Contend Earnestly: August 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

J.I. Packer's View on the Atonement

This is a book review of Packer's book, "In My Place Condemned He Stood." This book was really a love/hate relationship. I also knew that this would probably be the case heading into me reading it though as well. It is really 4 essays about the atonement of Christ. I found 3 of 4 to be very good and the one I figured I would find lacking is exactly the one that was lacking.

Here are the four different essays:

The Heart of the Gospel (J.I. Packer; taken from chapter 18 of Knowing God; 1973)

This is really a longer intro to the book as a whole. It speaks of the different aspects of the cross, such as propitiation, God's love, expiation, substitution and God's glory.

What Did the Cross Achieve? The Logic of Penal Substitution (J.I. Packer; first appeared in Tyndale Bulletin; 1974)

This is really a defense of understanding both words used here, penal and substitution. Packer does a very good job in rendering that logic can only take someone so far before they have to bow the knee to the omnipotent and omniscient God. He does a good job in the defense of the use of the term, "Penal Substitution." I very much liked this chapter even though it was a very tough read to get through.

Nothing But the Blood (Mark Dever; Reprint from Christianity Today; 2006)

This was very short and really marked a way for the modern reader to try and understand why we still need to make sure we speak of the bloody atonement. Why it was necessary and why it still is necessary as far as our focus within God's love. I liked this short article, although I found some of it to be repetitive to Packer's What did the Cross Achieve.

Saved by His Precious Blood: An Introduction to John Owen's The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. (J.I. Packer; 1958)

This chapter I really didn't like. I found that the work of Owen was really put up on a pedestal and said many times that there was no way for it to be refuted. This seems like words that should only be held up to the light of Scripture, not to a man's work with no inspiration of the Holy Spirit. J.I. Packer defends the understanding of a strict view of limited atonement in this article and says that those who don't believe in this view are not preaching the gospel. He says that preaching limited atonement is the biblical gospel, that if you preach otherwise you are preaching self esteem, that those who don't preach a strict view of the atonement are just trying to helpful to man and not concerned with the glory of God.

I still can't believe that he says some of this stuff. So, if I don't hold to a strict view of the atonement I don't preach the biblical gospel, I preach self esteem and are little concerned with the glory of God?

What I find interesting is that this comes after a quote in this very book by Martin Luther where Luther preaches an atonement that is more than limited, or particular. This is found on page 85 in the footnotes:

All the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc. that ever was....for he being made a sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins....Our most merciful Father...sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blashphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged on the cross; and, briefly, be thou person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the law and saith: I find him a sinner...therefore let him die upon the cross.

Martin Luther(found at Galatians, ed. Philip S. Watson (London: James Clarke, 1953), 269-271; on Gal 3:13)

Notice there is not the particular in view here. But the understanding of the sins being laid on the Messiah and not of just some, but of the whole world. And Luther continues and says that Christ be thou person which hath committed the sins of all men.

I just really found this work to be lacking and very over the top with such arrogance in the understanding of the atonement. Although, I do believe that Christ did die for the whole world, he also died specifically, or especially, for the elect. So, it is a both/and statement in regard to the atonement, not an either/or.

I just find it funny that Packer has his arrogant statements in this book right after he quotes Luther saying just the opposite of what Packer would like him to say.

So, this book is a quandary for me. The first three-fourths of the book was very well done, but the last chapter on the Death of Death by Owen was just terrible. So, I am not sure what I would do with this book besides tell others to read it with caution, but shouldn't we do that with every book we read? Recommended (with caution) Link to Buy

If you would like to read some additional material on why Packer's and Owen's understanding of the atonement are misleading, take a look at these posts:

A whole slew of quotes from Luther on the Atonement can be found at Calvin and Calvinism here.

Tony Byrne has done some great research as well and this post you should find helpful in this argument: Double Jeopardy? and also Penal Substitution

Lastly, take a look at Steve's blog and especially at this small post: Pecuniary vs Judicial Debt

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

9 Year Old Boy Too Good to Pitch

I imagine this is what would happen if Charles Spurgeon preached at Joel Osteen's church. People would say that his message is too good, too penetrating, too harsh...because Osteen's church is just a developmental league of understanding that you can be the best you can be. Here is the story...and just think through reading this that Spurgeon is the pitcher and the league is Osteen's church...that way...the story becomes a little funny. I know...I have a weird sense of humor.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Nine-year-old Jericho Scott is a good baseball player -- too good, it turns out.

The right-hander has a fastball that tops out at about 40 mph. He throws so hard that the Youth Baseball League of New Haven told his coach that the boy could not pitch any more. When Jericho took the mound anyway last week, the opposing team forfeited the game, packed its gear and left, his coach said.

Officials with the Youth Baseball League of New Haven say they will disband Jericho Scott's team because his coach won't stop him from pitching.

Officials for the three-year-old league, which has eight teams and about 100 players, said they will disband Jericho's team, redistributing its players among other squads, and offered to refund $50 sign-up fees to anyone who asks for it. They say Jericho's coach, Wilfred Vidro, has resigned.

But Vidro says he didn't quit and the team refuses to disband. Players and parents held a protest at the league's field on Saturday urging the league to let Jericho pitch.

"He's never hurt any one," Vidro said. "He's on target all the time. How can you punish a kid for being too good?"

The controversy bothers Jericho, who says he misses pitching.

"I feel sad," he said. "I feel like it's all my fault nobody could play."

Jericho's coach and parents say the boy is being unfairly targeted because he turned down an invitation to join the defending league champion, which is sponsored by an employer of one of the league's administrators.

Jericho instead joined a team sponsored by Will Power Fitness. The team was 8-0 and on its way to the playoffs when Jericho was banned from pitching.

