Contend Earnestly: May 2007

Monday, May 28, 2007

Ordo Salutis - Election

Our first look at the ordo salutis is the doctrine of election, the doctrine of being chosen by God. This doctrine is one that I have not always subscribed to. It is one that I was never even taught until about 8 years ago. It was one that I would have probably laughed at before then and scoffed at. I always thought that I was in control of my destiny, that I was the one who in control of my actions that I was the one who chose the paths on which to walk. So, naturally when it came to salvation I thought it was I who chose God and at times I thought how lucky He was to have me on His team. This doctrine has been debated all the way back to Augustine and Jerome against a man named Pelagius, it was the doctrine that is said to be the foundation of the reformation against the Catholic church in the 16th Century, it is what defined the Protestant movement and again is what was attacked by a man named James Arminius and what has been defended by men like Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, R.C. Sproul and John MacArthur. This doctrine is one where we must lean completely on Scripture as our entire conscience fights against it. Even our society would tell us it isn’t true, and they do this every time they tell us that “You can do anything you set your mind to” or “you choose your destiny.” So, this doctrine is one where we need to put away your old inclinations and just hear Scripture, listen to what it says plainly for this was Paul’s prayer at the beginning of Colossians:

For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Colossians 1:9,10

We are going to study what it means to be chosen of God and look at some key words to describe what this means:
1. Importance of the words: Foreknew, foreknowledge, foreknown, foreordain
2. Importance of the word: Predestine
3. Importance of the words: chosen or elect

Importance of the word foreknew, foreknowledge, foreknown, foreordain

The first word that comes with much debate and is at the real root of this debate is the word foreknown. Some say that this word means that God foreknew whether man would choose Him or not and based on those actions of belief, God elected those to salvation. So God looked through the portal of time and saw those who would choose Him and then He elected them or chose them unto salvation. The other view, the one that I hold to, is that God’s foreknowledge is much more intimate, much more thorough than just someone’s actions but that God foreknew you in a way to where He foreknew you as a person not just merely your actions. Let’s look at the first part of our text to understand this
, Romans 8:28-30.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

So, the question here is what did God foreknow in this passage? Does it say anything about God foreknowing anything about actions? Now, understand we do know that God knows everything, but what does God foreknow in this passage? It points to Him foreknowing the person, not their actions. There are three times that God’s foreknowledge is mentioned in verb form, here in Romans 8:29, also in 1 Peter 1:20 and also in Romans 11:2, so let’s look at these as well to get a well informed prospective.

God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel?
Romans 11:2

If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;
knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
1 Peter 1:17-21

So, the three times that God’s foreknowledge is mentioned in the verb tense we have that God foreknew what? The person or persons, but now what does the word actually mean. For this, we need to break the word down. The word in the Greek means to “know beforehand, or to predestine” but what about this word “know?” Is it just merely having knowledge about something or someone or is there something more here.

The word “know” or “knew” is a very intimate word to the both the Hebrews and Greeks. The word actually is used to describe that Adam and Eve knew each other and then their son Cain was born in Genesis 4:1. If the word merely meant to know about someone, then we have a true miracle of birth in Genesis 4:1 instead of the obvious reality that to “know” for the Hebrews was a very intimate term between two persons.

We also see this intimate relationship in
John 10:14

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.
For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.
John 10:14-17

So does God just merely “know” of Christ? Or is this an intimate relationship between the two?

“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.”
Jeremiah 1:5

This knowledge or to know is also shown in Matthew 7:22,23; 1 Corinthians 8:3, 2 Timothy 2:19; Exodus 2:25; Galatians 4:9

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Friday, May 25, 2007

My Weekend Rant

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
Romans 7:15-20

I ask this of myself all the time. Why don't I do what God tells me to do? Of course, in my pride, I also ask, "Why doesn't the church do what they are supposed to do?" I was listening to either the Q & A or the sermon from the 2006 Desiring God Conference, whichever it was, Tim Keller was doing the speaking. He said something that I found a big help to this question and it is in line with some of my thinking lately as well.

Dr. Keller was speaking about the "deadness" of church attenders. Those who attend church, do some "churchy" things, like teach Sunday school, administer different events, maybe even give of their money to different church "causes", but never really actually do the work of an evangelist. Which, in my humble opinion, would be doing things like, helping the homeless, widows, orphans, those in prison, hospitality to those around our community and the like, all so that they can in the end show the people the love of Christ BOTH in word and DEED. What James preaches is TRUE religion. People love to sometimes just preach the word, or give monetarily to missions, but ask them to show the word, to live out the word, and that is just too big of a commitment.

Dr. Keller went about his explanation from Jonah. Notice that in Jonah, Jonah did everything in his power to flee from the people who needed God the most: the sinners. But, if we look at Jonah's life, when did he decide to follow God? When did he decide to go to the sinner to preach the gospel? It all comes to a climax in one verse, the verse that is said to be the thesis of the entire Bible: Jonah 2:9

...Salvation belongs to the Lord.

Dr. Keller exclaims that if one truly believes this, as Jonah did, the very next action taken by Jonah, will be the same for the church:

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh
Jonah 3:3

When one understands the gospel and the cross of our Christ they will truly understand conviction and call to pour out that love to those around them. Until this, our churches will be dead and we will be truly worshiping in vain. Until we understand that salvation belongs to the Lord, meaning it doesn't belong to us, to our methods, to our work, to our hands, to our wants, to our desires, but only in the faithful Creator of heaven and hell, only then will we stop being a weekly one night stand with God and whoring ourselves out the rest of the week to whatever fancies us along the way.

The verse that I have taken to heart to try and meditate on more, because I believe it is the verse that most encapsulates the entire Gospel is Romans 8:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

In this verse we have the showing of a deserved condemnation, because of our sin, but also the answer to that condemnation: Jesus Christ.

It is a great verse of balance between knowledge of sin and the salvation of Christ. When one understands the depth of their sin, but doesn't stop there and gives those sins to Christ, is washed in His blood, then how can one not follow what Christ says? Think about it! You should be going to hell, and if you are a Christian, you have no condemnation, no wrath, no death, no hell, but eternal life worshiping our God, heir to the thrown!

If this does not excite you into telling others and showing others what your Christ has done, are you sure you are an heir?

I agree with Dr. Keller in that if the people of this generation do not start to understand the depths of the gospel, we (the church) will continue to fall into decline and the gospel will continually be watered down and the people will continue to live for themselves instead of dying to Christ.

