The Parable of the Sailboat
Galatians 3:21-24 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
I was recently at a conference where Dr. Michael Horton was amongst the speakers. During a question and answer session he was asked to talk about justification and sanctification. In the course of his answer he gave an illustration of a sailboat that I thought was very illuminating. I share it with you here.. - Rev. John Samson
Sanctification is something that flows out of justification.... the justifying verdict that God announces in the gospel has its revurberations right into every nook and cranny of our lives transforming us from top to bottom and inside out.
Imagine you have a sailboat which has all the "bells and whistles" on it.. (a radio, fish finders, satellite, the most advanced mapping system imaginable.. so that it can literally steer you to your destination). You head out of the harbor under full sail.
After some time you find yourself in the middle of the ocean and there is a dead calm (there is no wind). Your radio tells you that there is a large storm coming.. it could be a very dangerous situation and you are now in trouble because right where you are, there is no wind at all and you are "dead in the water".. you do not have an engine, you depend on the wind.. so you start paddling..
What is Most Savory to Your Soul - Christ or the World?
It brings me great sadness to report that a person whom I once considered a dear brother has gone apostate from the faith. With joy we used to go together to the house of the Lord, yet he has now chosen a life of corruption over Christ. After many admonishments from brothers he has shown no interest in parting with his idolatrous lifestyle and even attempts to justify it with religion, citing that the Bible does not really mean what it says. At this point I can only mourn and pray that God grant him repentance.
But to this it makes me all the more earnest to contend for what we have, for the rich blessings we have in Christ:
Earnestly contend for heaven, dear Christian, for Christ is too precious to part with on ANY terms. By God's grace stand resolved to make war on all that stands between you and heaven. Use the talents Christ has given you to make religion your main business, to spend and be spent for Him. And by the renewing work of the Spirit, do not neglect to take up arms against the rebellion in your heart because some among us in the pews ... would have heaven but also have their sins, for they do not mean to part with them. They would have heaven's rewards and yet hope God would leave them alone in this life. They would co-mingle with the saints of God and outwardly put on heavenly garments but whose hearts are full of hypocrisy, deceiving others and themselves. This issues forth from the heart of a swine and not of a saint ... for he would choose to wallow in the hog's dung of his carnal pleasures, rather than dwell in heavenly mansions with Christ. Without having uttered a word, the lives of men tell us what they think and say in their hearts.
Book Review: â€œNo One...â€: When Jesus Says it, He Means it, by J. D. Wetterling
Synopsis: â€œNo One...â€: When Jesus Says it, He Means it, is a clear and helpful little book that occupies a unique place in a world of postmodern uncertainty and academic elitism. In a simple, unadorned, and yet heartfelt style, J.D. Wetterling gives a concise presentation of a handful of truths that are both rock-solid in a world full of shifting-sand epistemologies, and practically applicational for a people that have been left without moorings by the prevailing popular opinions which decry all absolutes. Throughout its length, this book is characterized by that rare combination of diverse qualities which was most perfectly expressed in our Savior: a no-nonsense affirmation of absolute truth together with a true compassion for those who have been deceived.
The Gospel of John has long been recognized for its beautiful and well-crafted chains of related sayings or events, which work together to form a harmonious whole. Some well-known examples would be his seven â€œI Amâ€ statements, and his seven sign-miracles. In â€œNo One...â€: When Jesus Say it, He means it, J. D. Wetterling has picked up on another such series of related statements from the Gospel of John which has not been as commonly recognized or discussed: the â€œNo oneâ€ sayings of Jesus. Like the other Johannine saying-series, this one reflects a theological development from the beginning of the gospel to the end: starting with the absolute necessity of divine monergism in the initial stages of salvation, it concludes with the unshakeable certainty of the eternal preservation and joy of those in whom this process of salvation has begun.
When Plato expressed the ultimate purpose and great imperative of philosophy with this command, â€œknow yourself,â€ he had struck upon a valuable insight. If we would know our purpose in life, how we should relate to the world and to others around us, what our goals and dreams and desires should consist of, how we should spend our time, then we must know who we are. We must know how we were made and for what purpose, and we must know whether or not we are fulfilling that purpose, and if not, how we might do so. If we desire to order our lives according to wise and reasonable principles, then first a thoroughgoing self-knowledge is indispensable.
