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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)

The Parable of the Painting

I was sent this in an e-mail recently. It is by no means a perfect illustration of salvation (for this, we pay nothing, it is entirely God's gift from start to finish), but I include this parable here because it does illustrate something of our Savior's worth in the Father's eyes. - Pastor John Samson

A wealthy man and his son loved to collect rare works of art. They had everything in their collection, from Picasso to Raphael. They would often sit together and admire the great works of art. When the Vietnam conflict broke out, the son went to war. He was very courageous and died in battle while rescuing another soldier. The father was notified and grieved deeply for his only son.

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June 30, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

New Multimedia on the Web for your Edification

Want a bird's-eye view sketch of the unfolding work of God in redemptive history with sermons covering the whole Bible? Mark Dever of Capitol Hill Baptist Church has posted the MP3s of his Old Testament and New Testament sermon series that give one sermon per book of the Bible. It serves as an excellent primer for Biblical Theology. Dever views the OT as the story of God's promises made to His people and the NT as those promises kept. Similar content can be found in his book on the OT and his book on the NT

Old Testament Overview Sermons "Promises Made" by Mark Dever MP3s for each OT Book An overview sermon on every book of the Bible. For your listening and edification we have provided a consolidated list of links to the free mp3 files of each Old Testament overview sermon

New Testament Overview Sermons "Promises Kept" by Mark Dever MP3s for each NT Book a consolidated list of links to the free mp3 files of each New Testament overview sermon

Also check out A Biblical View of Death by Dr Nick Needham MP3
Baptist minister originally from London. He holds the degrees of BD and PhD from the University of Edinburgh.


Don't forget the 43 part Bible Study Series on Romans from a Reformed perspective by Thomas Browning. (Free MP3s) My web host just recently generously upgraded our bandwidth so please download away. This is helpful material.

Lastly, for those interested in Christology, see the compilation of MP3 resources on Jesus Christ @Monergism.com

June 30, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Van Til: His Logic, Epistemology, and Apologetic

The crystallization of presuppositionalism as an apologetical method is a historic occurrence which has its roots solidly within Reformed thought, and which in fact facilitates the extension of foundational Reformed principles to the defense of the faith. While it may be anachronistic to speak of Calvin, for example, as presuppositional, his writings do evince certain principles, such as the self-authenticating nature of divine revelation, which are foundational to the presuppositional outlook. To substantiate: “For the truth is vindicated in opposition to every doubt, when, unsupported by foreign aid, it has its sole sufficiency in itself” (from chapter 8 of the first book of the Institutes). The ready reception of the presuppositional ideal among many Reformed Christians has been, in my estimation, a largely positive affair. Therefore, having recently observed a new trend toward rejecting presuppositionalism as an apologetic method by discrediting its widely-accepted “father,” Cornelius Van Til, I determined that some thoughts on this particular strain of argument would be in order.

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June 28, 2006  |  Comments (10)   |  Permalink

Augustine on the New Life in Christ

In his book The Triumph of Grace: Augustine's Writings on Salvation, Dr. N.R. Needham has done a great service to the Church in bringing together Augustine's quotes on topics related to salvation. Dr. Needham has given us his generous permission to post chapter five entitled "The New Life in Christ" in which he gives a short introductory essay on the new birth followed by a great number of helpful quotes from Augustine regarding this issue. Please take time to read the short essay and this excellent compilation of quotations. It shows a clear contrast between man-centered false views and the biblical view of grace.

CHAPTER 5.

THE NEW LIFE IN CHRIST

‘Can we possibly, without utter absurdity, maintain that there first existed in anyone the good virtue of a good will, to entitle him to the removal of his heart of stone? How can we say this, when all the time this heart of stone itself signifies precisely a will of the hardest kind, a will that is absolutely inflexible against God? For if a good will comes first, there is obviously no longer a heart of stone.’

Augustine, On Grace and Free Will, 29


‘For we are now speaking of the desire for goodness. If they want to say that this begins from ourselves and is then perfected by God, let them see how they can answer the apostle when he says, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5)’

Augustine, Against Two Letters of the Pelagians, 2:18

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June 28, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Monergism Updates & Other Virtual Phantasma

"The theologian's task is not to divert the ears with chatter, but to strengthen consciences by teaching things true, sure, and profitable" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 1.14.4).

Christian Biography - Subsection Updated @Monergism.com. Lots of helpful resources, articles & MP3s.

Credobaptism & Paedobaptism Subsection Updated @Monergism.com.

Presuppositional Apologetics Subsection Updated @Monergism.com

Legalism & Antinomianism Subsection Updated @Monergism.com

Biblical Anthropology Subsection Updated @Monergism.com

Perseverance of the Saints Subsection Updated @Monergism.com

Christianity 101 An Introduction to the Historic Christian Faith. Subsection Updated @Monergism.com

Biblical Theology Updated subsection @Monergism.com

Offsite

Check out the new Jonathan Edwards Blogspot

simul justus et peccator by James Spurgeon

“Now…This”: Daily News and the Death of Wisdom by Joe Carter
Are current events anything other than a mindless form of amusement?

June 27, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Quotes to Ponder

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn't be a great moral teacher. He'd be either a lunatic on a level with a man who says he's a poached egg or else he'd be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. - C. S. LEWIS

"What is needed to-day is a Scriptural setting forth of the character of God - His absolute sovereignty, His ineffable holiness, His Inflexible justice, His unchanging veracity. What is needed today is a scriptural setting forth of the condition of the natural man - his total depravity, his spiritual insensibility, his inveterate hostility to God, the fact that he is "condemned already" and that the wrath of a sin-hating God is even now abiding upon him - the alarming danger in which sinners are - the indescribably awful doom which awaits them, the fact that if they follow only a little further their present course they shall most certainly suffer the due reward of their iniquities - a setting forth of the nature of that punishment which awaits the lost - the awfulness of it, the hopelessness of it, the un-endurableness of it, the endlessness of it. It is because of these convictions that, by pen as well as by voice, we are seeking to raise the alarm." - A.W. PINK

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June 25, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

PCA General Assembly Overture on FV, NPP Theology Adopted

The following may be of great interest to any persons in the PCA or anyone following the Federal Vision, Auburn Avenue controversy.

