"...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)

Book Review: God's Indwelling Presence, by James M. Hamilton, Jr.

Synopsis: The question of the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Old Testament saints is a difficult and complicated one, which has received a variety of different answers from within the Reformed community. In God's Indwelling Presence, James M. Hamilton, Jr. undertakes to trace out a biblical theology from the whole testimony of the scriptures, but most particularly the Gospel of John, in order to discover a biblically-consistent testimony regarding Old Testament pneumatology; the result is a thorough, up-to-date, and compelling case for a position which may be surprising to some, but in support of which Hamilton has laid out some very compelling evidence. All in all, this is a very insightful and engaging work, and deserves a reading far beyond the borders of the scholarly community.

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March 26, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Recent Book Reviews from

Book Review: One True God by Paul David Washer

Book Review: Finally Alive, by John Piper

Book Review: The Gospel for Real Life, by Jerry Bridges

Book Review: The Crook in the Lot, by Thomas Boston

Review: Basic Training for Defending the Faith (DVD)

Book Review: Chosen for Life by Sam Storms

DVD Review: Discipleship Explored

Book Review: Don't Stop Believing by Michael E. Wittmer

Book review: Feed My Sheep: Passionate Plea for Preaching

Book review: The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges

Book Review: Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent and Barbara Hughes

March 23, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

"The Word did it all..." - Martin Luther

"Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble.... I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn't have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug's game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word." (Luther's Works)

March 20, 2009  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Book Review: Get Outta My Face, by Rick Horne

It's an age-old problem: teenagers who are rebellious, angry, unmotivated, acting out, and in desperate need of the truth; but when anyone confronts them with the truth, they will not listen. They see the parent or counselor as hypocritical, judgmental, disconnected, totally unable to understand them or their problems. It's as if they are speaking different languages. How can a parent or counselor get beyond this impasse, and speak to teenagers in a way that will command their respect and willingness to listen to what they have to say? In Get Outta My Face, Rick Horne addresses this question with a good dose of common sense, practical wisdom, and the insight that comes from years of experience.

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March 17, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Old Calvinism or Dispensationalism?

With regard to the recent article in Time magazine which notes that the New Calvinism is one of the top ten ideas changing the world right now Pastor Mark Driscoll made the following observations last week on his blog, where I think he must be confusing Calvinism with something else. He says:

1) Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
2) Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
3) Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
4) Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them.

Comment: Pastor Dricoll is perhaps mistakenly viewing the fleeing the city, do not engage culture, mentality as belonging to the "Old Calvinism" although I am not certain who, in particular, he is referring to here. -- I speculate he may be referring to Dispensationalism of the 20th century some of which may have had an element calvinistic soteriology but was not Calvinism or Reformed Theology in the classic sense of the term. Some Reformed churches may have left the cities in the 20th century ... but it may be anachronistic of him to read the post-Reagan gentrification of the cities back into the 60s and 70s. Calvinists hardly existed in the 20th century and I think the Time essay may simply refer to its resurgence after a century of dormancy. The Old Calvinism ( see Kuyper, Calvin, the Puritans) were most-of-the-time culturally engaging, not fundamentalistic or foxhole in their mentality. Next, Driscoll's comment about the old Calvinism's treatment of the Holy Spirit is off in my estimation. Calvin was well-known as the theologian of the Holy Spirit and most of those he influenced put the Holy Spirit front and center in their ministry. There is no Calvinism or Reformed Theology without a robust understanding of regeneration and union with Christ. True that the Old Calvinism was cessationist with regard to spirital gifts, but so is a large number of the new Calvinists. No offense intended to Drisoll. Just thought the post was a bit inaccurate.

March 16, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Justified - "Just As If I'd Always Obeyed"

"For He has made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Cor 5:21

Picture a moral ledger sheet with every word, thought, deed and motive of yours entered on that sheet. Most hope the good will outweigh the bad. The problem is that all of our deeds are stained, all are unclean and impure. There is no such thing as a positive ledger sheet - except in the case of Christ. His ledger sheet was perfect. So at the cross, our ledger sheet was charged to Christ, all our sin; and so His ledger sheet is credited to us.

"Justified" is not "Just as if I'd never sinned." That is a great truth. But it is actually better than that: "Just as if I'd always obeyed." God has credited the very righteousness of Jesus Christ to every believer. - Jerry Bridges (from a recent message at PCRT 2009 Sacramento)

March 16, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

How Sweet the Sound...

Perhaps no song captures the heart of reformed theology better than the classic hymn "Amazing Grace" by John Newton. Indeed "twas grace that taught my heart to fear..." is the heart cry of every child of God who recognizes that it was God's irresisitible grace alone that opened our hearts to see the beauty of Christ and His gospel, it is grace that has brought us safe thus far, and in what is called the doctrine of the perseverance (or preservation) of the saints, it is indeed God's grace that will lead us home.