However, this command is not so easy to put into practice. Who really knows what he is like, deep down inside? Who can say from what mysterious inner workings of our minds come bizarre dreams, unexpected, random thoughts that defy all reason, moments of insight and creativity, moments of foolishness and lapses of judgment? Do we really know how our minds function? Do we really know what we actually want or need? If so, then why is it that, when we have finally accomplished or acquired something that we thought we wanted, we suddenly feel so empty and let down? Who has not felt the deep and inexplicable yearning for something more, and not knowing quite what it was or how to pursue it, tried to bury the yearning in a busy pursuit of professional advancement or entertainment or any of those other things that have always let us down before? If we are ever to rise above this condition, we must know who we are, what we were made to do and enjoy, why we are not doing and enjoying what we were made for, and how to pursue a soul-deep change.
This is not your father's Mormonism (part 2)
What does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints mean when it states that Jesus is "the Son of God"? Is Jesus divine? Does the Mormon Church believe that God and Mary had physical sex to conceive Jesus? Are Jesus and Lucifer brothers? Does God the Father live on a planet circling a star named Kolob?
From Dr. James White's blog at aomin.org there are two articles showing how the Mormonism of a previous era is being gradually replaced by a much more nebulous, fuzzier version, seen here. Part two here.
Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread
When we read this plea in the prayer our Lord has given us, it reminds us of our utter dependence on Him for everything we have, including our spiritual gifts and the grace to persevere to the end. When we were unregenerate and without God in the world, our conversion only took place when God opened our eyes to despair of any help from ourselves that we might look to Christ for His mercy. So also as Christians we live by the same principle since only by losing of all confidence in ourselves do we grow in grace; Christians do not become more mature in such a way as to gain more confidence in our spiritual abilities. On the contrary, the mature Christian, becomes even more conscious of his own frailty, and will turn unto the Lord for all his/her daily graces. It is only when we are weak, that we are strong (2Co 12:10). In other words, if we are to be effective at all, there must first be a consciousness of our weakness and innate spiritual bankruptcy.
Monergism Books End-of-2007 Clearance
Images of the Savior (Conclusion)
Dear reader, we have spent many hours walking through the gospel accounts of the only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We have seen him in his divine majesty, whose birth was announced by the most glorious angels, who was worshiped in his manger bed by the kings of the earth, and who appeared in radiant light with Moses and Elijah. We have seen him in his meekness and humility, walking as a despised and rejected man, full of sorrows, often weary and full of the most human emotions. We have seen much of his mercy, and have marveled at his signs of grace and forgiveness, his healing of all, his casting out demons, his calm control over winds and waves. We have seen the foretastes of his coming terrible wrath against arrogant sinners, as he fearlessly denounced the Pharisees and hypocrites, and spoke of his future judgment of the entire world. And we have seen him in the grand and culminative display of these various attributes as he was lifted up on the cross for the sins of the world, at one and the same time showing forth the infinite depths of his obedient humility and accomplishing the mightiest and most resounding victory of the ages, putting all the forces of darkness to open shame, and winning an eternal Kingdom of grace, and the Name which is above all names.
How the Doctrine of the Trinity Shapes the Christian Mission
In any discussion of Christian theology, it is virtually axiomatic that the doctrine of the trinity is the foundational doctrine which distinguishes a peculiarly Christian theology from the theology of any other religion, especially of the other great monotheistic religions. Likewise, in any discussion of Christian missiology, it is virtually axiomatic that the core pursuit of the Christian mission is to make good on the commission with which Christ left his Church, to make disciples of all the nations, as recorded in Matthew 28:18-20. But consider: if the doctrine of the trinity is the foundation of Christian theology and the Great Commission to make disciples is the foundation of the Christian mission, then that acknowledgment must have a necessary formative effect on the ultimate goal of missions. A major component of the Christian mission is to teach the doctrine which Christ left the disciples; a major part of that doctrine (or rather, all of it) is trinitarian. Therefore, the doctrine of the trinity must shape the way in which we go about our task as Christian missionaries. I am not sure that all of the ramifications of this concept have been well enough thought out in typical works on missiology. In order to pursue this idea further, this article will reflect briefly on the nature of the trinity, and then explore how those trinitarian truths must shape the goal, means, and source of the Christian mission.
Contemplation on Christ
When God initiates his plan of salvation in a person, he will complete it. If he regenerates the heart of a sinner so that he can see the things of God, he will draw him irresistibly to his son, Jesus Christ, who purchased his salvation on the cross, and through the work of the Holy Spirit will escort him through this life to the glory of the Father's presence. And he will be as secure in that process as if he were living in the loving hand of God himself.
- J.D. Wetterling
Book Review: Altogether Lovely, by Jonathan Edwards
Synopsis: The American Puritan Jonathan Edwards is well known for his keen insight into theological matters, his brilliant rational mind and the logical precision with which he explores every question he encounters in the text of scripture, and the flame of soul-deep passion and ardor which those minute biblical explorations fuel. These characteristics are seen nowhere more clearly than when he is speaking of the person and work of Christ. To Edwards, the beautiful mystery of Jesus Christ is the only illimitable and eternal source of heart-thrilling meditation and worship. And when so gifted a theologian and so passionate a Christ-lover as Jonathan Edwards turns the fire of his heart and the brilliance of his mind to the subject of the glory and excellency of Jesus, the result is a profound celebration of joy and an exhilarating foretaste of the very blessedness of heaven. Altogether Lovely, from the pen of America's most exact thinker and heavenly-minded theologian, is a rich, rich book. If it cannot stir your heart to rejoice in the Savior, then your heart must be utterly dead indeed!
When one reads many theological works which are good, true, and helpful, it takes a very unusual book to capture his attention in a way that sets it apart from any other of its kind. Altogether Lovely, by Jonathan Edwards, is one of those books that stands apart from others in its class. It is unusual both for the exactness of its precision and the beauty of its descriptive language. It is a commingling of the most minute science with the most inspired art, which both work together to paint a portrait of the altogether lovely Savior that cannot but thrill the souls of them who likewise love him. There is no class of Christian and no sort of earthly problem that cannot be helped by a clearer view of Jesus Christ. And there is almost no one more capable of directing the eyes of men to Jesus Christ than Jonathan Edwards. Whoever you are, and whatever your struggle may be, read this book! It will be a help to you, no matter what sort of help you might need.
Praying for Muslims Today
Next time you pray today, please remember to pray for the worldwide community of Muslims.
December 20 begins Eid-al-Adha or "Sacrifice Day," the three-day holiday in which Muslims celebrate Abraham's sacrifice of his son, Ishmael, to Allah. Believing that Allah supplied a ram in Ishmael's place, Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice a sheep, ram, goat, camel, water buffalo or cow and donate one third of the meat to the poor, one third to relatives and friends, and one third is kept for them. Distributing meat among people is considered an essential part of the festival during this period, as well as chanting Takbir out loud before the Eid prayer on the first day and after prayers through out the four days of Eid.
Ask God to open eyes on this holiday and turn souls from darkness to light. Pray the Lord illumine and open their hearts, breaking from all form of bondage that they may turn to Christ.
This is not your father's Mormonism
Old and New Mormonism contrasted in an article by Dr. James White here.
Images of the Savior (50 - His Appearances to his Followers)
We have followed our great Savior with tears and trembling to the Garden of Gethsemane, where he poured out his soul in unspeakable sorrow, we have wept in shame at the kiss of the betrayer, melted in horror at the perversion of justice which he encountered in all the courts of the land, cried out against the shame and mockery and cruel stripes that were laid upon him, seen him lifted up in our place as a curse and sin-bearer, and finally taken our stand at the empty tomb where the bitterness and agony give way to the unspeakable joy of everlasting victory in those most blessed of all utterances, â€œHe is risen, just as he saidâ€. What more then can we say? How can further reflection on the earthly life of our Savior and God be anything but an anti-climactic end to a story that has already concluded with the greatest news in history? And yet, upon further consideration, we are convinced that the very earth-shaking, eternity-shaping significance of Jesus' death and resurrection demands a final chapter. These events were too mighty to have an end in first-century Palestine: their monumental effects still reverberate throughout the world, and will continue to create in their beneficiaries the glorious fruit of sincere worship for all eternity. Just what the great effects of this greatest of all events should be has yet to be mentioned, as well as how they should come about. To this end, then, we follow our Redeemer for one last chapter, as he makes his post-resurrection appearances to his followers, and instructs them in light of his superlative accomplishment.