At the recent PCA General Assembly an overture concerning Federal Vision, New Perspective on Paul, Shepherdism and Auburn Avenue Theology was raised. Some of these viewpoints have brought confusion on theological definitions and concepts that appear to strike at the heart of the gospel and the vitals of religion...

Therefore, be it resolved that the Rocky Mountain Presbytery overtures the 34th PCA General Assembly to erect an ad interim committee (RAO 8-1) to study the above named viewpoints and their formulations, and other similar viewpoints which are deemed by the committee to pertain to the above named viewpoints. Further, to determine whether these viewpoints and formulations are in conformity with the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards, whether they are hostile to or strike at the vitals of religion, and to present a declaration or statement regarding the issues raised by these viewpoints in light of our Confessional Standards.

This Overture was brought to the committee. Bills and Overtures committee issued a majority report recommending we not form the study committee. There was a minority report in place of the B&O committee recommending we do form the study committee. The minority report prevailed in the assembly, so there will be a report at the next General Assembly on this matter. The GA voted on it and decided that a commission be established. It may take quite a white before there are any results. in other words ... this overture THAT A COMMISSION BE ESTABLISHED was adopted.

Read the entire document which includes much more...

PCA General Assembly to appoint formation of a study committee to study the matter and report back at a future General Assembly." OVERTURE 2 from Rocky Mountain Presbytery

This is another related overture: Declare Auburn Avenue Session Heterodox; Appoint Commission to Discipline Auburn Avenue Session; Appoint Commission to Discipline TE Steve Wilkins" (pdf)

Here is an official PCA GA page with a listing of overtures for this assembly listed: It is #2

June 24, 2006  |  Comments (20)   |  Permalink

The Beginning of the End of the PCUSA?

In 1903, the PCUSA adopted revisions to the Westminster Confession of Faith that were intended to soften the church's commitment to Calvinism. J Gresham Machen Splits over liberalism and forms OPC in the 30s...

1967 PCUSA supplements the Westminster Confession with a Book of Confessions, containing Christian confessions from the fourth century to the twentieth, including the newly-drafted Confession of 1967. Before 1967 there was a constitutional basis to call the church to reform. Until that year the PCUSA still had ordination vows that required officers to subscribe to the Bible as the Word of God and to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms as containing the system of doctrine taught in Scripture. But in 1967 a Book of Confessions was adopted, a kind of confessional museum whose latest addition (the Confession of 1967) undermines all of the solid, biblical confessions that preceded it, and with it carries a new set of ordination vows in which the person ordained promises only to be "guided" by the confessions of the church.

1970s splits into PCA / PCUSA - decides to ordain women... Now about 50% are considering homosexual clergy.

In light of this, is this Beginning of the End of the PCUSA?
Mark Roberts at his blog has a series of posts on -- is the Presbyterian Church USA already in schism?

The Beginning of the End of the PCUSA?
Should Biblically-Committed Christians Leave the PCUSA?
Should Biblically-Committed Christians Leave the PCUSA? (Section B)

Disclosure, Eric Costa and myself are members of the PCA, not to be confused with the PCUSA.

June 23, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Pre-Trib?...Pre-Mill?....Left Behind?

The following is an excerpt from Dr. Sam Waldron's book, The End Times Made Simple

Eschatology Made Simple!

A Matter of interpretation

With this chapter we reach a turning point in our study. In the previous chapter we briefly surveyed the history of the church on the subject of eschatology. We briefly listened in on that great conversation about last things that has been going in the church for 20 centuries. My purpose in this 'holy eavesdropping' was to acquaint you with the basic questions, terminology, and options to be considered as we turn to a study of the Word of God. There is a downside to this study of the opinions of even Christian men. This brief survey of the history of eschatological discussion in the church could well be sub-titled Eschatology Made Difficult (by Men). With this chapter, however, we turn from the complications and complexities of human tradition to the clarity and simplicity of divine revelation. I have entitled this part of the study, (I hope without too much audacity.) Eschatology Made Simple.

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June 23, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Prayer of the Consistent Synergist

Synergism is one of the greatest errors run amok in modern evangelicalism. Erroneous, because it takes our eyes off of the fullness of salvation found in Christ alone and turns our hope partially onto ourselves, leaving room for boasting. While most, I believe, do not consciously think they are boasting, yet their theology gives space to that last bastion of pride, which is to believe that faith itself and the humility to believe, was not a gift. It asserts that we were the originators of our faith, apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. But the full counsel of Scripture declares that a true work of grace has taken place when we come to an end of ourselves and recognize that we have nothing apart from God's mercy. We have faith, not because we were more spiritually sensitive than our neighbor, but because of God's mercy to us.

Here is a prayer that would be consistent with the synergist's theology if he really believed that faith is a product of our unregenerated human nature and not the result of grace alone:

"God, I give you glory for everything else, but not my faith ... This is the one thing that is my very own that I produced of my fallen natural capacities. For this little bit the glory is mine. So I thank you Lord that I am not like other men who do not have faith. When you extended your grace to all men some did not make use of it, BUT I DID. While You deserve glory for all I have Lord, my faith was the one part that I contributed to the price of my redemption, apart from and independent of the work of Your Holy Spirit."

Doing something independent from the Holy Spirit does not sound like synergism, does it? But this is what synergism amounts to in the end because when you ask them why one person believes the gospel and not the other, the answer is never, "it is grace that made the one to differ from the other", no, instead it always points to some virtue (humility perhaps) that one unregenerate person has and another does not. So technically, it is not synergism but human monergism. But because in synergism God gives the kind of grace that is not effectual, they call themselves synergists. But ultimately this theology looks to something one person does that another (the unbeliever) does not have the capacity to do. And thus the danger of synergistic theology.

While the prayer recited above no one would dare pray, but it is what a synergist would pray if he were consistent in his theology. But instead of glorying in yourself for you own faith ...give glory to God for all that you have.

"Who has ever given to God, ...........that God should repay him?" For from him and through him and to him are all things. ........To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:35-36)

For "What do you have that you did not receive?" ...Believe the Scriptures when they say, "no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3)... and no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:65) Won't you, then, also glorify God for the Holy Spirit who works faith in you as well?

June 22, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Engagement with Secular People

by Tim Keller

The gospel removes any sense of superiority toward those who don’t share our beliefs. We respect and remember what it is like to seriously doubt Christianity. We therefore expect not-yet-believers in almost every facet of Redeemer’s ministry and life, and we make every effort to engage and address their questions and concerns. One of the main ways we do this is with the missional mindset that makes worship and small groups a place where Christians and non-Christians grow together.

In general the church’s communication and preaching must continually chip away at the main “defeaters,” the main, widely held objections to Christianity that form an “implausibility structure” keeping most people from solid faith thought because “all the smart people I know don’t believe Christianity.”

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June 22, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

A Quote on the Importance of Justification by Phil Johnson

Justification by faith is unique, I believe, precisely because it distills the pure essence of everything else that is fundamental to and distinctive about Christianity.

Here's what I mean: A person can affirm the deity of Christ, give lip service to the authority and inerrancy of Scripture, be very sound in all the basic points of Trinitarian doctrine—and still come under the curse of Galatians 1:8-9 because he preaches a different gospel.

Someone could also affirm the virgin birth of Christ, have a solid grasp on the incarnation, believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ, and yet be one of those described in Romans 4:4 and Romans 9:32 and Romans 10:3 who—rather than trusting in Christ alone for justification—are seeking to establish a righteousness of their own by works. In other words, you can be basically sound on Christology or theology proper and unsound on the gospel. If so, believing the wrong gospel will damn you without remedy, regardless of how well-tuned your Trinitarianism is.

The converse is pretty hard to imagine. I've never met anyone who had a sound belief about justification by faith but who was unsound on Christology or Trinitarian doctrine. After all, if you affirm the principle of imputed righteousness, then you are almost certainly going to affirm the deity of Christ. Because the imputation of righteousness requires a perfect Substitute, with perfect righteousness—as perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect. The only Substitute who qualifies is a Christ who is also God. So the necessity of Christ's deity is practically built right into a sound understanding of justification by faith.

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June 21, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Karlberg on the Mosaic Covenant and the Concept of Works

I've been interacting with Chris Poteet, over at Imperishable Inheritance, on the nature of the Mosaic law; and he directed me to an online book, Covenant Theology in Reformed Perspective, by Mark Karlberg. I found his section on the Mosaic Covenant and the Concept of works so helpful, that I decided to post an excerpt here. Enjoy.

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June 20, 2006  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

What is Legalism?

Legalism could be definied as any attempt to rely on self-effort to either attain or maintain our justification before God. In Paul's Epistle to the Galatians he warned them sternly about such false understandings of the gospel when he asked the offenders: "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Gal.3:3). Legalism always seems to have one thing in common: it's theology denies that Christ is sufficient for salvation. That some additional element of self-effort, merit or faithfulness on our part is necessary. As an example, those who erroneously teach that a Christian can lose his or her salvation are, in essence, denying the sufficiency of Christ to save to the utmost. They believe sin to be greater than Christ's grace. But Christ's righteousness which he counts toward us is not only effecient for our salvation, but sufficient. His once for all sacrifice put away sin for all time in those He has united to Himself. His salvation also means that he not only saves at the beginning but preserves us to the end, sealing us in His perfect righteousness whose blood "reminds the covenant God" not to treat us as our sins deserve. Any attempt to add our covenant faithfulness as part of the price of redemption after regeneration is an "attempt to attain our goal by human effort" and thus a complete misapprehension of the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must, therefore, reject any and all attempts to maintain a judicial standing before God by any act on our part. Salvation is of the Lord.

Bill Baldwin has put together a brief definition of legalism which I think is helpful:

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June 20, 2006  |  Comments (15)   |  Permalink

Keep the Faith Tony!

No matter how much a pastor has studied in the past at a Bible College or Seminary, I think it is always a good thing for him to seek to sharpen his skills. Scripture commands us to "always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that is in you..." (1 Peter 3:15) To give a defense is to give a reasoned explanation for the things we believe, which is the ministry of apologetics. In learning there was an apologetics course taking place in a Bible College locally, I signed up for the class, not to gain credit, but for the practical benefits of the study. The course was a very enriching experience for me. Though in many ways it was similar to one I took 20 years before, I gained far more from the course this time through. Perhaps that's because my experience as a pastor allows me to now understand just how relevant the material is to help reach people in our day.

One of the tasks we as students had was to imagine someone who had sat under our ministry for some time who had now gone to a secular College or University, and was now feeling fragile in their faith after reading Bertrand Russell's book, "Why I am not a Christian." Our first task was to actually read Russell's book and then respond to an imaginary letter from this person who was now questioning the claims of Christ.

I chose the name Tony for this man... here's what I wrote:

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June 19, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

A Summary of the Gospel

Excerpts from Gospel Conversation by Jeremiah Burroughs

Of Burroughs it was said that... "it grieved his soul to see how, among professors of religion, holiness of life and circumspect walking is not attended to in this dissolute and dissolved age in which we live. What truths, therefore, served most to revive and renew that spirit and vigor of practical holiness which was breathing in them before these times, these he most insisted on and pressed upon the consciences of believers. And he who is conversant in his writings will readily discern that he judged the power of godliness not to consist in high-towering speculation (though he was of excellently-raised parts), but in holy conversation, which is peculiarly the subject of this treatise; therein following the direction of Paul to Titus exhorting believers in God to maintain good works, to go before others in good works, or to set before others good works, and the words imply.

While a Christian pursues this with all zealous fervency and intention, he must withal be acquainted with the root from whence all his holiness must spring. Good works are dangerous if they are made the foundation of the great point of justification by faith; but if they are used in the superstructure then they are very useful. We cannot have children from Christ until we are married to Christ. There are no works of sanctification before there is union with Christ. Many cry out for obedience and good works, yet are profane because they do not go to Christ for these. "You will not come unto me that you might have life," said our Savior. Unless we do all for and from Christ, our lusts will not be mortified, our duties will not be accepted, and our consciences will not be purified. We shall not be strengthened against crosses, neither shall we go on cheerfully or persevere.

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June 18, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Autosoterism

THERE ARE fundamentally only two doctrines of salvation: that salvation is from God, and that salvation is from ourselves. The former is the doctrine of common Christianity; the latter is the doctrine of universal heathenism. "The principle of heathenism," remarks Dr. Herman Bavinek, "is, negatively, the denial of the true God, and of the gift of his grace; and, positively, the notion that salvation can be secured by man's own power and wisdom. 'Come, let us build us a city, and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven, and let us make us a name.' Gen. 11:4. Whether the works through which heathenism seeks the way of salvation bear a more ritual or a more ethical characteristic, whether they are of a more positive or of a more negative nature, in any case man remains his own saviour; all religions except the Christian are autosoteric. . . And philosophy has made no advance upon this: even Kant and Schopenhauer, who, with their eye on the inborn sinfulness of man recognize the necessity of a regeneration, come in the end to an appeal to the will, the wisdom and the power of man."

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June 17, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire

[The following is a summary of an address given by Iain H. Murray at the Carey Conference 2001 at Swanwick, U.K.]

During the Second World War a Scot who was in the services and visiting London went to Westminster Chapel but the Chapel was closed, damaged by bombing, but on a piece of paper visitors were directed to a nearby hall. He described a 'thin man' wearing a tie calling the people to worship. He thought the man was a church officer, and he appreciated his prayer, but then the man began to preach, beginning quietly enough. "This must be Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones," he thought. But for the next 40 minutes he was unconscious of anything else in the world, hearing only this man's words. He had been caught up in the mystery of preaching. That man later became a well known Church of Scotland minister called Tom Allen.

When he left that service Tom Allen was taken up with the message, not the preacher. DMLJ would have thought little of conferences addresses like this one about himself. He thought messages about contemporary men had done great injury especially during the Victorian period. With man-centredness being the terrible bane of today's church there is a danger in drawing attention to personalities. DMLJ would quote the words of God, "My servant Moses is dead so arise and go over Jordan." DMLJ prevented several would-be biographers writing anything, and reluctantly consented to Iain Murray's official biography if only something could be written which would encourage those who were entering the gospel ministry.

DMLJ believed that God was the God of tomorrow who would raise up servants who would enjoy blessings that he himself had not known. Frequently when he prayed it was particularly for a recovery of authority and power in preaching.

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June 17, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Pt. 4 by Rev. C. R. Biggs

Introduction

Jesus is the Speaking King who speaks through His Holy, Inerrant and Infallible Word so that His people might grow in the grace and knowledge of the LORD. Today's study is from Revelation 1:9-18, entitled Jesus the Speaking King. This will be a two-part study of how Christ speaks to His people.

You will remember that in the Old Testament God fed His people with manna and water so that they would be filled and their thirst would be quenched. The purpose of this provision was so that His people would be sustained, strengthened and fit to finish their pilgrimage to the Promised Land. Jesus is the Manna and the Water who feeds us and quenches our thirst through His Word.

The Book of Revelation reveals Jesus Christ as the Speaking King who reminds us that if we are to live a holy life before the face of God we need to know that it must be by every word that proceeds from His mouth. If we are to grow in Christ-likeness, it will not be by might, nor by power, but by God's Spirit and Word working in and through us! Today, the Speaking King gives to His people His Word so that we might be sustained, strengthened and fit to finish our pilgrimage to the New Heavens and the New Earth.

Continue reading "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Pt. 4 by Rev. C. R. Biggs" »

June 15, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?

Someone recently asked:

"Since a Calvinist believes salvation is wholly God's work without any partnership with man, he or she approaches evangelism nonaggressively. Calvinism teaches there is nothing whatsoever a person can do to become saved—we can't "decide for Christ" or "receive Christ" enabling a person to "become a Christian." To do this would give man a part in salvation. Calvinists believe salvation is from God and God alone. To make salvation hinge on an individual's "accepting Christ" or "receiving Christ" makes salvation partially a human endeavor. A true Calvinist believes that nothing whatsoever a person does or is contributes anything at all to salvation. Salvation is God's work alone and we play no part in it—not even receiving salvation counts. If divine election is True then what need is there to preach the gospel?" Therefore most Calvinists are really practicing Arminians

Response: Hi, and thank you for your excellent question. Right off the bat, it may be that you may be confusing the concepts of justification with regeneration. All historic Calvinists have believed that the ministry of the Word is vital to the purposes of the gospel. It must be preached to the unregenerate sinner in order for him/her to be saved. The Reformers called this the ministry of Word and Spirit. No one will ever be justified or made right with God without receiving Christ, as preached from the Scripture. ... that is one of the reasons why I have personally spent time as a missionary for 10 years. The issue ultimately is whether or not anyone is naturally willing to accept the humbling terms of the gospel (1 Cor 2:14; Rom 3:11, 12, 8;7). All true gospel preaching is only effectual "with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven" (1 Peter 1:12). Otherwise it comes to men only in word, with no saving effect at all. The Apostle Paul, when speaking to the elect at the church of the Thessalonians said, "for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." (1 Thessalonians 1:5). Where the Holy Spirit is active, convicting men of sin, righteousness and judgment, the gospel is spoken with power. Illumination and the regeneration alone can open the eyes of our spiritual understanding and raise us from spiritual death so that we might have spiritual desire and thus heed the gospel when preached. In other words, the word of God does not work "ex opere operato," (automatically) rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit sovereignly dispensing grace (John 3:8), quickening the heart THROUGH THE WORD to bring forth life. So the written word is not the material of the spiritual new birth, but rather its means or medium. "The word is not the begetting principle itself, but only that by which it works: the vehicle of the mysterious germinating power". It is because the Spirit of God accompanies it that the word carries in it the germ of life. The life is in God, yet it is communicated to us through the word. In other words, election is God's blueprint and has no saving value in itself. Divine election is accomplished through the redemptive work of Christ applied to His people by the Spirit using means (prayer, preaching) to accomplish His end.

Continue reading "If Divine Election is True then What Need is There to Preach the Gospel?" »

June 14, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Misunderstandings of the Doctrine of Election

1. Election Is Not Fatalistic or Mechanistic.

Sometimes those who object to the doctrine of election say that it is "fatalism" or that it presents a "mechanistic system" for the universe. Two somewhat different objections are involved here. By "fatalism" is meant a system in which human choices and human decisions really do not make any difference. In fatalism, no matter what we do, things are going to turn out as they have been previously ordained. Therefore, it is futile to attempt to influence the outcome of events or the outcome of our lives by putting forth any effort or making any significant choices, because these will not make any difference any way. In a true fatalistic system, of course, our humanity is destroyed for our choices really mean nothing, and the motivation for moral accountability is removed.

In a mechanistic system the picture is one of an impersonal universe in which all things that happen have been inflexibly determined by an impersonal force long ago, and the universe functions in a mechanical way so that human beings are more like machines or robots than genuine persons. Here also genuine human personality would be reduced to the level of a machine that simply functions in accordance with predetermined plans and in response to predetermined causes and influences.

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June 14, 2006  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Albert Mohler and Paige Patterson's Discussion on Calvinism at the Southern Baptist Convention

"I can say that I was very encouraged by how the session went. Dr. Patterson warned his non-Calvinist friends not to make the charge that Calvinism is inherently anti-evangelism and anti-missions. That was a helpful comment based on an accurate theological assessment. Dr. Mohler warned Calvinists not to be more concerned with debating Calvinism than evangelizing. That also was a helpful comment and should be taken to heart by every lover of God's Word." - Dr. Tom Ascol, Founders

June 14, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Thoughts on Spiritual Depression

Anyone who has ever felt rolling into his soul the black clouds of depression, who has gone in an instant from the passionless peace and contentment of the mundane to the paralysis, the hopelessness, the feeling of drowning in meaningless and despair that constitutes the essence of the black beast Depression, will know well the subject about which I hope to say a few words. It may appear superfluous even to consider a topic which appears so inexplicable and insoluble; and the feeling of pointlessness, far from being ameliorated, may well be strengthened in those who, having once known the sweet joy of fellowship with Christ, and being still convinced intellectually that a Christian above all ought to be joyful – who can bring to their minds ten thousand reasons why depression is not reasonable or sensible for themselves, but all to no practical avail – to these brothers and sisters in Christ, the reality of depression may seem a thousand times more inexplicable, and hope for a lasting solution in this life may seem a thousand times more impossible than it is for those whose depression comes amid a Christless existence. The baffling unreasonableness of their malady, combined with the overwhelming guilt which comes from knowing that their lack of joy does despite to the great sacrifice of Christ, by which he purchased every reason to rejoice, tends to a downward motion, by which, in every passing moment, the sea of crass despair is plumbed to new depths of horror and blackness of soul. To you I write these words, not as one expostulating from the outside, but as one who has tasted the bitterness and who has found that the power of Christ is able to give a fresh taste of something sweet and all-but-forgotten on the other side of the valley. By God’s grace I have known the comfort which our Father is able to give in the midst of depression; and I am now able to say with the apostle Paul, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Corinthians 1:3-4). Everyone to whom I am speaking (you know who you are), take heart! It may be that God has left a tiny spark in an area of your heart that you had long considered cold and dead. In his time, he will blow upon it, and cause to flame up anew the passionate joy of knowing Jesus. This will be as dear and wonderful to you as new life from the dead; which indeed, in a figure, it is.

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June 12, 2006  |  Comments (29)   |  Permalink

A Fashion Statement

The Bible book of Proverbs tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine and since I got such a good laugh from this I thought I would pass it on ... something I lifted from Kim Riddlebarger's Website.

One of my Lutheran friends sent this to me with the following caption: "The man on the left, wearing a fabulous vintage chiffon-lined Dior gold lame gown over a silk Vera Wang empire waisted tulle cocktail dress, accessorized with a 3-foot beaded peaked House of Whoville hat, along with the ruby slippers that Judy Garland wore in The Wizard of Oz, is worried that The Da Vinci Code might make the Roman Catholic Church look foolish."

June 12, 2006  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

If Sinners Will be Damned

"If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go there unwarned and unprayed for. - C.H. Spurgeon.
June 12, 2006  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Understanding John 3:16 by Pastor John Samson

The most famous verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16. Here Jesus says, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."

When hearing the biblical teaching on the subject of Divine election, some seek immediate refuge in a traditional and may I say, unbiblical understanding of this verse. They say this: "God can't elect certain ones to salvation because John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that gave His Son so that WHOEVER believes in Christ would have eternal life. Therefore, God has done His part in offering the gift of salvation in His Son and just leaves it up to us to receive the gift through faith. Amen. Case closed!" (emphasis theirs)

Or so it might seem... Though this is a very common tradition, and one I held to myself for many a year, it needs to be pointed out that in spite of the emphasis made by many people here on the word "whoever", the text does not actually discuss who does or who does not have the ability to believe. Someone might just as well be quoting John 3:16 to suggest that all churches need to have red carpets in their sanctuaries! Why? Because that also is not a topic addressed in the text. The verse is often quoted, but actually it has no relevance to the subject.

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June 11, 2006  |  Comments (26)   |  Permalink

Judge Not! by Mike Ratliff

Judge Not!
This is Mike Ratliff's study on Jesus' command to His disciples to not judge others hypocritically. Enjoy and be blessed.

Judge Not Part 1 - The Mind of Christ

Judge Not Part 2 - The Source of Judging Others

Judge Not Part 3 - The Consequences of Judging Others

Judge Not Part 4 - The Necessity of Contentment

Judge Not Part 5 - The Curse of Self-Righteousness

Judge Not Part 6 - The Blessedness of Assurance

Judge Not Part 7 - The Balm of Hope

Judge Not Part 8 - The Invaluable Treasure of a Clear Conscience

Judge Not Part 9 - Doing all for the Glory of God

Judge Not Part 10 - Drinking from Christ's Cup of Suffering

Judge Not Part 11 - Wrestling the Correct Opponent

Jusge Not Part 12 - Loving your Enemies

Judge Not Part 13 - Behaving like a Christian

Judge Not Part 14 - Being a Living Sacrifice

Judge Not Part 15 - Letting the Word of Christ Dwell in You Richly

Judge Not Part 16 - Conclusion

June 10, 2006  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Think you've got stress?

An article by H. C. Ross

Think you've got stress? Be thankful you're not an Elizabethan Puritan.

Imagine you’re a zealous Protestant minister, beginning your career around the time of the accession of Elizabeth I. Here are some of the controversies, crises and calamities you can look forward to experiencing before you hit ‘retirement age’ at the close of the century:

1558
If you’re one of the handful of Protestants who has been in exile during Mary Tudor’s brief reign, you’ll need to journey back home – not knowing exactly what you’ll find there.

1559
You’ll be thankful to see your new Queen secure the Protestant faith with her Acts of Uniformity and Supremacy, but you won’t be satisfied with her Council’s vision of an official liturgy. You’ll settle into conformity with a half-reformed national church and begin campaigning for a more thoroughly ‘biblical’ one.

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June 09, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Five Most Impacting Books I Have Read (Excluding the Bible)

Whenever I am asked an account of my journey to a Reformed, Christ-centered theology and worldview, I am constrained to make mention, first and fundamentally, of the work of the Spirit in opening the eyes of my heart to understand the scriptures – but press me for an account of the secondary means he was pleased to employ to that end, and I must make immediate mention, first, of the Christian friends who exerted a tremendous teaching influence in my life; and second, of a handful of written works which have proven to be no less influential and impacting. I would be hard-pressed to give priority to either of these secondary means in my theological pilgrimage; but in any account, God has so mightily used a few rich, substantial volumes in my Christian growth and maturation, that, if I were to refrain from mentioning them to other believers, I would feel much like a beggar who, having found a rich treasure, selfishly horded it to himself when many others might equally have benefited from it. That I might not be that selfish beggar, I have compiled a list of the five most influential books I have ever read; and I cannot strongly enough exhort anyone who has not tasted these sumptuous banquets to drink deeply from the wells of our brothers before us who have learned much of our Savior, and who freely offer up their deep insights to us all. I list these books, for lack of any better plan, simply in the order in which I happened to come across them and read them. May many of you find them as profitable as I have.

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June 09, 2006  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, Part 3 by Rev. C. R. Biggs

Introduction

In the last study we considered the way the Book of Revelation reveals Jesus as the resurrected and Living King and the hope for all of God's people. We begin this study by considering how the Book of Revelation begins by revealing Jesus as Coming Judge and King in Revelation 1:5b-8:

Revelation 1:5b-8: ...To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

One of the reasons why God inspires the Apostle John to write the Book of Revelation is to reveal Christ as coming Judge and King. The people of God are a missionary outpost of heaven (Phil. 3:20-21), who are called to bear witness to Christ as Judge and Lord over heaven and earth (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). Christians live in this world, but at the same time are seated positionally with Christ in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:6).

As a sinful people we have been redeemed from the way of life we used to live in the flesh and now we live unto God here as witnesses before this dying world (Eph. 4:21ff). As John writes in Revelation 1:5b, Jesus is the One who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Jesus came on his mission to save a people (Heb. 2:10ff), to lay down his life for his people, his church by shedding his blood for their sins. Jesus shed his blood and paid the penalty of death that was required of our sins. As the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

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June 08, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Letter from Visitor on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness

Today I received an email to my to Monergism.com account from a visitor named Shawn. He asked some important questions on on Calvinism, Evil and God's Holiness. I have reproduced his email in full with my response (with a couple paragraphs on Job that quote liberally from John Piper)

Dear Mr. Hendryx,

I've been reading your website with interest and find it to be one of the very best Calvinistic resources I've seen on the net. I am not a Calvinist, though I can't say I'm decisively against Calvinism either. I still have lingering questions which I hope you might be able to answer, or point me to ressources that would help.

Perhaps my main objection to accepting Calvinism involves the problem of evil. I've read several of the articles you have on the subject (by Piper, Bahnsen, [Cheung] and two others by authors whose names I can't recall), but none
seemed to offer any new or helpful answers to my objections/doubts/questions.

This is what I understand the Calvinistic claim to be: God is sovereign over everything, having decreed before the foundation of the world everything that will come to pass. This would include, I should think, all moral evil, whether realized in word, thought or deed, or merely imagined in man's heart. In other words, before there was a devil, man, or sin, God 'imagined' (for lack of a better word) all of the horrific, sinful and debased things that have ever and will ever come to pass, and then chose to actualize them. God was not coerced into allowing evil to exist as if it was outside of his power. Rather, God chose to actualize sin and evil where before there was none. Would that be an accurate conception so far?

If it is, then my first thought is that whether or not God uses the Devil or humans as 'secondy' causes of these evils seems to be a moot point at best. I can't help but think that sin, death, and the Devil are nothing more than God in disguise. When I ask some Calvinist friends about this they usually answer in one of two way. Either to say (1) reconciling a holy God with an evil decree is a mystery we should not even talk about; or (2) God is unquestionably the author of evil, but since God is God, and by definition all that he does is good, he can do whatever he likes.
And so we come to my two objection or concerns with Calvinism.

My first problem is fairly straightforward: I have one life to live - why should I spend it serving a God who admittedly is the author of all evil in the world, especially when there are other equally plausible Christian accounts of God that claim he is not the author of evil? Wouldn't making God the first cause of all evil be a reason to think that account is false?

Secondly, if God is the first cause/author of evil, it would seem that claims by Calvinists that God is good, just, or holy, are pretty hollow. At least I haven't read any that seem even remotely convincing. But I have a deep-seated conviction that God is holy, and could not be the inventer, creator or decree-er of evil, therefore its hard for me to accept that Calvinism is true. Rather than being holy or good, it seems to me that in Calvinism what is decisive is that God is all-powerful, where might makes right. He's holy because he says he's holy; He's good because he says he is good, even if he acts contrarily to what he has decreed to be good and holy. I'll leave what questions/comments/objections at that, and hope you might be able to point a way forward. Cheers, Shawn

Response

Shawn

Thanks for your email. It appears from your email that most all of your objections are moral rather than exegetical. You are, therefore, basing your considerations and thus your theological future on shakey ground...

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June 07, 2006  |  Comments (48)   |  Permalink

The “Active Obedience” of Jesus Christ In The Justification of Sinners

The following is an excerpt from Brian Schwertly's book Auburn Avenue Theology: A Biblical Analysis

The doctrine that a perfect obedience or a positive righteousness is necessary is easily deduced from Scripture. Note the following observations.

The moral law of God is based on God’s own nature and character (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). Therefore, the law of God (i.e., the moral law) can never be abrogated, set aside, annulled or circumvented as an eternal, unchangeable obligation upon all men. Jehovah would have to deny Himself in order to set aside the obligation of the moral law on the rational beings that He created. God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). Therefore, the moral law as a rule of obedience will always be in force and enforced by the LORD. What does this eternal unchangeable law require? A perfect, perpetual obedience on the part of man in thought, word, and deed! The law prohibits any sin; it requires sinless perfection. How does this truth relate to the doctrine of justification? It means that God must justify sinners in a manner that is consistent with His own nature. In order for sinners to be justified the curse of the law (e.g., the guilt and liability to punishment) must be removed; but, God’s requirement of obedience which is founded upon His nature must also be fulfilled. If Jehovah simply eliminated the penalty without the fulfillment of the positive obligation then He would be setting aside a crucial aspect of His own moral law. Such a thought is a theological impossibility. The biblical doctrine of justification upholds God’s righteousness and His holy law in every possible manner.

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June 07, 2006  |  Comments (11)   |  Permalink

Interesting Links Around the Web 06-07-06

Ministerial Confessions by Horatius Bonar (Worthwhile read)

Kim Riddelbarger discuss the Antichrist Part I; Part II Free MP3 Downloads

Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus? (.Pdf)
A Debate between William Lane Craig and Bart D. Ehrman

The Book of Genesis Multimedia, Commentaries, Sermons and other Resources @Monergism.com New Section!

Caner On Calvinism by Gene Bridges

Short Biography of a Retired Police Officer Pete Reed
See how God uses the weakest means to convert His own.

Present Day Evangelism by Arthur W. Pink

Monergism.com Reformation T-Shirts
Now Shipping. With the recent resurgence of Reformation theology, many adhering to the Doctrines of Grace search for ways to expose the world to their beliefs. This shirt peaks the interest of onlookers and provides an excellent bridge for introducing the Biblical beliefs recovered and heralded during the the Reformation. The front of the shirt has a “burning bush” with the Latin phrase “Post Tenebras Lux” it also has the text "www.monergism.com" on the fornt so you can point interested onlookers to biblical resources. The back of the shirt bears the names and likenesses of four of the best-known Protestant Reformers and those who came after them to carrry the torch of the Reformation: Calvin, Luther, Edwards & Spurgeon surrounded by the text: Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria.

June 07, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Ex-Muslims Attracted to Western Secularism

By Rev. Bassam M. Madany

From my earliest days, I noticed a certain fascination with Western secularism that was exhibited by Arab authors who dealt with modern history. For example, they showed a high regard and admiration for the French Revolution of 1789, notwithstanding the unbelievable bloodshed and turmoil that resulted from it.

During the past century, that attraction has manifested itself specifically in the rapid spread of Marxist ideology throughout the Middle East. In the 1960s, a Muslim professor at the American University of Beirut, Dr. Sadeq Jalal al-Adhm, published, “A Critique of Religious Thought.”(Naqd al-Fikr Al-Deeni.) This book was critical, not only of the Qur’an, but of all theistic religions. His approach and methodology were thoroughly Marxist. He got into trouble with the Lebanese authorities, but was exonerated from the charge of inciting divisions among the Lebanese religious communities. Al-Adhm stuck tenaciously to his secular ideology. The last sentence in a revised and expanded version of his “Critique” was this: “It is beyond doubt that Dialectical Materialism is the best known attempt to formulate a complete and universal worldview that can be reconciled with the spirit of this age and its sciences. I believe that this is exactly what Jean-Paul Sartre meant when he said: ‘Marxism is the philosophy for our times.’”

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June 07, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Under the Banner of Heaven

Here's one that people all around me seem to be reading: Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, by Jon Krakauer. It's an in-depth look at the world of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS). These are folks who have returned to the original teachings of Mormon Founder Joseph Smith, especially with regards to "The Principle" of plural marriage (polygamy). They accuse the "official" Mormon church/cult of having abandoned the genuine faith of Smith.

Krakauer himself is not a Christian, and sometimes he makes blanket statements against religion in general that rub me wrong, but he has done his homework thoroughly on the origin of the Mormon church/cult and current FLDS groups, which is beyond helpful. I couldn't possibly get into a comprehensive review of this book without spoiling it for you, so I strongly recommend you pick up a copy for yourself. I promise you will be floored when you read about the communities and practices of the FLDS groups Krakauer examines.

June 06, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Doctrines of Grace (Testimony)

The following anonymous testimony shows how the doctrines of grace affect our whole outlook on life.

Introduction

My early Christian years were spent in evangelical churches where the ministry of the Word was far from systematic. A variety of speakers brought a variety of sermons on numerous texts, the result of which was occasional blessing but no regular consistent instruction.

During this time a Christian friend introduced me to the Reformed Faith, and as a result of reading John Owen's Death of Death in the Death of Christ, along with other Puritan literature, I was brought to see that the Arminian teaching of these churches was un-Scriptural. The more I compared these Puritan writings with the Word of God, the supreme standard of doctrine and practice, the more I realized by the grace of God just how far removed from the Bible the preaching in such evangelical churches was. Furthermore, I began to realize just how many problems and troubles spring from this fact. And so by the mercy of God I came to embrace and love those doctrines of grace which give God all the glory, and refuse to share that glory between God and man.

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June 06, 2006  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Inter-Trinitarian Counsel (John 17)

"...glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life...6"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. ...9"I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; ..."While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled. (excerpts from John 17)
(also see John 6:37, 39, 44, 63-65)

What do these texts mean? In His great condescension, infinite mercy and affectionate love... God, in Christ, from all eternity has chosen, set apart and marked a people for Himself. This is foundational to the Bible and we must not neglect to consider our salvation from this God's-eye view that He has so graciously given us in the pages of Holy Scripture. His elect have been set apart for sonship, privilege and honor as they are united to Christ by His Holy Spirit. "...they were Yours and You gave them to Me." (vs, 6)

We should never avoid passages such as these, though for various reason we often do so. But God has given these texts to us for a reason. Jesus wanted His people to read this conversation, this inter-Trinitarian prayer. This is high doctrine but it is most beautiful and glorious. We should fall on our face in wonder as we absorb and consider that He has, in this holy conversation, given this glimpse of truth to us. We all need to listen ... too much of contemporary spirituality is a horizontal conversation, but we need to be silent and let God speak to us here vertically. Jesus lets us in on his communications with the eternal Father. Is there anything so glorious that He has let his children in on such a conversation and that He is even speaking of us. He is telling us what He has decided about us as individuals before the foundation of the world. The Son and the Father speak of previously decided upon covenants before the world was made. Incredible! Behold, before you were created, before the world and matter and time and space was created you were affectionately in the mind of God and He gave the surety of your redemption into the hands of the Eternal Son who would leave His infinite glory and become as nothing, taking on flesh to make certain that you would not be lost. If God gave you to the Son, then your salvation is sure because He infallibly accomplishes that which He sets out to do. "His word does not return unto Him void".

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June 06, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

I am a Debtor by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Taken from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 1. 'The Gospel of God', Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1985, (pp. 249-255)

Paul was a man who could stand without any fear and without any apology in Athens on Mars' Hill. There he is confronted by a congregation of Stoics and Epicureans, and he can speak to them with authority. Ah, but when the same man visits Galatia, where they belonged to a rather primitive type of culture and lacked this knowledge of philosophy and various other things, he is equally ready to preach the gospel; he is equally effective as a preacher, and his ministry is equally used. Paul would do as well in the slums of the great cities as he would do in centres of learning - the wise and the unwise. It does not matter where you put him. As long as he is preaching to men and women he not only has a message, he is able to impart it. You notice how he puts it: '. . . to them that are under the law, as under the law . . . To them that are without law, as without law. . . To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some' [I Corinthians 9: 20-22]. What a wonderful thing this is!

There are times when I begin to wonder whether we are equally clear about this at the present time. We tend to divide even in this matter of the preaching of the gospel, do we not, just as the world tends to do in a secular manner, and it is quite wrong. If a preacher cannot preach his gospel to everybody I take leave to doubt whether he can preach it to anybody. If a preacher must have a certain type of congregation, to that extent he is unlike the Apostle Paul. He is probably a philosopher. He is probably a purveyor of natural human learning which is using Christian terminology. A preacher does not need to presuppose anything in his congregation except their need of God and of Christ. I am raising this point and emphasizing it because you will hear a good deal today along these lines. We are told that students and others who are training for the ministry should be compelled to spend part of their time working in factories or similar places. You see the argument? It is said, 'How can a preacher preach to factory workers unless he knows their conditions and circumstances. He must go and spend three months, and perhaps more, working in a factory, and get to understand them and their outlook and their mentality, and then he will be able to preach to them'! Now that theory is not only being seriously advocated, it is even being put into practice. The argument is that unless we know the exact position and circumstances and make-up of people and their way of thinking, we cannot preach to them.

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June 06, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Dispensationalism and the Eclipse of Christ (An Open Correspondence)

As many of you are no doubt aware, I was raised a Dispensationalist. When I first became convinced that the teachings of Dispensationalism are not supported by an honest assessment of scriptures, I determined to change my thinking on the topic, and so be done with the issue summarily. Such were my intentions, but I found, much to my surprise, that the roots of Dispensationalism are so deep, and they affect so profoundly one's way of thinking about virtually every theological issue, that the task of rejecting one's own Dispensationally-flavored way of viewing the Bible is no simple task. It is a monumental struggle that requires years of deep, intense, Spirit-reliant searching of the scriptures. As I embarked on this long process, I slowly became aware of a vast array of manners in which a thorough grounding in the Dispensational ideal tends to influence one's beliefs and emphases. This in itself was shocking to me; but what came as the severest shock of all was the reflection that virtually every one of these Dispensationally-derived misunderstandings tended in some way towards the eclipse of Christ as the sum and substance of every redemptive promise and reality, the One for whom, to whom, and by whom are all things, the One who sums up all of reality, brings all things under his feet, and is in himself all the fullness of the Godhead. Let me be clear here: I have no doubt that many, if not all Dispensationalists would affirm in theory the Christo-centrism of all reality; nevertheless, the fact remains that in practice they deny the explicit Christ-centeredness of many times, persons, and realities in history - and not just minor, inconsequential persons and things, but those that stand out as epoch-defining and historically-pivotal.

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June 03, 2006  |  Comments (56)   |  TrackBacks (1)  |  Permalink

Hospitality in a Cold World

Be kindly affectionate to one another . . . , given to hospitality. —Romans 12:10,13

The word for hospitality in the Scripture means “a love of strangers.” Something that does not really come naturally to me. I know it is my own tendency to avoid taking the initiative to meet and befriend others. My heart naturally can be cold and unreceiving. But by prayer through the word of God, hospitality, I have witnessed, breaks down barriers and build bridges to other people. It can make strangers and stragglers feel welcome.

Inviting someone to your home is an ideal way to start serving in this way. I have appreciated it when people have done this for me in the past, especially when I was new to an area. And when you invite new friends into your home, use your culinary skill and eat with them (Acts 2:46, 20:11; 1 Cor 16:19) and then take the time to pray with them before they depart. They will appreciate it more than you know. Show appreciation to leaders, hurting families and teachers by inviting them into your home. There are many wandering, isolated persons who need this ministry of hospitality. Consider how much you appreciate it when, perhaps in those rare occassions, others have done this for you. I think human beings all appreciate this and it is a means God uses to minister the gospel through you. When living overseas, I was especially struck with the natural tendency of Chinese people to be hospitible to people. Many Christians could learn from them.

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June 02, 2006  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Martin Luther: Certainty in the Truth by Iain H. Murray

It was a day of grace for Europe when Martin Luther was born at Eisleben, in Germany, in 1483. Entering first the University of Erfurt in 1501, then an Augustinian monastery, Luther was ordained in the Church of Rome in 1507. But the death of a friend in a thunderstorm, a visit to Rome-revealing its corruption-and an increasing sense of his sinfulness, arrested Luther's promising career. Made aware of the emptiness of all human wisdom, its inability to give peace to the soul, he was drawn to study the Word of God.

So great was his anguish of soul that sometimes he would lay "three days and three nights upon his bed without meat, drink, or any sleep, like a dead man." In this condition, he learnt to read each verse in the Bible like a drowning man would clutch at any piece of wood to save his life, and thus sometime between the years 1513-1517 he found that man can be justified by faith in Christ alone, and that in salvation God takes no account of man's works, merit, or will. "This doctrine," Luther writes, "is not learned or gotten by any study, diligence, or wisdom of man, but it is revealed by God Himself." Henceforth he stood upon the Word of God alone, it was his storehouse from whence he drew those truths which, in his writings, flashed like thunderbolts through Europe.

In 1519 Erasmus writes to Luther that "his books had raised such an uproar at Louvain, as it was not possible for him to describe." God had begun a conflict for His Truth, and it was bitterly opposed. "I had" Luther says, "hanging on my neck the pope, the universities, all the deep learned, and the devil; these hunted me into the Bible, wherein I sedulously read . . ." An "illiterate monk" thus became, in the hands of God, too much-as Margaret the Emperor's sister confessed-for all the academics in Paris to answer. By 1520 there was an irreconcilable break with the Church of Rome; the pope was determined that Luther and his gospel should perish together.

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June 01, 2006  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink