel laid his fingers among the strings of his harp and woke them all to the sweetest melody, but the hymn was to the glory of himself. It was a celebration of the exploits of song which the bard had himself performed. He had excelled high Howell’s harp and emulated great Llewellyn’s lay. In high-sounding strains he sang of himself and all his glories. When the feast was over the harpist said to the monarch, “Oh King, give me my guerdon. Let the minstrel be paid.” And the king said, “You have sung unto yourself—pay yourself—your own praises were your theme. Be yourself the paymaster.” He cried, “Did I not sing sweetly? O, king, give me the gold!” But the king replied, “So much the worse for your pride that you should lavish such sweetness upon yourself.” Brethren, even if a man should grow gray-headed in the performance of good works, yet when at the last, if it is known that he has done it all to himself, his Lord will say, “You have done well enough in the eyes of man but so much the worse, because you did it only to yourself, that your own praises might be sung, and that your own name might be extolled.” That is a singular text in Hosea—“Israel is an empty vine. He brings forth fruit unto himself.” There was fruit, only it was brought forth to himself, which before God is emptiness.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Surpassing Value of Christ

Apart from prayer, when I think of Paul, I think of his giving up everything for the cross of Christ and then the proclamation of that message to all people at all times. The old hymn goes:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land; I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand:

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause; I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause; I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame; I’d rather be true to His holy name:

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom; He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb; He’s all that my hungering spirit needs—I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead:

Refrain: Than to be the king of a vast domain or be held in sin’s dread sway! I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.

Paul shows us that he would truly would rather have Jesus than any other fame or worldly treasure.

The Giving up of Worldly Treasures

In your eyes, what are some worldly treasures? What are some of the long term goals of a good American?
Philippians 3 tells us what it meant to give up all earthly things for Christ in Paul’s eyes. What was the goal of every Jewish boy?

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart.
Deut 6:4-6

Any good Jewish boy wanted to live by the standards of the Shema. So, knowing this, we must look closer at what Paul speaks of in Phil 3. First, know that Paul is speaking out against Judaizers (Phil 3:2) who believe that grace plus works saves. So, what Paul is doing is showing that he is far superior to these Judaizers by their standards.

This is like Tiger Woods talking to a group of college golfers, Michael Jordan speaking to a group of college basketball players, and for you artsy people, like Michelangelo talking to a group of artists, or Tom Hanks talking to a group of actors.

Paul, first gives his pedigree: He was circumcised on the eighth day, like he was supposed to be, he is a part of the nation of Israel from the tribe of Benjamin. Showing that Paul can trace his descendants all the way back to one of the true tribes of Israel, which many could not do. So he is showing that he is a true Israelite. But, he was from Tarsus, so many could have thought that he was a Hellenistic Jew, meaning that he was a Jew that accepted some of the Greek language and also the Greek lifestyle. But Paul illustrates that this isn’t true by saying that he was a Hebrew of Hebrews. Meaning, not only did he have Hebrew parents, but he spoke and had all the customs of a true Hebrew.

His pedigree, to the Judaizers, was really the equivalent of a Prince showing his lineage and rightful heir ship to the thrown. The Judaizers could bring no offense to Paul and because of his lineage alone would have looked up to him as an elder.

Paul now moves on to show why they should not only respect his pedigree but now his works. Look to this: as to the Law, a Pharisee.

Paul now had their full respect. Pharisees were known for the strict interpretation of the Law and also their strict following of it. If you believed in the Law there was no better representation on earth for the following of the Law than the Pharisees. This is why it was such a shock when Christ said:

“For I say to you that unless your arighteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:20

Jesus is calling the Tiger Woods’ and Michael Jordans’ of their time, mere amateurs with no right to be professionals. He wasn’t just saying that these guys should be beaten, but was saying that they aren’t even good at their sport. Jordan and Woods? Garbage, with no right to even be playing the sport. Jesus is saying that Bill Gates is not good at making money!

But, Paul knowing where the treasures of the Judaizers lie, speaks to them about his pharisaic attributes.

Paul continues though. He says, that’s not all, which was plenty. He said, I have gone further, more than what was called for, I was so zealous that I killed Christians. He says, I put my money where my mouth is. You hate Christians? Well guess what? So did I, and I went and pulled them out of their houses while they were eating with their children and killed them. This was further than most of these Judaizers were doing, so now Paul is setting himself to be a complete hero to these people.

The main problem with Pharisees, and they knew this, was their hypocritical nature. They would say one thing and do another. Paul is now further setting himself up for love of the Judaizers; he states that he was blameless. Paul is saying, I was the perfect Pharisee. He is saying not only is Tiger Woods good but he gets a hole in one every single hole. Not only is Jordan amazing, but he makes every shot and wins every championship. Not only is Spielberg a good director but his movies win every award in every category for every movie.

So he has these guys on the edge of their seat, they can’t wait to hear what they can take from this, how they can learn, how they can be better at being true Israelites, zealous for the law, hatred for the Christians, and Paul states this:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
Phil 3:7

This made no sense. Paul, tells them that everything that he had, which was what every one of his listeners would have wanted to attain, he gave it all up. These things that Paul counted as loss were probably his dreams ever since he was a little boy. But, no more did he believe that he was saved because of his lineage, no more did he believe that the circumcision of the flesh meant anything, no more did it matter that he was a true Hebrew, no more did it matter that he was a devout Pharisee, no more did he kill or persecute Christians, no more did he count himself as blameless.

He considered himself a sinful, wretched man, the chief of sinners, a bond slave to the One whom he used to persecute. Paul gave up everything to be called a Christian.

It would be like Tiger and Jordan winning one championship their first year and then walking away, like Spielberg making one film that won every single award and then walking away. This is what Paul did; he was everything, and I mean everything, a religious boy would have dreamed of, and he walked away.

Not only that, but he joined the enemy. Paul completely lost his identity and in our terms these days, gave up all that would make up his self esteem.

The Cross Centered Life

So, Paul gave it all up, but then what? What did he do next? Let’s continue in Phil 3:8

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

Notice Paul starts by saying, more than that. Meaning, it isn’t enough to give up the treasures in this life. It isn’t enough to rid yourselves of pride and self esteem, but it must go to the correct gain: Jesus Christ. It isn’t enough that Gandhi, Mother Teresa or any monk lose and give up all riches, but the important thing comes in where you find yourself.

Notice how Paul puts his knowledge of the Saviour…he says that it is his surpassing value.

This meant to be above. It usually referred to someone who was in an office that was above another in power. When speaking of money it meant to have a gigantic surplus of it.

What is important in your life? Friends? Looks? Weight? Family? What people think of you? Theology? Orthodoxy? How many hits you get on a blog? Notice Paul said that to the things that he held the most dear in his life, all the things we talked about, he counted as loss, or completely damaged. He then states that they are but rubbish to him. This word rubbish literally means animal dung. Where do you place the things in this life? Your reputation, the way you look, your intelligence? Paul counted them the same way that he saw animal dung. Worthless garbage.

Why did Paul do this? So that he could be found in Jesus Christ. Look at Phil 3:9

and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

Paul is saying: my lineage is found in Christ, my circumcision is in Christ, my tribe is in Christ, my Father is Christ, my zeal is in Christ, my righteousness is in Christ. Everything that Paul was, was now found in Christ. Nothing else.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Galatians 2:20

Can we say this? If we could, we would completely live for Christ. We wouldn’t care if we looked foolish for Christ. We wouldn’t care if God made us a little heavier than others. We wouldn’t care if God made us short, tall or otherwise. We wouldn’t care if our intelligence didn’t match up to others. We wouldn’t care about our self esteem. Did you catch that? YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE A SELF ESTEEM…SELF ESTEEM IS PRIDE…find yourself in Christ. The first sin was a self esteem sin (Satan wanting to rise above God) Also, Eve wanted to rise herself up to be like God instead of staying in her standing as His creation. Also, don’t fool yourself in thinking that if you have “woe is me attitude” that you are any less prideful than those who have a high view of self. For you put just as much emphasis of worldly desires that the prideful does.

For Paul, he completely lost everything and considered it animal dung compared to finding himself in Christ Jesus. If this is true in someone’s life, what should be their response? Let me ask it this way…when something is of utmost importance in your life what do you do with it? Do you not dwell on it, talk about it and love it above all other things?

What religious things do you do that you pride yourself on? Reading Scripture? Sharing the Gospel? Memorizing Scripture? You see Paul knew more than all of us and worked more than any of us, yet his pride and his love was only on Christ. So that when anyone regarded him as anything he pointed them to the cross of Christ.

Why do you do the so called righteous things you do? Is it because you love God or is it because that is what you have always been told to do? Do you read Scripture and study it because that is what a good Christian does? Do you pray because that is what a Christian does? Do you know in your head that these things do not merit God's favor, but in your heart you feel like they DO merit God's favor?

How do we rid this? We need to be centered on our ugly sin, this is why Paul calls himself the chief of sinners, cause he truly knew how ugly and nasty his sin was.

The boastful shall not stand before Your eyes;
You hate all who do iniquity.
Psalm 5:5

God hated you! Do you understand this? While He hated you He sent His Son to die on the cross the most brutal way any man could die. When you understand that apart from Christ you can do nothing, and that He chose you out of everyone who ever lived, He died for you while you were spitting in His face, and if given the chance you would have driven the nails through His hands and feet, while all this was going on He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

When we start to understand the Gospel and it is what Paul called the surpassing value of everything in his life, only then will we start to do the things of Christ out of love. You will read His word, you will pray, you will memorize, you will evangelize, not because some old preacher wearing a suit told you to, but because you cannot keep quiet about the surpassing value of the great and glorious God who massacred and killed His Son for you. God used to use animal sacrifice to rid the people of their sins. He thought (I am using this anthromorphically) that if the people saw the brutal bloody death of animals, that they would understand how ugly their sin was. But year after year, the day of atonement came and went, with no change. So, God, in His infinite wisdom, kills His Son in the most brutal way possible. Jesus beaten so badly that He could not carry His cross. History tells us that the skin was so torn that it was like ribbon floating in the wind. God is crying out: IS THIS NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU! He isn't asking us to kill our firstborn, instead He sent His firstborn, and massacred Him for YOU!

Until you take the cross seriously, your priorities will be flopped, whether you admit it or not. The surpassing value in your life is your knowledge, your skills, your money, your friends, your family, your self esteem and
the animal dung will be salvation and the cross of Christ.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Gratia - Part III

As we left off in our last post I stated that Romans 9 answers some key questions for us while dealing with this idea of God choosing who He gives His grace to. Romans 9:11, in my mind, completely destroys any notion of God choosing based on “looking down the portal of time.”

for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls

Notice that the whole of God’s choice is NOT based on anything the boys did or would do, but only on GOD’S PURPOSE! Then Paul tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau. If you know the story of these two boys, and this is really the hinge on Calvinism and Arminianism, these boys were both evil. Just as we are all evil. God chose one of the two evil boys for His purpose. Is this not the great story of redemption? God in His grace, instead of allowing all evil people go to hell, chose some to worship Him forever. This is Calvinism. Arminianism says, “this isn’t fair, God should have chosen both boys then.” So, Paul answers their question before it is asked by saying in Romans 9:13 that, “there is no injustice with God is there? May it never be.” Paul then tells us this reason, why there is no injustice, notice God didn’t say anything about being FAIR!

So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.
Romans 9:15,16

What is grace based on? God’s mercy and choice alone, not on ANYTHING we do or don’t do. Not on the man who wills or runs, but on God's mercy.

Paul continues to answer another question, “Why do people go to hell to pay for sin and disobedience they couldn’t help but do? If they aren’t chosen and can’t choose God, why does God make them pay for their sins in hell?” Basically, the question is focused on Esau instead of God’s grace in Jacob!

Here is Paul’s answer, Romans 9:19-23:

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”
On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory,

Notice why Esau and all others that are the reprobate were created: so that God’s children, His sheep would know the riches of His glory. How do you know a good day is a good day? Because you have had bad days. How do you know a sunny day is a sunny day? Because of the rainy days. How do you know the surpassing riches of God’s grace to you? Because you know that you did absolutely nothing to earn God’s favor, yet He chose you for His grace and left some in their sinful state.

You see Sola Gratia states that not only is the actuality of the gift of salvation free but so is God’s choice of you: He freely gives the free gift

The Provision of God’s Grace

I am going to stay in one passage that really shows the provision that God granted to us: Ephesians 2:5-9

Notice first the stark contrast we see here. Why are we dead? Because of our transgressions. Why are we ever rescued from that death? Only by God and His grace through Jesus Christ.

You see when we realize that God, while we were yet sinners, sent His Son to die on the cross to save us and if we realize that the entire work of Him saving us through Grace is by His kindness and not what we have done, the provision of God’s grace becomes something to be marveled at, not scoffed at.

We can see in Ephesians 2 that:

He made us alive
By Grace we have been saved
He raised us up
He seated us with Him

If we realize these things there are two things that this should do:

Verse 7 tells us that we should understand the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness and verse 9 tells us that we will not boast.

The definition of grace is receiving something that you don’t deserve. If this is true how can you say that the provision of the Son was applied to you because of the goodness and knowledge in you to believe in Him?

The provision of the Son has taken us as Ephesians says, from death to being made alive together with Him. This starts now. We were once a people with no hope, not a nation and under God’s wrath. But, now we have a hope, we are a nation and our eternal life has started on the day of salvation.

This understanding of provision should drive us to our knees with thanksgiving and this is truly why Paul could say, Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice.

If we understand that God freely gives us this grace, not based on works and we understand these surpassing riches and kindness, will we not be transformed to a life denying ourselves and worshiping Him? But, this point must be saved for Soli Deo Gloria.

The love of God to us in Christ is here proved, or again declared, to have had its origin in mercy. That he might shew, says he, the exceeding riches of his grace. How? In his kindness towards us, as the tree is known by its fruit. Not only, therefore, does he declare, that the love of God was free, but likewise that God displayed in it the riches, the extraordinary pre-eminent riches of his grace. It deserves notice, also, that the name of Christ is repeated; for no grace, no love, must be expected by us from God, except through his mediation.
John Calvin


Sola Gratia is not only talking about the gift itself, but also the reasons behind the gift. God’s freedom.

This was completely against Rome and their Aristotelian beliefs. To them, man is good enough to respond and God’s choosing is based on God looking to see who would believe and then choosing them. This gives too much credit to a dead man.

Ravi Zacharias said it best:

Jesus Christ did not come to make sick men healthy, but to give dead men life

The actuality is that Luther wrote his 97 Theses just one month before his 95 Theses stating the heresy of believing in free will and Aristotelian theology. It never took and Luther was upset that this thesis was not given more attention.

The clincher for me was. Do I believe more in myself choosing God or do I believe that God sovereignly chose me? I know myself and my sin. I know how wretched of a sinner I was and I cannot imagine that I would have ever chose God unless He first chose me.

1 John 4:19 states that; we love because He first loved us.

Sola Gratia states that God so loved us that He sent His Son to die for us, and He freely gave that grace to whom He freely chose.

God is not a beggar: He is a chooser.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Bethel Baptist Church

Ok, so I've been pretty slammed this week, and today looks about the same. But I didn't want to miss two days of posting (take it easy, Seth). Knowing that the next installment of the Systematic Theology is going to take a bit of time to do it right, I wanted to highlight a friend of mine who is a Pastor in Delaware at Bethel Baptist Church. Clay and I attended church together for a few years in Issaquah, Wa. I also had the privelege of attending some seminary classes with him in Southern California. He is a godly man who loves the word of God. Check him out:

Bethel Baptist Church

As an interesting side note, I noticed that Tony Capoccia recently spoke at their church. He heads up the Bible Bulletin Board site.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Sola Gratia - Part II

God’s Basis for Bestowing His Grace

So, if we are completely dead because of sin, if we are God haters, ungodly and doing the devil’s will, then on what basis does God give His grace?

God is not some sort of beggar with a sign on His grace that states, “free, take one” and then He stands by hoping and ringing His hands hoping that someone will take His offer. He is the almighty El Shaddai, the Creator of Heaven and Hell and it is based upon His will that decides who gets this grace and who does not. Not ours. Just think of how God chose Israel, or how God chose David, Moses or Jeremiah. Was it because of who they were or because God decided to show them kindness? Did God look down the "portal of time" and see that Jeremiah would be a prophet to Israel and do the work of a prophet, then decide: Now that's a prophet! I must choose him do be a prophet. Or was it that Jeremiah was a "fortified city" (Jer 1) and did the work of a prophet of God because God predestined and foreknew him? I don't think that Jeremiah 1:5 could be any clearer:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
And before you were born I consecrated you;
I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

What about Israel? Why did God choose them as His nation?

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples,
Deut 7:6,7

I will not completely exegete Ephesians 1, but I encourage you to take a look at this powerful passage on God’s election, more in depth, when you have time.

When you take a look at this passage as a whole you can see that it is not the Ephesians who are praised for anything at all, but all praise is given to God because it is from God.

Notice some things in spoken of in Ephesians 1:

Grace to you and peace from God (v2)
He chose us (v 4)
He predestined us (v5)
To the praise to the glory of His grace
He freely bestowed (v6)
According to the riches of His grace (v7)
He lavished on us (v8)
He made known to us the mystery of His will (v9)

In these there is also listed the reasons that these things were given to those chosen, is it because of anything we did? The obvious answer is, NO. It is not because God looked down the “portal of time” to see who would choose Him and then in turn He elected them.

Look here:
Verse 5: according to the kind intention of His will
Verse 9: according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him
Verse 11: according to His purpose who works all things after the
counsel of His will

God freely gives according to His purpose and will and counsels nothing besides Himself for this choosing. Did you catch that? God only counsels God! Who can counsel God? Next time we will take a look at Romans 9 and wrap up Sola Gratia.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities

I didn't know what to expect when I picked up this book. I actually tried to stay away from reading any reviews beforehand so that I could give it a good, honest, unbiased opinion as I read through it. I will tell you this, I think Roger Olson is very fair and very honest about the Arminian theological system. I was expecting to get attacked as a Calvinist, but I truly found just the opposite. I have seen reviews since I started the book that call out Dr. Olson as being angry and hateful, but I found just the opposite. I expected to be "railed against" but really just found an honest dissertation of some of the myths of the Arminian theology.

What I did find was that the crux of the difference between the two theologies really lies in the manner in which God chooses men to be saved. The Calvinist states that we as dirty, sinful, godless humans should be grateful to see that God is gracious to choose any to go to heaven, instead of allowing us all to go to hell. Arminians, on the other hand, believe that God is so loving that He would choose everyone to heaven if He could, but He leaves the choice in salvation to the libertarian free will of man through prevenient grace.
The Calvinist cannot see God ever giving up any of His sovereignty, even in the choice of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. The Arminian cannot see God, being loving, to ever control humans in their choices, or this results in God being the author and creator of sin and the human not having true love for the Creator. This chasm, as Dr. Olson plainly states, will never be brought together between the two sides. Which I completely agree.

The one place that I saw Dr. Olson arguing for over and over in the book is that Arminianism is not Semi-Pelagian because it is not that good was left in man after the fall, but that God, in His grace gave all men prevenient grace. Here is my issue with this argument. Did not God allow the good to be humans before the fall? So, whether you believe that a little good was left over (Semi-Pelagian) or that God, after the fall, gave all men prevenient grace (Arminianism), which is also good, how is this different? It's just a matter of timing, in my opinion. Dr. Olson also goes into a little dissertation on Open Theism where he does not really try and disprove, but says simply that some Arminians are going "that way" and some are undecided. This is where Arminianism gets real dangerous, in my opinion.

I did enjoy the book and Dr. Olson's thoroughness in it. Do not expect the book to be one that tries to "convince" you of the Arminian position, for this was not the intent (this is also the reason why there was very little biblical references). The intent was to clear up some misconceptions of Arminian theology. Which for me, it did the job that Dr. Olson was trying to do, but that does not mean that I agree with him. I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone looking for an honest assessment of Arminianism.
I also appreciate Dr. Olson's heart in wanting the two sides to be able to serve with one another and to proclaim the gospel together. I found this a place where a lot of my Calvinist friends could learn from. Link to Buy

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Christ in the Passover

This past Thursday was the Passover and I decided to preach on the Passover as commanded by Exodus 12 including what the traditional Jewish Passover consisted of and finally how Christ fulfilled and is found in the Passover. (to the left is a picture of my oldest son holding a lamb) I taught this to our youth group at church where our group consists of Junior and Senior highers. Afterwards we had a time of communion that turned out to be a very special night. I had one of our leader's wives cook some unleavened bread and we had the table set up front for the kids to come up on their time during music to take of the table. I will tell you this, it was the most concentrated and God honoring time I have ever seen our group have. Every kid in there was silent praying to God, truly examining themselves before taking of the table. I know many do not believe in youth groups but I will tell you, when you have 30 teens in a room with their heads bowed together, examining, remembering and proclaiming the Saviour's death, it is something to stand in awe of, knowing that it is completely the work of our Lord. I believe, when done correctly, youth group can be a great time of young people coming together, in unison, and as a family, to worship God.

Here is a link to an article that I enjoyed reading as I prepared for the message of the Passover Seder. Enjoy.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Watch the Lamb

Seth sent this to me the other day, and I think it's worth sharing on the blog:

1 Cor 15:3
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture"

Watch the Lamb

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The Phone Call

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge;
Let me never be ashamed;
In Your righteousness deliver me.
Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly;
Be to me a rock of strength,
A stronghold to save me.
For You are my rock and my fortress;
For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me.
You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me,
For You are my strength.
Into Your hand I commit my spirit;
You have bransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.
Psalm 31:1-5

Most of us know these verses and we call upon the Lord in our times of trouble. Some of these troubles are bigger than others, but nevertheless we know our God cares and comforts, therefore hears His people’s cry. The interesting thing is how God rescues and how God leads and guides. Most of the time He uses His own people to rescue His own and we see this in Moses, Joshua, Gideon and many other biblical figures. The children cry out, “Rescue us!” and Lord answers, through people to rescue and guide. Personally, I never thought I would be used to be someone’s Moses: until that call came.

This story is not one of myself bragging or a presentation of my greatness, it is actually just the opposite, it shows my foolishness and pride.

I had received two collect phone calls from a prison down in California asking for the wrong name, so I would just tell the operator that the prisoner had the wrong number. I did this TWICE, and then the third came. I finally thought, “Maybe these calls are coming from the Lord.” I took the third phone call from the prisoner and he said, “hello, my name is John, is (so and so there)?” I told him that he had the wrong number and we exchanged pleasantries.

Have you ever had the urging or the Spirit of the Lord speak for you? Not some mystical experience, but the experience where you felt that you were saying and doing things that were completely abnormal for you? We learn that the Spirit will guide us into understanding, but this was no normal guiding or prompting. So this is the story of the call, that happened that summer day, two years ago.

I simply told the man, “I did not take your call to tell you that you had the wrong number. I took the call to speak to you about your soul.” I walked through Christ loving this dear man and what Christ did for his sins and John, the prisoner, told me, “I am saved, but I have been doubting my salvation and even my life while I have been jail.” According to John he had been taken to jail for an offense that he did not commit. The police took him in handcuffs while he came out of church with no warning of any kind. He went on to explain that while he has been in jail there has been no contact from that church in any way, even though he tried to contact them, they wanted no part of him and his sinful ways. John then continued to tell me that since he had been in jail, his father and mother completely abandoned him and his sister robbed him and sold all of his belongings. He admitted, “I am ready to die.” He told me that one of his cellmates had just committed suicide, and he felt that it might be the best alternative.

I asked John, “Do you believe in God?” He said that he did and I simply responded that God had him call the wrong number three times for a reason. God, I said to John, has inclined His ear to you. He is going to guide you and He is going to lead you, and He is going to do this through me. We spoke for sometime that day and I didn’t get off the phone with him until he promised that he would go and pray, and understand that this was his opportunity to see mighty things come from the Lord. As we ended with prayer I got his address and also some telephone numbers for some of the friends that he wanted me to contact and then the obvious question came.

John implored, “Why are you doing this?” He said he didn’t understand why a complete stranger, since his own family and church abandoned him, would want to, or care anything for him. I told him simply, “John, if it were left up to me, I would hang up on you and never talk to you again. If it were up to me I would have never even taken your call (which I did twice, he laughed), but Jesus Christ lives in me, and He has put the care of His sheep in the hands of some shepherds here on earth. John, Jesus has put the care of you in my hands. How can I say no?”

John almost started crying and said that he was starting to lose faith in God, because all of God’s people had abandoned him in the past and only saw him as a crook with no hope. He thanked me again, even though I told him not to thank me but to thank God, for if it were left up to me, the phone call would have never happened.

As time went on, John and I were able to exchange letters and more phone calls. John’s life continued to spiral downward in prison. He had another friend in prison kill himself and depression started to hit John harder and harder. I continued to send him Bible studies and letters and he continued to send me Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Fourth of July cards. I was able to speak to him about Paul and his time in prisons and how Paul continued to praise God through his time there no matter the circumstances.

John continued to write and revealed to me that he literally had lost all hope and that phone call was it. That phone call was the last time that he would hope in God. He told me that as we spoke that day and as he continued to get the letters and cards in the mail that his hope in God and God’s people had been restored. I just thought and told John:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.
2 Corinthians 2:14

God used me, even though I was stubborn, to save a man’s life. Amazing Grace.

The scary question is how many “phone calls” do we receive a day that we do not answer? There are many out in the world struggling with faith, struggling with life and we continue to do our daily routine not wanting to be disturbed. The day that I took this phone call, I was having a BBQ at my house with friends. When I took that call, my world stopped and I stayed outside while the others were inside wondering where I was. God interrupted my day, how dare Him! I have heard that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for tomorrow.

Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Matthew 9:36,37

How many people do we see distressed and dispirited, and have no compassion for? May God open our eyes to the people.

John is now out of prison as of about a month ago. He is in a half way house and we are awaiting the time that they will allow us to get together to finally meet. John was so loving in his letters, always asking how my children were, and asking and praying for my wife and myself. John hardly ever asked for anything but he just wanted to know that there was a God who comforts, who guides, who is the strength and who will lead. God did all this through me. I am amazed every time I think of it, knowing if it were left up to me, I would have continued to BBQ and ignored the phone call once more.

May we all know the God that comforted John in his time of need.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God; Why are you 1in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
Psalm 42:1,2,11

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