I was sent this link today and in playing it, found it to be deeply moving. Here is Amazing Grace sung by a very talented foursome IL DIVO, with the help of a wonderful Scottish bagpipe player. Have your sound turned up, click on the link here and enjoy! - JS

March 15, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Does Man Have a Free WIll? And Does Predestination Eliminate Our Will?

Visitor Comment: Words need to have meaning or all argument becomes nonsense. Either salvation is open to all or it is not. Either it is predestined who goes to heaven or it’s an individual’s choice to choose salvation through Christ. You can not have it both ways and be thinking logically and rationally. The bottom line, the predestination doctrine eliminates the role of an individual’s free will.

Response: Hi and thanks for your comment. However, the Bible does not teach anywhere that natural man has a free will ... but rather that his will is in bondage to sin (2 Timothy 2:26; Rom 6:17, 20; 1 Cor 2:14). and since I agree with you that words do mean something, last time I looked, that which is in bondage is not free. Ask yourself, in light of clear biblical teaching, can a person believe the gospel apart form the work of the Holy Spirit? If not, then you agree that, left to himself, man is morally powerless to come to Christ. (i.e. has no free will.) He can make voluntary choices but he sins by necessity. No one coerces him since he voluntarily chooses to sin and yet he cannot do otherwise until Christ set him free - so until we are joined to Christ by the Spirit we will ALWAYS reject the gospel. And this is exactly what Jesus teaches when he tells us that no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:65).

Secondly, it is important to consider that God demands that you obey the ten commandments perfectly? Have you? No, none of us have. That is why we need a Savior ... who Himself was without sin having obeyed all God's commands. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. In the same way the command to believe the gospel cannot be obeyed apart from the Holy Spirit. HIs salvation includes delivering us from the bondage of the will. The Holy Spirit gives us a new heart, opens our blind eyes and unplugs our deaf ears ... without which we would never come to saving faith on our own. The scripture says no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart form the Holy Spirit. If someone owes a debt they cannot repay (like us) then the inability to repay the debt does not alleviate us of the responsibility to do so. The point is that you appear to have a lot of unbiblical assumptions in your statement. Back up what you say with Scripture, not just your unaided logic and then we have a place to start.

Please consider this question:. If many of us hear the gospel and some people end up believing and others do not, what makes these people to differ? Are some more natually inclined to the gospel? Are some more wise? No, it is Jesus that makes people to differ. Salvation is by the grace of Jesus Christ alone. If we believe the gospel then it is by grace we have believed. Only a new heart can love and trust Jesus. Faith does not come from an unregenerate heart. We did not come up with faith ourselves. Otherwise we could boast and thank ourself for not being like other men who did not make such a good choice. Our choice is real but requires regenerating grace or we would all perish.

Solus Christus

March 13, 2009  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

Images of the Savior (48 -- Conclusion)

Do not think that I will condemn you before the Father: there is one who condemns you, Moses, in whom you have hope. For if you believed Moses, then you would have believed me, for he wrote about me; but if you do not believe his letters, how shall you believe my words? – John 5:45-46

Dear ones in Christ, we have now finished our survey of the books of Moses, and we have had many weighty things impressed upon us. Let us now take a few moments to consider what we have heard, in order that we might be very careful not to drift away: “for if the word which was spoken through angels was firm, and every transgression and disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape, having been careless of so great a salvation, which began to be spoken of by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by those who heard, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders and diverse miracles and apportionings of the Holy Spirit according to his will” (Hebrews 2:2-4)? But we trust that it will not be so, but rather, having witnessed the beginning of the gospel of Christ, which Moses testified to, we will run all the more assiduously to the fullness of the gospel in the broad daylight, which God has now spoken to us perfectly through his Son (Hebrews 1:1-4).

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March 13, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Criteria For Evaluating Preaching

An elder at my church kindly passed on this helpful list of CRITERIA FOR EVALUATING PREACHING…
In 4 “bullet point” form gives a few things to think about if you are evaluating or considering a preacher when on a pastoral search committee. No doubt there are other things to look for but these are a good place to start.

• Authoritative – this “text” is binding upon believers and not to be demeaned.
• Logical – the train of thought is followed easily and well structured.
• Don’t talk about self – leave “me” of the message (talk about us and them but not me) - points to Christ.
• “Take Aways” – What is the message about, and what is the listener to learn and remember for the day/weeks ahead.

