Grace and Faith
"We deny that grace is a reward for our faith ...rather, it is the cause of faith. Jesus provides everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe." - Monergism.com
Grace is that which has NOTHING to do with the receiver, and EVERYTHING to do with the Giver. - Tom Mor De Lasa
Psalm Six: Rebuke Me Not in Your Anger
In all of David's battles against his enemies (and they were many and mighty!), he took courage in the Lord, and assured himself of victory, and was able even to lie down and sleep when his foes were pressing him hard on every side; for he knew that he was righteous and they were wicked, and that the Lord would therefore deliver him. This we have seen, and it has given us much courage to face any kind of opposition that we might encounter for righteousness' sake. But what if the next enemy David had to face should come not from without but from within, what if he could no longer trust in his righteousness because his enemy is sinfulness â€“ his own deep-seated and innate depravity? How would he assure himself of the Lord's favor then?
Book Review: The Good News We Almost Forgot, by Kevin DeYoung
What thoughts usually come to mind when the word â€œcatechismâ€ comes up in conversation? Hopelessly outdated? Long, tedious, and abstract? A divisive and uncharitable word-club, wielded to the dread and consternation of poor, stodgy children, who have grown interminably pale and listless by reason of forced exclusion from fresh air and exercise, and over-exposure to sixteenth-century archaisms? True, I may be describing the impression in a bit of an overdone fashion, but I think there's enough truth in the portrayal to strike a nerve. Catechizing our children is simply not in vogue these days, at least in much of the Western Church; and the perception of catechizing is largely negative. Why is this? Is the skepticism warranted? Kevin DeYoung is to be thanked for doing a tremendous job of answering that question in the negative; and he is to be thanked all the more heartily for choosing to do so with that most precious, gospel-rich catechism of them all (with a couple close contenders!), the Heidelberg.
Really, where in two-thousand years of church history may one encounter a more beautiful, compelling, and succinct summation of the gospel and the Christian life than the Heidelberg Catechism? They who look askance at catechisms either have no eye for beauty and truth, or have not looked closely enough at the Heidelberg. And in either case, a fresh dose of this catechism may prove a very healthy corrective.
Kevin DeYoung has done a good job in providing this fresh look at the Heidelberg; and he has done so in such a way as to bring out the fact that this sixteenth-century catechism is not outdated, but eminently practical and relevant to many controversies peculiar to our own time and society. It is not abstract, dull, or hard-to-follow, but surprisingly simple, profound in an easy-to-comprehend sort of way, and full of that intuitive and surprising beauty which characterize truly great expressions of the pure, unadorned truth. It is not uncharitable, nor excessively divisive and polemic, but rather a warm, pastoral, and tenderly loving guide to the great truths of the bible. All of the common, largely negative stereotypes melt away in the down-to-earth and up-to-date meditations in DeYoung's book.
But wasn't the catechism written to address such questions as transubstantiation versus memorialism versus spiritual presence in the Eucharist? Justification by an external righteousness imputed versus an internal righteousness infused? All of those questions were hammered out centuries ago, weren't they? What can the catechism teach me about the hot-button items of today? Does it address political agendas, environmental concerns, the question of homosexual behavior in the Church, contemporary versus traditional forms of worship, the â€œdeeds not creedsâ€ mindset of the â€œemerging churchâ€ and other such movements? Surprisingly enough, in these and many other such issues, DeYoung brings the truths of the Catechism to bear in surprisingly helpful and relevant ways. And he always does so in a style that is very straightforward, engaging, charitable, winsome â€“ if there is anyone who does not come across in the academic, stodgy manner with which so many people acquaint the old catechisms, it is DeYoung. And yet, as he makes very clear, he himself loves the catechism immensely and finds it anything but old, boring, or out-of-date.
Will everyone agree with every opinion he gives on the plethora of practical issues that come up in the course of his walk through the catechism? No, it is only to be expected that a person may have a quibble here with his application of the second commandment to the question of portraits of Jesus, or a raised eyebrow there over his â€œvivacious baby-baptizingâ€ [!] â€“ but his secondary opinions are all framed quite charitably, and the essence of his theology is so soundly gospel-centered that I can't foresee any true believers coming away from the book scowling. Helped in many ways? Yes. Made to think more deeply about practical matters? Yes. Just a little miffed over a minor point made here and there? Perhaps, if there are any readers out there who have strong opinions on certain theological matters (and don't we all, to some degree?). But disappointed with the book as a whole? I can't imagine that anyone would come away with that impression â€“ unless, of course, he is a little upset by the true Gospel of God's grace itself.
Because, really, when you get right down to it, that's what the Heidelberg Catechism is: a faithful portrayal of the Gospel of God's grace; and DeYoung's book is a faithful explanation of what the Heidelberg Catechism says, rounded out with specific applications of it to every topic under the sun. Which is just to say that this really is a book about the good news of the Gospel; and if we really have â€œalmost forgottenâ€ this good news (and in some cases, I'm afraid to say, we largely have), then nothing can be a more pressing issue than â€œrediscovering the gospel in a 16th century catechismâ€.
â€œThis has been a book about theology,â€ DeYoung candidly admits in the epilogue; â€œabout knowing theology and loving theology. But if we've really paid attention to the Heidelberg Catechism, this should also be a book about warmhearted experiential faith. In fact, knowing and loving theological truth is what produces the warmhearted experiential faith.â€ Kevin, I concur.
The Good News We Almost Forgot: available at Monergism Books.
Excerpt from a Synergistic Statement of Faith
"We believe that when an unregenerate person exercises saving faith in Christ, which is illustrated and described as such in the New Testament, he passes immediately out of spiritual death into spiritual life." Stonebriar Community Church, Pastored by Chuck Swindoll, click here for source.
This simply does not stand up next to the Text of Scripture:
"It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all..."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 will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:25-27
"...it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." - Rom 9:16
"How can it be said that the weakness of the human will is aided so as to enable it to aspire effectually to the choice of good, when the fact is, that it must be wholly transformed and renewed?" - John Calvin
"We ought always to beware of making the smallest claim for ourselves." - John Calvin
"The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. but also to cause them to knock and ask." - Augustine
"You may be quite certain that if you love God it is a fruit, not a root." - C.H. Spurgeon
"We are not born again by repentance or faith or conversion: we repent and believe because we have been born again." - John Murray
"As grace led me to faith in the firstplace, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace." - J.I. Packer
"Regeneration, however it is described, is a divine activity in us, in which we are not the actors but the recipients." - Sinclair Ferguson
"Grace alone makes the elect gracious; grace alone keeps them gracious; and the same grace alone will render them everlastingly glorious in the heaven of heavens." - Augustus Toplady
"Without the Holy Spirit there would be no new birth, no illumination, no understanding or affection for the gospel, and thus no faith -- in other words, no Christians." - J.W. Hendryx
â€œTo make human action the cause of divine blessing is to overturn the whole nature of salvation.â€ - Iain Murray
"...nor of the will of the flesh" (Jn. 1:13). The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 6:63) who will come to Jesus (Jn. 6:65). The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13) - J.W.H
"Grace itself teaches humility. The Apostle said, 'What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 cor 4:7) thus, even our ability to understand, to know, to discern, to hear, and to believe God's word, are all gifts we have received, not attainments we may boast in." J.W.H
"Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law... Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart." Ps 119:18, 33-34
Consider your calling, brothers
1 Cor 1: 26: â€œFor consider your calling, brothers.â€
What is Paul referring to? Their job? Being a carpenter? Homemaker? Teacher? No. He is referring to the work of God in calling them to himself out of darkness into light, out of death into life. You can see the meaning pretty clearly in verses 22-24: For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
So there are three groups in these verses: the Jews, the Gentiles, and â€œthe called.â€ Or to be more precise: the non-called Jews, the non-called Gentiles, and the called Jews and Gentiles. And whatâ€™s the difference? The non-called Jews see Christ-crucified as a stumbling block (verse 23). The non-called Gentiles see Christ-crucified as folly (verse 23). But â€œthe calledâ€ Jews and Gentiles see Christ-crucified as â€œthe power of God and the wisdom of God" (verse 24).
Which means that the call is the work of God that opens our eyes to see Christ as true and powerful and wise and beautiful and compelling so that we receive him for salvation. Godâ€™s call is his life-giving command: Come! If you are a believer today, that is how you got saved. God called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. This call was effective. It produced in you what it called for. It was like the effectiveness of a command that someone uses to wake you from a deep sleep. You lean over their ear while they are asleep, and you cry out: Wake up! And they bolt upright. They did not hear the command and ponder it and then decide to wake up. The command accomplished what it commanded: Wake up! That is the way God raises us from spiritual death. And only God can do it. And he did it for you. He loved you this way. Ephesians 2:4 says it was because of Godâ€™s â€œgreat loveâ€ that he made us alive when we were dead. You were about to sleep yourself into hell, and God woke you up to the ugliness of sin and the beauty of a great Savior. He loved you with a â€œgreat love.â€ - From the sermon, Consider your calling, John Piper, April 25, 2010
Psalm Five: In the Morning You Will Hear My Voice
In peace had David lain down and slept the night before (Psalm 4:8); but when the morning came, his problems were not gone, and so with great and sorrowful groanings he poured out his soul to the Lord in supplications, and watched for his coming salvation.
But as he wrestled with his thoughts, that morning on his bed, he could not make sense of all his woes: he knew that God did not delight in wickedness, that the boastful would not stand before him, that he would certainly destroy all who speak lies, and that he abhors in righteous contempt those bloodthirsty and deceitful men who surrounded him. How grim a picture does he paint of fallen, rebellious man, whose inmost being is destruction and who will let no truth touch even once upon his lying lips! So why, then, will God not judge them at once?
God does not believe in atheists
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools...
"When a person calls himself an atheist he is not attacking God; he is attacking his own conscience. It's not that he CAN'T find God but that he WON'T." - Steve Melvin
"An atheist cannot find God just like a thief cannot find a policeman."
For Any Size Gift - From Now until May 30, 2010
The chief end of all theological learning is to glorify God alone. This is a point well recognized by men throughout history, including Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon. Join Dr. R.C. Sproul in this teaching series as he guides us through an introduction to the five solas of the Protestant Reformation â€“ biblical doctrines that accentuate the unsurpassable glory of God. With his trademark clarity and concern for biblical fidelity, Dr. Sproul shows us that with Scripture alone as our sure foundation, we must affirm that justification is by faith alone because of Christ alone through grace alone â€” for the glory of God alone. The Ten 23-minute messages are: Faith Alone (2 parts); Grace Alone (2 parts); Christ Alone (2 parts); Scripture Alone (2 parts); Glory to God Alone (2 parts).
These are available here from now until May 30, 2010 for any size gift. I have heard each of these messages more than once and would recommend them very highly. - Pastor John Samson
What would you say to a Christian who is thinking of converting to Roman Catholicism? by R. C. Sproul, Jr.
Firstâ€¦don't. After that my approach would likely adjust for the particular person, and what I knew about what was motivating them to make that move. Any approach, however, would look at both personal issues and theological issues. Too often we unwisely focus on one to the exclusion of the other. In my own circles we tend to jump to the theological. The problem is, precious few, if any people I've ever known to be tempted in this direction went Roman Catholic, from their own perspective, because they had done a serious study of the important theological issues and found Rome to be more faithful to the Scriptures. Their motives tend to be more about practice than dogma. That is, they are active in the pro-life movement, and like what they see in Rome on this issue. Or, they are frustrated with the aesthetic and even intellectual barrenness of the evangelical world. Or, more often than anything else, after living through church splits and denominational squabbles, they long to be a part of the one true church. All of which is at the end of the day wishful thinking about greener grass.
"Lord, Lord" "I never knew you"
"â€œNot everyone who says to me, â€˜Lord, Lord,â€™ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, â€˜Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?â€™ And then will I declare to them, â€˜I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.â€™ - Matthew 7:20-23 (ESV)
Dr. James White teaches on a text very familiar to us, responding to a Muslim apologist who says the verse can only be applied to Christians. (approx. 25 minutes)
Is Monergism Really a Form of Synergism?
Question: I appreciate the monergistic model of salvation since it appears to give God all the credit for the salvation of man. Many synergists believe that the Holy Spirit, thru a temporary working within a man, illuminates man to the truth of the gospel, leads him to a point of repentance, and that God gives the gift of faith for him to believe; yet something in the lost man has to believe in the gospel in order to be saved. God canâ€™t believe for or have faith for the lost man. The monergists believe that the Holy Spirit, thru a permanent residing within a man via regeneration, illuminates man to the truth of the gospel, leads him to a point of repentance, and that God give the gift of faith for him to believe. I am not sure what part is regenerated, the spirit of man? His will? In any event, regeneration does not save that man because he has yet to believe in Christ. The remaining part of that man, something in the lost part of man still has to believe in the gospel in order to be saved. He may have a new spirit, a new will, a new heart of flesh, but he is still lost with the wrath of God abiding on him and destined to hell until he believes the gospel. It appears to me that monergism is still really synergistic since something in the remaining lost part of man has to agree with or believe in the gospel in order to be saved. Any thoughts?
Response: Thanks for your email. It is important that we first make some distinctions. Justification is not something God does in us. It is God's declaration that we are righteous for Jesus sake. It is in an alien righteousness counted toward us. Justification, therefore, is imputation. Justification is not something that changes us on the inside, it only declares what we are before God because of what we are in Christ. On the other hand, regeneration is impartation, which grants us a new nature. So to partly answer your question, there would be no remaining part of lost (unregenerate) man after regeneration. I would encourage you to further explore the difference between imputation and impartation.
I can see why you may have trouble here but perhaps you are thinking of the order of salvation temporally rather than in a causal manner:
In divine monergism, regeneration precedes faith (not temporally, but causally). So regeneration, faith and justification are not separate events in time yet are distinguished as to what they do. How can this be? Well consider that fire and heat, sight and seeing or having ears and hearing all occur simultaneously. But one must first have sight to see, or ears to hear or fire to have heat. Once your eyes are opened you see; once your ears are unplugged, you hear and once God grants us a new heart we are already believing. To think causally rather than temporally consider this: If a pool ball rolls on the table to strike another, both strike at exactly the same time, but only the ball that moves and strikes the other causes the other one to move. Likewise, the order of events in the Bible is always grace causally preceding action. For example Ezekiel 11:19-20
I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Notice that God placing a new heart within precedes following, obeying and the consummation of the covenant promise. No one believes while they have a heart of stone. That would be absurd. The heart must be softened to flesh prior to a desire for Christ. no?
Jesus likewise teaches this same idea of monergistic regeneration in the gospel of John chapter 6:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64But there are some of you who do not believe." (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father." (vs. 6:63-65)
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (vs.37)
Notice several things in these passages.The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:3, 6:63) who will come to Jesus (Jn. 6:65). The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13) But impartation of the Spirit causally precedes our action and imputation.
Also notice two universals in this passage. A universal negative "no one" and a universal positive "all".
Put these together and what to they say: no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it through the quickening work of the Spirit, and all to whom God grants it will believe. The granting precedes the believing and it is effectual. In other words all those whom God grants will infallibly come to Jesus and He will indeed raise all of them up at the last day. None will be lost.
So regeneration causally precedes faith/justification. Both are benefits granted to us in Christ. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no new birth, no illumination, no understanding or affection for the gospel, and thus no faith -- in other words, no Christians. So there is no synergism here because the man is granted the new birth so that he might believe and be justified. These all occur simultaneously ... one simply causes the other from the outside. The Spirit works faith in us. No one says 'Jesus is Lord' apart from the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3).
Hope this helps
Today - God's Gift To You
"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, â€œToday, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..." - Hebrews 3: 7,8
"The past is gone, the future is not here yet - all we have is TODAY.. and its in the DAILY ROUTINE where success or failure is determined. God does not look at your past to determine your future. Its over. Its gone.. and not even God can change the past. But He can change you NOW and every NOW is an opportunity for you to take hold of His grace and run your race. TODAY is God's gift to you. Make TODAY count."
- Pastor John Samson, King's Church, Phoenix, AZ
"...nor of the will of the flesh" (Jn. 1:13)
"...who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (Jn. 1:13). The Bible declares there are only two states of being: flesh and Spirit, (regenerate or unregenerate) and that it is only those who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:6, 6:63)* who will infallibly come to Jesus (Jn. 6:37, 6:65)**. The native resources of the flesh are, therefore, morally impotent to meet God's humbling requirement to believe the gospel. (1:13)
* "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit."
* "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all..."
** "All that the Father gives me will come to me"
** "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father."
Book Review: This Is For You, by Jimmy Hopper, Tim Lien, and Eric Venable
This Is For You is something of a unique book, that I believe could be put to a very profitable use by a great many Christians. It's similar to a daily devotional â€“ each chapter is very brief, but contains much food-for-thought that could be ruminated upon throughout the day â€“ but all of the meditations are on the sacrament of communion. Hence, rather than reading it daily, it seems geared toward a weekly use: every Lord's Day, before approaching the table, believers would do quite well to read one of the meditations, to assist them in reflecting upon the vastly important significance of what is taking place in the breaking of the bread.
I immediately hit it off with these authors, and felt that I had taken a journey quite similar to theirs. Previously, in their broadly Evangelical backgrounds, they had seen communion as something that they primarily were doing â€“ it was a time for them to remember the Lord's death, symbolize their faith in him, search their hearts for sin and failures, and ask forgiveness. What was missing was any thought at all that the sacrament was a means of grace â€“ something that in reality was primarily the work of God, signifying and sealing his covenant promise to be merciful to us, and mysteriously but really nourishing our hearts with his spiritual presence.
This radical shift in understanding may be illustrated by a couple of quotes. First, Tim Lien reflects on his practice of communion before his thinking shifted to a more Reformed perspective (and his words could just as easily be mine!): â€œBread in hand, I would hold it and try to get myself into a focused spiritual sobriety. Concentrate, concentrate, bread lifted, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, bread at lips, please forgive me, please forgive me, bread in mouth. Commence juice sequence. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, think about the dying bleeding Christ, forgive me, forgive me, try to imagine the physical horror, help me to do better, gulp the Welch's. It is finished.â€ I can definitely relate to that way of doing communion. The problem with it is, it's all about what I'm doing, how I'm repenting â€“ but doesn't the whole concept of being fed at the Lord's table indicate the exact opposite?
So what, then, is the proper approach to the sacrament? In a different place, Eric Venable describes a different way of thinking: â€œThere are many things I love about the Reformed understanding of the sacraments, but near the top of the list is the understanding of the sacraments as a means of grace....at the hearts of this phrase is the idea, that the Christian life is not a self-sustaining enterprise.... God's biblical prescription for a weak, susceptible, and failing faith is not for us to redouble our efforts, do more Christian things, and attend more Christian activities. Instead, it involves humbling ourselves to recognize our own inability within ourselves for spiritual vitality. It is then that we open the mouths and ears of our souls to humbly receive the help that God gives. The Reformed tradition believes that the primary and most vitally important way that God strengthens and grows our faith is through the means he has prescribed, specifically, through his Word, his sacraments, and prayer.â€ I would concur most heartily â€“ and when the Lord's table is approached in this way, what a time of wonder and joy it becomes, to realize that, in spite of my weakness and inability to continue in the faith, God is richly supplying me with his own presence, his own body and blood, to nourish my heart for the long journey home!
Of course, the sacrament of communion has many wonderful nuances, meanings, and applications, which I cannot get into here. But in this little book, many of them are brought out and reflected upon in a very helpful way. I think the authors' perspectives are quite consonant with historic Reformed thought, and would be very beneficial for many Evangelical Christians today who may not be familiar with this perspective on the sacraments, and in particular, the sacrament of communion.
Psalm Four: In Peace I Will Lie Down and Sleep
The Lord of life lay down and slept; but God raised him up to a new and glorious day, and brought salvation to his people! This we saw last time, in Psalm Three; but what happens when, after the dawn of that new day of life, the shadows lengthen, the evening approaches, further troubles arise, and the time again is near to lying down?
Such a time came again for David, after God had given him relief in his distress; and although he was angry, with just cause, yet he did not sin, but searched instead his own heart, and commended himself to God, and was silent. And then, instead of his anger over the blasphemies of the wicked, God gave him joy surpassing their own, even in the times when their grain and wine abound â€“ for he realized that the day of their triumph would certainly pass, but his eternal victory was hastening on the way. And so, with this meditation ringing in his heart, he lay down and slept once again, saying, â€œOnly you, O Yahweh, make me dwell in safetyâ€.
Rescuing Ambition by Dave Harvey
One of 2010s most helpful books is Dave Harveyâ€™s Rescuing Ambition.Here's Harvey's explanation of his book's purpose in six short video clips.
Q: “Why did you write ‘Rescuing Ambition?’”
Q: “Why is ambition important?”
Images of the Savior (4 - The Downfall of Jericho)
In the blessed visions of Isaiah the prophet, we may meet with a coming Messiah more meek and gentle than all men, who will suffer willingly for the redemption of his people (e.g. Isaiah 50:6; 52:13-53:12); but at the same time, we are given glimpses of this same Messiah as a warrior returning from a great slaughter, his robes stained red with the blood of all the enemies upon whom he had been trampling in his fury (Isaiah 63:1-6). From this portrait of the Christ, we may gather that he is uniquely diverse in his altogether excellent attributes, being both humble and approachable to his people, and yet most terrible in the fierceness of his wrath, which he will pour out against all who are not his own; and as we continue in the histories of Joshua, that great type of the Savior, we may see this latter excellency displayed as well in his own biography: for after he had brought his people into the promised land, meekly and humbly passing before them into the waters which flowed from Adam and symbolized the wrath of God, as a type of the Messiah suffering on the cross; then, he showed what terrible things he had in store for all their enemies, when he brought down the walls of mighty Jericho, and spared no one except Rahab the prostitute, but devoted every man, woman, and child beside to utter destruction by the mouth of his terrible sword.
Mercy - Never Deserved
"The moment we think we deserve mercy a little alarm bell should go off in our head because we are not talking about mercy anymore but justice." - R C Sproul
Book Review: Indwelling Sin in Believers, by John Owen
John Owen is perhaps the most worthy author of being read in the English language; and the doctrine of indwelling sin in a Christian â€“ what it is and how to fight against it without slipping into legalism or antinomianism â€“ is one of the most crucial topics in practical, twenty-first century Christianity. So then, what would hinder any Christian, young or old, from reading such a helpful-sounding title as Indwelling Sin in Believers, by John Owen? Until recently, the argument could perhaps have been made that Owen's style is just a little too obscure and prolix to be readily accessible to simple believers without a high education or theological training; but with the advent of the new Puritan Paperback, which abridges Owen's classic work and makes it easy to read, the last potential obstacle has fallen away. Christian, if you struggle with sin (and make no doubt, if you don't then you're not a Christian after all), read this book! You may just find it to be one of the most useful books you've read in a good, long while.
Owen, for those of you who may not have read him, has an ability to probe his subject, whatever it is, to its limits. After finishing one of his works, you get the distinct feeling that there is not one angle he has neglected to view the topic from, not one facet that he has left unexamined. But it is equally true, especially in his works on the Christian life, sanctification, the fight against sin, that he is eminently practical. Page after page of helpful, down-to-earth suggestions make this book one of the most applicational you'll ever read; but page after page of incisive, scriptural diagnosis ensure that the applications are firmly rooted in gospel truth. This is no â€œten steps to a better youâ€ kind of book â€“ but neither is it an abstract theological treatise. It is real Christian living founded upon real Christian truth.
I only wish to leave a couple of very brief excerpts from Indwelling Sin, to give the reader the merest hint of how the book deals with what indwelling sin is; why it is important to understand the doctrine; and how the Christian can go about fighting against it. The problem with excerpting Owen, however, is that every sentence is so pithy and full of wisdom that one could judicially excerpt just about the entire work! But if you're going to do that, you might as well just buy the book and be done with it â€“ a solution I hope quite a few of you come to!
What is indwelling sin like? â€œThrow it off â€“ it will come back. Rebuke it by the power of grace â€“ it withdraws for a while, and then returns. Set the cross of Christ before it â€“ it does as those that came to take him: at the sight of him they went backwards and fell to the ground, but then they rose again and laid hands on him. It gives way for a while, but it soon returns and presses on the soul again. Remind it of the love of God in Christ â€“ though it is stricken, it does not give up. Present hell-fire to it â€“ it rushes into the midst of the flames. Reproach it with its folly and madness â€“ it knows no shame, but presses on still. Let the thoughts of the mind struggle to flee from it â€“ it follows, as though on the wings of the wind. And by this importunity it wearies and wears out the soul, and if the great remedy, Romans 8:3, does not come in time, it gains the victory.â€
Why is it important to understand this? â€œThe one who understands the evil of his own heart is the only useful fruitful, solid believer. Others are fit only to delude themselves, and to disquiet families, churches, and every association. Let us wisely consider our hearts, and then see if we can be proud of our gifts and graces, and whether we can go and judge, condemn, and reproach others that have been tempted.â€
How can the Christian fight against it? â€œSet your affections on the cross of Christ. This is eminently effective in frustrating the whole work of indwelling sin. The apostle gloried and rejoiced in the cross of Christ. His heart was set on it. It crucified the world to him, making it a dead and undesirable thing (Gal. 6:14). The baits and pleasures of sin are all things of the world, 'the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life'. By these sin entices and entangles our souls. If the heart is filled with the cross of Christ, it casts death and undesirability on them all, leaving no seeming beauty, pleasure or comeliness in them.â€
Psalm Three: I Lay Down and Slept; I Woke Again
When King David was forced to flee from his own son Absalom, who had raised up such a rebellion against him that the great majority of the people thought his salvation was impossible, he cried out to the Lord, and then lay down and slept. Many thought this a sleep from which he would never arise, for thousands of people had set themselves around him, and were bent on his destruction; but he woke again, for God sustained him; and thenceforth, his Lord rose up to destroy his enemies, and crush them beneath his feet.
How was it, you may ask, that under such troubling circumstances the king was able to sleep at all? How did he have such peace and faith in the sure salvation of his God, when all hope seemed lost? To answer that question, dear, troubled Christian, I must tell you the story again, but this time, tell it of the greater David, whom the first David foreshadowed.
Images of the Savior (3 - The Crossing of the Jordan)
If, as we have seen, Joshua was a notable type of the Savior primarily because he rose up after Moses, and accomplished what even that great leader of the people had been unable to do; and if the one great act which Moses had been insufficient for was to bring the people of Israel across the Jordan and into the land which God had promised to their fathers to give to them; then we may expect to see very many wonderful and instructive signs and types of the Messiah surrounding the time when the typical savior Joshua actually brought the people of Israel into the promised land of Canaan; and in this expectation, we will not at all be disappointed, when we examine the account before us today with the eyes of faith, comparing spiritual things with spiritual, and hoping by the Spirit to see the great redemption of our Lord and Savior most poignantly displayed before our eyes.
Conversion - Impossible with man - Possible with God
Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.â€ Those who heard it said, â€œThen who can be saved?â€ But he said, â€œWhat is impossible with men is possible with God.â€ (Lk 18:25-27)
Just as a leopard CANNOT change its spots and a camel CANNOT go through the eye of a needle (both are impossible) MAN cannot change the human heart - BUT GOD CAN. That is our only hope as we pray for and reach out with the gospel to lost souls. - JS
God Directs the Means
"All is God's, and the blessings we enjoy are on loan from Him. He is the great landlord who has leased them to the sons of men. God has given the earth for us to occupy and enjoy, but also gives a particular allotment for each man's portion. These things do not come by chance, by the gift of others, or by our own industry, but by the peculiar designation of God's providence. Whatever avenue they come, by donation, purchase, labour, or by inheritance, they were sent by God. He directed the means to get them to us. The hearts of men are in the hand of God, and it was God that prompted them to be kind to us and become instruments of his providence to nourish us."
(Manton, Works 1:149-154)
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The Tower Experience
In the last 1,000 years, what came to be known as "the Tower Experience" of Martin Luther might well be the most significant event in the western world for all the ramifications which ensued. Here are Luther's own words as he describes what happened as he was studying Romans 1:17 (and reading the insights of Augustine on this verse from a fairly obscure article he had written centuries before)- "For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, â€œThe righteous shall live by faith.â€ - Rom 1:17
"I greatly longed to understand Paul's epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression "the righteousness of God," because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust.
My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage Him. Therefore I did not love a just angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him. Yet I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.
Quoting our Depravity
The first time a preacher quotes something he thinks to be profound it normally goes something like this: "As my dear friend and colleague Professor Dunning once said..."
The second time he quotes him, it sounds like this, "As a famous Professor once said..."
The third time: "As someone once said..."
Fourth time: "Like I always say..."
Think this through...
A good summary of the main three views regarding perseverance:
1. Classic Arminianismâ€¢ One must persevere in faith to be saved.
â€¢ True believers can lose their faith....
â€¢ Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
â€œThe believer who loses his faith is damned.â€
2. Antinomianismâ€¢ One need not persevere in faith to be saved.
â€¢ True believers can lose their faith.
â€¢ Those who lose their faith are saved, since they once believed.
â€œThe believer who loses his faith is saved.â€
3. Classic Calvinismâ€¢ One must persevere in faith to be saved.
â€¢ True believers cannot lose their faith, since itâ€™s Godâ€™s gift.
â€¢ Those dying without faith in Christ are condemned.
â€¢ Those who â€œloseâ€ their faith never had it to begin with.
â€¢ God will preserve true believers and they will be saved.
Here's a quote made today from Dan Fisher - "I've heard it said that the most arrogant person on earth is the person who believes that salvation can be lost, but still believes himself to be saved. If you ask an Arminian "who deserves the blame if he loses his salvation?", he will say that he himself does. If you ask him "who should get the credit if he perseveres to the end?", he is therefore required to answer the same. To say otherwise is logically inconsistent. If God truly deserves ALL the glory for our perseverance, we will never ultimately or finally fall away because God CANNOT fail. To be an Arminian, you either have to believe that God does not have the ability to hold onto us (at least not in every instance), or else that we must contribute in some sense to our own salvation (since we might lose it if we don't). As I see it, a denial of the doctrine of perseverance requires one to reject at least 4 of the 5 Solas--salvation would NOT be by grace alone, through faith alone, through Christ's work alone, to the glory of God alone. This is serious doctrinal error indeed."
â€œThere is one grace of the Holy Spirit you cannot counterfeitâ€¦the grace of perseverance.â€ - Gardiner Spring
Psalm Two: Today I Have Begotten You
The first two psalms, as we have observed, function together as a foundation and introduction to the glorious mysteries of the entire psalter; and if the first psalm demonstrates the centrality of Christ, holding him forth at once as the great representative of his people, then how much more may we learn of him from the second psalm, in which we are ushered into the inter-triune council, before the world or time began, to hear the decree whereby the eternal Son of God first solemnly undertook to save us from all our enemies? Oh, sacred mystery! Oh, unutterable grace! Before we intrude any further into this wonder of wonders, let us put off the shoes from our feet, for we have entered upon holy ground.
â€œJacob I loved, but Esau I hated.â€- Romans 9:13
There is no doubt about it, God had a different measure of love for one of the twins of than he did for the other. The phrase "Jacob have I loved but Esau have I hated" leads us to no other conclusion. But why? What is the basis for this distinction?
"I am not at a loss to tell you that it could not be for any good thing in Jacob, that God loved him, because I am told that â€œthe children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth.â€ I can tell you the reason why God loved Jacob; It is sovereign grace. There was nothing in Jacob that could make God love him; there was everything about him, that might have made God hate him, as much as he did Esau, and a great deal more. But it was because God was infinitely gracious, that he loved Jacob, and because he was sovereign in his dispensation of this grace, that he chose Jacob as the object of that love. Now, I am not going to deal with Esau, until I have answered the question on the side of Jacob. I want just to notice this, that Jacob was loved of God, simply on the footing of free grace."
C. H. Spugeon's sermon, preached on Sunday, January 16th, 1859, on the theme of "Jacob and Esau" is filled with great insight here. - JS