The Eschatological Advent Season- Rev. C. R. Biggs
Dear People of God,
One famous Christmas song gleefully declares: "It's the most wonderful time of the year!" That of course means different things to different people. For the Christian, this "most wonderful time of the year" should be a time of celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and the fact that God truly dwelled in human flesh "with us". This time of year should also be lived in eager anticipation and joyful expectation as we await the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
How May We Know Whether We Love God?
He who loves God desires His presence. Lovers cannot be long asunder, they soon have their fainting fits, for lack of a sight of the object of their love. A soul deeply in love with God desires the enjoyment of Him. David was ready to faint away, when he had not a sight of God. "My soul faints for God." Psalm 84:2
He who loves God, does not love sin. "You who love the Lordâ€”hate evil." Psalm 97:10. The love of Godâ€”and the love of sin, can no more mix together than iron and clay. Every sin loved, strikes at the being of God. He who loves
God, has an antipathy against sin. He who would part two lovers is a hateful person. God and the believing soul are two lovers; sin parts between them, therefore the soul is implacably set against sin. By this try your love to God. How can he say he loves God, who loves sinâ€”which is God's enemy?
He who loves God is not much in love with anything else. His love is very cool to worldly things. The love of the world eats out the heart of piety; it chokes holy affections, as earth puts out the fire. He who loves Godâ€”uses the world but chooses God. The world engages himâ€”but God delights and satisfies him. He says as David, "God, my exceeding joy!" Psalm 43:4. "God is the cream of my joy!"
He who loves God cannot live without Him. Things we love, we cannot be without. A man can do without music or flowers, but not food. Just so, a soul deeply in love with God looks upon himself as undone without Him. "Hide not Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down into the pit." Psalm 143:7. If God is our chief goodâ€”we cannot live without Him! Alas! how do they show they have no love to Godâ€”who can do well enough without Him! Let them have but food and drink, and you shall never hear them complain of the lack of God.
He who loves God will be at any pains to get Him. What pains the merchant takes, what hazards he runsâ€”to have a rich return. Jacob loved Rachel, and he could endure the heat by day, and the frost by nightâ€”that he might enjoy her. A soul that loves God will take any pains for the fruition of Him. "My soul follows hard after You." Psalm 63:8. The soul is much in prayer; it strives as in agony, that he may obtain Him whom his soul loves. "I will seek Him whom my soul loves." Canticles 3:2.
He who loves God, prefers Him before estate. "For Whom I have suffered the loss of all things." Phil 3:8. Who that loves a rich jewelâ€”would not part with a flower for it?
Excerpt from The Ten Commandments by Thomas Watson
Book Review: The Future of Justification, by John Piper
Synopsis: As unpleasant and heart-wrenching as controversy in the Church might be, it may nevertheless be put to very useful ends, when handled appropriately. The new ideas that become the subject of scrutiny may have some elements of truth by which to nuance more accurately the old, beloved doctrines. The refutation of all which rings false in those new ideas calls for new arguments and a more involved and minute understanding of the doctrines under question. In either case, the end result is that the truth is understood more clearly, provided the controversy is approached with the wisdom and Christian grace and sobriety that ought to characterize the leaders of the Church. Polemical works which reflect these qualities (rare as they may be!) are an indispensable help in addressing the contemporary needs of the Church. The Future of Justification, by John Piper, is one of those works â€“ clear-minded, fair, gracious, and sober â€“ which turns a controversy into an opportunity for growth. It is all but indispensable for the pastor or Christian leader who would be up to date on the current issues within Christianity.
Spirit Empowered Preaching
â€œWhen I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony of God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spiritâ€™s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on Godâ€™s power."
In order to get this book into the hands of as many preachers as possible we are reducing Arturo Azurdia's Spirit Empowered Preaching to the lowest price ever - a 40% discount. The supplies at this price are limited so get them while you can. We cannot recommend this book too highly - In our estimation this book lives up to its' hype.
Some of the questions this book answers
â€¢ What is the overarching storyline of the Bible?
â€¢ What is the Holy Spiritâ€™s new covenant ministry in relationship to Jesus Christ?
â€¢ How are we to understand the nature of the Holy Spiritâ€™s relationship to the Scriptures?
â€¢ What kind of preaching is the Holy Spirit most inclined to empower?
â€¢ Is the ministry of the Holy Spirit confined to preparation for preaching or is it something that occurs during the actual preaching event?
â€¢ What is the responsibility of the preacher in Spirit empowered preaching? What is the responsibility of the congregation?
Christmas on the Isle of Patmos: "A Christmas Revelation"
REV. CHARLES R. BIGGS
The Book of Revelation is saturated with the Old Testament in its truth and symbolism. This book declares to readers a blessing that makes it unique out of all the inspired books (although there is indeed a blessing when you read them as well).
ESV Revelation 1:3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.
At the risk of being simplistic, but attempting to be simple, the Book of Revelation, written by the Apostle John is to give a visual picture of the great cosmic conflict between the Seed of the Woman (who is ultimately Christ), and the seed of the serpent (the Devil and the enemies of God).
Many people look in the Book of Revelation for the key to certain significant future events, but it should be argued that the bookâ€™s purpose (and purpose of the Apostle John who wrote it) is more concerned with making sense of the past redemptive-acts and revealed truths of God, and bringing it into the story of Godâ€™s people today (whenever and wherever that â€œtodayâ€ applies).
Here in Revelation 12, we have a wonderful â€œChristmasâ€ passage and it is considered by many sound interpreters of the book to be the central summary chapter of the entire Apocalypse of John. Dr. Vern Poythress calls this chapter a â€œsymbolic historyâ€ of Godâ€™s redemption in Christ (The Returning King: A Guide to the Book of Revelation, pg. 133-34).
The story of Godâ€™s redemption of his people came to a great climatic crescendo in the fullness of the times when God became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1, 14). Christmas is the time we should remember and celebrate as the birth of the â€œSeed of the Womanâ€ who would crush the head of the serpent as God promised in Eden when the Gospel of Godâ€™s grace was announced for the first time (Gen. 3:15-16).
Essays on the New Birth
The New Birth (.pdf) Essays by William Plumer, Octavius Winslow, Arthur W. Pink, John Gill, James Buchanan, J. C. Ryle, John Owen, Charles H. Spurgeon -- These are very helpful essays from the Free Grace Broadcaster's Winter 2007 edition. Very edifying and crucial to understand if one is to have a well-rounded ministry. John Owen said, "THE work of the Spirit of God in regenerating the souls of men is diligently to be inquired into by the preachers of the Gospel and all to whom the Word is dispensed. For the former sort, there is a peculiar reason for their attendance unto this duty, for they are used and employed in the work itself by the Spirit of God and are by Him made instrumental for the effecting of this new birth and life...Now, certainly it is the duty of ministers to understand the work about which they are employed, as far as they are able, that they may not work in the dark and fight uncertainly, as men beating the air. What the Scripture hath revealed concerning it, as to its nature and the manner of its operation, as to its causes, effects, fruits, evidences, they ought diligently to inquire into. To be spiritually skilled therein is one of the principal furnishments of any for the work of the ministry, without which they will never be able to divide the Word aright, nor show themselves workmen that need not be ashamed." We agree with Owen and believe that if you are not going to a church that preaches the kind of Christ-honoring principles in the following essays, then we are only getting a partial gospel at best. Set aside some time to read and linger over these Bible-saturated essays.
Guidance of the Word and Spirit
In general, God guides and directs His people, by affording them, in answer to prayer, the light of His Holy Spirit, who enables them to understand and to love the Scriptures.
The word of God furnishes us with just principles, and right apprehensions, to regulate our judgments and affections, and thereby to influence and direct our conduct. Those who study the Scriptures, in a humble dependence upon Divine teaching, are taught to make a true estimate of everything around them, and are gradually formed into a spirit of submission to the will of God. They thereby discover the nature and duties of their several situations and relations in life, and the snares and temptations to which they are exposed.
The word of God dwelling richly in them, is a preservative from error, a light to their feet, and a spring of strength and consolation. By treasuring up the doctrines, precepts, promises, examples, and exhortations of Scripture, in their minds, and daily comparing themselves with the rule by which they walk, they grow into a habitual frame of spiritual wisdom, and acquire a gracious taste, which enables them to judge of right and wrong with a degree of
readiness and certainty, as a musical ear judges of sounds. And they are seldom mistaken, because they are influenced by the love of Christ, which rules in their hearts, and a regard to the glory of God, which is the great object they have in view.
The Lord, whom they serve, does not disappoint their expectations. He leads them by a right way, preserves them from a thousand snares, and satisfies them that He is and will be their guide even unto death.
- John Newton
Review: 2000 Years of Christâ€™s Power by N.R. Needham
Review by Tony Reinke: 2000 Years of Christâ€™s Power by N.R. Needham
I enjoy reading. I enjoy devotional works, some biographies, systematic theologies, and technical commentaries (some of which I have read cover-to-cover!). But unlike a good systematic theology, church history books â€” even the best ones â€” never grabbed me with two-hands on the collar, pulled me to my feet, looked me in the eye, and captured my attention.
Often â€œchurch historyâ€ books contain too little personal information to understand the characters or too little theological development to understand the contemporary importance of the ancient debates. Sometimes church histories include too many loosely-connected people that they become a mess of names, dates, and cities far disconnected from my Christian experience and theology.
But over the past year I think Iâ€™m growing in my appreciation for church history through a growing interest in historical theology. Historical theology being the discipline of tracing events, controversies, personalities and books over the centuries that have shaped the churchâ€™s theology.
Historical theology is hard on the collar.
But excellent books on historical theology are a rarity. The most commonly recommend is the standard work by Alister McGrathâ€™s, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought (Wiley-Blackwell: 1998). And there are some systematic theologies with an awareness of historical developments (like Culver and Akin). But my radar is always on the lookout for other volumes.
Knowing Our God
Of all the possible pursuits, activities, or studies that are practically relevant and positively beneficial which we might spend our time pursuing, there is none, however profitable or necessary, that is as needful and uplifting and valuable as the subject matter of this study. As Christians, there is nothing more practical for us than to know our God. As created beings, there is nothing we need more than to understand our Creator. As desperate and wandering souls searching for significance, longing for something that is infinitely satisfying, seeking pleasure from finite things when God â€œhas set eternity in [our] heartâ€ (Ecclesiastes 3:11), there is nothing that can even begin to answer to the depths of our vast needs, desires, and longings, except for one thing. That one thing is knowing our God. And that one thing is what we are hoping by his grace to pursue in this study. I hope that all of us can resonate with the truth A. W. Pink once observed, that â€œa spiritual and saving knowledge of God is the greatest need of every human creature,â€ and furthermore, that â€œthe foundation of all true knowledge of God must be a clear mental apprehension of His perfections as revealed in Holy Scripture.â€ As we turn to the scriptures, it is with the hope and prayer that God will â€ shine in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christâ€ (II Corinthians 4:6).
Is God Angry at Sin?
"So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horseâ€™s bridle, for 1,600 stadia." Revelation 14:19-20
"He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords." Revelation 19:15-16
For those few of you not familiar with him, Rob Bell is one of the leading spokesmen of the emerging (t) church and was featured in a recent Time magazine article. He prides himself on teaching a God of love and not one of condemnation. But his recent â€œThe Gods Are Not Angryâ€ tour, as one blogger pointed out, sounded more like Oprah's god than any semblance of one which represented Christ. Unlike Oprah, whose followers are mostly women over 50, Bells' disciples are predominately young 20-something males.
One of the main messages that Bell is communicating to his audience, for which he gets standing ovations, is that 'God is not angry because God is love'. Does this sound familiar to anyone? It should because it is the vision of god which we hear from pop-culture every day. So from all appearances, Bell is essentially saying is that we should abandon the God of the Bible for a more user-friendly version. How is this different than the anti-doctrinal tactic already used by today's mega-churches? Well, not much except that it is dressed in postmodern garb. It avoids doctrine and goes straight for practice (not orthodoxy but orthopraxy). In other words, it is just 19th & 20th century liberalism refashioned for the current age. Jesus without content and thus Jesus without grace.
It is not Christianity. How do I know? Consider the following question:
Do you believe you justly deserve the wrath of God save for Christ's mercy alone?
Can someone even be a Christian if they cannot unhesitatingly affirm this?
What's my theology?
"No Christian can avoid theology. Every Christian has a theology. The issue, then, is not, do we want to have a theology? That's a given. The real issue is, do we have a sound theology? Do we embrace true or false doctrine?" R. C. Sproul
I have a confession to make: I am a Calvinistic, charismatic, complementarian, Christian hedonist. Confused? Read more here. Having written this article (well I can't even say I wrote much of the article myself), I am now running for cover in the trenches while the bullets fly at me from all directions.. Merry Christmas everyone!!! :-)
- Rev. John Samson
Images of the Savior (49 â€“ His Resurrection)
When Jesus had poured out his soul as an offering for sin, having accomplished the Father's will and satisfied his wrath, he cried out, â€œIt is finished!â€, and laid down his life; and in those words, we have a certain hope that nothing remains for our salvation to be complete. The work has been done, the price has been paid, and we who have looked upon him are free from our sin and guilt forevermore. However, that climactic utterance was only half the story; and if the great event of the following Sunday had not occurred, it would have been stripped of all its power, and we would have remained â€œof all men most miserableâ€ (I Corinthians 15:17-19), still lost in our sins, with no Hero to look to who could strip the devil and hell and death itself, and bring us out from under their authority. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is his final crown of victory, and the culminating stamp of approval from the Father: his work had been sufficient, his matchless power had been triumphant, he had won the day, and henceforth had but to wait at the Father's right hand, on his throne of glory, until all things were brought under his feet (Ephesians 1:19-23). The resurrection of Christ seals the greatest victory in history, and is the illimitable source of speechless joy, flowing forth in waves of delight and flooding his children with peace and happiness for all eternity. Come to the empty tomb with me, and let us lift up our voices in wonder at the blessed hope of the ages!
Is Justification is the CAUSE of regeneration?
These are some excerpts from a recent conversation with a visitor.
Visitor: Justification is the CAUSE of regeneration, just as sin is the cause of death. Sproul and others are teaching that justification comes two steps AFTER regeneration in a literal temporal order. They teach that faith comes, not IN, but AFTER regeneration, and that only THEN are we justified. That means that we are united to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, but not YET justified. Our union with Christ doesn't justify us, it only "enables" us to do the work necessary to get ourselves justified. I hold that justification can't FOLLOW regeneration, because it is the CAUSE of regeneration. I also hold that we can't be united to Christ (by regeneration) if justification has not occurred and we are still in our sins. Even if you say that these events are "nearly" simultaneous, it would still mean that the body of Christ has sin that has not been dealt with, if only for the briefest time.
Response; I may have misunderstood, but from all appearances you are denying that the Spirit can work in any way on an unregenerate person to change their heart prior to belief (since regeneration cannot, by definition, precede faith in your book). But this is obviously not the case. Can you repent and believe in Christ by your own power? No, the Spirit works before, during and after salvation. Even though you [elsewhere] claim to be monergistic, if you deny that the Spirit acts in some way to bring forth belief, your challenge is essentially a denial of this aspect of the Spirit's work. Sproul is not and has never, taught a temporal order in the way you describe. You may have misunderstood him and others who use temporal language (in order to distinguish the benefits of salvation) to describe a non-temporal event. The purpose of this is to demonstrate the Spirit's monergistic working in the soul that is causally "prior" to any human response. To clarify perhaps we can consider the following text of Scripture and an example from the physical world:
In Acts it reads that when Paul was preaching "...the Lord opened her [Lydia's] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul." Plainly, here the Spirit works a change in the heart of the person prior to their faith. Regeneration is a change of our heart of stone to a heart of flesh - the Spirit working grace and faith in their heart of the unregenerate prior to anything else. In other words, no one believes while their heart is still stone and something (regenerative grace) must occur before a change happens. The heart must first be made flesh. God does something to change the heart of people prior to ANY faith, though one is connected to, and springs from, the other. The Bible calls this work regeneration.
Can you repent and believe in Christ by your own power?
Can you repent and believe in Christ by your own power? - This is one of the many great questions asked by Dana Dirksen on her new children's CD - Questions With Answers: Vol. 3: Christ and His Work (CD). The music from Songs for Saplings is designed to help you teach your children about God. The Songs for Saplings: Questions with Answers Volumes 1-3 are designed for children age 3-5, 5-6, and 6-7 respectively. It is Dana's prayer that these CDs will continue to "find their way into night table CD players and minivans around the world" so that children can continue to hear these great truths from scripture. That they can learn about their God, how he cares for them, and that they can learn to love him more.
What parents are saying about Songs for Saplings:
"My children love your music! They have learned so many Bible verses and Bible concepts through listening to your music, and can't stop singing and dancing to it! Our family has been so blessed by your gift of spreading God's word through music. Thank you!"
"Dana's music has really impacted our WHOLE family. Her music and especially the lyrics are far superior than your typical "kids' praise/worship music" with substantial Scriptural backing. It has become a witnessing tool for our children when we pick up kids for school, lessons or basketball."
Questions With Answers: Vol. 3: Christ and His Work (CD).Available at Monergism Books
Substitutionary Atonement and Double Imputation - 2nd Century AD
"He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us â€“ the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! â€“ that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!"
The quote is from The Epistle to Diognetus 9, translated by Maxwell Staniforth. This text dates from the mid to late 2nd century AD. It is an early indication that the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and double imputation were not first the product of the Protestant Reformation, but were held dear by the earliest generations of Christians. The author is unknown - he refers to himself simply as a mathetes â€œdiscipleâ€.
Images of the Savior (48 â€“ His Crucifixion)
As we follow our Savior to the hill of Calvary, we have come to the very time and place for which history was designed. This is the only reference point which gives meaning to all time and reality; no verse in all of scriptures and no event in all of history makes sense until it is related to what took place here. Consider for a moment how all the Old Testament scriptures prepare for this event, from the first prophecy of the Messiah given in Genesis 3:15, to the clothing that the gracious God made for Adam and Eve, to the blood sacrifice of Abel and all the rivers of blood that followed from that point on. Consider the tension built up to a mighty paradox, that the essential nature of God is that he has mercy upon thousands of generations, and yet will not at all acquit the wicked (Exodus 34:6-7), those two great attributes of the Lord that cry out for a resolution, a resolution which is pictured and foreshadowed in many countless ways in prescribed Jewish worship, and yet never adequately accomplished. Consider how central this event was to the life of Christ, the God-Man, whose every step he took was self-consciously a step closer to this climactic and dramatic sacrifice. Consider how central it was to the writers of the New Testament, whose gospel consisted only of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (I Corinthians 15:3-4), how central it is to all the centuries following, in which the full fruits of that mighty work are being gathered from the nations, and how central it will be in all eternity, when the blood-bought multitude sings the praises of the Lamb who was slain in never-ending worship. What is your trouble today? It may be resolved in only one way: looking to the pierced side of our Savior, which flowed with the blood of substitution, for our forgiveness; and the water of purification, for our cleansing. This is all our hope: let us live at the foot of the cross every day of our lives, until our merciful Savior takes us to the home that he prepared for us on Golgotha! Let us now reflect a little further on the centrality of this event.