"I think it's discouraging when you're telling a 9-year-old you're too good at something," said his mother, Nicole Scott. "The whole objective in life is to find something you're good at and stick with it. I'd rather he spend all his time on the baseball field than idolizing someone standing on the street corner."

League attorney Peter Noble says the only factor in banning Jericho from the mound is his pitches are just too fast.

"He is a very skilled player, a very hard thrower," Noble said. "There are a lot of beginners. This is not a high-powered league. This is a developmental league whose main purpose is to promote the sport."

Noble acknowledged that Jericho had not beaned any batters in the co-ed league of 8- to 10-year-olds, but say parents expressed safety concerns.

"Facing that kind of speed" is frightening for beginning players, Noble said.

League officials say they first told Vidro that the boy could not pitch after a game on Aug. 13. Jericho played second base the next game on Aug. 16. But when he took the mound Wednesday, the other team walked off and a forfeit was called.

League officials say Jericho's mother became irate, threatening them and vowing to get the league shut down.

"I have never seen behavior of a parent like the behavior Jericho's mother exhibited Wednesday night," Noble said.

Scott denies threatening any one, but said she did call the police.

League officials suggested that Jericho play other positions, or pitch against older players or in a different league.

Local attorney John Williams was planning to meet with Jericho's parents Monday to discuss legal options.

"You don't have to be learned in the law to know in your heart that it's wrong," he said. "Now you have to be punished because you excel at something?"

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Jesus Christ Became Our Sin

My buddy Erik, over at Irish Calvinist, had a book review on Vintage Jesus a while back and brought up a theological question that I was a little perplexed on. The question come in the form of a rebuttal of Driscoll's thoughts on Christ becoming our sin. Here is the full quote from Erik, which includes Driscoll's thought on Christ's payment as well:

From a theological perspective I found the book to be pretty tight. It was your basic Protestant defense of biblical faith. However, I was shocked to find this quote in the middle of the book (I quote the context):

On the cross as our substitute, Jesus was made to be the worst of what we are. This does not mean that Jesus ever sinned. Rather, it means that he was made sin. As a result, in that moment when Jesus cried out that he had been forsaken by God the Father, Jesus became the most ugly, wicked, defiled, evil, corrupt, rebellious, and hideous thing in all creation. In that moment, Jesus became a homosexual, alcoholic, thief, glutton, addict, pervert, adulterer, coveter, idol worshiper, whore, pedophile, self-righteous religious prig—and whatever else we are.” (p. 114—emphasis mine).

Jesus became a whore? Jesus became an idol worshipper? Really? So now we have Jesus with a new nature? He is sinless human, perfect God and a pervert? This is not what the Scripture teaches. He became sin (that is he was imputed or charged with our sin) on the cross he did not become the sinner (2 Cor. 5.21). I realize that he says, “This does not mean that Jesus ever sinned.” But that is exactly what he says. He could have said Jesus was judged in our place, being charged with our sins. He was treated like the homosexual, alcoholic, thief, etc..should have been treated (though he was sinless). I do not believe this is theological semantics, but rather the heart of the gospel. The numerous endorsers and his co-author should have caught this error. It seems to me that Driscoll’s penchant for dramatic hyperbole got the best of him and unraveled his explanation of the gospel.

The reason I put this here is because I have been reading a book by Packer called, In My Place Condemned He Stood. The book is pretty good, although I would disagree with Packer on numerous occasions on his beliefs of faith being bought on the cross and then his misuse of both Bunyan and Edwards. But that is besides the point. Here is the real point. Packer quotes Luther on the very issue raised by Erik. It would seem that Luther would definitely back Driscoll on this note. Here are a couple of quotes that Packer uses by Luther:

This is that mystery which is rich in divine grace to sinners: wherein by a wonderful exchange our sins are no longer ours but Christ's: and the righteousness of Christ not Christ's but ours. He has emptied himself of his rightoeusness that he might clothe us with it, and fill us with it: and he has taken our evils upon himself that He might deliver us from the same manner as he grieved and suffered in our sins, and was confounded, in the same manner we rejoice and glory in his righteousness.
Luther's Exposition of Psalm 21

All the prophets did foresee in spirit, that Christ should become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, blasphemer, etc. that ever was....for he being made a sacrifice, for the sins of the whole world, is not now an innocent person and without sins....Our most merciful Father...sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him the sins of all men, saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blashphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged on the cross; and, briefly, be thou person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the law and saith: I find him a sinner...therefore let him die upon the cross.
Martin Luther
(found at Galatians, ed. Philip S. Watson (London: James Clarke, 1953), 269-271; on Gal 3:13)

So, any thoughts on Christ's death based on Luther and Driscoll vs. Erik's observation?

I also find it interesting on whom Luther says that Christ died for. It would seem to point to all men, not just some.


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Why I Love Calvinism

This obviously isn’t going to be a complete thought of every reason that I love Calvinism or give each argument fully and completely. This isn’t even meant to be a polemic, as it would be a very weak one. The reason for this is a simple look at the three reasons that I love Calvinism.

Calvinism is the Most Humbling

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”
James 4:6

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Through the understanding of Calvinism it makes it clear that I really have nothing to add to the cross of Christ. Calvinism points to the fact of just how bad of a sinner I am and how I have no part in the salvation of my soul. When one sees that God is completely sovereign over all things, that he owns everything, that he does not change his mind, that we can give him nothing or teach him anything, that he has predetermined all things, it then points back to me and asks a very poignant question by God, “What have you done?” It is almost as funny as the questions that God asks Job in his declarations to Job in chapters 38-41 of the book of Job.

When Job understands fully that God is very much in control in every instance, all the time, then Job responds correctly:

“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
“Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
‘Hear, now, and I will speak;
I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;
But now my eye sees You;
Therefore I retract,
And I repent in dust and ashes.”
Job 42:2-6

Job was of course a Calvinist, because Job understood the great sovereignty of God, and Calvinism is not an extra biblical account, but points us all back to the great understanding of the biblical themes of God’s sovereignty.

Calvinism Answers the Mystery of Salvation Most Paramount

Although we cannot fully answer the mystery of salvation fully. Which is, “How can God be both in control and man still have responsibility?” Calvinism does answer is the most correct way for our understanding. Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism all come way too short in this understanding. Where all these constitute some way that man has good in them and responds accordingly because of something inside of them, Calvinism states that we are so evil that we cannot respond without the grace of God fully. Although Arminianism states this in some way with prevenient grace, it misses the point of us being completely evil and still leaves too much in the hand of man, and not God.

If we can all agree that there is still mystery how salvation works, then I want the best stated theology that points all praise and glory to Christ, not me in any way. In other words, I want to err more on over emphasizing God’s sovereignty than erring in giving man too much credit. By doing this, the blazing glory of God is profound in this understanding if we can see that man deserves nothing, that he can’t respond to grace and therefore when he does, it is all because of God and not because any natural function within our affections.

I believe that within the doctrines of total depravity and unconditional election we see that God’s glory is on display and not man’s. Because of these doctrines I believe that the mystery of salvation is put on a glorious, yet still mysterious, way.

Calvinism Ensures My Witness

When I spend my time telling others about Christ, my witness it ensured through the correct understanding of God’s sovereignty seen in Calvinism. As a side, if you want more specifics check out these two older posts found here and here. God tells Isaiah in Isaiah 6 to go and tell the people, yet they will not turn from their ways and they will harden their hearts to the message. Without the correct understanding of God’s sovereignty, Isaiah was a complete failure. Without the correct understanding of God’s sovereignty, Jeremiah was a complete failure. Without the correct understanding of God’s sovereignty Christ was a failure. The reason I say the last is because Christ went from 5000 followers, to 12 scattered apostles. With the remaining 12 he had one that betrayed him and then killed himself. Afterwards, Christ hung on a tree being brutally beaten and dying there like a king with no honor. But, a correct understanding of God’s sovereignty opens the surety of God’s plan. Just take a look at Acts 4:27,28.

We are told to be witnesses for Christ, but what if no one is converted? Is that person a failure? Many preachers that I have seen (especially in the IFB tradition) boast in how many have been saved or baptized under their preaching. While these numbers may be true, what about those who pastor for years and see very little result? They, in the eyes of many, are a failure. But in the eyes of our Lord, he has done the will of the Father.

My witness is not to convert people. Although I love to see it, my witness is to preach the gospel of my Saviour, and that gospel hardens the heart of many and softens the heart of many. Understanding Calvinism allows me to trust in the Lord fully that he will grow whom he desires and snuff out those with the gospel whom he desires. Without this understanding, every small church, every pastor who has little converts are complete failures and will receive nothing from the Lord. Without this understanding Christianity becomes a numbers game instead of a God exalting, cross centered focus.

My witness is ensured by the understanding of Calvinism, because if I do what God has commanded I can rest that he is doing his part, that he is using my witness to either harden the person’s heart, or soften it for His glory. Either way, I am not a failure and neither is God.

This is just a quick glimpse into why I love Calvinism. If you have any questions on why I love Calvinism or you desire to get a better understanding of what Calvinism is, please don’t hesitate to comment or email me at sdmcbee at hotmail dot com.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shepherding a Child's Heart Conference

For all of you in the Seattle area I would highly recommend this conference for any that have children, are going to have children or who knows someone who needs help in raising their children. In other words, if you are breathing, you should probably go to this conference. It is only $35 per couple with free childcare for the Saturday sessions and the speaker is Tedd Tripp. For more information take a look at the Resurgence website.
The conference will be on Sept. 19th and 20th and the topics that will be discussed are:
The Call to Formative Instruction- Deuteronomy 6
Giving Children a Vision for the Glory of God - Psalm 145
Giving Children an Understanding of Authority - Ephesians 6
Giving Children an Understanding of the Heart- Proverbs 4:23
Overview of Corrective Discipline: Spanking, Sowing & Reaping, and Communication

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Is Smoking a Sin?

Here is a question that I never even questioned when I was growing up in the Southern Baptist Convention. I never even thought to bring up this question and never even expected that there would be any other answer to this question than an unequivocal, "yes." But, wait, is it? Is smoking a sin?

Let's take a look at some of these facts of the following product:

Some health problems that are associated with the following product includes but not limited to sleep and anxiety disorders, elevated risks of Parkinson’s disease, elevated heart beat and stress, breathing problems in infants, and dependency syndrome

It is a diuretic it can cause people to become dehydrated; a lack of fluid in an individual’s body causes constipation

over an extended period of time can lead to an individual developing yellow teeth and cavities

contains acknowledged carcinogens and other chemicals such as creosote, pymdine, tars and hydrocarbons

Interferes with adenosine

Cortisol levels are raised which in turn results in contstriction of the blood vessels, harder pumping of the heart and higher blood pressure.

Has been assiciated with low birth rate, birth defects, miscarriages, premature birth, inability to conceive, sluggish sperm

These are all cons of, you guessed it...not smoking...but drinking coffee!

As far as smoking there is absolutely nothing mentioned of smoking in the Bible, so when people bring it up as a sin, they usually go to one place in the Bible:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

People actually use this verse for anything that they disagree with, whether it is smoking, tattoos, drinking alcohol, etc. What I find interesting is that if you sit down and exegete the text with them, the passage is speaking about prostitution and sexual immorality, not some dreamed up sin that people think is sin.

People love to point to the fact that smoking causes cancer and many other problems and that if your body is a temple you should definitely abstain. The problem? Well, look at what coffee does to you, look up what sugar does to the body, look at what too much of anything does to the body. Over consumption of anything is bad for you.

Now, do I advocate smoking? No, but to condemn people that do smoke is very wrong. It is setting up extra-biblical eisegesis that can put a load on someone's back that is ridiculous. Every once and a while I enjoy a cigar or a pipe. Recently my buddy had a baby and we had a good smoke together. Am I supposed to be afraid of condemnation because of it? Am I an antimonian because of it? Well maybe, because I had a cup of coffee right afterwards.

Are there dangers in smoking? Of course there are. But there are dangers in making money (greed), sex (lust or out of wedlock), alcohol (drunkenness), etc. but that doesn't make the thing itself sin, but the attitude and over concumption of it by the person can become sin.

I think what people do is see an end result and they decide that the factor that was behind it was the product and not the person behind the product.

Because if you consider smoking a sin because of health concerns, you should also think that money is a sin because it has destroyed many families and many churches.

And if we started to do this with other things it would get ridiculous. Such as. A man was murdered with a pencil...pencils are now sin because God says, do not murder.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Preaching Jesus through ALL the Scriptures

I have been listening to old Acts 29 Network sermons and came across some pretty good quotes from Jonathan McIntosh at the 2007 St. Louis Regionals in his sermon (or workshop) called The Importance of Preaching Across 3 Streams. Here are the two quotes form the sermon that I found to be awesome when thinking of how I preach and teach.

The first question that we put to the text is not what does this say to or about us, but the first question that we take to the text is how does this text testify to Jesus. I say it again, that the Christian life is defined by our relationship to Jesus so until we understand who and what Jesus is, we cannot properly understand what our relationship to him is.
Graeme Goldsworthy (from his book, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture)

The bible is not a collection of Aesop's fables, it is not a book of virtues. It is a story about how God saves us. Any exposition of a text that does not get to Christ but just explains biblical principles will be a synagogue sermon that merely exhorts people to exert their wills to live according to a particular pattern. Instead of the life giving gospel, the sermon offers just one more ethical paradigm to crush the listeners.
Tim Keller

We have to be honest that if we do not preach for the exaltation of Jesus Christ in all of our sermons, instead of just lessons to be learned, then how are we not just like every other religion with a great moral teacher or great moral code?

McIntosh at one point states, "We don't need merely a moral teacher, we need a Saviour." I couldn't agree more.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Jesus: Made In America

I have become a huge fan of Stephen Nichols. He is very good at writing about history without making it terribly boring. I have read three of his books so far and every one of them was very well done. This is one that I didn’t really know what to expect but was excited to read it.

What Nichols does is spends the first half or so of the book walking the reader through how particular cultures and people in the past have really shaped our thinking and their thinking of Christ. He starts with the Puritans, then to our founding fathers, the Victorians and the modernists of the early 20th century.

After Nichols goes through these with precision he then gives the reader insight on how we have specifically been affected, or infected, depends on how you see it, through Contemporary Christian Music, Hollywood, Consumerism and Politics.

This part of the book was very informative as Nichols shows how the history of each one of these has led us to where we are currently with Jesus and culture and he doesn’t leave any stone unturned. He questions things such as Thomas Kinkade, Precious Moments, The Passion of the Christ, CCM Music Festivals, WWJD bracelets, Christian T-Shirts, Dobson and the extreme politics pulling on Jesus from both sides.

I believe that Nichols unpacks some things that are very worrisome in our day in age where Madonna actually has become a prophetess, even though she falls into the same trap:

Christianity is becoming more of a currency than a belief

Sadly, I think she is right.

This book is extremely well done and I would recommend this to any reader to show what is happening in front of our own eyes and the danger of falling into consumerism Christianity.

This might have been Nichols best book to date. Highly Recommended. Link to Buy

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Death by Love by Mark Driscoll

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Is the Preacher Necessary?

I know that I am opening a can of worms here. First, I want to say that I strongly believe that the whole purpose of the church is to preach the word of God. She is to edify, She is to proclaim, She is to be the voice of the one crying out in the wilderness. I personally preach and teach once or twice a week, so I am not trying to downplay preaching. I understand that the prophets of old and the preachers in the coming of the church age (all through Acts and so on) were center of God's redemptive plan for sinners. They were called to preach the good news and so are we. So, please understand that I completely believe that the preaching is the center for the Lord's Day, that without it there is no church service and that without the preaching there is no reason for us to come together as God's people every Sunday morning at exactly 11am. ;)

So, you might ask, "Why this post?" This post is to try to understand, "Is the preacher absolutely necessary to God?" Does he have to have the preacher for people to be saved and Christians to be edified? I am writing this post based on a discussion that is happening over at Reforming Baptist and it really is something that comes out of the IFB placing too much emphasis on the preacher and not on God, in my opinion. I have read many articles in their papers and seen many advertisements that show how long a preacher has been preaching, how many people are in his church and how many people HE has saved. This, to me, is sickening.

So, is the preacher necessary for God to save people?

Here is the quick definition of the term necessary: absolutely needed; required

God does say many times through the apostle Paul that God uses preaching and it is definitely the chosen instrument that he has chosen to use to save people. We see this in Romans 10 and we also see this when Paul says in 1 Cor 1:21 that God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.

This is how God ordained this. But to say that it is necessary would be a little strong for me to swallow...I think. I say "I think" because I am really opening this up for discussion to see what my brothers and sisters in Christ think about this subject.

Here is why I say that necessary is a little too strong.

nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;
Acts 17:25

God doesn't need anything. He gives life, he takes life. He literally needs nothing to accomplish his will. Now, does he choose us to help accomplish his will? Yes. Does he have to? No.

We also find in 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 the following:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Did Paul and Apollos do exactly what they were called to do? Yes. But who caused the growth? God. So much so, that God says that Paul and Apollos are nothing. The chapter then goes on to tell of the great and glorious foundation in Christ.

Here are the two that seem to speak of necessity vs. useful means.

Christ says this about his disciples:

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”
Luke 19:37-40

So, we can see that Jesus says that if the disciples were silenced that God would cause the stones to cry out for the coming King. What this is showing is that we are not necessary but the message preached is necessary. That Christ is necessary. That God is so much in control and so sovereign that if the voice of those who proclaim become silent that God will use stones to cry out for Him.

I believe this is what is happening in the Muslim countries where we are seeing many Muslims come to Christ, not by preaching of a human preacher, but through visions of Christ preaching the message to them that He is truly the God/Man, the Saviour, the Christ. A truly Pauline experience.

Here is the other and then I will leave it up for discussion:

The setting here is that Joshua and the Israelites were just destroyed at Ai because of the sin of Achan. Joshua has the audacity to proclaim the following to God:

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan!“O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” Joshua 7:6-9

Joshua basically says that if he and the Israelites aren't around that God's name will be removed from the face of the earth. He basically is saying the same thing that Christ says, "if these disciples are silenced..." Joshua has the audacity to think that he is necessary for God's plan of glorifying his name. Look at what God says, it is almost funny:

So the Lord said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?
Joshua 7:10

Modern translation: Joshua you look like a moron, get up, I have no actual need for you.

Joshua is showing that he is truly scared and frightened that God's name will be removed if the Israelites are destroyed. God says, "Please...I don't need you...get up"

What I don't want to happen with those that don't know me is to just think that I don't place enough emphasis on preaching. That is not the case. I believe that God has told us that it is a must, that he uses the preacher to accomplish his will and that if we don't preach and proclaim that we are in sin. What I am trying to get across is that we are not absolutely necessary and therefore should get absolutely no glory for doing so. It is God who causes the growth, it is God's will that is done, apart from Christ we cannot do anything and those in the flesh cannot please God.

All these point to one thing: preaching points to the necessity of the Saviour, not the preacher.

Thoughts? Have I gone too far in this thinking? Let me have it!

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Monday, August 11, 2008

The Stepford Wife Christian

My mom called me on Friday to let me know of a very sad situation that happened to a couple in their church. A mom and wife, in her late 20's, decided to take a gun to her head. She left behind a husband and four daughters, ages 8,6,2 and 1. She came home from a friends house, put her daughters in their bedrooms and proceeded to go to her bedroom and shoot herself. No note, no goodbyes, just the sound of a gunshot.

I asked my mom why she thought that this happened. My mom told me that this mom was very depressed after her last child was born and although the church was taking food and helping in every physical way they knew how, my mom said that the mom would always say how it seemed as though she was the only one struggling, that all the mothers she knew seemed to have it together and doing just fine. She said that the other mothers said that they were doing "fine" and that "everything was going well" with their children and with motherhood. She thought she was a failure, she thought that God had gone back on his word (1 Cor 10:13) and had given her more than she could handle. So, she gave into the devil and shot herself, thinking it was better to take her own life than take her rage out on her own children.

The alarming thing is that this woman was not alone, but she was in the middle of a bunch of people (I don't know their church so I am assuming here) that lied about their condition. They weren't okay, they weren't doing just fine, but they also weren't willing to open their hearts up to a hurting mother and tell her that she wasn't doing anything wrong, but that motherhood isn't always filled with laughter and joy, it sometimes is filled with great sorrow and pain.

Yes, children are a blessing, but for mothers this isn't always in the forefront of their minds when the child cries all day and nothing seems to comfort them. To a mother this is a showing that they are the problem not motherhood.

What this really opens our eyes to is not this one issue only, but to the biggest issue in the church today: The Stepford Wife Christian.

The Stepford Wife Christian is the one who never has anything that others can pray about for them. The Stepford Wife Christian puts on a smile when they enter church, they never open up, they never show emotion, and they really become a hindrance to what the church and the gospel is supposed to be.

These people seem to think that if you love Jesus that your life is perfect. These same people will cry foul when they hear the "Prosperity Gospel" but what difference is there between them and Joel Osteen if they come to church with their fake grin on their face and the presumption that everything is okay in their closed off world of "love and happiness."

These people then turn the pastor into a superhero of sorts because they expect the pastor to be perfect as well. So, the pastor, instead of being able to be honest as he preaches has to act like he has it all together. That he practices everything that he preaches. That if he doesn't practice everything then he isn't a good shepherd. Guess what...he isn't Jesus. He isn't the one that you ultimately look to, Christ is. The pastor is supposed to direct you to the Christ, not to himself. Are they supposed to be above reproach and the leaders of the church that has been allotted to them? Yes, but this does not equal perfection, but the pointing towards the perfection only found in Christ.

Somehow we have lost this in the church. The church isn't filled with perfect people, even if everyone puts off that persona.

I think this is the biggest problem with today's church. The idea that you are to be perfect and not open up to others. GET OVER YOURSELF. YOU ARE NOT JESUS! You gave him your sin and he gave you his righteousness. This doesn't make you a righteous person, it only is declared that you are righteous by the Father. Big difference. It all comes to a wrong understanding of imputation and justification.

This story above made my heart wrench. It made me deeply saddened. The scary thing is that it is happening every day with people that go to church. They enter and see the Stepford Wife Christians who are all smiles on the outside but empty on the inside. Until we can open up and be honest with each other, we mind as well just be another community group that meets for snacks and cookies and tell each other how well our lives are going. Sometimes I feel like the church is like a high school 10 year reunion every week where we gather together to say how well our lives are, when in reality we are torn up inside looking for answers, looking for reality. When will this stop? How many people need to shoot themselves before we understand that being a Christian doesn't mean pointing people to our "perfect" lives, but pointing people to the only perfect life, the only perfect Saviour: OUR CHRIST. Let me give you some verses to look at today as you start your week and ask yourself, "Who am I supposed to be for others? Perfect? Or a sinner showing other sinners where my hope lies?" I hope you understand it is the latter and not the former. The sad thing is that I think most of the church is in the mindset of the former. Please be praying for this family as they are probably going to be very much in turmoil. Pray for wisdom and strength from the father. He has been a Christian for five years and is also in his late 20's. Pray that the church gathers around him and gives way to just putting their arms around him and pointing him to Christ.

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
James 5:13-16

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
1 Peter 3:18

Many also of those who had believed kept coming, confessing and disclosing their practices. And many of those who practiced magic brought their books together and began burning them in the sight of everyone; and they counted up the price of them and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.
Acts 19:18-20

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Freedom of the Will

This is an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards' Freedom of the Will and this was the start of my understanding the obsurdity of the will being truly free. This takes a little time to understand and read through but Edwards does a great job in taking apart the Arminian view of the will through logic. I would encourage any to pick up this book and read it in its entirety. Here ya go:

If the Will, which we find governs the members of the body, and determines their motions, does also govern itself, and determines its own actions, it doubtless determines them the same way, even by antecedent volitions. The Will determines which way the hands and feet shall move, by an act of choice: and there is no other way of the Will’s determining, directing, or commanding any thing at all. Whatsoever the will commands, it commands by an act of the Will. And if it has itself under its command, and determines itself in its own actions, it doubtless does it the same way that it determines other things which are under its command. So that if the freedom of the will consists in this, that it has itself and its own actions under its command and direction, and its own volitions are determined by itself, it will follow, that every free volition arises from another antecedent volition, directing and commanding that: and if that directing volition be also free, in that also the will is determined; that is to say, that directing volition is determined by another going before that; and so on, till we come to the first volition in the whole series: and if that first volition be free, and the will self-determined in it, then that is determined by another volition preceding that. Which is a contradiction; because by the supposition, it can have none before it, to direct or determine it, being the first in the train.

But if that first volition is not determined by any preceding act of the Will, then that act is not determined by the Will, and so is not free in the Arminian notion of freedom, which consists in the Will’s self-determination. And if that first act of the will which determines and fixes the subsequent acts, be not free, none of the following acts which are determined by it can be free.— If we suppose there are five acts in the train, the fifth and last determined by the fourth, and the fourth by the third, the third by the second, and the second by the first; if the first is not determined by the Will, and so not free, then none of them are truly determined by the Will: that is, that each of them are as they are, and not otherwise, is not first owing to the will, but to the determination of the first in the series, which is not dependent on the will, and is that which the will has no hand in determining. And this being that which decides what the rest shall be, and determines their existence; therefore the first determination of their existence is not from the Will. The case is just the same, if instead of a chain of five acts of the Will, we should suppose a succession of ten, or an hundred, or ten thousand. If the first act he not free, being determined by something out of the will, and this determines the next to be agreeable to itself, and that the next, and so on; none of them are free, but all originally depend on, and are determined by, some cause out of the Will; and so all freedom in the case is excluded, and no act of the will can be free, according to this notion of freedom. If we should suppose a long chain of ten thousand links, so connected, that if the first link moves, it will move the next, and that the next; and so the whole chain must be determined to motion, and in the direction of its motion, by the motion of the first link; and that is moved by something else; in this case, though all the links, but one, are moved by other parts of the same chain, yet it appears that the motion of no one, nor the direction of its motion, is from any self-moving or self-determining power in the chain, any more than if every link were immediately moved by something that did not belong to the chain.— If the Will be not free in the first act, which causes the next, then neither is it free in the next, which is caused by that first act; for though indeed the Will caused it, yet it did not cause it freely; because the preceding act, by which it was caused, was not free. And again, if the Will be not free in the second act, so neither can it be in the third, which is caused by that; because in like manner, that third was determined by an act of the Will that was not free. And so we may go on to the next act, and from that to the next; and how long soever the succession of acts is, it is all one: if the first on which the whole chain depends, and which determines all the rest, be not a free act, the Will is not free in causing or determining any one of those acts; because the act by which it determines them all is not a free act; and therefore the Will is no more free in determining them, than if it did not cause them at all.— Thus, this Arminian notion of Liberty of the Will, consisting in the will’s Self-determination, is repugnant to itself, and shuts itself wholly out of the world.

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What is a Healthy Church Member?

This book put out by Thabiti Anyabwile called, "What is a Healthy Church Member?" is a very short book and not terribly "deep" in theology. Neither one of these is a hindrance to this book, but actually very accomadoting. The reason I say this is because you can literally give this to anyone in your congregation and they will have no reason to say no. It isn't gonig to be over their head, as it is very practical and straight forward, and it won't take up much of their time, as it is only 114 pages and the pages are only 5" x 4".

The book is part of 9 Marks Ministries and is an extension of Dever's "9 Marks of a Healthy Church."

The topics in this book are as follows (every chapter starts with, "A Healthy Church Member is...):

An Expositional Listener
A Biblical Theologian
Gospel Saturated
Genuinely Converted
A Biblical Evangelist
A Committed Member
Seeks Discipline
A Growing Disciple
A Humble Follower
A Prayer Warrior

If you are good at math or you can count like a horse, you will notice that there are ten marks and not nine. Anyabwile says that he gives the last as an "extra" for us readers, and I was thankful.

