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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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    We are a community of confessing believers who love the gospel of Jesus Christ, affirm the Biblical and Christ-exalting truths of the Reformation such as the five solas, the doctrines of grace, monergistic regeneration, and the redemptive historical approach to interpreting the Scriptures.

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  • « Bottom Up Vs. Top Down Theology | Main | Fun Stuff by Pastor John Samson »

    God is at the Center by Pastor John Samson

    Rev. 4:11 “Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”

    The 16th Century was famous for at least two monumental events: The Protestant Reformation and the Copernican Revolution. No doubt, you have heard of the Reformation when men such as Martin Luther, were raised up by God to bring the one true biblical Gospel back to the Church. That's what this blog is all about. With the Reformers of old and with Scripture alone as our sure foundation, we affirm that justification is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone — for the glory of God alone.

    In 1543, Nicolas Copernicus published his treatise De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (The Revolution of Celestial Spheres) where a new view of the world was presented: the heliocentric (sun central) model. Before Copernicus, people believed that the earth was the very center of the Universe. But Copernicus was able to prove otherwise - that it is the sun (not the earth) that is central in the solar system. This discovery shook both the religious and the scientific world. The ramifications were extremely dramatic. Man's view of the world was forever changed!

    Copernicus' theory was not at all popular initially. Even though the new treatise was dedicated to the Pope, it was considered heretical both by the standards of religion and science. Such was the outrage at such a thought (that the world was not the center of the Universe) that many scientists, and sadly, even many a theologian, would not even look through Copernicus’ telescope! The traditions of men, in the arenas of both science and religion, were that strong.

    Yet Copernicus was right and his revolutionary idea was needed if forward progress was to be made. In the Church today, I believe a similar revolution is needed…

    What was recognized by former generations, has, by and large, been lost to the modern day Church. The biblical Gospel is rarely heralded. Oh, there are some elements still there… but the facts of the Gospel are presented in man-centered rather than God centered packaging. One of the most pressing needs in this hour is for the church to actually be re-evangelized! We, the Church, need to hear a Biblically based, God centered, Christ centered Gospel. We need to hear of God as He really is, of man as he really is, and the Gospel of God's grace found in Jesus Christ as it really is. And all of this starts by understanding that God is at the center and not us.

    The natural man is so hostile towards God that if he could kill Him, he would, even if it meant the end of his own existence. He also hates the fact that God is Sovereign. When I speak of God’s Sovereignty, I mean that God does what He wants, when He wants, the way He wants, without asking anyone’s permission.

    Jonathan Edwards recalled his own experience: "From my childhood up, my mind had been full of objections against the doctrine of God's sovereignty. It used to appear like a horrible doctrine to me. But I remember the time very well, when I seemed to be convinced, and fully satisfied, as to this sovereignty of God, and His justice in thus eternally dealing with men, according to His sovereign pleasure. My mind rested in it; and it put an end to all those quibbles and objections. And there has been a wonderful alteration in my mind, with respect to the doctrine of God's sovereignty, from that day to this. God's absolute sovereignty…is what my mind seems to rest assured of, as much as of any thing that I see with my eyes. But I have often, since that first conviction, had quite another kind of sense of God's sovereignty than I had then. I have often since had not only a conviction, but a delightful conviction. The doctrine has appeared exceedingly pleasant, bright, and sweet. Absolute sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God. But my first conviction was not so."

    Elsewhere, he wrote, "When men are fallen, and become sinful, God by His sovereignty has a right to determine about their redemption as He pleases. He has a right to determine whether He will redeem any or not. He might, if he had pleased, have left all to perish, or might have redeemed all. Or, he may redeem some, and leave others; and if He doth so, He may take whom He pleases, and leave whom He pleases. To suppose that all have forfeited his favor, and deserved to perish, and to suppose that he may not leave any one individual of them to perish, implies a contradiction; because it supposes that such a one has a claim to God's favor, and is not justly liable to perish; which is contrary to the supposition. It is meet (right) that God should order all these things according to His own pleasure. By reason of His greatness and glory, by which He is infinitely above all, He is worthy to be Sovereign, and that His pleasure should in all things take place. He is worthy that He should make Himself His end, and that He should make nothing but His own wisdom His rule in pursuing that end, without asking leave or counsel of any, and without giving account of any of His matters. It is fit that He who is absolutely perfect, and infinitely wise, and the Fountain of all wisdom, should determine every thing [that He effects] by His own will, even things of the greatest importance. It is meet that He should be thus Sovereign, because He is the first being, the eternal being, whence all other beings are. He is the Creator of all things; and all are absolutely and universally dependent on Him; and therefore it is meet that He should act as the Sovereign possessor of heaven and earth." (Edwards, The Justice of God in the damnation of sinners)

    C. H. Spurgeon said, "There is no attribute of God more comforting to his children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty. Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty hath ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all. There is nothing for which the children of God ought more earnestly to contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation - the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands - the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by world-lings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne."

    In Isaiah 46:8-10, God declares, "Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose." God achieves all He sets out to accomplish. His plans are never thwarted or frustrated.

    The natural man does not have a mere distaste for this idea; he hates it with a vengeance. As J. C. Ryle has said, "Of all the doctrines of the Bible, none is so offensive to human nature as the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty." Man wants the control. He wants to be in charge of his own destiny. He hates to admit the fact that God is on the throne, and one day he will answer to Him, and even more than this, that he is powerless to prevent God’s ultimate purpose being achieved. The idea is repugnant to “autonomous” man, governed, he thinks, by his own free will.

    But in spite of the this, the fact is that God is in charge… Man is not the center of the Universe, God is! Its time for the church to once again sound out the truth! “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Rom. 11:36. God “works all things after the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:11)

    Just as mankind had to adjust to Copernicus' discovery, we need to adjust our thinking to the facts of Scripture. God is Sovereign. That’s just the way it is! God is Sovereign in all things, including how He dispenses His grace. The Reformers declared Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), and by that declaration, they meant grace at the start, grace to the end, grace in the middle, grace without fail, grace without mixture, grace without addition, grace that allows no boasting, grace that precludes all glorying but in the Lord. Just as many refused to look through Copernicus’ telescope in his day, many refuse to look at the Scriptures in ours. Let that not be true of you and me.

    Posted by John Samson on April 5, 2006 09:31 AM

    Comments

    You are right - the gospel isn't what it used to be. In the modern gospel 'God is all love'. There is no fire to the gospel like there was in the day of Jonathan Edwards. Man has no need to say 'What shall I do to be saved?'

    Indeed, it makes me even more concerned for the church when I recall the verse: "And if any man or an angel from heaven preaches to you a gospel different from the one that we have preached, may he be accursed."

    You are right, Pastor Samson. The modern church seems to have a focus on man and not God. We are in such a great need of a new Great Awakening - or better yet, a Reformation.

    A. Shepherd
    Aspiring Theologian

    The Aspiring Theologian Blog: A Reformed Theology Blog

    In my observation, far from being just natural man who hates God's sovereignty, worse, many professing Christians live as though they do as well. I'm talking about those who live in a continual state of despair, lamenting all the trials in their life, unable to accept that they (trials) were and are given/allowed by God - in His sovereignty - for His glory and for the purpose of their good and/or the good of others...but either way, that God has allowed the trials - whether we ever understand the how and the why - and they (trials) do not disqualify them (recipients of trials) from serving God and His church and doing all for His glory. I see these people grow colder and colder toward God, spiritual disciplines, and the means of grace, as they live with a subtle animosity toward God... and then they wonder why God is so far from them! I say this with all the passion and understanding of one who suffers from a chronic and painful condition, and though far from being sinless in living with my "thorn", yet I have true joy at all times because I know the all wise and holy God through His Son and my Savior Jesus, and this only by the inexplicable grace of God. Because I know that my name is written in heaven (my true home), no earthly trial should keep me from living for my Savior and striving to be always ready to serve Him with my deeds, words, thoughts, and especially my attitude! If that's what His will is for my life, which He redeemed and therefore owns, how can I do otherwise? So, far from pointing a finger of judgement, I want to persuade Christians struggling to live with trials to really believe that our perfect and loving Father knows everything about them. They may be due to sin in our lives. They may be due to sin in someone else's life. They may be to showcase His glory. But one thing they are not...they are not pointless, or given unfairly, or to hurt us... and they certainly do not give us any cause to think less of God or that we are justified in becoming cold or despairing witnesses of Christ. We are to believe that the Holy Spirit is alive in us and that He is abundantly able to produce His fruit in us, among which is joy and peace... even in trials. (Joyless Christians have been weighing me down lately...thanks for the opportunity to share this!)

    Wow! It was good before, but the additions are outstanding! Thanks! With grateful gleaning from the Edwards/Gerstner entry at "Aspiring Theologian's" blog and the article about the fate of fallen angels from "The Howling One" at Pyromaniacs, I know what I'm going to talk about next on my own blog (with links of course).

    Hey, by the way, what is your blog address, cindyu?

    Thanks, I'm glad you liked my blog too.

    A. Shepherd
    Aspiring Theologian

    The Aspiring Theologian Blog: Reformed Theology Articles

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