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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)

Outageous Mercy

outrageousmercy.jpg The cross demonstrates the permanent, immutable nature of God’s law. To save us, Jesus did not go around the law. He did not remove it. Rather, he fulfilled it. That is because the law is the eternal standard by which we will all be judged, and God is passionate about it. Every jot and tittle of the law must be fulfilled, promised Jesus (Matt. 5:17-20). The cross says, “There will be no lawbreakers in heaven.” The cross says, “God is fervent about his law.”

Verses such as “Now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law” (Rom. 7:6) have convinced many that law does not apply to Christians, that in some mysterious way it is no longer relevant or important. In one sense they are right. The law no longer enslaves Christians. We could not keep the law, so Jesus kept it for us. God has released all who put their trust in God’s Son from the burden of being perfect law keepers. But the cross reminds us that we will never be released from the law as the standard for judgment.

Jesus did two things on our behalf to fulfill the law. First, he lived a perfect life. He obeyed every jot and tittle of the law so that he could impute that obedience to to unworthy lawbreakers who put their faith in him. Second, on the cross he bore the punishment that lawbreakers deserve. Jesus glorified his Father’s passion for his law by both fulfilling it and atoning for its abuse.

Quote from Outrageous Mercy: Rediscovering the Radical Nature of the Cross by William P. Farley

November 29, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Gethsemane

Here is the riddle of eternity,
And here the mighty conflict of the ages:
Shall God contend with God in unity
With God’s own will? How fierce a war he wages!

What hellish sorrows fling him rudely down,
And wring the bloody sweat from every pore,
Which glistens on his brow, a crimson crown
Forged in God’s fire, of fleshy human ore!

Behold him shudder at the thorny path,
And groan at the divine eternal plan:
Ah, shall my God drink down my God’s own wrath,
And reel and stagger like a drunken man?

Mark how the bitter precious springs well up,
Full fountain-orbs that flow in speechless grief,
As from my hands he takes the bitter cup,
And steals away my sin, ah, blessed Thief!

Oh, matchless wonder, that it should be so!
Shall boundless God in stricken Man be bound,
Humility’s heel crush the world’s proud Foe,
And mercy free in cruel wrath be found?

November 28, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Book Review: Baptism: Three Views, edited by David F. Wright

It is a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless, that in the broadly Reformed community worldwide, one of the most salient divisions between churches, denominations, and individuals is the “one baptism” which partially constitutes the ground of our great unity in the gospel (see Eph. 4:3-6). As daunting as the proposal may seem, it is still of sufficient importance to be willing to expend great effort in seeking to bridge this tragic disconnect in the understandings and consciences of Christian brothers and sisters, and bring all to a practical unity of opinion on that which really does unite them in Christ. Of course, if this is ever to happen, it will have to begin with humble, articulate, and theologically-astute men from different backgrounds taking the time to explain their positions to one another and respond in gracious dialogue which seeks to understand and critique for the good of the other, not just to score points or win debates. Baptism: Three Views, edited by David Wright, is a very commendable step in that direction, which I can recommend for Reformed paedo-baptists and credo-baptists alike.

The format of the book is very simple: Bruce Ware lays out his case for credo-baptism, is critiqued by the other two contributors, and adds his own final response. Then, Sinclair Ferguson defends paedo-baptism according to the same format. And finally, Anthony Lane defends an intriguing view that a mixed practice of paedo-baptism and credo-baptism is not just acceptable, but was in all likelihood an arrangement of apostolic appointment.

Given the limited space with which the contributors have to work, it is very interesting and instructive to note just what material each gives most time and energy to. Although dealing relatively briefly with Covenant Theology and its implications, Ware gives considerable predominance to dealing with NT texts on Baptism, and specifically, the exemplary texts which provide accounts of just how baptism was done in the sacred record of Acts (Interestingly, he sums up his basic approach most clearly in his response to Ferguson's chapter, where he makes the telling statement, “The Baptist conviction, then, is one driven by the text of the New Testament” [emphasis mine].).

Ferguson, on the other hand, clearly favors a “redemptive-historical” grounding in the primacy and nature of the Covenant in biblical revelation, and only at the end of his defense moves exclusively into the NT – and then, he deals much more extensively with NT texts dealing with the Covenant and the essential nature and meaning of baptism, and notably less with historical accounts. In fact, one of his most emphatic points from the NT is that, to be properly understood, baptism must be seen as a sign and seal of the covenant realities flowing from God to us, not as a sign of our faith to God – an error which he sees at the heart of credo-baptism.

In the final section, Lane merely gives a brief overview of the exemplary texts with which Ware dealt extensively, for the purpose of pointing out that they all depict baptism as being administered immediately upon conversion, as a means of reaching out and embracing Christ in faith; then he spends the rest of his time dealing with Church history. His essential point is that, when it comes to the dynamic of applying the NT examples of baptism to the children of believers, there simply has to be accommodation on some level – it is impossible to determine exact points of conversion in many, if not most, children raised in a Christian home: so do you deviate from the moment-of-conversion principle by baptizing babies, or by designating a time when the child or young adult can intelligibly frame his own beliefs? The question is left open-ended in the NT, and hence it is a backhanded minimization of sola scriptura to make the answer binding to another person's conscience.

Continue reading "Book Review: Baptism: Three Views, edited by David F. Wright" »

November 27, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinism and Evangelical Arminianism by John Girardeau

DURING the temporary occupation of the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in this city, a few years ago, some of the young members of that church requested me to instruct a Bible-class, on Sabbath nights, in the distinctive doctrines of the Calvinistic faith. A large number were enrolled, and the understanding was that the members of the class would be entitled to a free interrogation of the instructor. Unexpectedly, from the very first, a large promiscuous congregation attended, and the liberty to ask questions was used by outsiders, the design appearing to be to start difficulties rather than to seek light, and to convert the exercise into a debate. To avoid this result, and to treat objections in a more logical and orderly manner than was possible in extemporized replies to the scattering fire of miscellaneous inquiries, resort ere-long was had to written lectures. Notwithstanding this change, the attendance and the interest suffered no abatement, but rather increased - a fact which seemed to militate against the common opinion that doctrinal discussions would prove dry and unacceptable to a popular audience. The lectures, which were prepared not without painstaking labor, suggested the production of a formal treatise on the subjects which had occupied all the available time-namely, Election and Reprobation, with special reference to the Evangelical Arminian theology. This was done, and a discussion of the doctrine of justification, in relation to that theology, was added. Read in its entirety...

November 25, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Roman Catholic Doctrine of Justification

Jeff asks his good friend Roberta Charles a theological question.

This video was produced by John Samson - Adapted from a question and answer session with Dr. R. C. Sproul at a Ligonier Conference, Pittsburg, 2000

November 24, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Diversely Excellent

Revelation 5:5-6 “…Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof. And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain…”


True Son of God, true Son of Man,
Both terrible and fair,
What various attributes you span!
Perfections ah! how rare,
How vast are in your person blent,
And all diversely excellent.

You only are the sovereign King,
And you the Servant mild;
Artificer of everything,
And made a human child;
You held the world up in your hand,
Even while you walked its sinful land!

You judge the world in holy fire,
Avenge the merest vice:
And you became what you require –
The bloody sacrifice!
O wonder! that you hate all sin,
Yet spread your arms to take it in.

And ah, the wonder does appear
Most glorious on the cross:
I see you, Savior, hanging there,
And in your deepest loss,
The greatest victory and gain
That ever flowed from God to man.

The mighty wrath of God there meets
Redemptive love his own;
There God the desperate sinner greets,
Who there forsook his Son;
Your God-like wrath, your mercy free
Clasp hands, Redeemer, on that tree!

My God! you are surpassing great:
Trembling, I bow in fear;
My Savior! you are wondrous sweet,
And gently draw me near.
I find no joy but in your name,
Jesus! the Lion and the Lamb.

Note: Previously I had posted this and a few other hymns and poems on this site, which as of now are no longer available -- I may post a few more of them here again in the future.

November 24, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Apart from the Holy Spirit

"He that will maintain that man's free will is able to do or work anything in spiritual cases, be they never so small, denies Christ." - Martin Luther, http://bit.ly/4CMuAD

Martin Luther hits the nail on the head. Apart from the Holy Spirit, man, when left to himself, cannot rise above what he is by nature, and will use his so-called 'free will' to suppress the truth of Christ. Anyone who thinks they can believe the gospel apart from the Spirit, therefore, denies his need for Christ, not only for justification, but also for the grace needed to be willing to submit to the humbling terms of the gospel.

November 24, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

What is Forgiveness?

Dan Hamilton in his book, Forgiveness, explains it thus:

"If a careless friend breaks a lamp at my home, I will forgive him. That means I will not make him buy a new lamp. I have set him free from the penalty of sin. He is free to go because I say. "I release you from your debt. Go and leave your chains behind"

Forgiveness means to cancel, and the penalty is what we cancel. No one can make us take action against the offender. We cannot be forced to collect from someone who has destroyed our property. No law says that we must stop speaking to one who has slandered us. We are free in forgiveness to renew renewed relationships - as friends and co-workers and family and lovers.

But when the offender has walked away, rejoicing in freedom, we are not finished. We have dealt with the penalty, but the damage remains. There is still a price to be paid.

The lamp is still broken; our reputation is still ruined; there is still a loss to absorb in life. Who will pay for it? I cannot collect money for the lamp from a third party. If I did. I would not be canceling the penalty but merely transferring it to someone else. I have no choice. I must pay for it myself.

A lamp is easy to price and pay for. But what about damage that is intangible, unpriceable, irreparable? broken relationships? Ruined reputations? Shattered bodies?

November 21, 2009  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Certain Triumph of Christ

Now that we have seen the universal opposition to God and his Christ, we will examine the certain triumph of Christ. It would seem that the threat which the world has to offer the godly is very great: Satan is furious against Christ and all who are in him, and he has subverted the whole world to working out his designs for their evil. And yet, when we enter the eternal counsel of God, all this fearful opposition is lighter than chaff, it is so small and insignificant a threat that God laughs at them in derision. From this, we must learn that, if we would comfort ourselves in any opposition, we must take firm hold in our minds of the eternal decree of God, for when we are firmly rooted in this immutable counsel, we too may laugh at the designs of the wicked, knowing that God will infallibly work out all things for our eternal good. For not only does the rest of the psalter speak in several instances of how God will laugh at all his enemies (e.g. Psalm 37:13; 59:8; cf. also Prov. 1:26), but it also teaches us that the righteous who trust in God may laugh at all their enemies’ designs, even as the psalmist says elsewhere, “The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever” (Psalm 52:6-8, ESV).

When we look to God who reigns upon his throne, we see that he is neither surprised nor ruffled by this universal opposition. They are dashing themselves against the immutability of his purpose, and can no more budge his decree than a gnat can budge an anvil when he flings his little body against it in rage. They will destroy themselves in their mad uprising, and he will only laugh in contempt. But will you see the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy? Then look to where all the forces of the world raged the most wickedly, where they put the Lord’s Christ to a shameful and bloody death: but even in this they were so far from preventing God’s eternal decree, that they actually accomplished it, and did all that his sovereign plan had predestined to take place. For this Jesus, against whom the nations raged, and who was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” was delivered up to them “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God” (Act 2:23, ESV).

But not only is God unruffled by such worldwide opposition; he has also determined, and he will not revoke it, that he will actively pour out his wrath and judgment upon all this world of ungodly men. He will judge them reasonably, as is signified by that expression, “he will speak unto them in his wrath” — for in that he will speak to them, it is clear that he will declare to them precisely why and for what reason he is about to send them into torments; but that judgment will not only be reasonable and just, it will also be horrible enough to terrify and overwhelm them forever; as indeed it should be, seeing they have raged against so high and exalted and eternal a God, before whom there is no other. This prophecy was fulfilled, in one sense, when God in his anger destroyed Jerusalem, where his Christ had been slain, and did not leave one stone upon another when he overthrew the temple where men had despised their Maker and the true Temple of God; but even that unspeakable horror of AD 70 is but a foretaste and hint of the fearful judgment to come. For soon, “the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV); and ah what horrors of darkness await the enemies of Christ on that day I could never express. -- from Kiss the Son

November 21, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Featured Audio: Office Hours on ‘The Law is Not of Faith’

lawfaith.jpgAuthors Bryan Estelle, David VanDrunen, and John Fesko, professors at Westminster Seminary California — are interviewed by Scott Clark, host of Office Hours on their book, The Law is Not of Faith One of the best books anywhere to understand Covenant Theology AND one of my favorite books in the last 12 months. Must Reading

Download MP3 Here


The Law is Not of Faith Available at Monergism Books for 40% off retail.

November 20, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Roman Catholics, the Gospel, and Salvation

Questioner to Dr. R. C. Sproul "How do you feel about the Vatican and its doctrine? Can you believe in this and still be saved?"

RC Sproul: "If they are asking 'Can you be a member of the Roman Catholic Church and be saved?' I would say 'without question, yes.' If you understand fully the doctrines of the Vatican and embrace them, then I would say 'No you can't' - because to embrace the teaching of Rome, clearly understood, you would have to repudiate the gospel - particularly the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which contrary to the press releases of the accord with the Lutherans and all of that, the Roman Catholic Church has not changed its teaching from the Council of Trent one bit. The Council of Trent (the middle of the 16th Century) was where they set forth their condemnation of the Reformation view of justification and set forth the expression of their own doctrine of justification.

Questioner: "which is?"

RC Sproul: "well its complicated.. but real quickly, the doctrine of justification in Rome involves several elements. It begins with baptism (sacramentally) where in the sacrament of baptism, justifying grace is infused into the soul of the recipient (its called the righteousness of Christ). It is infused ex opere operato (through the working of the sacrament). That infusion of grace places the infant in a state of grace and two things have to happen: one, they must cooperate with that grace and assent to that grace to be justified, (coopere et assentara are the exact words of Trent) to such a point that righteousness inheres in the soul for them to be saved. Now as long as righteousness inheres in the soul, you are in a state of justification (you are in a state of grace) until or unless you commit mortal sin. Mortal sin is called mortal sin because it kills the grace of justification in your soul. Now here's also what is spelled out at Trent - you can commit mortal sin while you still have authentic faith - so you can have faith and not have justification - so faith alone will never suffice. They are not saying that you will be justified without faith because they require that you have faith and faith performs three functions. Faith is determined at Trent to be the fundamentum (the foundation), the initium (the initiation), and the rodex, the root of justification - so you've got to have faith, but faith alone will not do it. Now if you commit mortal sin, you don't get re-baptized, even though you have lost the grace of justification, you go to the second plank of justification which is the sacrament of penance, defined by Trent as the sacrament for those who have made shipwreck of their souls. In the sacrament of penance you have to make confession, you have to get priestly absolution, and then you have to do your works of satisfaction which are necessary to gain meritum de congruo (or congruous merit) - merit that does not oblige God to redeem you but makes it fitting for God to restore you to a state of grace... and as long as you stay then in that state of grace and you have inherent righteousness (righteousness that is in you) then you will be saved.. but if you die with any impurity on your soul, you go to purgatory (the purging place) until the impurity is removed.

The Protestant and I believe Biblical view is that the moment you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ all that He is and all that He has becomes yours in the sight of God, and that the righteousness by which we are justified is not our inherent righteousness but strictly and solely the righteousness that Luther said is extra nos (outside of us) a iustisium alienum, an alien righteousness, somebody else's righteousness, that's the gospel, that what saves me is not my inherent righteousness but the righteousness of Christ that was performed in His life, not in my life, in His life, and the moment I put my faith and trust in Him, I am redeemed forever. I don't have to worry about purgatory, I don't have to worry about works of congrous merit, I don't have to worry about inherent righteousness - I mean God is going to make me inherently righteous in heaven, but my justification does not rely upon that. It is not the gospel to go tell people, here, the grace of God will help you become inherently righteous, why don't you come and join our church and we will give you the sacrament of grace to help you. That's not the gospel."

Transcript from a Conference Question and Answer Session with Dr. R. C. Sproul - Pittsburgh, 2000

November 20, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Michael Horton reviews NT Wright's "Justification"

"As in his other books, Wright mistakenly assumes that the Reformation view argues that God’s essential righteousness—in other words, his own attribute of righteousness—is somehow given to believers. But this overlooks the crucial role of Jesus Christ as mediator in the traditional view: It is not God’s attribute of righteousness, but the right-standing that results from a complete fulfillment of God’s law, that is imputed to believers. It is Christ’s obedience, not his." - Michael Horton

read Horton's Full Review of NT Wright's new book here

November 19, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Not Coming Soon to a Seeker Sensitive Church Near you

November 18, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

John Calvin on the Covenant of Works & Grace

truthalltime-01.jpgThe following is an excerpt from Calvin's concise summary of the Christian faith for ordinary people entitled Truth for all Time.

When he taught that the whole law is contained in two articles, our Lord Jesus Christ declared to us clearly enough what is the real purpose of all the commandments of the Law. The first article is that we should love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, with all our soul and all our strength. The second article is that we should love our neighbor as much as we love ourself. And he has taken this interpretation from the Law itself, for the first part is found in Deuteronomy 6:5, and we see the other in Leviticus 19:18. There, then, is the standard and pattern of a holy and righteous life, and even a most perfect picture of righteousness; so that if someone expresses the Law of God in his life, he will not lack before the Lord anything of what is required of perfection. To bear this out, the God promises to those who will have carried out his Law not only the great blessings of the present life which are referred to in Leviticus 26:3-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14, but also the reward of eternal life (Lev. 18:5).

On the other hand, God announces the retribution of eternal death for those who will not have accomplished by their deeds all that is commanded in this Law (Deuternomy 28:15-68). Also Moses, having made the Law known, takes heaven and earth to witness that he has just put before the people good and evil, life and death (Deut 30:19-20). But although the Law shows the path ot life, yet we have to see how it can benefit us. Of course, if our will were fully trained and disposed to obey God's will, just to know the Law would be more than enough to save us. As it is, however, our carnal and corrupt nature fights all the time, and in every way, against the Spiritual Law of God. The teaching of this Law does not improve our nature in any way at all. so it is that this same Law (which was given for salvation if it found hearers who were good and capable of keeping it) turns into something which results in sin and death. For since we are all convicted of being transgressors of the Law, the more clearly the Law reveals to us the righteousness of God, the more clearly, on the other hand, it uncovers our unrighteousness. Consequently, the more the Law catches us going further into transgression, the heavier will be the judgment of God of which it finds us guilty. The promise of eternal life being removed, all that remains for us is the curse which, by the Law, falls on us all.

The evidence given by the Law prooves the unrighteousness and transgression of all of us. Its purpose in this, however, it not that we might fall into despair nor, being totally discouraged, that we should founder in ruin. Admittedly, the Apostle testifies that we are all condemned by the Law's judgment, so that every mouth may be closed and the entire world be found guilty before God (Rom 3:19). However, he himself teaches elsewhere that God has imprisoned all men under the power of unbelief, not in order to ruin them or let them perish, but that he might have mercy on all (Rom 11:32). Having then used the Law to tell us of our weakness and impurity, the Lord comforts us through trust in his power and mercy. And it is in Christ, his Son, that he reveals himself as being benevolent and favourably disposed to us. In the Law God only appears as the rewarder of perfect righteousness - of which we are completely bereft - and, on the other hand, as the upright and strict Judge of sins, in Christ, his face is full of grace and gentleness, and shines on miserable, unworthy sinners. For this is the admirable display of his infinite love that he gave to us: he delivered up his own son for us and, in Him, opened to us all the treasures of his mercy and goodness.

Excerpt from Truth for all Time by John Calvin

November 14, 2009  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

Faith

"Faith is not something that is the product of a fleshly, unregenerate nature that is firmly set in its hostility towards God (Rom 8: 7,8), and is not a meritorious act we perform which then prompts God to act in mercy towards us. The faith that is the mechanism through which we are justified (Rom 5:1) is the very gift of God (Phil 1:29, Eph 2:8). When God thunders forth His effectual word in the life of His chosen ones, spiritual birth takes place - always! (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18) As this word goes forth a heart transplant takes place as the old heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh that beats to know and love the Savior. This Divine creative, powerful word makes the spiritually dead man come to life and a living faith is born. What was never there in the old man is now present in the new - a faith that clings to Christ and that continues to do so through all of life's trials, even as others fall away. This faith endures all the way to the end. That is its nature. That is why God is never worried about the final outcome or of whether His people will make it all the way to heaven. God knows what He put inside us and "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith" (1 John 5:4). But let us remember that there is never so much as a trace of human pride associated with this God kind of faith, for being the gift of God, it is not of works lest any man should boast. As B. B. Warfield once remarked, "Justification is through faith, not on account of faith."" - Pastor John Samson

November 14, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Worldliness

'Worldliness' is a new book edited by C. J. Mahaney. The book is a very good read, and helpful on biblically defining worldliness and teaching readers the cure for it in Christ Jesus.

Here is a snapshot of the first chapter on 'Worldliness':

Worldliness is not merely external threats from outside of the Christian; worldliness come from the heart (what the heart loves, 1 John 2:16: cravings, lusting, boasting are three things specifically mentioned that come from the heart).

ESV 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions - is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

An excellent definition of worldliness is defined by Pastor Ian Murray:

Continue reading "Worldliness" »

November 13, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Monergistic Regeneration

Since faith is infinitely beyond all the power of our unregenerated human nature, it is only God who can give the spiritual ears to hear and eyes to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. God alone disarms the hostility of the sinner turning his heart of stone to a heart of flesh. It is God, the Holy Spirit, alone who gives illumination and understanding of His word that we might believe; It is God who raises us from the death of sin, who circumcises the heart; unplugs our ears; It is God alone who can give us a new sense, a spiritual capacity to behold the beauty and unsurpassed excellency of Jesus Christ. The apostle John recorded Jesus saying to Nicodemus that we naturally love darkness, hate the light and WILL NOT come into the light (John 3:19, 20). And since our hardened resistance to God is thus seated in our affections, only God, by His grace, can lovingly change, overcome and pacify our rebellious disposition. The natural man, apart from the quickening work of the Holy Spirit, will not come to Christ on his own since he is at enmity with God and cannot understand spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14). Shining a light into a blind man's eyes will not enable him to see, because eyesight first requires a set of healthy eyes. Likewise, reading or hearing the word of God alone cannot elicit saving faith in the reader (1 Thess 1:4, 5) unless God plows up the fallow ground of our hearts and the Spirit "germinates" the seed of the word, opening our eyes to see Christ's true beauty and excellency and uniting us to Him through a Spirit-wrought faith. So the problem of conversion is not with the Word or God's Law but with man's prideful heart. The humility required to submit to the gospel is, therefore, not prompted by man's will but by God's mercy (Rom 9:16) since no one can believe the gospel unless God grants it (John 6:63, 65). As an example of how the Spirit uses the means of the spoken word to disarm closed hearts, the Book of Acts records the work of the Holy Spirit during the preaching of the apostles and, in one instance, states that "the Lord opened her [Lydia's] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul," (Acts 16:14). The Spirit must likewise give all His people spiritual life and understanding if their hearts are to be opened and thus respond to Christ in faith.

November 12, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Book Review: The Truth About Man, by Paul Washer

truthaboutman.jpg

At the beginning of his classic Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin heads his very first paragraph thus: “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God”. This observation is strikingly true, and if one would take the time to discuss the gospel in depth with the definite majority of American citizens living today, he would doubtless find that the one great obstacle preventing them from prizing and embracing the gospel of God's grace is a faulty view of self. The gospel is not for people who are basically pretty good, but just need to believe in themselves, build up their self-esteem, and pick themselves up by their bootstraps. If there is one problem that consistently hinders my attempts at gospel-witnessing, it is that. Oh, for a tool that would give the true picture of man in his sin and helplessness, and so pave the way for a true picture of God in his holy justice and limitless grace! Paul David Washer's biblical study, The Truth About Man, is just that tool, and I enthusiastically recommend it.

The Truth About Man, many of you may already know, is a sequel to another excellent biblical study, The One True God; the two of them are laid out in much the same way, not so much as doctrinal treatises but as guides driving the students to encounter and interact with God's own testimony from the scriptures. But more than this, the two of them are complementary, each causing the truth of the other to shine forth with a more brilliant and stunning clarity. Without the biblical knowledge of the immense holiness and majesty of God, we cannot know the loathsome horror of our reprehensible rebellion; and without the knowledge of our immense sinfulness, we cannot appreciate the depths of God's grace and the perfection of his justice in his response to sin, whether shown in Christ our substitute or upon Christ-less sinners in hell.

That is not to say, however, that The Truth About Man may only be used effectively with Washer's other study. Anyone may benefit from The Truth About Man, from the seasoned and well-rooted Christian who wants to be overwhelmed once again by the staggering greatness of God's grace to the average American who knows nothing of the content of the gospel, and needs to be made a sinner before he can be forgiven. This isn't a book to be handed out on the street corner to anyone who passes along – it demands too much from the reader, its profitableness will be lost upon someone not willing to study, to think, to wrestle with the hard truths of the bible. It is designed that way intentionally, which in my estimation is a good thing. But for anyone who is genuinely willing to search for the truth, even if it means hard work and humility, the reward will be great. And that includes believers who long for a better glimpse of the gospel, as well as unbelievers who are willing to consider at length just what Christianity proclaims.

What scope of material exactly is covered in the book? Well, it is basically about man in his state of sinfulness – the “non posse non peccare” (“not able not to sin”) of Augustine. Beginning with God's creation of man and his blessed estate in the Garden, it moves quickly to the devastating first sin, and the vast and universal consequences of that first sin for all humankind. The rest of the study lays out fallen man's estate very biblically and accurately, ending with his final, certain destiny in hell. The topic of man in his redeemed or glorified state is beyond the scope of the book.

Washer does not leave the student without hope, however. After page upon page of scripture passages laying out our misery and guilt, our bondage to sin and Satan, and our terrifying plight before the holy God whom we have spurned and despised, he concludes by pointing the reader broken down by his sin and God's Law to “Man's Only Hope” – a redemptive-historical overview of the gospel that is overwhelming in its lavish grace and jubilant unexpectedness precisely because the calamity from which it saves has been so clearly laid out. If I ever doubted how appropriate it is to magnify the grace of the gospel by spending much time describing the “bad news” – the black backdrop against which the jewel of God's free mercy shines the more splendidly – then this study would certainly have me convinced.

As with The One True God, I appreciated Washer's emphasis on the insufficiency of mere intellectual knowledge. Intellectual truth is important, certainly, a point upon which Washer would agree emphatically enough that he has done a phenomenal job explaining hard passages and difficult concepts with a simplicity and ease that refuses to gloss over their obscurest depths. But by itself, it is not enough. As Washer commences, he declares that “The great goal of this study is for the student to have an encounter with God through his Word” (emphasis added); and before he gets into the study, he reminds the student that “The study of doctrine is both an intellectual and devotional discipline. It is a passionate search for God that should always lead the student to greater personal transformation, obedience, and heartfelt worship. Therefore, the student should be on guard against the great error of seeking only impersonal knowledge and not the person of God. Neither mindless devotion nor mere intellectual pursuit is profitable, for in either case God is lost” (emphasis original). For anyone willing to take this admonition seriously, I can say with confidence that this study will be of immense profit.


The Truth About Man, by Paul Washer Available at Monergism Books

November 12, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Divine Repentance by R.C. Sproul

Does God Change His Mind? If God is immutable, if He does not change at all, does that mean He never changes His mind either? This is a very thorny problem. The Bible appears to say at times that God changed His mind. Consider, for example, the following episode that took place in the time of Moses:

Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: "LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, 'He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth'? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, 'I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever." So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people. (Exod. 32:11-14)

God "relented"? Other translations render the words here, "changed His mind." This narrative seems to make it absolutely clear that God does, in fact, change His mind from time to time. Maybe His being doesn't change, but does His mind cast a shadow every once in awhile? The problem becomes more vexing when we read elsewhere in Scripture:

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November 12, 2009  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

"Grace to You and Peace..."

I have been on a short sabbatical this past summer and did not have the time to post. I would like to begin posting some studies/sermons I have been writing on Ephesians.

Study them and use them if they are helpful. May God stand by and watch to perform his Word in you. My first sermon is from Ephesians 1:1-2:

ESV Ephesians 1:1-2: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful(1 )in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

If you would like to receive these sermons in pdf, then email me at biggs.1@opc.org

Summary: Grace and peace are the two main ingredients for life in the Christian community. Grace and peace should inform our ultimate identity in Jesus so that we can live worshiping and serving God as we are called to do.

In Christ's love,

Charles

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November 12, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Election Vs. Self Sufficiency

For my part I cannot see how true humbleness of mind can be attained without a knowledge of [the doctrine of election]; and though I will not say, that every one who denies election is a bad man, yet I will say, with that sweet singer, Mr. Trail, it is a very bad sign: such a one, whoever he be, I think cannot truly know himself; for, if we deny election, we must, partly at least, glory in ourselves..-- George Whitfield

AMEN! Our election in Christ focuses much on God and the work of the Trinity in salvation, rather than on me, my autonomy, and my own spirituality. Viewed properly, the doctrine of election brings a strong sense of humility before God and man for it looks away from self to Christ for any and all redemptive blessings. Even faith itself must be seen as utterly beyond all the power of our nature and completely a work of God's grace. Prior to being a Christian I was deeply committed to the New Age movement but when faced with Romans 9:15, 16, God forced me to face up to the fact that He was God and I was not. Denying the biblical doctrine of election is a subtle way of maintaining a small enclave of self-sufficiency, for it denies that Christ is completely sufficient to save to the uttermost. Did Christ die for all sins, including our sin of unbelief and inability to persevere or did He die only for some sins, leaving us to make up for what He did not finish??? When viewed in this light, our natural arrogance is exposed and all glory should thus be given to Jesus Christ.

November 11, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Newly Formatted John Owen Works on Monergism

A special thanks to Lance Marshall for scanning and formatting:

The Nature of Apostasy
by John Owen


Remainders of Indwelling Sin in Believers
by John Owen


The Death of Death in the Death of Christ
by John Owen


A Display of Arminianism
by John Owen

November 10, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

AWAITING OUR BLESSED HOPE

AWAITING OUR BLESSED HOPE
A Biblical Look at the End Times
Reformation Society of Oregon Fall Theology Conference
Dr. Kim Riddlebarger
The audio from Dr. Kim Riddlebarger's recent eschatology conference is now available at Monergism here

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November 10, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ukraine's Got Talent

I am not sure what category to put this in - but if you have eight and a half minutes to spare, then click on to this video clip below. It shows the amazing sand artistry skills of 24 year old, Kseniya Simonova, winner of Ukraine's Got Talent 2009. What is unusual is not only the extraordinary creativity of the artist but also the strong emotional reaction of the audience as judges and members of the audience are brought to tears. Using a sand-filled light-box, she portrayed the story of the Soviet Union's sacrifices (almost 30,000,000 were killed) during the Great Patriotic War, as the USSR's fight against the Nazis in the Second World War is termed. Extraordinary!

Update: I just found a second video by the same lady (obviously in the same competition) - outstanding once again (see below) - JS

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November 08, 2009  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Does Reformed Theology Suffer from the Problem that Christ's Sacrifice was Insufficient to Save Everyone?

Visitor: Reformed theology suffers from the problem that Christ's sacrifice was insufficient to save everyone. Christ was unable to fulfill the Father's will that all men shall be saved, so thus God decided not to "will" certain people to be saved. Maybe that's one of "[His] reasons for choosing some and not others..."


Response: Interesting charge. Before I answer it you may want to consider that synergistic theology suffers from the problem that Christ's sacrifice was insufficient to save ANYONE. It loves many people with a general, ineffectual love, but loves no one in particular. Furthermore synergism limits the sins which Christ dies for. Just to show that this is no straw man, let me give you two examples: The synergist believes that Christ does not die for any person for 1) the sin of unbelief or 2) their moral failure to persevere. So then, we ask, is His work on the cross not powerful enough to cover all sins? So he dies for only some of our sins and we have to make up for the rest? So again, back to the same core thesis of my argument: Christ's work (to the synergist) is not sufficient to save completely since he dies for only some sins. We must make up for the sins He does not cover. This is extremely problematic and should reveal that the synergist's picture of Christ is woefully incomplete.

On the other hand, Calvinism believes the Scripture teaches that Christ's sacrifice is sufficient to atone for all His people's sins, including our sins of unbelief and lack of faithfulness in persevering. He is both the author and perfecter of our faith and gives His people everything they need that they could not provide for themselves. He is a complete Savior, not a partial one.

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November 07, 2009  |  Comments (18)   |  Permalink

Something about Mary?

"Ask many Protestants today why they are not Roman Catholic and they may refer to `something about Mary and the saints.' However, for the Reformers, the heart of the problem was the sufficiency of Scripture and especially the sufficiency of Christ the Mediator for sinners. Are we justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, or by grace and our merits, faith and our works, Christ and the intercession of Mary and the saints."

- Dr. Michael Horton (from his article "The Virgin Mary and ECT: A Response" found here)

November 06, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Sermon Illustrations

I'll be brief. That means, "Don't get upset at me for not thoroughly discussing every facet of the topic."

I deeply appreciate good sermon illustrations, but think that illustrations should be used with great caution. They should be used to communicate ideas that might not otherwise easily connect with an audience, whether intellectually or emotionally. Preachers should think hard about whether their illustrations do in fact promote the reception of the message they want to convey, or whether they might actually divert attention from the message. A captivating illustration can easily distract a listener from hearing what the preacher continues to say after the illustration is finished (including the very association he was trying to make in the illustration). And if the connection with the point at hand is not clear and strong enough, the memory will discard what was difficult to understand in favor of what was more accessible.

Do you remember the last powerful sermon illustration you heard? Do you remember the point that the preacher meant to make by it? Or do you just remember a vivid story? If the latter, then the illustration failed its intended purpose.

November 05, 2009  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Christianity Explored Conference

You're invited to join us at our training conference being held on Saturday, November 21st in Estacada, Oregon.
Training conferences are for any pastor or church leader thinking about running a Christianity Explored course at their church. It will give you a chance to become familiar with the course or ask your own questions before making any commitment.

Our one day course also aims to show you what Christianity Explored has to offer in helping churches to develop an evangelistic strategy.

Date: Saturday November 21st 2009
Address: Estacada Christian Church, 29101 SE Eagle Creek Road, Estacada, Oregon 97023, UNITED STATES
Speakers: Peter Kozushko, Faber Austin, Harry Roach, Callan Crossland

Sign in: 9am
Start: 9:15am
End: 4pm
Cost: $15 - Covers lunch and Participant's Guide

>> Book now

David Thommen, Senior Pastor, Estacada Christian Church

November 05, 2009  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Book Review: Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church, by Martin Downes

Risking the Truth is one of the most innovative and interesting books I have come across this year. Structurally, I have never encountered a book quite the same: in addressing a unified question, that of heresy within the Church, it draws on the insights and contributions of many leading Christian pastors, teachers, and theologians across the world (and the selection of contributors, by the way, is absolutely superb!); and yet it is not exactly like any other example of multi-author works available. It is not a collection of essays or chapters on assigned topics, but rather a series of one-on-one interviews, conducted by Downes, which make for a unique set of enjoyable benefits that I discovered to be consistently threefold at least: first is the benefit of a personal glimpse into the lives and ministries of humble and capable men of God; second, immense collective insight into how to discern and address heresy within the Church; and third, analyses and reflections upon specific modern errors and heresies by those who are leading experts in their particular fields.

Although the scope of each interview varies according to the interests and accomplishments of each contributor, the basic theme is always the same, and many of the same questions, as appropriate, are asked repeatedly. This gives the reader the opportunity to consider the basic, troubling questions of heresy – how does it arise in the Church? how can I be on guard against it in my own life? how do I address it without becoming either too soft and complacent or too negative and polemical? – from a variety of insightful vantage points. Although the answers supplied are different in every case, and bring out many thought-provoking facets peculiar to each different contributor, it is striking to note the broad concerns and emphases that show up in virtually every interview – things such as the importance of being aware of Church history, since there are no new heresies, only the same repackaged and modernized lies of the devil that have been soundly defeated by generation after generation of genuine biblical scholars. From every side, we are warned of the dangers of being lifted up in pride as we combat heresy; we are admonished of the importance of winning people, not arguments, of feeding the sheep and focusing on positive, accurate expositions of the whole bible more than focusing on every error in currency; we are reminded that doctrinal conflict is God's means for spurring his true Church to growth in the knowledge of the gospel and for testing the hearts of his people to see if they truly love him; we are constantly taught to remember the great creeds and confessions of the faith, and referred a couple of times to the Westminster Directory of Public Worship: “In confutation of false doctrines, [the preacher] is neither to raise an old heresy from the grave, nor to mention a blasphemous opinion unnecessarily: but, if the people be in danger of an error, he is to confute it soundly, and endeavor to satisfy their judgments and consciences against all objections”. When such a variety of men whose orthodoxy and orthopraxy have been tested and tried speak so unitedly on such topics, how great an inducement we have to listen and take counsel!

There are also bits of wisdom and insight on specific topics, from eminently qualified theologians. I greatly enjoyed Kim Riddlebarger's emphasis on errors germane to Dispensationalism and eschatology, for example, and Gary L. W. Johnson's discussion of Norman Shepherd and the fallout from his ideas; Ligon Duncan's phenomenal insights into the New Perspective; Robert Peterson's outstanding contributions to combating the widespread denial of eternal, conscious punishment of the lost; and many others, which the reader will have to discover for himself.

Martin Downes has done an excellent job, not just of asking insightful questions often geared specifically toward the interests and proficiencies of each contributor, but also of introducing and concluding the book with a couple of insightful chapters of his own. The introductory chapter lays out with biblical examples the grave importance of heresy in the Church; and the concluding chapters give some very appropriate warnings and caveats to take away from the whole discussion. I also appreciated that, with a few well-selected quotes, he introduced us in brief, not just to what modern champions of the truth have to say about heresies, but also the thoughts and attitudes of ancient champions – men such as Irenaeus, Hilary of Poitiers, John Calvin, and John Owen. I found especially insightful a little snippet from one of Calvin's letters to an up-and-coming heretic of his own day, Laelio Socinus:

“Certainly no one can be more averse to paradox than I am, and in subtleties I find no delight at all. Yet nothing shall ever hinder me from openly avowing what I have learned from the Word of God; for nothing but what is useful is taught in the school of this master. It is my only guide, and to acquiesce in its plain doctrines shall be my constant rule of wisdom.

“Would that you also, my dear Laelius, would learn to regulate your powers with the same moderation! You have no reason to expect a reply from me so long as you bring forward those monstrous questions. If you are gratified by floating among those airy speculations, permit me, I beseech you, an humble disciple of Christ, to meditate on those things which tend toward the building up of my faith...”

Continue reading "Book Review: Risking the Truth: Handling Error in the Church, by Martin Downes" »

November 04, 2009  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Calvinist Distinctives

The Main Difference Between Calvinist and Non-Calvinist Views of Saving Grace

Recently I had am exchange on a message board regarding the particulars of Calvinism. Here is the conversation.

Also, check out the new long-sleeve Five Solas t-shirt from Monergism Books

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November 02, 2009  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink