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

The New Temple

inchrist.jpgIn John 2, Jesus cleansed the temple. Presumably there was anger in the voices that demanded to know his credentials. On what authority did He do this? He answered by a prophetic appeal to His own death and resurrection couched in terms of the destruction and raising again of another temple (John 2:19-22).

Could any more daring way have been found to express the old order's inadequacy? To a Jew, the temple was the most important building on earth. To Jesus, however, it was but a shadow, a temporary context for entering the presence of God. Christ was the reality to which such shadows pointed. He was God the Son come to "tabernacle among us" (John 1:14). Jesus Himself is the new temple.

Quote from Sinclair Ferguson's, In Christ Alone.

Comments: With this in mind, Christians who think that rebuilding the physical temple is somehow a positive development are actually taking us backwards in redemptive history. Returning to the shadows is severely warned against in the book of Hebrews as a rejection of Christ Himself ... a profound misapprehension of the gospel. Christ is a better high priest, and, in His resurrection, a complete fulfillment of the temple. A fulfillment of all shadows.

April 30, 2010  |  Comments (46)   |  Permalink

and this was just part of Spurgeon's sermon introduction..

Randy Alcorn writes: On Sunday May 29, 1864, in Cleveland, as the Civil War still raged, delegates began arriving at a convention which would nominate Abraham Lincoln for election to his second term as president. Across the ocean in England, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington, near London, Charles Haddon Spurgeon delivered a message entitled “Laus Deo,” a Latin term meaning “praise be to God.” His text was Romans 11:36, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” This is part of his introduction:

Meditate, dear friends, upon the whole range of God’s works in creation and providence. There was a period when God dwelt alone and creatures were not. In that time before all time, when there was no day but “The Ancient of Days,” when matter and created mind were alike unborn, and even space was not, God, the great I Am, was as perfect, glorious, and blessed as he is now. There was no sun, and yet Jehovah dwelt in light ineffable; there was no earth, and yet his throne stood fast and firm; there were no heavens, and yet his glory was unbounded. God inhabited eternity in the infinite majesty and happiness of his self-contained greatness.

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April 29, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Farewell Emerging Church

I was reading some of the comments after the article Farewell Emerging Church Written by Anthony Bradley

One of the descriptions of the emerging church was as follows:

The three core practices are identifying with the life of Jesus, transforming secular space, and commitment to community as a way of life. These practices are expressed in or lead to the other six: welcoming the stranger, serving with generosity, participating as producers, creating as created beings, leading as a body, and taking part in spiritual activities.

To this one of the proponents of emerging said, "In other words, Christianity."

Likewise another proponent of emerging commented that emerging Christians...

"... look to the way Jesus lived more than rigid creeds about him."

It saddened my heart to see these comments. It shows a complete and utter lack of understanding of even the very basics of Christ or Christianity. Instead these statements reduce Christ into a moral instructor and Christianity down to a kind of moralism. Ultimately, Christianity is not instruction or advice about what you are to do for Christ. It is not about following his example. The primacy of His accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of our faith. The gospel of Christ above all brings news, rather than moralistic instruction. The above emerging definition of emerging, I hate to say, simply sounds like an attempt at Christianity without the new birth.

April 28, 2010  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

Images of the Savior (2 – The Salvation of Rahab)

Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this cord of scarlet on the window through which you let us down, and your father and your mother and your brothers and all the household of your father you shall gather unto yourself in the house. And it shall come to pass that, anyone who goes out from the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head, and we shall be guiltless; and anyone who shall be with you in the house, his blood shall be upon our head if a hand is laid upon him. – Joshua 2:18-19

It is implied by the very term “savior” that there is an enemy from which the people need to be delivered: if there were no enemy before whom the children of Israel were unable to stand, then they would have no need of a deliverer, or savior. But furthermore, in order to save a people who are in bondage to an enemy stronger than themselves, it is also necessary that the savior be stronger than this enemy, and able to overcome him. So then, it is manifest that, if one is truly a savior to one people, then he must also be a conqueror and destroyer of another, stronger people, to whom the people of his salvation are in subjection. We have already seen that Joshua, the successor to Moses, was a mighty savior of the people, and that he prefigured thereby the great and coming Savior, Jesus Christ; but now, as we continue through the history of Joshua, we will see that, just as he embarked upon his role of saving some, he entered at the same time upon the complementary role of destroying others. In this, as well, he was acting as a type of Jesus, who in saving his people was utterly destroying their fierce enemy, the devil, who was holding them captive to sin and death (Heb. 2:14-15).

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April 28, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Human Dignity

03zondervanencyclopedia.jpgThe following is an excerpt from The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (5-Volume Set) Merrill C. Tenney & Moisés Silva (Editors), Volume 2, pg 422.

The Sinaitic Covenant, with the Decalogue as its focal point, represents one body of literature in the OT where the dignity of the human being is a major concern. The Decalogue itself can be seen as a document which addresses the more fundamental relationships of human life. It deals with the sanctity of God as well as with the sanctity of life, matrimony, family, property, and truth. In this regard, Hebrew Bible scholarship has recognized for some time that in order to adequately understand the demands of the Decalogue it is necessary to do so in the context of creational theology (Gen 1-2). The God who expresses his will through these ethical demands is the same God who created the human beings of whom he expects said ethical conduct…As such, these ethical demands, though expressed in another place and at another time, transcend time and place and are applicable to all human beings on planet earth.

As one considers these ethical demands one must not fail to recognize the background that is present in the Hebrew Bible. When Yahweh establishes his covenant with the people of Israel he is being faithful to the promises made to Abraham in the past (Gen. 12:1-3). These promises were about creating a people that would possess a land. Therefore the background to the establishing of the ethical code is the action of Yahweh on behalf of this nation. The action was one of liberating the people from slavery in Egypt, of making it possible for the slaves to become a people with rights to a land, and by extension to live in freedom. The God of the ethical demands is the God of freedom from oppression. He is also the God who frees as people from the land of oppression, accompanies the people on the road, and leads them to a better land. As mentioned above, this is the context that cannot be ignored when considering the ethical demands of the God revealed in the OT.

Once the people are liberated, they need norms and regulations in order to learn to live in harmony with each other in accordance with the COVENANT established by God with them. Therefore this historical reference to the liberation from oppression in Egypt is critical. The God who liberates, who redeems his people, now gives them ethical guidance so that they may continue to live as a free people. In other words, the underlying motive is to restore their human dignity, their freedom, and to help them avoid falling into slavery again. In this sense, one can suggest that ethics in Israel originates in the gift of liberation. Israel must learn to obey the law (law understood in a wider holistic sense) not in order to be saved, but precisely because it has been saved. If you will, obedience to the commandments in the Deuteronomic sense is the only adequate response befitting the liberated people. That is why it is so important to remember the introduction to the Decalogue. If one decontextualizes the Decalogue from its context of liberation, one violates the very essence of the ethical demands made by a liberating God who affirms human dignity. At the same time, the people who are liberated from oppressive slavery in Egypt are invited by way of the covenant to a new and freeing bondage [as willing bondservants] characterized by a relationship with God and with each other.

The Decalogue, as the source for understanding the ethical demands in the Hebrew Bible, points toward the way of freedom and redemption. Its purpose is firmly rooted in God’s desire to preserve a redeemed community. The commandments are given after the liberation from Egypt and they point the way toward a life of freedom within the context of a covenant relationship with God. That relationship with God and with each other is possible when human dignity is restored to its creational intent, and OT ethics has everything to do with this restoration.

- E. Voth

The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible (5-Volume Set) Merrill C. Tenney & Moisés Silva (Editors), Volume 2, pg 422.

April 27, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Transparent Car

For car enthusiasts, or for those who are just curious, here's a video of a transparent car, made from 2,000 parts to show how oil flows through an engine... It makes me then wonder what our reaction might be if God were to show each of us our hearts from His perspective. (the heart is deceitful above all things)

April 27, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Large Boat Found High in the Mountains of Ararat?

Explorers are claiming to have found Noah's ark. They are 99.9% certain of it anyway. Read the Fox News report here. - JS

April 27, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Psalm One: Blessed is the Man

Images of the Savior from the Psalms
Psalm One: Blessed is the Man

“'Blessed is the man that hath not gone away in the counsel of the ungodly' (ver. 1). This is to be understood of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord Man.” So begins the great church father, Augustine of Hippo, in his landmark exposition of the Psalms. The great Genevan reformer, John Calvin, on the other hand, expresses his opinion that the psalmist here “inculcates upon all the godly the duty of meditating on the Law of God”. While I am inclined to agree with Augustine, I cannot bring myself to disagree with Calvin. Augustine is certainly right; and because he is right, Calvin must necessarily be right also. Because Jesus Christ, whose meditation was always upon the Law of God, and who never walked in the counsel of the ungodly, was supremely blessed, therefore all the godly, who have been united to him, will also be blessed and glorified with him; but the ungodly will be blown away like chaff.

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April 26, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Tabletalk - Responding to N. T. Wright

N. T. Wright is in many ways a highly respected and widely influential theologian. His work on the reliability of the New Testament and the resurrection of Christ is superb. However, in recent times, he has sparked a major storm of controversy suggesting that both the Roman Catholics and the Protestant Reformers have totaly misunderstood the Apostle Paul's teaching on the subject of justification. There is no doubt that Bishop Wright is the leading figure in what is called "The New Perspectives on Paul."

In February 2010, Ligonier Ministries' Tabletalk monthly magazine was devoted to the subject of justification by faith alone, responding to the specific objections/allegations of Bishop N. T. Wright. The main articles are now available to read in a new form by clicking here below:

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April 26, 2010  |  Comments (25)   |  Permalink

Spiritually Bankrupt

"Salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world!" - A.W. Pink, http://bit.ly/drXWnO

Today's reading in "Voices from the Past" devotional read, "many souls do not only perish praying, repenting and believing after a sort, but they perish by their praying and repenting while they carnally trust in these. If we are to be saved, we must come naked to Christ in regard to our duties; we cannot flee to Christ in truth while trusting in them. Some are so locked into them, that they cannot come without them, and so in the day of temptation are trampled under the foot of God's wrath and Satan's fury." - Gurnall, Voices from the Past pg. 115

“The Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.” - Martin Luther

IN the preaching of the Law, the conviction brought by the Holy Spirit works in you inwardly to make you aware of your woeful state -- that you are utterly without a question undone and all that you need spiritually is beyond yourself, to be found in Christ alone (Gospel).

April 24, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Does Your Web Site Preach the Gospel?

"A controversialist once said, “If I thought God had a chosen people, I should not preach.” That is the very reason why I do preach. What would make him inactive is the mainspring of my earnestness. If the Lord had not a people to be saved, I should have little to cheer me in the ministry."" - C. H. Spurgeon

In Romans 10 we read, "How shall they hear without a preacher?" The answer to this rhetorical question is that they do not hear without a preacher. The preacher must preach for the people to hear. The elect come to Christ through the use of means - God uses the fervent prayer of others and the preaching of the Gospel to bring His elect home and His sheep will hear His voice and follow Him.

Many church web sites are technically advanced, aesthetically pleasing and provide a lot of information, but I find that very few make an attempt to actually present the Gospel. Those that do are often woeful in expressing the central components of the Gospel (leaving key ingredients out) or else it is packaged in such strange sounding religious jargon that the uninformed would find it very difficult to understand. With this in mind, I once asked myself these two questions:

1. If someone only had access to the material found on my website - if that was the only access to Christianity they ever had - would they have enough information to know what the Gospel is, and how to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord?

2. If I can answer yes to the first question, is the presentation clear enough for someone who has never picked up a Bible or been raised in a Church environment to follow?

If you have a Christian website, I wonder how would you answer these questions? Paul wrote, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor 9:26). Whatever else we do, if we cannot answer in the affirmative, I think we miss the mark badly.

I recently came across an excellent gospel presentation and recommend it highly. It is both clear and easy to understand. It is a multimedia presentation from Matthias Media entitled Two Ways to Live. On our own church web site we now provide a link to it and I encourage all with their own web sites to at least consider doing the same. You will find it here. - JS

April 24, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Before God

Just in case you're interested...

Before God, a helpful introduction to prayer by Mike Sarkissian, is now available; check out the book's website and order a copy -- you'll certainly find it useful! Here's my endorsement:

Before God is written with the intention of bringing intensely practical, seminary-depth teaching on the vital spiritual discipline of prayer to the common Christian in the pew, whose prayer life has been an on-again, off-again exercise marked at times, perhaps, by passion and effectiveness, but more commonly by uncertainty and tedium. For those who find themselves crying out with the disciples, ‘Lord, teach us to pray!’, this book will be a considerable boon. Comprehensive in scope, seasoned throughout with rich insights from the Puritans and other giants of the faith, and written in a fashion simple enough to enable easy acquisition and passionate enough to stir up a deeper love for the God to whom we pray, it will certainly find a wide and grateful audience in today’s Church.

April 24, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Images of the Savior (I – Joshua's Succession of Moses)

And it came to pass, after the death of Moses, the Servant of Yahweh, that Yahweh spoke unto Joshua, the Son of Nun, the minister of Moses, saying, “Moses my servant is dead; and now, arise, pass over this Jordan, you and all this people, unto the land which I am giving to them, to the children of Israel”. – Joshua 1:1-2

If we were forced to choose one word to sum up the significance of the five books of Moses, we could scarcely find a better than the term “foundational”: first of all, because the Pentateuch is of such vital importance to all biblical revelation that should follow; and second, because it is manifestly incomplete and expectant in its character. Its importance should be obvious: there is nothing in the prophets that may not be found in seminal form somewhere in the Pentateuch, nor may there be found anything absolutely new in all the Old Testament writings beside; and in spite of its common designation as the “New” Testament, there is nothing we may find there, either, that does not hark back to the writings of Moses, and complete and fulfill them all. This is why the long-awaited Savior, Jesus the Messiah, reminded his disciples before he sent them out on their mission, “These are my words that I spoke unto you when I was still with you, that all the things written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me must be fulfilled;” and then he went on to explain, “Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance unto the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all the nations.”

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April 22, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Can anyone relate?

I read the following comment (online) and just wondered how many of us could relate to the sort of journey this person describes:

I grew up Baptist... and went to a non-denominational Christian university..., and basically considered myself Arminian, but I recognized that there were elements of Calvinism that were undeniably in Scripture.

Over the next five or six years after college I adopted each of the "five points" one at a time, in this order:

Total Depravity - It seemed pretty obvious to me that every part of us is affected by sin, not just superficially. This one really should have triggered all the rest, since they all progress out of it.

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April 21, 2010  |  Comments (7)   |  Permalink

The Objection Raised in Romans 9:14

First, Paul asks in verse 14, "What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part?" And he answers, "By no means!"

Where did the objection in Romans 9:14 come from? Paul knew the kind of objections that were typically raised against his teachings. He had preached and taught publicly for years in synagogues and churches and market places. He knew what he had to deal with. So he raises the questions that people typically raise and dealt with them.

What had he said to raise this objection that God is unjust or unrighteous? The main thing he had said was that God chose Isaac not Ishmael, and Jacob not Esau before they had born or had done anything good or evil. That was the point of verses 7-13.

Recall verses 11-13, "Though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad - in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not [conditionally] because of works but [unconditionally] because of him who calls - 12 [Rebecca] was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ 13 As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’" The point is that God’s favor in election is not based on what we do or what we think or what we feel or what we choose, but on God alone - the one who calls.

And we need to stress - because it is so often denied - that the issue Paul is dealing with in this chapter is election for our personal, eternal destinies - individual Jews and Gentiles, not just the Jewish people as a whole and the Gentile peoples, and eternal destinies, not just historical roles. The problem he is wrestling with is stated in verse 3: many of his Jewish kinsmen are accursed and cut off from Christ. That is what creates the crisis - not the historical role of a nation, but the eternal destiny of individual Jewish people who rejected the gospel as he preached from synagogue to synagogue.

So the answer to our first question is that the objection in verse 14 rose from Paul’s teaching of unconditional election - that God chooses whom he will graciously save before we are born or have done anything good or evil. Our election to eternal life is not based on what we choose or what we do. It is based on God alone. Which person chooses to trust Christ and be saved, and which one chooses to reject Christ and be lost, is finally God’s choice.

And so some of Paul’s listeners objected and said, "God is unjust - he is unrighteous - to base his election on nothing in us. It is unrighteous in God to choose who will believe and be saved or who will rebel and be lost. So goes the objection that Paul raises in verse 14. "Is there injustice on God's part? Is there unrighteousness with God?" Paul answers, "By no means." There is no unrighteousness with God when he unconditionally elects whom he will.

(excerpt from John Piper's sermon on this passage found here)

April 20, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Headline News: The Volcano in Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland erupts because of the Father

Daniel 4:34, 35 - "At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No man can hold back His hand or say to Him: "what have you done?""

Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." Matthew 10:29.

Whenever a sparrow falls to the ground, God the Father was involved in some way. That's a powerful statement, if ever I heard one. Why? Because the falling of a sparrow is an everyday occurrence. Each day, sparrows are born; and each day, sparrows die. Perhaps when a sparrow falls, someone might actually notice it; but then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the fall is caught on camera, or then again, perhaps not. Perhaps the sparrow falls amongst forest trees in the middle of the night with no camera or person around to record the incident. But the point Jesus makes here is that whatever the circumstance of a sparrow's fall - any sparrow's fall - it could not have done so unless God the Father had in some sense determined that it would.

In making this statement, Jesus was pointing to a great deal more than the plight of a sparrow. We can clearly understand that major events like the fall and the rise of nations are under God's providential rule and authority. But Jesus here made it quite clear that even when it comes to seemingly insignificant or trivial events (like a sparrow falling); they only occur because of the Father's will.

Even as Christians, I really don't think we get this. We have been so saturated and indoctrinated by the secular society around us that the world has affected our thinking far more than the Bible has. We live in a technological age unlike any other in human history. This is the generation of space travel, television, radio, the cell phone, high speed internet, the garage door opener, instant text messaging, microwave ovens and satellites. We're now very accustomed to seeing satellite pictures from space showing us up to the minute weather conditions around the world. There's nothing wrong with that, except that modern technology often gives us a very false impression. Because we can monitor the movement of a cloud formation or a hurricane from our living rooms, we tend to think that somehow what we are seeing in front of our eyes takes place outside of God's control. Because we can plot the movement of a hurricane, and even get a good idea about where and when it might hit land, we fail to see God's hand in it all.

But that's not just true about hurricanes, its true about weather of all kinds and its true about the volcanic eruption in Iceland. I've yet to hear a weather report that says, "God in His providence may well be sending us sunshine tomorrow" or "God in His mercy may well be sending us rain. Let us kneel and give reverential thanks to Him for answered prayer." Even on Christian television stations that bring us news and weather programs, we don't usually hear talk like that. Former generations would certainly have spoken in this way, but not ours. You see, we think we're more sophisticated now than our forefathers, and a foolish and prideful independence has set in to our hearts. We may have more technological advantages, but we have a far more pagan view of nature and its laws than those who looked at the world through the lens of the Bible.

Once again, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground outside of God's ordination (Matthew 10:29) - how much more this massive volcano in Iceland??? Please check out these amazing, stunning, breath-taking photos here. - JS

April 20, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Images of the Savior from the Psalms (Prologue)

He who has entered the treasury of the Psalms has come upon such a storehouse of riches as may not be found in all the world beside. What El Dorado is there that shines with a purer gold than the very words of the Lord, seven times refined (Psalm 12:6)? What stately pleasure dome of what proud Kubla Khan has ever been supplied with more scintillating delights, delicate treasures, unspeakable glories to dazzle the eyes of men and angels alike? The one who has tasted the goodness of the Lord in the banqueting house of the Psalter must thenceforth be forever spoiled for the pleasures of the world – the sweetest treats that he had coveted before must touch upon his palate as ashes and dust, and until he garner more pleasant fares from the same larder house, sweeter than drippings of the honeycomb (Psalm 19:10), he will never again be happy. The fabled nectar of the gods will be bitter as gall and coarse as gravel to him who has once tasted the sweet wine of the true God of gods, which flows to us from the lips of the Psalter's great hero, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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April 19, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Choice Excerpts on Assurance by A.W. Pink

studiessaving-pink.jpg- Excerpted from A.W. Pink's Studies on Saving Faith

At the commencement of Matthew 5 we find the Lord Jesus pronouncing blessed a certain class of people. They are not named as "believers" or saints," but instead are described by their characters; and it is only by comparing ourselves and others with the description that the Lord Jesus there gave, that we are enabled to identify such. First, He said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit." To be "poor in spirit" is to have a feeling sense that in me, that is, in my flesh, "there dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). It is the realization that 1 am utterly destitute of anything and everything which could commend me favorably to God’s notice. It is to recognize that I am a spiritual bankrupt. It is the consciousness, even now (not years ago, when I was first awakened), that I am without strength and wisdom, and that I am a helpless creature, completely dependent upon the grace and mercy of God. To be "poor in spirit" is the opposite of Laodiceanism, which consists of self-complacency and self-sufficiency, imagining I am "rich, and in need of nothing."

"Blessed are they that mourn." It is one thing to believe the theory that I am spiritually a poverty-stricken pauper, it is quite another to have an acute sense of it in my soul. Where the latter exists, there are deep exercises of heart, which evoke the bitter cry, "my leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!" (Isa. 24:16). There is deep anguish that there is so little growth in grace, so little fruit to God’s glory, such a wretched return made for His abounding goodness unto me. This is accompanied by an ever-deepening discovery of the depths of corruption which is still within me. The soul finds that when it would do good, evil is present with him (Rom. 7:21). It is grieved by the motions of unbelief, the swellings of pride, the surging of rebellion against God. Instead of peace, there is war within; instead of realizing his holy aspirations, the blessed one is daily defeated; until the stricken heart cries out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24).

"Blessed are the meek." Meekness is yieldedness. It is the opposite of self-will. Meekness is pliability and meltedness of heart, which makes me submissive and responsive to God’s will. Now observe, dear reader, these first three marks of the "blessed" consist not in outward actions, but of inward graces; not in showy deeds, but in states of soul. Note too that they are far from being characteristics which will render their possessor pleasing and popular to the world. He who feels himself to be a spiritual pauper will not be welcomed by the wealthy Laodiceans. He who daily mourns for his leanness, his barrenness, his sinfulness, will not be courted by the self-righteous. He who is truly meek will not be sought after by the self-assertive. No, he will be scorned by the Pharisees and looked upon with contempt by those who boast they are "out of Romans 7 and living in Romans 8." These lovely graces, which are of great price in the sight of God, are despised by the bloated professors of the day...

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April 19, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Gospel for Christians by Tim Keller

It is very common in Christian circles to assume that “the gospel” is something just for non-Christians. We presume that the gospel is a set of basic “A-B-C” doctrines that Christians do not need to hear or study once they are converted. Rather, they should move beyond the gospel to more “advanced” doctrines. But the great declaration of the gospel of grace in Galatians was written to believers who did not see the implications of the gospel for life-issues confronting them. Paul solves the disunity and racial exclusivity not with a simple exhortation to “be better Christians.” but by calling them to live out the implications of the gospel. So Christians need the gospel as much as non-Christians do. Their problems come because they tend to lose and forget the gospel. They make progress only as they continually grasp and apply the gospel in deeper ways.

The gospel shows us that our spiritual problem lies not only in failing to obey God, but also in relying on our obedience to make us fully acceptable to God, ourselves and others. Every kind of character flaw comes from this natural impulse to be our own savior through our performance and achievement. On the one hand, proud and disdainful personalities come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are succeeding. But on the other hand, discouraged and self-loathing personalities also come from basing your identity on your performance and thinking you are failing.

Belief in the gospel is not just the way to enter the kingdom of God; it is the way to address every obstacle and grow in every aspect. The gospel is not just the “ABCs” but the “A-to-Z” of the Christian life. The gospel is the way that anything is renewed and transformed by Christ — whether a heart, a relationship, a church, or a community. All our problems come from a lack of orientation to the gospel. Put positively, the gospel transforms our hearts, our thinking and our approach to absolutely everything. The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.

This also creates a radical new dynamic for discipline and obedience. First, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed because we know we won’t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness. Second, it makes the law of God a thing of beauty instead of a burden. We can use it to delight and imitate the one who has saved us rather than to get his attention or procure his favor. We now run the race “for the joy that is set before us” rather than “for the fear that comes behind us.”

–Tim Keller, The Galatians study

April 18, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Our Lord on Monergistic Regeneration

"And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live...Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD." - Ezekiel 37:14
And this Trinitarian quote on monergistic regeneration from Jesus' discussion with some unbelieving Jews:
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. ...And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." John 6:63, 65

i.e. no one can believe in Jesus unless the Father grants it through the quickening work of the Spirit

April 17, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Desiring God Launches Chinese Website


Minneapolis, MN (DesiringGod.org) April 16, 2010 — Desiring God has launched a new Chinese-language website to serve and equip an estimated 100+ million Chinese Christians. The new site can be found at http://www.kemushen.org.

Each week, Desiring God will post one sermon and one article that have been translated into Simplified Chinese characters. The sermons were all preached by John Piper, Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA (www.hopeingod.org).

The first five weeks will be a series on suffering, from the book of Job. The articles are drawn from the archives of weekly letters that Pastor John has written to the congregation at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

“Desiring God International Outreach is working to alleviate ‘Theological Famine’ around the world by providing God-centered resources in as many formats and languages as possible," Bill Walsh, Director of International Outreach says. "Several years ago, we began dreaming about new projects to make resources available in Simplified Script Chinese for mainland China. The Chinese website is a huge first step in that direction.”

Desiring God and John Piper see this as a strategic opportunity to serve the Church in China. According to some estimates, there are roughly 130 million Christians and 300 million Internet users in China. With the launch of this new site, Desiring God resources can be easily accessed and used to equip Chinese Christians throughout the country.

Desiring God (www.desiringgod.org) exists to produce and distribute resources that spread a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples through Jesus Christ. The Desiring God website contains 30 years worth of theological teaching from John Piper, a prominent Christian blog, and web store.

* * *

If you would like more information about Desiring God International Outreach or to schedule an interview, please contact Bill Walsh, Director of International Outreach ([email protected]) or Eric Johnson, Director of Marketing and Internet ([email protected]).

April 16, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

TULIP: The Fairest flower in the Garden

The beauty of the TULIP is that it gives witness to the work of Jesus Christ alone in our salvation. How glorious it is to fellowship with him knowing that Christ is not only necessary but sufficient to save us to the uttermost. All of the blessings found in the TULIP do not exist apart from Christ's work on the cross. Consider the TULIP as a chiasm with the L at the top. Without the L, all the other benefits would not be possible. True biblical soteriology is Christocentric. So taking the "L" out" of the TULIP is like taking Solus Christus out of the Five Solas. It is an impossible supposition because it removes all benefits of the doctrines of grace from their source found only in the the work of Christ, who lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve.

Consider this: because of "T" (total depravity), man is unable to save himself. Therefore, in His great mercy, God the Father "U" unconditionally elects a particular people IN CHRIST, who comes to redeem them in history "L" and are then gathered up by the Holy Spirit who regenerates and unites them to CHRIST, who preserves them to the end "P". To put it simply: Unconditional election is done in Christ (Eph 1:3,4). Perseverance is IN CHRIST (1 Cor 1:30) and Irresistible grace is IN CHRIST (John 6:63-65). Anyone who removes the L, therefore, bifurcates the work of Christ from the grace of Christ. Such would have us believe that the graces of election, irresistible grace and preservation can be had apart from Christ. No, our salvation is Christocentric from first to last. The three persons of Trinity work in harmony to bring about every redemptive blessing.

April 15, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

The Defense and Confirmation of the Gospel — What I Have Learned in 50 years by Dr. R. C. Sproul

T4G 2010 -- Session 2 -- R.C. Sproul from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

April 15, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

T4G Day 1 Giveaways

The best giveaways from day 1

1. The Trellis and the Vine
2. The Holiness of God
3. It is Well
4. The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love
5. He is Not Silent
6. ESV Study Bible

April 14, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Is it accurate to say that God died on the cross? by Dr. R. C. Sproul

The famous hymn of the church “And Can it Be?” contains a line that asks a very poignant question : “How can it be that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?” Is it accurate to say that God died on the cross?

This kind of expression is popular in hymnody and in grassroots conversation. So although I have this scruple about the hymn and it bothers me that the expression is there, I think I understand it, and there’s a way to give an indulgence for it.

We believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnate. We also believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross. If we say that God died on the cross, and if by that we mean that the divine nature perished, we have stepped over the edge into serious heresy. In fact, two such heresies related to this problem arose in the early centuries of the church: theopassianism and patripassianism. The first of these, theopassianism, teaches that God Himself suffered death on the cross. Patripassianism indicates that the Father suffered vicariously through the suffering of His Son. Both of these heresies were roundly rejected by the church for the very reason that they categorically deny the very character and nature of God, including His immutability. There is no change in the substantive nature or character of God at any time.

God not only created the universe, He sustains it by the very power of His being. As Paul said, “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If the being of God ceased for one second, the universe would disappear. It would pass out of existence, because nothing can exist apart from the sustaining power of God. If God dies, everything dies with Him. Obviously, then, God could not have perished on the cross.

Some say, “It was the second person of the Trinity Who died.” That would be a mutation within the very being of God, because when we look at the Trinity we say that the three are one in essence, and that though there are personal distinctions among the persons of the Godhead, those distinctions are not essential in the sense that they are differences in being. Death is something that would involve a change in one’s being.

We should shrink in horror from the idea that God actually died on the cross. The atonement was made by the human nature of Christ. Somehow people tend to think that this lessens the dignity or the value of the substitutionary act, as if we were somehow implicitly denying the deity of Christ. God forbid. It’s the God-man Who dies, but death is something that is experienced only by the human nature, because the divine nature isn’t capable of experiencing death.

April 14, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Greatness of the Love of Christ

Just a quick note to let everyone know that my new book, The Greatness of the Love of Christ, the chapters of which I've been posting here regularly for the past few months, is now complete. Never before have I written upon a more wonderful theme, and never has my study and meditation had profounder effects for good in my everyday life, in the face of any kind of doubt or discouragement – I hope the book may serve to remind others, also, of the one illimitable source of every good thing we could ever need or desire, the love of Christ for his Church! The electronic version may be downloaded for free, and copies may also be purchased in print, for the screen-reluctant, at my storefront here. If you find it useful, please tell others, whether by blog post, e-mail, word-of-mouth, etc. Here's the back-cover blurb, and then I'll be done:

"What is the most important thing you could pray for a Christian? Good health? Patience in trials? Success in the ministry? While all these are good requests, the apostle Paul has something else in mind when he lifts the Ephesian church up in prayer, at the end of one of the richest doctrinal passages in all the bible. To Paul, the one thing that these believers needed more than anything else was the strength to understand with all the saints what is the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of Christ, which exceeds all expectations and surpasses all knowledge.

The Greatness of the Love of Christ, a book-length meditation inspired by this prayer in Ephesians 3, seeks to explore the boundless dimensions of the all-surpassing love of Christ for his Church. Come, join the author as he journeys through the pages of the bible, tracing out the length and breadth and height and depth of the infinite love of Christ. “This delightful labor belongs to all the saints for eternity,” he reminds us; and there is nothing more soul-stirring, worship-inducing, and practical for daily life than making a start on this heavenly occupation even while we continue here below."

April 14, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Chapter Twelve: We Love Him Because He First Loved Us

The Greatness of the Love of Christ
Chapter Twelve: We Love Him Because He First Loved Us

When our great Savior ate with Simon the Pharisee, and a sinful woman washed his feet with her tears and dried them with her hair, the Lord approved of her actions, assuring her of free and full pardon, and taught the proud Pharisee that all who have been forgiven much will love much in return, even as this woman had shown such love to him (Luke 7:36-50). For many pages now, we have been exploring the boundless dimensions of the surpassing love of Christ, and have glimpsed the staggering greatness of even the hinder parts of his free forgiveness and matchless grace. Everywhere we have turned, we have been dazzled by the further unfolding of new vistas of glory and grace in the love of the Savior, and if we have learned anything at all, it is only this, that an eternity will not suffice for us to discover all the riches we have treasured up for us. But having been so loved, dear Christian, and having received so free and immeasurable a pardon, how ought we to love in return? Will we not wet the beautiful, nail-scarred feet of the Lord with our own tears of wondering gratitude? If we have no tears for those feet of condescending love, which staggered to Golgotha bearing all our sin and shame, then we do not know the love of Christ. But all of us who have glimpsed such a love, let us cast ourselves down with our sister, this despised and sinful woman, and open up our own fountains of gratitude to bathe the feet of the Savior of the world!

Continue reading "Chapter Twelve: We Love Him Because He First Loved Us" »

April 12, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Quotes from Studies on Saving Faith by A.W. Pink

"Of himself, the fallen sinner can no more repent evangelically, believe in Christ savingly, come to Him effectually, than he can create a world. "With men it is impossible" [Mk 10:27] rules out of court all special pleading for the power of man's will. Nothing but a miracle of grace can lead to the saving of any sinner." - A.W. Pink

Oh, my reader, be not deceived on this vital matter; to mortify the lusts of the flesh, to be crucified unto the world, to overcome the Devil, to die daily unto sin and live unto righteousness, to be meek and lowly in heart, trustful and obedient, pious and patient, faithful and uncompromising, loving and gentle; in a word, to be a Christian, to be Christ-like, is a task far, far beyond the poor resources of fallen human nature." - A.W. Pink,

Studies on Saving Faith by A.W. Pink

April 11, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Book Review: The Shepherd Leader, by Timothy Z. Witmer

Go to Monergism Books

For any preacher or elder, one of the most sobering truths in all the bible must be that which is taught in Hebrews 13:17 – that one day he will have to give an account for all the souls he is watching over, to the Lord who made them and redeemed them. If this is really true (and of course it is), then how urgent is the need for every elder, whether a full time pastor or an unpaid “ruling elder,” to come to a firm, biblical understanding of just what this office is all about, and what it means to carry out its responsibilities effectively! Are a church's elders predominantly a board of directors, responsible for vision-casting and steering the congregation through all the major decisions that face it? Timothy Witmer, with very good biblical warrant, would give a resounding “No!”. “The simple thesis of this book,” he states, “is, 'The fundamental responsibility of church leaders is to shepherd God's flock'” (emphasis added).

Of course, this verdict makes the sobering weight of the task all the more poignant. Christ himself is the Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep (John 10); and in the Old Testament prophecies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah, God had promised to send, not just this Chief Shepherd, but other shepherds as well, after his own heart, to feed his sheep with knowledge and understanding. If, then, the shepherds who neglect their task receive the fierce condemnation expressed, for instance, in Ezekiel 34; and if the standard for fulfilling the task is to be after God's own heart; then how earnestly ought all elders to seek the heart of God in the scriptures for the shepherding of his flock, and labor intensely, ardently, and practically to follow his example!

Witmer's book, more than any other I am aware of, is designed to help elders do just that. It begins with the biblical foundations of the office of elder as being primarily a shepherding role – from the time of Moses to the time of Peter, a fellow-elder hoping for the crown of glory from the Chief Shepherd himself. But this excellent biblical theology is not where Witmer ends – he fleshes out these truths in intensely practical and proactive suggestions, which it would do all elders everywhere well to consider.

Take, for example, just one aspect of the shepherding ministry of Christ that Witmer develops and applies to elders in the church today: that of knowing the sheep by name. On a macro level, Witmer insists, this responsibility involves knowing every sheep for whom an elder is personally responsible – but how many churches have membership roles full of members who have drifted away and disappeared inexplicably? How many members are lost through the “back door” of churches, without a trace? If an elder is to give an account for these sheep, what will he say when he doesn't know who or where they are, and has never gone out seeking them? An up-to-date, accurate listing of every sheep in a local congregation and the elder who is personally responsible for watching over them is an absolute must, if elders would know the sheep after the heart of the Great Shepherd who knows by name all who are his.

But beyond this macro level, elders should be very intentional about knowing closely and personally all those who have been entrusted to them. At the least, this involves frequent times of interaction, taking prayer requests, asking after welfare, making themselves available. Will this involve planning an annual or semi-annual house meeting with every single sheep under one's care, after the example of the great Puritan shepherd, Richard Baxter? Will it require a monthly shepherding phone call, to check up on prayer requests and discern the state of welfare? Will it require a close attention to attendance patterns? Likely, all of these things would be involved – but at the least, it is necessary to have some systematic, comprehensive, biblical plan in place to ensure that no sheep will ever drift away without notice. As those who must give account, elders must take every precaution necessary to see that they know every one of their sheep and are always attentive to the state of their welfare at any given time.

With great practical wisdom, founded upon solid biblical principles, Witmer works through other such shepherding responsibilities – what feeding, leading, and protecting the sheep looks like in day-to-day life, after the example and pattern of Christ. In the manner of the Puritans, there is much light and heat to be found here – truth and application, insight and exhortation.

Really, I can't recommend this book too highly. I would be glad to see every elder in America own a well-worn copy. They would certainly benefit by it, as those who will one day give an account for the souls under their care – and so also (immensely so!) would the sheep that the Chief Shepherd has committed to their watch.

Available at Monergism Books.

April 10, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

I asked a Greek Scholar (1 John 5:1 & John 20:31)

1 John 5:1 reads, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God."

In the original Greek, the verb tenses in this verse are very revealing. A literal translation reads as follows: "All the ones going on believing (pisteuon, a present tense, continuous action) that Jesus is the Christ has been born (gennesanta, perfect tense - an action already complete with abiding effects) of God."

The fact that someone is presently going on believing in Christ shows that they have first been born again. Faith is the evidence of regeneration, not the cause of it. Since both repentance and faith are possible only because of the work of God (regeneration), both are called the gift of God in scripture (Eph. 2:8, 9; Phil. 1:29; 2 Tim 2:24-26).

Now compare this with John 20:30 - Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Dr. James White is a friend of mine and is an outstanding New Testament scholar. He is a critical consultant for the New American Standard Bible and has taught Greek at the seminary level. I called into James’ Dividing Line program this week and asked a question. I was particularly interested in what he would derive from the biblical text. Please bear in mind that this was a live discussion and therefore James is not answering by reading a prepared response. It was all “on the fly” so to speak. If this was normally to be put into printed form there would be major editing and adjustments for the sake of clarity, yet I believe there is such very good insight here that the transcript of our conversation would still be useful. I have just slightly edited the conversation (but only very slightly) for the sake of understanding.. I trust it will be a blessing (below) – John Samson

Continue reading "I asked a Greek Scholar (1 John 5:1 & John 20:31)" »

April 09, 2010  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

How Do I Know I am Elect by A.W. Pink

"How may I know I'm elect? First, by the Word of God having come in divine power to the soul so that my self-complacency is shattered and my self-righteousness is renounced. Second, by the Holy Spirit convicting me of my woeful, guilty, and lost condition. Third, by having had revealed to me the suitability and sufficiency of Christ to meet my desperate case and by a divinely given faith causing me to lay hold of and rest upon Him as my only hope. Fourth, by the marks of the new nature within me - a love for God; an appetite for spiritual things; a longing for holiness; a seeking after conformity to Christ. Fifth, by the resistance which the new nature makes to the old, causing me to hate sin and loathe myself for it. Sixth, by avoiding everything which is condemned by God's Word and by sincerely repenting of and humbly confessing every transgression. Failure at this point will surely bring a dark cloud over our assurance causing the Spirit to withhold His witness. Seventh, by giving all diligence to cultivate the Christian graces and using all diligence to this end. Thus the knowledge of election is cumulative."

- A .W. Pink, The Doctrines of Election and Justification [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974], pp. 140-41.

April 08, 2010  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

New Resources at Monergism

J.C. Ryle
Ryle, J.C. - Assurance
Ryle, J.C. - Election
Ryle, J.C. - A Sketch of the Life and Labors of George Whitefield
Ryle, J.C. - Only One Way of Salvation
Ryle, J.C. - Self-Righteousness
Ryle, J.C. - The True Church

April 07, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Chapter Eleven: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in That Our Redemption Uniquely Declares His Divine Glory

The Greatness of the Love of Christ
Chapter Eleven: The greatness of the love of Christ is displayed in that our redemption uniquely declares his divine glory.

God's great and final purpose in all of creation and redemption is to display his divine glory, the sight of which becomes the eternal and ever-increasing joy of his people (e.g. Isa. 43:7; Rom. 9:23; Eph. 2:7); but what is it, ultimately, that displays this glory and provides this joy? It is only the love of Christ. God is faithful, merciful, just, righteous, good, patient, pure – and we may see all those attributes gloriously displayed in Christ's accomplishment of our redemption. But of no other attribute is it said, as it is of his loving us, that it is what God “is”. But God is love. And that he is love may be seen nowhere more clearly than his redemption of us in Christ Jesus. This is the unique and highest glory of the godhead; and this glory is displayed in us, as vessels of mercy (Rom. 9:23); it is shown in the heavenly places in God's everlasting kindness toward us in Christ (Eph. 2:7); it is seen in how the Name which the Son of God won in the accomplishment of our salvation became the Name which is above every names (Phil. 2:5-11). “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son as the propitiation for our sins” (John 4:12).

Continue reading "Chapter Eleven: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in That Our Redemption Uniquely Declares His Divine Glory" »

April 05, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Translation into Italian and the Indian dialect of Malayalam

Back in January I wrote a short article about the thief on the cross here. It was very encouraging to understand that the article has been translated into Italian on a blog here. Now today (Good Friday) I have just received the following note from a Pastor friend who I have known for more than 20 years out in Cheppad, Kerala, India called Pappy Daniel. He writes:

Dear John,

I am making a translation of your article on the thief crucified with Christ.

If the Lord provides for the printing, we shall take 10,000 copies to be inserted in the newspapers in the morning of Good Friday next year. I am also looking for an appropriate picture for the front cover of the tract.

Thank you for the article.

In His abundant grace,

Pappy Daniel
Mercy Home, Kanjoor, Cheppad Post 690507, Kerala, India

I have visited Pappy Daniel in India 4 times, holding large crusade meetings and preaching in many of the churches. I have seen the tremendous work he is doing first hand, especially in his extensive ministry to orphaned boys and girls. I am praying that indeed the funds will come in for this Gospel outreach he mentions next year. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the Lord chooses to use this short article as a tract to bring people to a saving knowledge of Christ? May I invite you to join me in praying for Pappy Daniel and the great Gospel ministry out there in India? - John Samson

April 03, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Martin Luther on the Will

"It is false that the will, left to itself, can do good as well as evil, for it is not free, but in bondage."

"For, if by the command 'to love,' the nature of the law only be shewn, and what we ought to do, but not the power of the will or what we can do, but rather, what we cannot do. The same is shewn by all the other scriptures of requirement. For it is well known, that even the schoolmen, except the Scotinians and moderns, assert,that man cannot love God with all his heart. Therefore, neither can he perform any one of the other precepts, for all the rest, according to the testimony of Christ, hang on this one. Hence, by the testimony even of doctors of the schools, THIS remains as a settled conclusion: that the words of the law do not prove the power of Free-will, but shew what we ought to do, and what we cannot do. "

Bondage of the Will was Luther's masterpiece ... the fire that kindled the Reformation. Powerfully effective Reformation Classic!

April 03, 2010  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Book Review: The Trials of Theology, edited by Andrew J. B. Cameron and Brian S. Rosner

Go to Monergism Books

Is the study of theology dangerous? To anyone who has seriously studied theology, the first answer likely to pop into his mind may well come from a memory of some well-meaning old saint with an anti-intellectual bent, earnestly cautioning him about the deadening effects of seminary, which turns simple, impassioned believers into cold, “ivory tower” theologians. Yes, there is some possibility of that danger, as Gerald Bray reflects upon in his chapter on the trials of systematic theology: it is frighteningly possible to lose one's love for God amid theology's abstraction. But I like what John Piper said on the back cover: “Is studying theology perilous? Yes. But less perilous than ignorance”. God is a God of unspeakable glory and immense terror; searching out the mysteries of his self-revelation is a sobering and weighty pursuit; but ignoring him, refusing to see in him sufficient worth to motivate one to abandon himself – mind, heart, and soul – to pursuing the personal knowledge that he has vouchsafed to unworthy creatures in his own image, is the most dangerous attitude of all.

I fear that much of Christianity today has lost any sense of fear and danger at all before the holy God – whether among academics or blue collar workers, pastors or laity. That loss is a problem especially widespread in our own day; at other times in church history, it was much less so. Every age has its own peculiar difficulties and blind spots, and the casual, “take-it-or-leave-it” approach to theology is certainly one of our own. That is why I am thankful for two things about this book: first, that someone has seen the need to caution Christians in pursuit of a theological education concerning its many snares, trials, temptations, and dangers; and second, that in doing so, he has provided ample material from many periods of Church history besides our own. The “Voices Past” portion is approximately the same size as the “Voices Present”. I think that is wise.

For all the differences current Protestant theologians may legitimately have with some of the Church Fathers, there is much that we have forgotten, which we would do well to relearn from them. That is why the brief selection from Augustine, the only representative of the early Church, was one of my favorite parts of the whole book. How he trembled at the thought of entering the high calling of the ministry, and with what earnest words he begged of his superior leave to pursue a greater understanding of the sacred scriptures! The work that he had to do was nothing to him if not frighteningly and eternally weighty, he had so great a fear of the Shepherd that he was terrified to feed his sheep with anything but the truth of the bible. “For what shall I say to the Lord my Judge,” he wonders, if he should not be able to set aside time to pursue his theological education; “Shall I say, 'I was not able to acquire what I needed, because I was engrossed wholly with the affairs of the Church'? What if he replies, 'You wicked servant! … How do you allege that you had no time to learn how to cultivate my field?'”. If many pastors only had that same perspective today, I suspect that “felt needs,” ten-step plans, how-to-be-successful-in-this-life strategies, self-esteem pep talks, etc. ad nauseum, would not dominate the pulpits of so many “ministries” and churches. The sober, careful exegesis of the scriptures would not be viewed as irrelevant, boring, or inadequate, if the majesty of God and the fearful danger of acting presumptuously in his Name were as pressing a concern today as they have been at times in the past.

There is much more to be gleaned from the following chapters as well – Luther's thoughtful (and always colorful!) treatment of the necessary role of suffering and trials in the formation of a true theologian, C. S. Lewis's poignant description of the psychological urge to belong to an “inner circle,” and the temptations that urge creates in particular for aspiring theologians and pastors, Don Carson's excellent cautions to anyone pursuing an academic career in theology, and many other helpful insights. Not all chapters will be equally meritorious, but there is much fodder for careful reflection, and I would recommend it to any Christian at all; to those who are not pursuing a profession in some theological domain (as a pastor, professor, etc.), so that they might not forget how important theological study is, even for him who pushes a plow or waits on tables, all to the glory of a fearful God who has made himself known and placed each in his own vocation; and certainly, for those who are pursuing some profession involving the study and teaching of the bible; it is a high calling fraught with many subtle and eternally-consequential temptations and dangers, and the one who is wise enough to think long and hard on these dangers from the outset will be in just that sort of humble, self-distrustful place of desperately needing to lean on God's condescending grace which will enable him to pursue a terrifying task in safety.

The Trials of Theology: Available at Monergism Books

April 03, 2010  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Self-Deception

A person may have well balanced theology, and his general views of truth would be considered evangelical and orthodox. And yet, thus far may he proceed in the deepest 'self deception'.

With all this "form of knowledge," this lodgment of the truth in the understanding, this subscription of the intellect to the doctrines of revelation, he is an utter stranger to that 'heart transformation', that inward illumination of the Holy Spirit, without which the soul is spiritually dead, the heart is unrenewed and unholy, and the whole man is unfit for the kingdom of heaven.

In short, we have here the case of one who, while his judgment assents to the truth, his heart entirely rejects it. The Gospel is to him a thing of intellectual subscription, and not of heart experience. Not a single truth of the Bible has become an element of life and holiness in his soul.

(From Octavius Winslow's, "The Coming of the Lord in its Relation to Nominal Christianity")

April 03, 2010  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Monergism = Christ Alone

Recently a visitor seemed deeply troubled that we would equate our belief in Monergism with "Christ alone" -- that by doing so we were being tribal, because this communicates the idea that synergists do not affirm "Christ alone" and to make this claim is to stir up animosity between brothers. But our purpose is not to create bitter feuds, but to be faithful to Scripture on a foundational subject. For those of us who are persuaded of monergism didn't we all come to embrace monergistic regeneration because it best expresses the Biblical data regarding the extent of Christ's work in our salvation?

Doesn't he word "monergism" itself help us understand this concept? The word consists of two main parts: The prefix "mono" means "one", "single", or "alone" while "ergon" means "to work". Taken together it means "the work of one". That is, regeneration is the work of Jesus Christ alone (as applied by the Holy Spirit), not the cooperation of man and God and not the result of unregenerate man meeting a condition (like faith) before regeneration takes place. THE main difference between Monergism & Synergism, then, is that while synergistic theology affirms the necessity of Christ, yet they do not affirm the sufficiency of Christ. That is, synergists do not affirm that Christ provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe and understand the gospel. (1 Cor 2, John 6:63-65, 37, 44). Christ does most of what we need, but we still need to meet God's condition to be saved. If, as synergists may say, God grants grace to all men, then we must ask, why do some believe and not others? Did some make better use of Christ's grace than others? Does Christ make them to differ or something else (like our decision)? That 'something else' means that Christ may be necessary to them but not sufficient to provide all they need to be saved (including a renewed heart to believe). Thus 'Christ alone', as it was understood in the Reformation, is a monergistic distinctive. His cross is sufficient to provide all we need including the very faith required of us.

Is our faith, therefore, something we can thank God for, or is it the one thing we contribute to the price of our salvation? Is God's love for us conditioned upon whether we believe or not or does His love meet the condition for us in Christ, according to scripture? We affirm that God gives us this condition but Christ does for us what we are unable to do for ourselves. We are not, therefore, partly dependent on Christ for salvation but wholly dependent.

Example: Is God's love like a parent who sees his child run out into traffic and who merely calls out to him to get out of the way or is God's love like the parent who, at the risk of their life, runs out and scoops up the child to MAKE CERTAIN that his child is safe. We all know that true love gets the job done ... it doesn't merely sit on the sidelines when something so critical as ones life is at stake. God's love is unconditional for His people and He sends his Son to make certain His sheep are not lost.

Note: a large percentage of synergists who are Protestants would openly confess that there is no hope save in Christ alone - and for this we embrace them as our beloved brothers in Christ, but the debates come about when their theology blatantly contradicts this good confession, when they believe in Christ PLUS a condition we meet, apart from grace. When we deny the sufficiency of Christ to provide anything (for apart from Christ we can do nothing) then we are not faithfully giving witness to the Scriptural understanding of "Christ alone" .

Michael Haykin rightly said, "It is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ's sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith."


-J.W. Hendryx

April 01, 2010  |  Comments (15)   |  Permalink