I would encourage you, as I test myself with this as well, to re-read over and over again Jonah 2:9 and Romans 8:1 and let that just fall deep into your soul of understanding. But don't stop there, live out your faith.

Again...if you are a Christian there is no condemnation! This should be like food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, shelter for the homeless and rescue for the lost. This should be our life's work: understanding the gospel more and more so that our lives bleed gospel always.

May your weekend be blessed in the name of our great and glorious Saviour, Jesus Christ.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Playing the Whore

With all this talk about coarse language and taking a look at the biblical usage of coarse language in the prophetic books, it has made me come face to face with some pretty powerful passages. Just as I feel sometimes that we have heard the Gospel so much that it becomes like oxygen and loses its awe, so do I feel as though we have heard the people of Israel mentioned as a harlot so often, we forget this abominable name and the reason behind the name that is used so often to describe idolaters.

I will tell you that I am going to show some pretty coarse messages in the Bible from here on out so if you are uncomfortable with this language please don't read further. I know this is kind of like telling you NOT to think of a pink elephant, but at as Pilate said to his demise I will say the same, "I wash my hands of this."

We find the usage of this term "harlot", most poignantly, used of Israel in Ezekiel 16. I think harlot is a nice term that makes us not think of the complete abhorrence this term is supposed to convey. Maybe it would be better served to use some contemporary terms so you can see the disgust God has on us when we are idolaters. Some terms that might be better served would be whore, slut, skank, hooch, ho, tramp or hooker. In the "urban dictionary" one definition is exactly what I was thinking:

One of the female species that sleeps around. She is really a slut, but goes by harlot to save her own reputation .

I feel like we as Christians like to use the word harlot instead of the word that means more disgust to us, like whore or slut. Harlot probably carried more meaning and disgust back in the day, but for me it just doesn't carry the weight of this passage.

Continuing. Ezekiel 16 starts off by God wanting to make known to Jerusalem her abominations. God wants to make sure that there is no mincing of words, no second guessing, no questions in regards to the hatred God has towards Jerusalem being a whore and a slut to other gods.

The way that God does this is to first show Jerusalem who they were from their birth, how worthless they were and how the world could care less about them:

As for your birth, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water for cleansing; you were not rubbed with salt or even wrapped in cloths. No eye looked with pity on you to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you. Rather you were thrown out into the open field, for you were abhorred on the day you were born.
Ezekiel 16:4,5

This is how God found Jerusalem. Is this not how He found us as well? We are told in 1 Peter 2:10 that we were once not a nation, not a people, not a priesthood. When God found us, we are told that we were haters of God, children of wrath, sons of the devil and with absolutely no hope. Even so, God elected us to heir ship with His Son. God shows this redemption in Ezekiel 16:6

When I passed by you and saw you squirming in your blood, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you while you were in your blood, ‘Live!’

Is this not the same as God showing us in Colossians 2:13 what He did for us?

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

God is showing Jerusalem, and in the end us, where He has not only found us lying in our blood, squirming without hope, but He also found us as we were left to die as if our mothers conceived us on the street and left. God is showing truly how hopeless we were. We were lying like a small newborn baby, crying without hope in our own blood on the streets with onlookers scoffing at us. Yet, God saw us (Read Ezekiel 16:7-14)and picked us up, cleansed us, adorned us with jewels and gave us heir ship on the thrown.

How did Jerusalem respond? By being a slut, skank and whore to the other dead, lifeless gods. How specific does God get in this description?

You built yourself a high place at the top of every street and made your beauty abominable, and you spread your legs to every passer-by to multiply your harlotry.
Ezekiel 16:25

This is not speaking of the "escorts" in the paper only affordable to the rich business man, this is speaking of a "$1 whore." They don't care what you look like, how much money you have, if you use a condom or what your health issues are. They just want your nickel and they will do anything for it.

You uncomfortable yet? Good. This is how God wants us to understand what it means to be a whore for idols.

What do you love more than God? What eisegesis do you put on Scripture to describe God in ways that are not His true attributes? I used to love money, and still do at times, more than my God. I used to love my reputation, my family and my friends more than God. Are you afraid to speak the truth about God to other people? You make them and their thoughts of you and idol over your God. When you do this, and when I do this, I am a whore.

How can we ever do this to a God that picked us up out of our own blood to clean us and make us heirs to the thrown? How can we not live a Cross centered life in humility? How is this possible?

What happens when we are whores for idols? God says simply in
Ezekiel 16:26

...make me angry

The scary thing is that in this anger God says that He delivered up the Israelites to their desires, does this not sound a lot like Romans 1? The scary part is maybe some reading this are not saved and God will turn you over to your idols and the desires of your whoredom without the possibility of salvation.

When going through this text it again reminds me of the complete honor, adoration and gratitude through worship and service that my God deserves. Above that, He deserves this, and Him alone!

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.
Luke 14:26

I write this post to show the crassness of God when He really wants to get a point across to show His love and our failures. This crassness didn't just stop at His words but also in His actions. Sin was so deep and so nasty that even our righteous deeds are said to be like throwing a bloody tampon at God and acting as though we are giving Him a gift. (Isaiah 64:6) Our gift to God is a dirty, smelly, bloody tampon rag and God's gift to us was His pure, undefiled, perfect, almighty Son.

The question is: Are you a whore or a disciple?

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
But the Lord was pleased
To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
Isaiah 53:4,5,10a

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Resurgence Conference 2007

This last March, Justin, my pastor and I went to the Resurgence Conference with Mars Hill and Bruce Ware and it was very well done. If you would like to read my review of the conference you can see that here. I wanted to link over there as they now have the video, notes and Q & A sessions.

Hope you enjoy:

Uncertain Hands of God and Men: Providence in Process Thought and Open Theism

Independent Hands of God and Men: Providence in Classic Arminianism

Coordinated Hands of God and Men: Providence in the Reformed Tradition

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Ordo Salutis - Introduction

Because of a great question over at a forum that I am apart of at the Reformed Evangelist I thought I would do a series on my thoughts on the Ordo Salutis. First, so that everyone at least starts on the same page, Ordo Salutis is the Latin term meaning, "The Order of Salvation." It usually refers to Romans 8:29,30 and what is called by the Reformed tradition: The Golden Chain of Redemption.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
Romans 8:29,30

The golden chain of redemption is known to most Reformed theologians as the proof of the Calvinistic belief of the Doctrines of Grace. It is the hinge of predestinarianism and is fought off by most Arminians by their stance in one of two ways.

1. God's foreknowledge here is speaking of an entire people in mind. They take this passage to speaking of an entire race, namely, the Gentiles. They also see Romans 9 as exegetically teaching the same principle, even though individuals are mentioned throughout the chapter, and not nations (Pharoah, Jacob, Esau, etc.).

2. God's foreknowledge is speaking of God knowing beforehand who would choose Him and then He chose those whom He knew would respond to His grace. The ole "God looked down the portal of time" eisegesis.

My time that will be spent in these posts will focus on my views of my personal, which I believe to be mostly Reformed if not totally Reformed, exegesis of the Order of Salvation. I will not spend much time deterring other views of the order of salvation, but my focus will be on the affirmative of the Reformed view and not the negative.

To let all know where I stand before I start, I am Reformed in my beliefs on salvation and therefore see God as completely sovereign, never allowing God to give up this sovereignty in any way, even in the wide spread Aristotilian belief of free will and reason.

I find this first and foremost in the Golden Chain of Redemption, as the passage's focus is purely on God and His grace and us being merely the one's receiving the grace. Look at the passage again.

He foreknew
He predestined
He conformed to the image of His Son
He would be the firstborn among many brethren
He called
He justified
He glorified

Ephesians 1:7,8 lets us know what our one and only true gift to God in salvation: our trespasses.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight
Eph 1:7,8

God imputed to us Jesus Christ's righteousness, and God imputed to Christ our sin. What a gift we gave to Christ!

The Ordo Salutis that I will defend is the following:

God's election
Common Call
The Gift of Faith
The Effectual Call
Repentance and Confession

As I did with the Five Solas of the Reformation my intent will be to guide the reader to a "good start" in their study of these subjects. I will not be exhaustive but simply desire to see the people of God understand the greatness of God and foolishness of man. I believe a firm understanding of the order of salvation aids us in this attempt. I pray that you will glean some understanding through this series.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Mark the Cussing Pastor

Alright, seriously, I am not a "cheerleader" for Mark but it seems as though of late I have been. I guess I just feel terrible for coming to conclusions about a guy and his ministry before I truly read about and took a good look at his ministry. This will be the last time for a while that I post on Mark Driscoll, I promise. Just one last thing I thought was of interest: Mark's stance on being called "the cussing pastor." I got this from the Acts 29 Network website and thought it was of interest. You can get the entire interview here.

Mark the Cussing Pastor

This infamous phrase is like the high school photo in the yearbook that you hope no one sees. In 1997 as the church was just getting started, a man came up from Oregon having heard what we were doing and was considering moving to Seattle to be a part of Mars Hill Church. Donald Miller was just getting started and had not published a book yet. At that point our church was very small and visitors stuck out. I took Don out to dinner to try to entice him to come back to our church. We went to a pizza place afterward and talked about the church. He really wanted to stay in Portland if a church like Mars Hill existed there. A friend of mine Rick McKinley did start a church in Portland and Don became a member there. For the first few years his book, Blue Like Jazz didn't sell many copies. He didn't even talk to me about the book but I must have said something over dinner that led him to label me as the cussing pastor. So over a decade later at a casual dinner my brand was immovably affixed. Don is a friend of mine but I just wish an off-comment at a meal isn't my defining moment.

What gets me into trouble is my humor. It is what keeps me sane. I have a stressful life and I fear that I will be the guy that shows up at work unknowingly with his underwear outside of his pants. The pressure and stress is great. I receive death threats. Our church has gone from 1,200 to 6,000 in four years. It is very intense. I have had no one else to lean on. So for me, telling jokes and being light hearted is my way of coping with stress. But sometimes when I get overly stressed, my mouth and anger gets me into trouble. My tone, my attitude and my mouth are indicators of how closely I walk with Jesus. I have come to realize that I speak for more than just Mark Driscoll. I speak for Jesus. I know I can't be this foul-mouthed, gunslinger for Jesus. I still think strong language and a prophetic edge is appropriate. But shock-jock language isn't.

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Mark Driscoll - Biblical Principles and Cultural Methods

I found this on the Desiring God website, along with many other videos with Driscoll. If you would like to see the other videos go here. Thought this video was interesting and wanted to get some viewpoints on it.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Mark Driscoll - My Stance

After you read the following article I would request that you watch this video, which is a preaching that Mark Driscoll gave at the reFocus Conference last month at Willingdon Church in Barnaby BC Canada.

I want to start that this post is completely the opinion of this writer, Seth McBee, and is not necessarily the opinion of my church or other pastors in my church. The reason I say this is because I don't know where they stand completely, even though I think they would agree with most of my post here. This, also, in no way, is to diminish the view I have on my own church. This is merely a "run down" of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill because of all the attention he/they are getting.

I also want to make sure that everyone knows this. I live up here in the Seattle area (40 min from Mars Hill) and right out of college I attended Mars Hill for a little while. When I attended it was back in the day (2000-2001) when Mars Hill met in an old church that was way too small on a hill in Ballard. Most Sundays that I attended we got there really early so we didn't have to sit in the side room or downstairs and watch him on TV. The church seemed to be literally busting at the seams. I only attended Sunday services and never served in any way, neither did I do anything for that church, I was merely a leach. I also do not know Mark Driscoll personally, I only know him through the books that I have read, the sermons I have heard (which are many, both live and on MP3), the conference (Resurgence 2007) I attended and through his congregants that I personally know. So, am I a "great" source to speak on his ministry? Probably not, but I believe I can give a pretty good opinion because of my involvement, but still not a thorough one, so please bear with me.

I believe that Mars Hill is one of the best involved churches that I have ever seen. When you go to Mars Hill or get to know the congregants (which I know many personally), the fire in their heart to see people changed for Christ is like gas to a flame. They are truly explosive. Most are young, in their 20's and 30's, but that is probably just a reflection on where the church is (location) and the age of Mark. But, the conversion of these individuals is as radical as I have ever seen. All churches can boast about the handful of people in the congregation who had "Saul of Tarsus like conversions" but at Mars Hill it seems to be the norm. People being converted out of a deep life in drugs, sex and rock and roll into a life where they no longer strip for a living, but have a small group in their home and feed the homeless to preach the Gospel. Mars Hill focuses their people on reaching the lost by being like Christ: going out to the sinners and not waiting for them to walk through the doors of the church. When we recently attended the Resurgence 2007 conference the people were great, they greeted us, served us, and then worshiped with us. Would their worship freak out RPW convictions and the traditional reformed faith? uhhh...yeah! But, so would my church's worship, so to me, not a big deal. From what I see and have seen from Mars Hill, the church itself is a God honoring church that sincerely preaches the Cross to the regenerate and unregenerate alike, so that those who are regenerate will continue to deepen their understanding of the cross, and the unregenerate, so that they will be converted.

Now, on to Mark Driscoll. Pastor Mark's church is really a reflection of his desire to engage culture (in a good way for the most part) because the culture is where the sinners are. It's not that he cares more about culture than the church, but the culture is where the sinners are, so that is why he engages. Notice I said "engages" and not "conforms" for he does not. Does he water down the Gospel? Absolutely not. He is a charismatic Calvinist and a reformer and is an expositor of the word of God, week in and week out. The hard thing for people to take in with Mark, in my opinion, is that is actually HONEST about his struggles. He is not a Pharisee in his practice or preaching and understands his calling from God. Does this get him in trouble with contemporary Christendom? Of course, religious people don't like honestly, they like to hide their sin, they like to look better than they are. I am guilty of this, I am guilty of trying to look better than I am, which I have recently repented of to my wife, pastors and youth group and asked for their forgiveness.

I believe that Pastor Mark is someone who traditional pastors don't like from a distance but would love if they were to visit his church and see the radical change that his people are experiencing. Some, always point to his language. Does this bother me? Yes. I do not enjoy when his language is coarse and unusually harsh. But, I have also seen preachers that are unusually dull and seem to have no excitement that they have been saved from their sin in the cross! So for me, this is not a "deal breaker." Another thing to understand about Mark is that he is not, again, is not emergent. He actually speaks strongly against Doug Pagitt and Brian McClaren and their false beliefs on Scripture and the atonement. In the end, he will probably be to the emergents (this could be an overstatement) like Machen was to the modernists. So, we need to applaud Pastor Driscoll for this and not continue to barade him on other things. He is standing up against some of his very close friends for the sake of the purity of the Gospel.

There are also some other ministries that Mars Hill has that I don't know enough about, but still have me "concerned" (maybe concerned is too harsh of a word). One of the ministries that I truly don't understand is why they allow "secular" bands to come in and have concerts at their church that are unpredictable (read Mark's book, Confessions of a Reformissional Rev, for a better understanding). Another that I don't understand, but don't have first hand knowledge of is their "Theology and Film" ministry. This is where people meet to watch film and speak about it and how it relates to culture and theology. Again, just don't see how this is beneficial.

I hope that if you read this, and are from Mars Hill, understand that I completely respect what your church is doing and welcome any comments from you...I actually encourage you to comment. If you are not from Mars Hill and have only read about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, understand that this church is not growing because of anything besides the word of God. The church has grown from 8 people in Mark's house to over 6000 in a mere 10 years. Pastor Mark said that they did a series on the atonement that was 12 weeks (which I listened to), every sermon was almost if not well over an hour, and every sermon was very much deep in theology and focused on Christ's atonement on the cross. Their attendance DOUBLED because of the understanding of the atonement that the Spirit yielded in the hearts of the people and many people were weeping in their seats. I know what you are saying, "Experience doesn't guide whether something is true!" You also must note though, that the Word is being preached and people are not just attending Mars Hill they are being radically changed.

Am I completely "sold" on Mars Hill? No, but I am not completely sold on Reformed Baptists, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists or Charismatics either. Do I believe that Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill are doing things for the glory of God? Absolutely. Do I think there are some things that they could do better? I must first change myself, before I could offer any help in this area. All I know, is that from Mark's preaching and the service and change I see in the people of Mars Hill it seems to be straight from God.

I think that others agree with my thoughts as well, as we can see John Piper, Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan and D.A. Carson starting to "join hands" with him in some respects. If you would like to read my reviews on Mark's books click here.

May we all be careful before we judge someone that we have never met, or somewhere we have never been.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Gospel Coalition

I found this on the Resurgence and thought it looked pretty cool. Take a look.

By: Mark Driscoll

Last year I had the privilege of attending a small theological colloquium led by Dr. D. A. Carson and Dr. Tim Keller in Chicago. Over the years, Dr. Keller has been kind enough to speak a great deal of wisdom into my life regarding the gospel and role of the church in culture. Although I have read a great deal by Dr. Carson, who is among the leading New Testament scholars in the world, I had never before had the privilege of meeting him. To be honest, I had never been to a theological colloquium before and found it to be the most fascinating theological discussion I've ever witnessed.

It centered on a new evangelical reformed confession of faith drafted up by Dr. Carson with a preamble composed by Dr. Keller regarding the role of the gospel and church in culture. The colloquium was arranged in order to help hone the statements into an agreeable final draft. The hope was to redefine a clear center for evangelicalism more akin to that previously articulated by men such as Francis Schaeffer, John Stott, and Billy Graham.

Joining in the small colloquium were men from a number of churches, such as Alistair Begg, Kent Hughes, Philip Ryken, Mark Dever, Ray Ortlund, and Ligon Duncan. Also represented by various leaders were organizations such as The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, 9Marks, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Sovereign Grace Ministries, along with Acts 29 and The Resurgence. Overall, there was a great deal of ethnic, geographic, denominational, organizational, and stylistic diversity, bound together by a solid reformed confessional agreement on theological essentials.

Out of this gathering of the tribes has come a new organization called The Gospel Coalition. It will be holding its first conference beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 23, and finishing on Thursday, May 24, on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The shape of the conference is as follows:

Wednesday (May 23)

1:00 – 2:45 Open Corporate Worship
"What is the Gospel?" Primarily an exposition of the first part of 1 Corinthians 15
(Don Carson)
Panel Discussion
2:45 – 3:15 Break
3:15 – 5:00 Gospel-Centered Ministry
(Tim Keller)
Panel Discussion
7:00 – 9:00 Corporate Worship and Exposition: "Passing on the Torch"
(Crawford Loritts)

Thursday (May 24)

8:30 – 9:00 Devotions and Corporate Prayer
9:15 – 10:30 Workshops
The Doctrine of God Today
(Graham Cole)
Defining Evangelicalism
(Ray Ortlund, Reddit Andrews)
Union with Christ and Justification
(Phil Ryken)
The Use of the Bible in Pastoral Counseling
(Mike Bullmore)
Mentoring Younger Pastors
(Mark Driscoll, Michael Lawrence)
Mentoring Younger Lay Leaders
(Harry Reeder, John Yates)
The Church of the Living God: Crucial Issues in Gospel and Community
(Jeff Louie)
The Church of the Living God: Practical Challenges in Mobile Society
(Stephen Um)
Christ and Culture Revisited
(Sandy Willson)
Q & A on Preaching
(Crawford Loritts, Ligon Duncan)
Cultivating Biblical Meditation and Prayer
(Andy Davis)
Evangelizing People in a Post-Christian Society
(David Bisgrove)

10:45 – 12:00 Closing Exposition: "The Triumph of the Gospel in the New Heavens and the
New Earth"
(John Piper)

It is likely that this will be the only smaller conference of this magnitude because once the ministry is officially launched it will attract thousands and not hundreds. I would strongly encourage any young Christian leaders wanting to meet and learn from the men who are participating to sign up; space is limited to 515 and filling fast because the cost is only $80. If you would like to attend, you must book your registration at this secure registration page: The $80 registration fee covers conference costs, including snacks and the evening meal on Wednesday. Each person attending will have to register separately. As soon as the conference is over, all of the materials from both the plenaries and the workshops will be made available on The Gospel Coalition website, which we expect to be fully functional by the time of the conference. Our crew from The Resurgence will be on-site interviewing the speakers on various subjects and making the content available on this website in both podcast and vodcast form. As always, that content will be free thanks to the generosity of the elders of Mars Hill Church who fund this ministry.

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Youth Group

I know there are a lot of opinions about having a formal youth group around churches these days yet the conviction that I hear has little to do with the practicality of the situation. Let me explain. I know that some do not believe in having a formal youth group because of what the normal youth group in America looks like, which I would agree, most that I have seen are garbage. But, I do believe if done correctly they can produce great theological study for our younger generation. I am currently about to complete Mark Dever's book, "The Deliberate Church" and he is one that doesn't not endorse youth groups. I have also seen and spoken with other's about youth group's as well. The interesting thing is that most of the people I talk to still do ministry to the youth in some way, even Dever does this in their own way. Yet, they will still speak out against it. I guess I just don't get why it is so wrong to have a youth group that meets during the week for study and then also on Sunday morning before church. I do find it very laughable that most that don't have youth group's still have some sort of "activities" for youth, even though it is not "formal." Most will say, "there is no such thing as a 'youth' pastor in the Bible!" Well, there is also no such thing as an "associate" pastor either, so why don't we just throw those out as well.

The point is that most are just arguing over titles and not the need to gather young people to learn about God's word.

Here is how our youth group is run, just to give you an idea:

The Lord's Day: Meet at 9:00am to usually go through a book study, we just finished Colossians and my pastor is now going through a walk through of the Old Testament. Then at 10:15am the youth join the main service for our corporate worship.

Thursday Nights: We meet at 6:15pm and go until 8pm. This time is dedicated to preaching, singing, accountability and prayer. There is a 15 minute time period at the beginning to talk and fellowship and the sort but then the rest of the time is dedicated to worshiping God. Currently we are going through "What the Bible says about..." which is really a Systematic Theology class. If you would like to hear my introduction click here.

Activities: We are currently getting a homeless ministry and a Senior's living facility ministry up and running. Our first time of ministering to the homeless will be June 2nd. We are also going to be going to Mexico on August 4th to do a VBS and service projects at a church in Reynosa, Mexico.

Our youth group is focused on living our theology 24/7. When done correctly, I believe youth group is a great time of learning, engaging and worshiping God. I don't care what you call it or who leads it, if you don't believe that our youth need special care in this world you're not opening your eyes.

I pray that God continues to use our little youth group to impact our communities for Christ.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Five Solas of the Reformation - Soli Deo Gloria - Part II

Applying the Fifth Sola

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Cor 10:31

This has been my text that I have tried to live by. I will tell you though I have also taken it in the past and been a legalist at the heart without realizing it until recently. Thinking wrongly that my deeds almost gained merit with God, when in reality, they don’t. To best understand this last part of our study on the Solas we see a succession that needs to take us through an examination of thought. It starts with Leviticus 1-7 then to Isaiah 53 then to Romans 8:1 then finally to 1 Cor 10:31.

You see Leviticus 17:11 states that it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement. The first 7 chapters of Leviticus go through the different sacrifices that should be offered because of sin. As you read, and continue to read, you understand that this is a very, very bloody outworking. Shedding the blood of bulls, goats, lambs and other animals. Taking out the entrails of the animals and placing them on alters to burn, sprinkling the blood of the animals on different parts of the alter, the tent and mercy seat. Taking the animal’s skin and cutting it into pieces to offer on the altar.

So much blood that a river would run of blood through the valley of Kidron from the temple. God instituted this bloody sacrificial system, not to literally take away the sins of the people, you can see that in Hebrews 10, but God had such a bloody and rank system so that the people would see the effects of their sin and stop sinning.

You would think that if you had to continue to watch the lives of these animals be taken and the mess that it created, the river of blood it created, the stench of the animals and the burning of their bloody flesh that the people would stop sinning. But they didn’t.

Jeremiah 31 speaks of the new covenant; this covenant is needed because the nation of Israel didn’t keep the first covenant, so God said He would bring a new covenant, where He would remember their sin no more. This covenant was prophesied about in the great passage of Isaiah 53. So God, first started with the blood of animals and their sacrifice to show the depths of sin, when this didn’t work, in God’s perfect timing, He brought us His only Son.

Before moving on, I need to make clear that God does not react to people. His plans have been established and preordained from eternity past. But He also interacts with us in a way so that we will get an understanding of what He means. This is why He calls Christ a Lamb. The people of Israel, who were very accustomed to shepherding could understand this, but this doesn’t mean that Christ has wool and hooves, just as when God said that He brought the New Covenant because of Israel’s disobedience, this New Covenant was eternally ordained by God. Easier to understand, what came first, the promise of His Son’s death, or the Mosaic Covenant? Genesis 3:15 points to the redemption through the New Covenant because of Christ.

Take a look at Isaiah 53:4-12

But through Christ, there were two purposes. One was to show how nasty our sin was because of the cross, the brutality that was exposed on the cross and the Father forsaking His Son, showing us the spiritual loneliness of sin, was to show us the depth our sin has in regards to our holy God. Second is found in Romans 8:1

Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

What is the therefore, there for? Paul just got done exposing his guilt because of his sin even though he is a child of God. So what is Paul’s conclusion after this self examination? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. Christ paid your debt completely on the cross. If this is true, you cannot be condemned for a payment that has been made. This word “condemnation” means “damnatory sentence.” Romans 8:33,34

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.

So, although, we should hate our sin and by the aid of the Spirit strive to overcome it, in the end, if you are one of the elect, God’s chosen one, you cannot be condemned. What is the natural outcome of this? Soli Deo Gloria. I know many have heard this, but again, just like we need to stop and look at the mountains and marvel at God’s omnipotence through His creation, read these words and marvel: There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus!

In addition, the people of Israel’s captivity in Egypt is an amazing parallel to our life as a people. Israel was enslaved by an evil one, the Pharoah. We are told that we are slaves to sin. The people did the will of their master, the Pharoah, we are told that before salvation that we do the will of our father, the devil. The people of Israel were redeemed by one of their own, Moses. We were redeemed by one of our own, the Son of Man. I will not continue in this but there is much more…including the look at the paschal lamb verses our Paschal Lamb.

What was the reason that the Lord wanted His people to be released from Egypt? Take a look at Exodus 12:31. If you get nothing else out of this post get this verse.

Then he (Pharoah) called for Moses and Aaron at night and said, “Rise up, get out from among my people, both you and the sons of Israel; and go, worship the LORD, as you have said.
Exodus 12:31

Just as Israel, this is our reason for being let go from the bondage of the evil one, being risen from death to life: to worship God, to give God all the glory.

If we understand the Levitical sacrifices, the sacrifice of the Son, the release of all condemnation, this should not even have to be told to us, but Soli Deo Gloria should be the natural outflow of our lives.

Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31

Paul is speaking here to an embarrassment of a church in Corinth, but how many times do we have to be reminded to do all to the glory of God? This transformation of our life must take place in everything we do. You have to remember that for the Reformers they were used to a Pharisaical look at the ministry. Leaders all around them being corrupt and not really living for the glory of God, but all the glory was given to the pope and his men. Calling the Pope “holy father” and having past popes being called saints to be worshiped and prayed to. Soli Deo Gloria cried out in the face of all this to put the glory back in its rightful place: all on God, none on us.

The fact was established long ago by Paul.

But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Galatians 6:14a

1 Cor 1:31 and 2 Cor 10:17 both say (taken from Jeremiah 9:23,24) “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord”

Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;

We studied this when going through Sola Gratia but it can be summed up who we are in Romans 9:22,23

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,

The natural outflow of God showing us the riches of His glory is for us to proclaim and live out this glory in our lives. Not just in part but in whole.


I concluded my introduction to the Five Solas with this and I want to bring back Peter Jeffery’s quote to end our discussion.

Spiritual men do not look for fame and the applause of people; they are concerned only with being faithful to God. Faithfulness is more valuable in gospel work than greatness. It always honors the Lord and is concerned with his glory not its own. Few will be great but all of us should be faithful. Out of that may flow greatness but if it does not then the Lord is still honored.

My hope is that you start to understand your standing before a holy God. Namely, your unworthiness because of who you are, but your right to heir ship because of Christ. Understanding this, your life will be a continual outflow of the love of God and the glory of God and you will truly live out what the chief end of man is: to worship God and enjoy Him forever.

I will end with Isaiah 52:7

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the LORD restores Zion.
Break forth, shout joyfully together,
You waste places of Jerusalem;
For the LORD has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
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

May all the ends of the earth see the salvation of our God because of who we are and what we say, and may the Five Solas of the Reformation aid you in your understanding of the great and glorious salvation of our God, and may your life be a life of worship to our God.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pastor Jason Katen - The Gospel

The last video was not done correctly...obviously...I think I have finally figured it here we go...round 2. The man speaking is my own Pastor, Pastor Jason Katen, hope you enjoy. Check out his sermons here.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Bunyan on Sin

Sin is the great block and bar to our happiness, the procurer of all miseries to man, both here and hereafter: take away sin and nothing can hurt us: for death, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, is the wages of it.

Sin, and man for sin, is the object of the wrath of God. How dreadful, therefore, must his case be who continues in sin! For who can bear or grapple with the wrath of God? No sin against God can be little, because it is against the great God of heaven and earth; but if the sinner can find out a little God, it may be easy to find out little sins.
Sin turns all God’s grace into wantonness; it is the dare of his justice, the rape of his mercy, the jeer of his patience, the slight of his power, and the contempt of his love. Take heed of giving thyself liberty of committing one sin, for that will lead thee to another; till, by an ill custom, it become natural. To begin a sin, is to lay a foundation for a continuance; this continuance is the mother of custom, and impudence at last the issue.

The death of Christ giveth us the best discovery of ourselves, in what condition we were, in that nothing could help us but that; and the most clear discovery of the dreadful nature of our sins. For if sin be so dreadful a thing as to wring the heart of the Son of God, how shall a poor wretched sinner be able to bear it?

Bunyan, J. (2006). Bunyan's Dying Sayings. (1:65). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Our First Importance

I want to be clear here first and foremost: I love a good discussion on theology that is open, biblical and honest. But what I want to bring to our discussion today is of FIRST importance. Take a look:

Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1 Corinthians 15:1-4

There are some points I want to make and then I will actually open up this passage to some discussion on some old school theology. Notice that Paul gives us a look at not only what has happened in the past but also where we should be in the present.

First, Paul tells us that he is speaking to his brethren, the saved, the elect, the chosen because of the gospel preached and they received. In our society and church that loves to show plays and theatrical dramas or dance, this is another good example that faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. We, as teachers, pastors and theologians need to remember to never leave our post of proclaimers of the truth. This is the only way that people are converted to the saving knowledge of our Saviour.

Notice also that Paul says that they, the Corinthians "also stand" in the gospel. This is speaking of the truth that perseverance is proof of conversion. This correlates very well with the antithesis of Psalm 1:1 that states the one who is not blessed is the one who "stands in the path of sinners." To stand in the gospel is to live the gospel, to breath the gospel, to preach the gospel. Are you standing in the gospel, or are you of "that faith that doesn't save" that even the demons believe in? Good questions to examine ourselves with.

But notice where our first importance lies: the gospel. We get into a lot of discussions and allow our minds and fellowship be broken with many loving brothers in Christ over matters that aren't essential to the eternal proof, the eternal FIRST IMPORTANCE. I believe this is why Whitefield and Wesley could minister together, they were humble in their theology knowing the gospel was the first importance. I am not one who proclaim that the Arminians preach a different (heretical) gospel, and in my humble opinion if you truly believe this you preach an elitist gospel that definitely didn't save the thief on the cross. Now I love debating and discussing with my Arminian friends, but my hope would be that afterwards we would both scour the streets together telling all sinners to repent and believe, to understand the first importance. Remind yourself this week what must be of first importance in your life. It isn't your job, it isn't your ministry, it isn't your family, it isn't your wife, it is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ!

A post on the blogosphere wouldn't be complete though without asking the "ole skool theology" question. The unlimited atonement folk (not just Arminians here) would state that Paul defends the thought that Christ died for all in this passage. This is not a new discussion, it is actually a very old one. One that more of the reformers held to than many of us like to admit. Take a look at what Paul says: I delivered to you...Christ died for OUR sins...

The unlimited atonement folk would say that since none of the other facts changed since Paul delivered the message, such as, Christ being buried and raised on the third day, then we must also take Paul's words to mean that Paul delivered to the Corinthians when they were not believers that Christ died for our sins...meaning Christ died for all the sinner's sins to whom Paul was proclaiming, regardless of whether they ended up repenting or not. I hope I made this point clear, and if I didn't just ask. I am sure that this will cause some good discussion on the subject.

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Five Solas of the Reformation - Soli Deo Gloria Part I

As we end our study in the Five Solas, I want you to understand that my intent was not to be completely thorough in our discussions, but just to get to the tips of the discussion so that you can further study with a good foundation of truth. For Example:

Sola Scriptura: We didn’t even hit on the canon, transcripts or much of the testimony of Scripture of itself. Nor did we even hint of the fight over translations or the apocrypha. Much study is still needed to glean all there is on this subject alone.

Solus Christus: We focused primarily on Christ being our mediator and the head of the church, much is still found in the embodiment of who Christ is, was and is to come that is thoroughly defended in the Holy Writ.

Sola Gratia: We focused much on who we are in receiving God’s grace, how God bestows this grace, but much is still needed to glean on the ongoing provision of God’s grace in our sanctification and in our daily lives of communing with God.

Sola Fide: We focused primarily on two texts: Romans 3,4 and James 2. We did not spend much time looking at other historical narratives in the Old Testament that also apply to this doctrine. We didn’t spend much time focusing on other texts such as Titus 3:5 and Eph 2:8,9 to also defend this doctrine. Neither did we show how the adding to Sola Fide really tramples under foot the blood of our Paschal Lamb.

I wanted to give you a good foundation to start your search of these great subjects as you encounter your faith with God through His holy Word. I did not want to be exhaustive as you would have to bear with me many years of posts on these subjects. The point is that your study will now hopefully be more in depth because of the foundation that we have laid here in our study of the Solas of the Reformation.

With this post, just as the others, we will not be exhaustive in our assessment of the last Sola: Soli Deo Gloria. But this Sola is the natural outflow of the first four. It is the natural inclination of the soul, if the soul of the man be knit to his Redeemer.

Soli Deo Gloria can be defined as such:

Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). Understanding that our lives are always a sacrifice of service to our Lord never to separate worship from life. Soli Deo Gloria points us back to understand that we have received everything from our Jehovah Jireh and therefore have no rights to boast or glorify in anything besides God and His cross (1 Cor 4:7; Galatians 6:14; 1 Cor 1:31). He must increase and we must decrease (John 3:30)

As you can see I stole most of this definition from Scripture, and what a way to end our study in the Solas, to steal from Scripture.

We are going to study this topic by touching on the historical impact, but more so, in recognition of the modern impact.

Historically we are going to study the impact this Sola had on the home, economy and government (I understand that the fifth sola had other great impacts, but I am not going to be exhaustive here). But again, we are just going to quickly hit these and move on. The bulk of our time will be spent on the impact of us today as we walk with our God. On this front we will look at:

Natural outflow of the Five Solas: 1 Cor 4:7
Applying the Fifth Sola: Lev 1-7 vs Isaiah 53 vs Romans 8:1 vs 1 Cor 10:31

In other words for the application; sin must be atoned for, Christ was the eternal atonement, we, who are in Christ have no condemnation, do all to the glory of God.

Historical Impact of Soli Deo Gloria

When taking a look at the historical impact of the fifth sola, understand first the impact it had on the home. Not only did the reformation want to show all the glory to God in the church but also it couldn’t help but burst out of the seems of the church and impact all of the life of the newly founded reformed movement. It impacted the home, economy and also the government. The home was affected because before the reformation the glory found for God in the home was actually to not have a home. It was found in a monastic society or so called pious lifestyle that included living a life of marriage to the church and not a woman or man.

The people were called, if they wanted to live life to the fullest for God, a life devoted to the church so that they lived a life of celibacy and virginity for the Lord. Marriage was celebrated but was looked at as lower in rank compared to the monastic ideals. Martin Luther broke this right away when a group of women from a local convent arrived (1523) at Wittenberg, 9 in all, and Luther found them all husbands. But what really got the pot stirred is when Luther couldn't find a husband for a woman named Katherine von Bora, even though he tried twice, so Luther married her himself. This is when the protestant world knew that the view was being seriously lived for. Of course out of this belief flowed the correct view of bearing children (Psalm 127) and even the correct view of sex within the marriage vows (Song of Solomon). Much teaching out of Songs of Solomon was taught at this time to show the correct view of sex in marriage.

Next was the correct view of the economic gain of all men. Before it was seen as the highest calling was within the church of being a priest or monk, but now the correct view was handed down that God has called all men to a life of service to God no matter the vocation. After all Paul was a tent maker in vocation (Acts 18) but apostle as his life giving ministry.

Thirdly was the view of the political arena. I am not going to go into too much depth of this but if you read a small but great book called John Calvin: His Life and Influence, you will see that we owe everything to the separation of church and state and democracy to John Calvin. Much of the information gleaned on the start of our country came from the writings and beliefs that flowed from Geneva.

Natural Outflow of the Solas

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
1 Cor 4:7

Now, there is no man that has anything of excellency from himself; therefore the man that extols himself is a fool and an idiot. The true foundation of Christian modesty is this — not to be self-complacent, as knowing that we are empty and void of everything good — that, if God has implanted in us anything that is good, we are so much the more debtors to his grace; and in fine, that, as Cyprian says, we must glory in nothing, because there is nothing that is our own.
John Calvin

1 Corinthians 15:10 continues on this thought:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

This is the natural outflow of our studies. The main point that I wanted to make in our studies of the Five Solas is that you have done nothing to receive what God has given you. 2 Peter 1:3 says that God has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness. In Sola Scriptura we found that for eternity God’s word has been established and given to us, Solus Christus that God gave us the Christ to die in our stead, to take away our iniquities, Sola Gratia that God’s grace is given to whom He chooses on the basis of His will, not because of anything that we did or would do, but solely on His choice of us, Sola Fide that he even gave us our faith that saves us from our sins. What is the natural outcome of all this? You have been given everything so that you cannot boast in yourself but must give all the glory to God.

If you boast you are like the rich kid at school who says that he is rich, when in reality his parents are rich and he was just born into the family. This is who we are if we boast in ourselves in any way. We are like the foolish rich kid, boasting in what we had nothing to do with.

Our Father, though, tells us how He did just as the parents gave to this rich kid, God did the same for us:

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight
Eph 1:7,8

Are we really going to boast in any way that we did this for ourselves? In Him we have redemption through His blood the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. We are just the vessels that receive the blessings, nothing more. This is why when Paul boasted, he boasted that he was the chief of sinners, because this was his contribution to his salvation, just as our contribution is: we contribute sin. Just look to Eph 1:7,8 the only times we are mentioned is because of our transgressions (our contribution to salvation) and that God lavished His grace on us (we are mere vessels). Where is the glory for us? So, if you say it was that you “just believed” or that God “looked down the portal of time and saw your faith” or that “God saw something in you that was lovable”, you are giving glory to yourself that only belongs to God.

So, the right understanding of the Five Solas, that God has given you everything and that you have done nothing in yourself should have the natural outflow of complete humility and all boasting and glory will be given to the Lord who is the great Jehovah Jireh. In my mind, even if you believe that all you had to do was weigh the evidence and believe, or all you had to do was not resist God, like the Arminians believe with prevenient grace, that is going to take away from God’s glory and place it on you. That is a terrible sin.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

A Father's Pride and Fall

Yesterday I had the opportunity to teach our 4 and 5 year-olds at our church. I taught on 1 Kings 17 with the miracle of Elijah and the widow's oil and flour. It, as usual, was fun to see how the brains of these little ones take in the Word of God. I asked after the lesson what were some miracles that God gives us daily. To no surprise one of the kids said, "toys" while another piped in and said, "No, Santa gives us toys!" After I got them back on track and corrected the error of Santa, and not God, giving us our toys, I asked again. This time one said, "the cross." another stated our food, clothes, parents and one even said, creation. It was great to see the miracles of God shown in the voices of these little men and women.

Here is where my pride welled up. When we got home I asked my four year old, like I do every week at lunch on the Lord's day, "what did you learn in class?" He responded by going through the entire story almost verbatim and even told me that the story was about God's miracle of the oil and flour showing that God is our provider. I was amazed and will admit that I said, "that's my boy!" It is truly amazing how much our children understand and can take to memory.

But then the fall came. As Caleb (my four year old) was supposed to be sleeping he decided, for the second time in the week, to make a complete mess in his bathroom. He completely emptied his toothpaste, had water all over the floor, and when we started coming up the stairs, the fear of God was now in his eyes. Needless to say, he got a spanking, but what happened afterwards was the time I will always cherish. Afterwards, we spoke about God's hatred and grief over sin and also His forgiveness and patience found in the cross. I had my son pray to God and say sorry and also told him to ask God to help him not sin. My son prayed with tears. He was no longer crying because of the spanking, as we were speaking about sin and redemption for about 10 minutes, but these tears were because of the disappointment he saw in his father's eyes, and in his FATHER'S eyes.

This brought me once again to the cross in my own life. Seeing once again, the great disappointment and grief over my sin that God has, yet the forgiveness He shows us daily because we are His sons and daughters. How amazing. To see my son in tears over his sin made me honestly think on my own sin. To think of how many times I can repeat verbatim the "lesson" I learned through a book or preaching and then turn around and sin against God, just as my son did. I pray that my response will be just like my son's: Praying in tears for God to have mercy on me, and to keep me from sinning, all because of the cross of Christ.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

My Night with a Cop

Many of you know that I went out last Friday night with a cop during his "third watch" shift. I cannot go into all the details because I do not want to reveal his identity in any way. We were out from 10pm to 3am in Seattle and what I saw is something that continues to shake me everytime I see the state of our world. It was relatively slow night but the children I saw on the streets was enough to astonish and sadden me.

Most of the night, since he had been on vacation, was allowing him to catch up on some things because of his days off. So, the night was spent of us two speaking about the things of God, which was enough of a reason to spend a night with him. To be able to edify each other as we are going 80 mph (or so) on the backroads of Seattle is something I don't do too often.

As the night started to come to a close I finally got a chance to hand out some Bibles. Most of the night as we were going back and forth to calls, I would see 10 to 15 youth out and about hanging out at bus stops in the middle of the night. The cop even admitted that most of these kids are not bad kids but they are just trying to stay away from home where drugs and sex are prevalent among their drug dealing, prostitute parents.

These kids were ranging from probably 13 to 25 years of age, in the worst part of town, in the middle of the night. As we stopped to park in a shopping parking lot, the cop asked what I wanted to do. I simply asked, can I go and hand out Bibles to those young ones at the bus stop. He said, "sure" so I got out and approached a group of about 8 to 10 youth at a bus stop. They were probably wondering what a white dude wanted with 8 to 10 black youth in the middle of the night, in one of the most dangerous parts of town.

As I walked up to them, I looked them straight in the eye, and simply asked, "Can I give you a New Testament?" All but one took one. The one who didn't, was probably a 16 to 17 year old girl, who was obviously strung out on drugs. I urged her as much as I could to take one without offending the group, but she refused. I am not going to lie, these young men and women had no interest at all in what I was there for, so I didn't push, but simply gave them a copy of the sacred Text.

Before I went out that night I picked up 20, $5 McDonald's gift cards to hand out to the homeless, but for whatever reason the homeless were not out and about that night. This was a very exciting night for me and I can't wait to go out again. Which I have already scheduled to go out again on May 18th. I pray that I will be able to be a vessel for God's use to this population to teens and the homeless. I also thank God that he has given me a man in my life who is a cop that allows me to share Christ while on his shift.

Many that I have talked to can't believe that I would put my life in danger by walking up to drug dealers, prostitutes, gang bangers and the like. But I simply need to ask you, "Who is sovereign?" If I die on the street handing out Bibles and speaking about Christ, what better way is there to die than for our God? Even the cop said, "I will wait here in case you get jumped."

I don't ever know when I will breathe my last breath but I hope that it will be just as Stephen spoke, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit...Lord do not hold this sin against them!"

May God be proclaimed to all, not just who we think "are ready."

beaten times without number, often in danger of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 2 Corinthians 11:23b-30

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
Isaiah 53:4-6

How can we not strive to share what He did for us?

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