This book is very practical and the chapter titles might look overwhelming at first, but they really are put forth in a very well balanced manner and are very challenging for everyone from the Pastor, layman or congregant.
Anyabwile states the following:

This little book is written in the hope that you might discover or rediscover what it means to be a healthy church member of a local church, and what it means to contribute to the overall health of the church

I think that Anyabwile did just that as it really is a challenge to all who set foot in church each Lord's Day.

I would highly recommend this to read and then to hand out afterwards to any member in your church. Link to Buy

ht: erik for the recommendation

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I Wonder What Bell or McLaren Think of This Quote?

It is no surprise that we are seeing the rise of postmodern thinking as everything old gets repackaged someday.

That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, "See this, it is new"? Already it has existed for ages Which were before us. There is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the later things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.
Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

It seems though that things get repacked quicker these days though. Modernism came from the stems of the Enlightenment and it seems as though we are already seeing modernism repackaged in our postmodern "friends." What is interesting is that as you read quotes from dead guys like Machen, it sounds like they could be speaking today. If I were to give you the quote below and put David Wells' name behind it, or Tim Keller's name behind it, speaking about postmoderns you probably wouldn't even blink. But the amazing thing is that this is a quote to the moderns back in Machen's day in the early 20th century. This comes from the book that I am currently reading, which is very good by the way, titled, "Jesus: Made in America" by Stephen J. Nichols.

"There is a profound difference, then," Machen observes in Christianity and Liberalism, "in the attitude by modern liberalism and by Christianity toward Jesus the Lord. Liberalism regards him as an example for faith; Christianity, the object of faith." Then he puts it with a bit of rhetorical flourish, "Liberalism regards Jesus as the fairest flower of humanity; Christianity regards Him as a supernatural Person." Machen is not denying the role of Christ as example. In fact, he states, "The imitation of Jesus has a fundamental place in Christian life; it is perfectly correct to represent Him as our supreme and only perfect example." Machen further observes that Christ did not come to offer mere guidance; he came to offer salvation. Here Machen finds himself to be in good company, as he notes, "Not the example of Jesus, but the redeeming work of Jesus, was the primary thing for Paul." Building on this, Machen proceeds to argue that it was not the faith of Christ, but the faith in Christ. Christ is not, in Machen's words, the example of faith but faith's object.

Machen drives this latter point home in What is Faith? in a chapter he entitled, "Faith in Christ." He states the problem this way, "The truth is that in great sections of the modern church Jesus is no longer the object of faith, but has become merely an example for faith; religion is based no longer upon faith in Jesus but upon a faith in God that is, or is conceived to be, like the faith that Jesus had in God." Machen further takes on the theological complacency of Fosdick and others. He writes, " 'Let us alone,' some devout pastors say, 'we are preaching the gospel; we are bringing men and women in the Church; we have no time for doctrinal controversy; let us above all have peace'...'Let us sink our doctrinal differences.'" Machen responds by noting sympathy with such concerns and even that he understands some speak such words sincerely. He concludes, however, "But for us, and for all who are aware of what is really going on, the policy of 'peace and work,' the policy of concealment and palliation, would be the deadliest of sins." Not because Machen relished a good fight but because maintaining "the redemptive religion known as Christianity" was at stake.

Jesus: Made in America, by Stephen J. Nichols, pgs. 117,118

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Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Contemporary Christian Music

Here is some words from a wise man: Hank Hill.

When speaking of Christian Music he states:

You aren't making Christianity better, you're just making rock and roll worse

Hank...I couldn't agree more.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

10 Steps to Become a Legalist: Step 7

Well the series is finally back. After a stint of going crazy on everything from skimboarding to God's Greatest Secret, we come back to the fun of making fun of everyone. What I like about these posts is that they make fun of everyone, I am an equal opportunity blogger. I especially like making fun of the stupid things that I have thought or done in the past, and this one definitely didn't escape my narrowminded PK background.

Step 7 is, People Need To Do Church Like I Do Church. This one takes it from the personal level of being a legalist and letting it spread to your whole congregation. Ahhhh, nothing like making everyone else as miserable as you are.

To make yourself a legalist in this manner, the first thing that you must do is make sure that you believe that there is a certain time and date for meeting at church.

If you are emergent, then it could be any day at any time, since the bars are open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Lucky you. If you are the emergent type, make sure that you scoff at anyone who would try and keep the tradition of meeting on Sunday mornings, that is just stupid, who cares when Jesus rose again from the dead...hey wait...maybe we could put that in the list of questions, like the virgin birth and homosexuality. But, whatever you do, don't give in to the man...he will make you meet on Sunday mornings at 11am, and that just sucks.

For the other side of the equation, which is my case, would be those who believe that Jesus only shows up between the times of 11am to 12pm on a Sunday morning. This is the decreed time for Jesus to show up. Plus, how could he make the services on the West Coast if those on the East Coast have their church anytime they want? There's a schedule to keep here.

So, make up your mind, either meet in a bar or a park or while hiking with the grizzlies, that I hope eat you, or be one of those that believe that Christ has a schedule to keep. But, pick one, and rant and rave as much as you can on why it is the only way, and the only time, to worship God in the gathering of his people.

Speaking of gathering, step 2 is this: make sure that people know that they must hold the same schedule that you do for the service. This includes some of the stuff we have talked about before. Make sure that you are clear on what kind of music will be played, or not played, at your worship service. Make it clear why hymns are the only way, or why Psalms is the clear choice (even though you won't ever mention the name of Jesus in any of your Psalm hymns...oops), or why rock music that would rival Bono is the best way to reach the masses, errr, I mean worship God. Be clear that your way is the perfect way and that no other is okay. If you are exclusive Psalmody you have to make sure that you have an 80 year old AARP member who has purple hair and still has the same sheets she had on her bed from the turn of the century. If you don't have one of these in your church you can forget your piano or pipe organ. Even though I love these old ladies, it is always funny to see them always playing the organ. Probably because they are the only ones who know how to play it as it was invented at the same time that they were born while the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

If you are not cool with only singing Psalms, make sure that you make fun of those who do and bring in any music that sounds cool. Who cares if you sing the same line 24 times, as long as you get some good close ups of your worship leader closing his eyes and raising his hands on the big screen, you are good

So, whether you are kicking it with Mildred or hanging out with the hippie turned song leader, make it known that it is what God hears and all the others are just banging gongs and clanging cymbals.

Now that you got the day of the week, or lack thereof, and rock songs, I mean worship songs, picked out, it is time to look at how you are going to run the rest of the service.

Every pastor knows that his sermon has to be 45 minutes or longer or they are just lazy. How can you exposit that one verse in less than 45 minutes? That is like asking Moses to part the Red Sea again. I have to be able to tell the congregation how to parse the Greek verb, how it was used during the different centuries in Christendom and then, if everyone hasn't left, I have to then say something about Jesus. So, anyone who thinks they can preach in less than 45 minutes probably went to public school on the slow bus with a helmut on.

On the other side. If you are a preacher that has sermons as long as a fortune cookie's fortune, you want to make sure that the people that come to your service are comfortable and don't get too bored. Everyone who goes to your church have places to go and people to see, they don't have time for these long messages, especially since the worship pastor just got done singing a chorus for 25 minutes. Those preachers that preach for an hour just want to show off their knowledge, but you are lead by the Spirit and you have cool clothes.

Okay, a little more serious now. We need to cool it a little with our thoughts on the actual church service. I will say that preaching needs to be the center because in the early church and how the elders are set up, preaching and teaching were, and are, always center. So, your preaching time should always coincide with the length of your Sunday service, whatever that may be. With the worship music, I personally like a mix of hymns and praise songs and Psalms. I know that some have very hard core thinking on this and that is cool for their congregation, but they need to slow down with evangelizing more on what music they play instead of the Gospel of Christ.

What I believe that is important with the Lord's Day is that God (which includes Jesus for all you exclusive Psalmody guys) is glorified through the worship of song and the word. How you do this is your church's biz, not mine. Some people herald how a proper worship service should take place, which isn't given in the Bible, more than they care of reaching the lost with the glorious gospel. That is a problem.

Be careful in being a legalist in this area as it does divide people pretty easily and I see people leaving the church more on music or how loud the drums are than I do doctrine. For all you Reformed Baptists or IFB guys, a drum is a percussion instrument that you bang with wooden sticks that help the melody, or something like is a link to a picture. And yes, if you let drums in your church that is exactly what the drummer will look like. Also here is a better description from wikipedia.


So, as we look at how we do church, we need to simply ask, "How can I exemplify the theme of the Bible as we meet together as God's people?" "How can we most edify those that come for the glory of the Trinity and not the glory of man?"

How long should the service be? How long should the preaching be? How many songs should you sing? Which songs should you sing? Which order should this all happen? These are questions that are going to be answered by your male elders, but the real question is how do all these show off our God more and more and us less and less.

For He must increase and I must decrease
John 3:30

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

What is the Bible's Theme?

When I preach, or teach, I have to always ask myself, "How does this passage reveal, more clearly, the overall theme of the Bible?" This is central when you are trying to understand Scripture. If we believe that the whole of the inspired Scripture is profitable (2 Tim 3:16,17), even Numbers, then we have to always put each passage into the overall context of the Bible.

As you do this, it will keep you closer to God's revealed word, and less likely to become full fledged heretic. Which, after I finish up with 10 Steps to Become a Legalist, I might start a series on 10 Steps to become a Full Fledged Heretic. Plus, I can be funny in that one a little more and less people will be offended. Because, no one believes they are a heretic, just the whack job down the street that licks the light pole at night while dressed in his bath robe.

What was I saying? Oh yes. Theme of the Bible.

Not only is this my first concern with my preaching and teaching, but it is also what I do when I teach someone how to study their Bible. You have to understand the central theme of the entirety of God's word to understand the small passages that are read and studied on a daily basis. Or, if you are emergent...the passages that you summarize while you sit in your circle, with no leader, candles blazing and people licking glue sticks as you have your conversation.

When you don't have a grasp of the overall theme of the Bible, your study of the Word will not be fluent, but choppy and can become where passages stand on their own, instead of how they were intended: a fluent story from beginning (Genesis) to end (Revelation).

So, as I teach and preach, this is the Trinitarian theme that I would put forth for us all to discuss:

God redeeming a sinful people, through Christ, by the Spirit, for His glory

This is what I would see as being the complete theme of the entire Bible. Some have said things, such as, "God redeeming people for his glory." But this leaves out both the Son and the Spirit. I want a Trinitarian theme, not just focused in on God the Father.

So, when I preach, this is what I ask, "How does this passage point me more clearly that God has redeemed a sinful people, through Christ, by the Spirit, for His glory?" I am not done with my study until this is answered.

And...I have failed if I did not get this across clearly and precisely when I go to the people to preach.

We must believe it when Christ said many times that the Scriptures speak of HIM and when he told those two disciples on the road to Emmaus:

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

Preach the word dear preacher, and truly understand that before Paul said this, he told you specifically:

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17

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