Did the sermon comfort the distressed? – God has made provision
Did it distress the comfortable? -God is relentless in reminding us that “our relationship with Him lasts because He chooses us, not because of our devotion and/or obedience.”

If we only do the former we’ll comfort the self-righteous; if we only do the latter, we’ll lose our audience without Christ. Feel free to add more in the comments.

March 12, 2009  |  Comments (9)   |  Permalink

It IS the wrath of God

America follows Europe's lead, and as God has blessed the USA greatly with material blessings, we have become more and more hardenend in our thanklessness. We focus upon ourselves, our needs, and revel in our sins. Yes, of course the church has failed to clearly preach the gospel, clearly call for repentance, choosing a man-friendly version of "preaching" that allows you to avoid the scandal of the gospel. But a healthy, thriving church is a blessing on any nation, and the fact is, a nation in love with itself and at war with God does not deserve the blessing of a sound church. The two are intertwined. I truly believe that what we are seeing today with the perversion of marriage, the exaltation of deviancy, etc., is not what will bring the wrath of God, it is the wrath of God. - Dr. James White

March 12, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Book Review: The One True God, by Paul David Washer

In the Christian life, progress is ultimately made through learning. We do not become better Christians by pursuing good works which are divorced from an increasing understanding of God; but rather, our good works increase, by the power of the Spirit, as we grow in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why, as we seek to grow in grace and to disciple other believers, especially those who are new to the faith, it is of first concern that we strive to do so by pursuing a biblical understanding of who God is, and how he relates to man. The One True God, by Paul Washer, puts feet to that concept. It is perhaps the best basic disciple-making tool on the doctrine of God that I have come across, and will be one of my first recommendations to new believers. Because of the following three characteristics, in particular, I find this workbook highly commendable:

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March 09, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink


The new birth; that work of the Holy Spirit by which the soul, previously dead in sins, is created anew in Christ unto righteousness. It is expressed in Scripture by being born again and born from above, Joh 3:3-7; becoming a new creature, 2Co 5:17; being quickened to a new life of holiness, Eph 2:1; having Christ formed in the heart, Ga 4:19; and being made partaker of the divine nature, 2Pe 1:4.

The sole author of this change is the Holy Spirit, Joh 1:12,13 3:4 Eph 2:8-10; and he effects it ordinarily by the instrumentality of gospel truth, 1Co 4:15 Jas 1:18 1Pe 1:23. In this change the moral image of God is brought back into the soul, and the principle of supreme love to our neighbor is implanted. Regeneration, producing faith, is accompanied by justification, and by actual holiness of life, or sanctification begun, and completed when the "babe in Christ" reaches in heaven "the fulness of the stature of the perfect man" in Him. In Mt 19:28, regeneration means Christ’s making all things new. In Tit 3:5, "the washing of regeneration" denotes the purifying work of the Spirit in the new birth.

Bible Dictionary - American Tract Society

March 09, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Interact | Discipleship Ideas

Friends Out There

There are a lot of "basic Christianity" type of materials out there. I would consider most such materials to be in the categories of "apologetics" or "evangelism," as they seem to be geared toward persuading skeptics of the truths of Christianity. But, let's say someone became a Christian recently, and you (a mature believer) started meeting with him or her regularly to help them grow in faith and obedience. To what do you turn for a structured approach to basic discipleship? What books (or other materials) do you use to help build a new Christian toward maturity? It should be simple enough for someone new to the faith to understand and not feel overwhelmed, and foundational enough to get at the core of the Christian life.

Ready… discuss!

March 06, 2009  |  Comments (28)   |  Permalink

The Procession and Consumation of Salvation

Salvation proceeds from our election in Christ but is not consumated until regeneration. Election itself does not save but was the blueprint for Christ's historical work regarding those God has given Him from eternity (Eph 1:4, John 6:37, 65; 17:9) which Jesus redeems in time and joins to himself by the Holy Spirit when quickened. The foundation of this gracious election is solely God's good pleasure which implies that salvation is pure grace. The existence of faith in a person is the way to come to certainty that we have been elect of God. Since salvation is in God's hands and not ours we owe the entirely of it to Him alone who deserves all the glory. Our comfort and certainty rests in what Christ has accomplished for us and not anything we have done for Him.

It is through the means of grace that people come to saving faith, which refelects the work of the Holy Spirit. Faith is really the most important work of the Spirit because it does not originate in unregenerate man. It comes from the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that no one can say 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. This means that all men are unspiritual and cannot understand the gospel apart from the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:14). So it is through the preaching of the word and the use of the sacraments that the Spirit germinates faith (Rom 10) and the continuing desire to obey Christ. These are the means by which the Holy Spirit joins us in communion with Christ. The word of God particularly is the instrument in which the Spirit illumines the understanding of believers. Some wonder why we would bother to preach the gospel if predestination is true. The reason is that God uses means (his word) to accomplish that end and nothing happens apart from it. Faith necessitates the Holy Spirit using the word to open our eyes, unplug our ears and turn our heart of strone to a heart of flesh. This is why there is a varied responses to the outward call of the gospel. Those who respond do not do so because they are smarter or generated better thoughts than their neighbor, it is because the Spirit worked faith in the heart of those who believed (John 6:63-65; Eph 2:5). Election thefore, becomes a reality through the calling of the Holy Spirit. The Father elects in Christ, the Son redeems and the Holy Spirit applies that redemption to those the Father chose and joins them to Christ, our only hope. The call of the gospel goes out to all people, but no one (not one) responds to the call apart from inward work of the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul said, "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction." May the Lord alone be glorified.

March 06, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Images of the Savior (47 -- The Final Song and Blessing of Moses)

Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by Yahweh, the Shield of your help and the Sword of your splendor? Your enemies shall come cringing unto you, and you shall tread upon their high places. – Deuteronomy 33:29

We have now come to the conclusion of Deuteronomy, and with it, the conclusion of the five books of Moses, which are of such foundational importance to the entire bible, that it might be said without exaggeration that the whole divine plan of redemption and the schematic for all of history is here laid out, so that all the prophets who should later arise could speak no new thing, but only apply and exegete what Moses had already said; and even the Christ himself, when he came, set about to do only what God had before promised and signified by the hand of Moses so long before; and in these final chapters, although the superiority of Moses is again signaled (Deuteronomy 34:10-12); yet what is particularly emphasized is his inadequacy and failure, and the need for someone greater than he, to do what he could not. And so, as he admits his incapacity to do in earnest what he had spoken of and seen afar by the Spirit of prophecy, at the same time, he commits the people to God, who he trusts should go before them, and do himself what Moses had not been able to do, through another greater Moses.

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March 06, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Book Review: Feed My Sheep

From the first days of the Protestant Reformation, when the reformers began studying the scriptures for the essential signs of a true church, the most fundamental of the signs was only this: the true preaching of the word. In fact, according to Luther, “Even if there were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God's Word cannot be without God's people and, conversely, God's people cannot be without God's Word” (quoted on the first page of Feed My Sheep). In other words, the preaching of the bible is central, foundational, and vital to the functioning of any local church. But in modern American Evangelicalism, there is a staggering deficiency in this area. The place of preaching is often marginalized, and the character of preaching is frequently lackluster and inadequate. Because of these two things, the need for a passionate plea for preaching, from faithful pastors who passionately preach, is desperate. This new edition of Feed My Sheep could not come at a more opportune time. It delivers a message that is eminently needed.

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March 05, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Bart Ehrman vs. Luke and Matthew

1 Peter 3:15 "... but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;"

Apostate Bart Ehrman's brand new book is sure to be a best seller, but its liberal bias is nothing new at all but represents a loud and blazen attack on the Christian faith. In this 27 minute youtube video, Dr. James White responds directly to Ehrman's claims, displaying his highly selective readings of Mark and Luke. I think it would be very worthwhile for every Christian to be armed with this information for the days ahead so we can be ready to defend our faith as these issues are brought to us. - JS

March 04, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

C. H. Spurgeon on Divine Election

My dear friends, after all, the kicking against the doctrine of election is a kicking against the gospel, because this doctrine is a first principle in the divine plan of mercy, and when rightly known, it prepares our minds to receive all the other doctrines. Or on the contrary, misunderstand this, and you are pretty sure to make mistakes about all the rest.

Take for instance final perseverance; some men say, "If we continue in faith, and if we continue in holiness, we shall certainly be saved at last." Do you not see at once that this is legality—that this is hanging our salvation upon our work—that this is making our eternal life to depend on something we do?

Nay, the doctrine of justification itself, as preached by an Arminian, is nothing but the doctrine of salvation by works, lifted up; for he always thinks faith is a work of the creature and a condition of his acceptance. It is as false to say that man is saved by faith as a work, as that he is saved by the deeds of the law. We are saved by faith as the gift of God, and as the first token of his eternal favor to us; but it is not faith as our work that saves, otherwise we are saved by works, and not by grace at all.

If you need any argument upon this point, I refer you to our great apostle Paul, who so constantly combats the idea that works and grace can ever be united together, for he argues, "If it be of grace, then it is no more of works otherwise grace were no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more of grace, otherwise work is no more work."

From "Effects of Sound Doctrine," a sermon delivered Sunday evening, April 22nd, 1860, at New Park Street Chapel.

March 03, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink