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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)

Images of the Savior (14 - Samson)

And Samson said, “Let my soul die with the Philistines.” And he bowed with strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people that were in it; and the dead whom he slew by his death were more than they whom he had slain in his life. – Judges 16:30

We have finally come to the last and quintessential judge of them all, Samson; and in his life, we will find definite confirmation of both those related truths which we have been at some pains to demonstrate – first, that, as the incorrigible hard-heartedness of the people becomes ever clearer, and their distress becomes ever more hopeless, the judges display ever more poignant a gospel-picture of what the coming promised Messiah would do to save his people from all their enemies and free them from their evil ways; but second, that even in so doing, they prove by their many failures and faults that they themselves are insufficient for so great an accomplishment as they point ahead to by their lives and ministries. This Samson is undoubtedly the greatest judge of all, and in terms of the sheer power he has been granted from the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he is unrivaled. So, too, are the multitudinous types which adorn his ministry unparalleled. But at the same time, his faults are more glaring than those of all who went before him, so much so that, at the end of his life, they plunge him to his own ruin, which is a thing we have not yet seen in any judge before him. But now, let us turn to the history.

Continue reading "Images of the Savior (14 - Samson)" »

January 31, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The End of Racism

Question: How many “races” are there in the world?

What is the Answer?: One? Four? Six? More than six?

And where the rubber meets the road.... What if a Chinese person were to marry a Polynesian, or an African with black skin were to marry a Japanese, or a person from India were to marry a person from America with white skin—would these marriages be in accord with biblical principles? A significant number of Christians would claim that such “interracial” marriages directly violate God’s principles in the Bible and should not be allowed. Does the Word of God really condemn the marriages mentioned above? Is there ultimately any such thing as interracial marriage?

Properly understood, the Biblical account of our origins found in the book of Genesis provides the basis for the end of all racism. More here. - JS

January 29, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Is Christianity to Blame for Violence Against Homosexuals

On facebook I ran across a discussion about an article about the violence against homosexuality in Uganda. Below is one person's comments (named Kevin) with my response

Kevin
It's partly the church leaders fault for implanting the ridiculous notion that homosexuality is wrong. Obviously, they weren't preaching violence, and these idiots went way too far, but this is the problem with missionary work. MOST of the ...people here in America have grown up understanding various religions and know the positions on things, so they aren't prone to violence (not all, but most) against these groups. But introducing a new religion to people, telling them these things that the deity says are evil, what reaction do they expect? New converts are going to be over-zealous by nature.

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John
@Kevin, If this were the case then they would also be murdering thieves, adulterers, liars, polygamists, and other people who have sin problems like me. There are a lot of things that Christians believe about right and wrong -- and they do not lead to violence toward them. Here's why....

The first truth about Christianity is that I personally justly deserve the wrath of God for my sin save for his mercy in Jesus Christ alone. ANYONE who believes this most basic truth of Christianity has ZERO interest in violence toward others because he has realized for the first time that apart from grace, there he goes as well. That other sinner is JUST LIKE ME. If someone does not believe this basic truth then they have not been taught true Christianity at all. Homosexuality is wrong but so are many things I have done and now unfortunately still occasionally do. Being born with an inclination toward something, however, is no excuse for them or for me. We all are born with such inclinations. So Christians, seeing the reality of the situation, can only view themselves as beggars leading other beggars to bread. We cannot be angry with them for being sinners because we are too. Telling people God's law which shows them to be sinners or is not only not unloving, it is the most loving thing we can do. Because Jesus offers forgiveness for all of their sin. There is nothing extraordinary about the sin of homosexual acts. Certainly no worse than the many things I have done. And I am sure many of them a better citizens than I have ever been. But this is not the issue.

When someone has a drug problem, a good friend will intervene. You don't call him a hater or inciter to violence because of it. On the contrary, you see that he cared enough about his friend to act. The same goes for Christians who tell it bluntly. And they can do so gently simply because they also have the same disease. Now you may not share this worldview, but don't call them haters. From their perspective they are doing the only thing that can help. If Christianity is true then it will end up that the real haters will be those who stood by and agreed who rebelled against God.

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Kevin
John, I see your point, but if you re-read my post, I said the church was only partly to blame and I made it clear the church does not promote violence.

And I'm relatively positive Liars, Adulterers, thieves and the like are also murdered i...n these countries, but there isn't as much media attention at the moment because of the contentious gay issue and the current law being presented to their congress.

Your lesson in Christianity is understood, and in theory it works, but do you really think that in practice, it is always the same? People don't preach the same just as

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John
‎@Kevin, Indeed ... I have no doubt in my mind that there is and has been a great deal of false and inadequate teaching in the name of Christianity leading to countless problems. This has been the case through church history. But I believe... the resolution to the problem is not to take the Bible less seriously (since this is what led to the problem in the first place) but to take its contents more seriously. Grace is such a difficult lesson that if it is not taught, and it merely becomes a list of dos and don'ts, then I can look down on others who are not LIKE ME. But this is not Christianity but Phariseeism, the natural inclination of a large percentage of people both inside and outside Christianity.

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Kevin
Yeah definitely. I'm not a christian in any way shape or form, but if the missionaries are teaching something more along the lines of peace and love and universal brotherhood, rather than just "this is right, this is wrong', its impact will be greater and more constructive.

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John
Without grace, telling people to simply change their behavior is not helpful. But with the gospel of grace, you CAN preach right and wrong because, at the same time, you see the log in your own eye as you tell others about forgiveness and escaping the sin through grace.. This way it is proclaimed without condescension, hatred or an "I am better then you" attitude. But to be sure, peace and brotherhood does not come from saying evil is OK. It comes from understanding oneself to be evil and having fallen woefully short and pointing others to Christ, who alone is without sin and can save the lost.

If I was doctor who went to a remote island where all of the peoples there were dying of a disease ... a disease I also had ... Loving them would have to include telling them they had to stop eating a certain root, but also that they needed the medicine that I am also taking. Both are important. Many may not believe me but this does not make me less loving for telling them. It is loving them.

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Kevin
@John: Yes, but it's one thing to preach against evil and another to preach against something that is simply natural for 10% of the population.


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@Kevin, I was personally born with many evil propensities. My being born with them does not alleviate me of responsibility. We live in a post- fall world where ALL people are born with a natural tendency toward some forms of evil. Homosexual acts are just one of them. Christianity has preached against adultery and polygamy forever but these are frankly the natural inclination of the majority of men. Do we stop saying it is wrong simply because they were born with the inclination. This is what separates us from the animals. We have ideals and morals. What are morals except shooting toward an ideal that we do not presently live up to. Why don't we live up to it? Because we can't. We are born with the natural tendency to disobey God. Just try obeying the ten commandments for a week and you will know what I am talking about.

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Kevin
I would respond, but then this would become a theological debate, which just deviates too far from the original topic and, as I am greatly outnumbered among Franks friends, i will relent and not subject anyone to my hedonistic and darwinian views.


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John
I understand completely Kevin. But I will leave you with this challenge.

As a Darwinist, (Quoting Doug Wilson), all the things you mention (like calling homosexuality sin) and other things you are morally outraged by are in the "meaningless" category. Morality, tragedy, and sorrow are equally evanescent. They are all empty sensations created by the chemical reactions of the brain, in turn created by too much Chinese food the night before. If there is no God, then all abstractions are merely chemical epiphenomena, like swamp gas over fetid water. This means that we have no reason for assigning truth and falsity to the chemical fizz we call reasoning or right and wrong to the irrational reaction we call morality. If no God, mankind is a set of bi-pedal carbon units of mostly water. And nothing else. You have no way to account for morality. You should have no objection to the way others behave or for Christians who say there is right or wrong. Given your worldview, there is no moral difference between genocide and a day at the beach. In both cases, all you have is atoms banging around.

Objective and universal standards of reason, morality, and beauty simply cannot exist in your purely material world. So when you are morally outraged, you are fighting Christianity with borrowed Christian weapons.

January 28, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

TULIP (5)

For those following the online TULIP seminar, part 5 is now posted here on the subject of unconditional election. - JS

January 28, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Saved?

Saved from what? A lack of purpose in life? A lack of fulfillment? From bad relationships? From emptiness and a feeling there's something missing? Saved from what? The Bible answer might surprise you. To be saved means to be saved by God, from God, for God. More here. - JS

January 27, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Christianity – The Greatest Force of Good in the World!

Have you ever heard people say that Christianity is evil? I have. People who say that have to have a very poor sense of history and all the amazing advances the world now enjoys because of the spread of Christianity. Some thoughts on this here. - JS

January 25, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Lessons of Providence by John Newton

Excerpt, The Letters of John Newton (John Newton)

But a Christian is to pursue his lawful calling with an eye to the providence of God, and with submission to his wisdom. Thus, so far as he acts in the exercise of faith, he cannot be disappointed. He casts his care upon his Heavenly Father, who has promised to take care of him. What God gives, he receives with thankfulness, and is careful as a faithful steward to improve it for the furtherance of the cause of God, and the good of mankind. And if he meets with losses and crosses, he is not disconcerted, knowing that all his concerns are under a Divine direction; that the Lord whom he serves, chooses for him better than he could choose for himself; and that his best treasure is safe, out of the reach of the various changes to which all things in the present state are liable.

January 22, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

TULIP (4)

For those following the online TULIP seminar, part 4 is now posted here. - JS

January 22, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Calvinism vs. Hyper Calvinism

“Remember… while some Arminians are Armenians and some Armenians are Arminians, Armenians and Arminians are two very different groups. Second, while it’s true that some Calvinists can be a bit hyper, that doesn’t make them Hyper-Calvinists.” – Justin Taylor

It is very important to know the vast chasm of difference between Calvinism and Hyper Calvinism. See this article here. - JS

January 19, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

To a Fallen Sparrow

A little poem with a moral at the end, for him who would find it...

Why do the fairest fall? O heart, O heart!
   How often must you sigh at senseless pain?
What blows break others, and you feel the smart?
   Why bleed you from another's opened vein?
   If you could pour in torrents forth a rain
Of your own life in some sad spot apart,
                And leave this tear-dimmed vale,
Where only the guiltless suffer, and where rage
   The heathen throng and prosper, it were well.
But to be senseless for many a cruel age
   Were better than to thrive where sweetlings fail.

Continue reading "To a Fallen Sparrow" »

January 17, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

TULIP (3)

For those interested in the continuing treck through the TULIP (an online video seminar), part 3 has now been posted here. - JS

January 17, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Urgent Morse Code Message

S.O.S. - T.I.M. L.A.H.A.Y.E. W.A.S. R.I.G.H.T. A.F.T.E.R. A.L.L. - I. A.M. L.E.F.T. B.E.H.I.N.D.


Serious cat sends an S.O.S.! brought to you by Videobash

January 15, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Purgatory

There is no doubt that Dr. R.C. Sproul is a highly trained theologian. One of the many things I appreciate about him is his ability to simplify issues without distorting them. Very few people are able to accomplish this as well as he does.

If you have ever been to a Ligonier Ministries Conference, you will know that one of the highlights is when Dr. R. C. Sproul (either alone or with an expert panel alongside him) has a Question and Answer session. Usually the questions relate to the theme of the Conference and the answers given are often extremely helpful and insightful.

In a recent CD release called "Ask R.C." (from Ligonier Ministries), Dr. R. C. Sproul fielded questions and provided answers on a wide range of biblical and theological issues. One of the questions concerned the doctrine of purgatory and I have transcribed the verbal interchange below. - JS

Questioner: Could you explain the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory and whether or not it is a truthful doctrine?

R.C. - Thank you for that. I will try to deal with that as briefly as I can and I want to be accurate with it. The doctrine of purgatory is an integral doctrine to the Roman Catholic understanding of redemption has been modified just in the last year or so with respect to infants but purgatory is defined by Rome as a purging place. It is a place where the vast majority of even professing Christians go upon their death. As recently as the Roman Catholic Catechism, the Church declares that if a person dies with any spot or blemish or stain on their soul – any impurity – instead of going directly to heaven they must first go to this place of purging which is this intermediate state between earth and heaven. And in purgatory, which is not hell, it is not a place of the punitive wrath of God, but it is a place for the corrective wrath of God (as it were), where the sanctifying process is continued through the crucible of fire (as it were).

Now in purgatory, as I said, the vast majority of people experience this time; they may be there for two weeks or they may be there for two hundred million years – in fact at the heart of the controversy in the 16th century Reformation had to do with the sale of indulgences, and on the external situation there, particularly in Germany when Tetzel was selling the indulgences to the peasants, he distorted seriously the Roman doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church has held for many, many centuries that the grace of justification is infused into a person at baptism, and that that grace of justification remains intact until or unless a person commits a mortal sin. That mortal sin is called mortal because it is so serious that it destroys the justifying grace in the soul. And so a person who commits mortal sin, in other words, has to be re-justified, brought anew into a state of grace. In the 16th century, the Council of Trent declared that the sacrament of penance is the second plank of justification for those who have made shipwreck of their souls.

Continue reading "Purgatory" »

January 13, 2011  |  Comments (14)   |  Permalink

A Caveat Against Unsound Doctrines - Excerpt

Ask almost any man, “Whether he hopes to be saved eternally?”

He will answer in the affirmative.

But enquire again, “On what foundation he rests his hope?”

Here too many are sadly divided.

The Pelagian hopes to get to heaven by a moral life and a good use of his natural powers.

The Arminian by a jumble of grace and free-will, human works, and the merits of Christ.

The Deist by an interested observance of the social virtues.

Thus merit-mongers, of every denomination, agree in making any thing the basis of their hope, rather than that foundation which God’s own hand hath laid in Zion.

But what saith Scripture?

It avers, again and again, that Jesus alone is our hope: to the exclusion of all others, and to the utter annihilation of human deservings.

Beware, therefore, of resting your dependence partly on Christ, and partly on some other basis. As surely as you bottom your reliance partly on the rock, and partly on the sand; so certainly, unless God give you an immediate repentance to your acknowledgment of the truth, will your supposed house of defence fall and bury you in its ruins, no less than if you had raised it on the sand alone.

Christ is the hope of glory.

By Augustus Montague Toplady – Apri1 29, 1770

A Caveat Against Unsound Doctrines by Augustus Toplady, available as an eBook in Kindle .mobi and ePub formats from Monergism Books

January 13, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

TULIP (2)

For those interested in the on-going treck through the TULIP (an online video seminar), part 2 has now been posted here. - JS

January 12, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Images of the Savior (13 - Jephthah)

And the Spirit of Yahweh was upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead and Manasseh, and he passed over to Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over to the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow to Yahweh, and he said, “If you will certainly give the children of Ammon into my hand, then it shall be that the one who comes out from the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, he shall be Yahweh's, and I will offer him up as a burnt offering”. And Jephthah crossed over to the children of Ammon, to fight against them; and Yahweh gave them into his hand. And he smote them from Aroer even unto when you come to Minnith, twenty cities, and unto Abel-Keramim, a very great slaughter. And the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. – Judges 11:29-33

It is in keeping with the central burden of the book of the Judges that, immediately after one of the most gospel-instructive events of all, in Gideon's surprising victory over the hosts of Midian, there should come one of the most devastating times imaginable, and there should rise to the throne one whose wickedness seems, in a figure, to look ahead to that Man of Sin of whom the apostle would later speak (2 Thes. 2:1-12). Consider the ways in which this Abimelech is cast, in the account, as the quintessential son of perdition, who in shameless trickery and hypocrisy should set his hand to the destruction of those whom he purports to save; thus does the downward spiral of the people plunge them into an era even more desperate than any they had known before, thereby demonstrating yet again how great was their need of a true Messiah and King, who could save them once and for all.

Continue reading "Images of the Savior (13 - Jephthah)" »

January 10, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

My Journey into Grace

Have you noticed that amongst reformed books and articles, there is very little in the way of testimony? What I mean by that is that unlike other theological camps, stories of conversions are not normally emphasized. Rather, our passion is to simply point people to the word of God and through that means, let the Lord do His work in transforming the hearts and minds of people. We understand that the power is in the Word of God, not our testimony. That is so very true. Yet I think it is sometimes helpful for people to come to know something about how God transformed our understanding of His Word.

I was already well into my second decade in the ministry when I encountered the Doctrines of Grace and felt their powerful impact on my soul. I have written a short article about it here. Part 2 here. It certainly was an unlikely and unexpected journey of discovery. - JS

January 10, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Cross - The Wisdom and Power of God

Why do some people reject the message of the cross? Here's why. - JS

January 07, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Tiptoe through the TULIP with me

Here's an invitation for you to join with me in discovering the doctrines of grace (if you have not already done so before, or even if you have). It should be a fun online journey. - JS

January 06, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Michael Horton’s New Systematic Theology!

Anticipation has been building for quite some time, as people know that Dr. Horton's new systematic theology has been in the works for quite some time. The release date is set for February, but until then, take a look at this brief interview where Dr. Horton describes the nature of his work. If you want more, check out Dr. Horton's Office Hours interview on his new Systematic Theology.

January 05, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Limited Atonement. Why Even Talk About It?

Why even talk about it? Are we simply wanting to spark theological controversy? Are we seeking to divide what God has joined together (in the body of Christ)? Do we like fighting people with words? No, not at all. A thousand times "no."

The whole point of talking, sharing, blogging, preaching and getting our understanding precise as to the intention of God in sending His Son to the cross is not so that our heads would be enlarged by theological speculation, but that our hearts would be broken, crushed; forever amazed and astounded at the love of God for us. I write more about this here. - JS

January 05, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Spiritual Warfare

There are two mistakes we often make when it comes to the devil. One is the make too much of our foe and attribute almost deity status to him. The devil is not omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all wise, all knowing) or omnipresent (everywhere present); so if he is bothering you, he cannot possibly be bothering me at the same time (though he does have many agents under his rule who work on his behalf). The other mistake though is to make too little of him, and not take his schemes against us seriously.

In the famous passage in Ephesians 6 which portrays the saints' spiritual warfare, notice two things. Firstly, the Apostle Paul likens the conflict to wrestling, which is the closest form of fighting. The original words could be translated "our wrestling match is not against persons with bodies..."

Secondly, although Paul could have used the word "against" just once to have easily made his point, he uses it over and over again - five times in all - illustrating the immensity and intensity of the battle each of us are engaged in. Like it or not, we are in a war.

“10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Below is a short video of quotes by Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. Very sobering. - JS

January 04, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Short Video on the Trinity

I wanted to put together a short video (less than 3 minutes) to give Christians an introductory resource to help defend the doctrine of the Trinity in their Christian witness. I have done so here.

I would also encourage people to frequently use the search facility at monergism.com. It provides an outstanding selection of materials on a whole host of theological subjects. - JS

January 04, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Ten Books That Every Christian Should Own and Read

is no new idea to suggest a “top ten” list of Christian books, which, when read carefully, will ground a new believer in the basics of what it means to be a part of the historic, orthodox Christian faith. I've seen several such lists in the past, and, as the beginning of a new year seems to be a popular time for composing such lists, I've recently come across a couple more. I've always felt it a little unbalanced that almost all such lists (at least composed by Protestants) are drawn exclusively from the past several hundred years of an almost two-thousand year history of orthodoxy. The occasional nod to Augustine is usually the only exception to this bias toward the relatively more recent – and I think we are the poorer for it, and less able to sort through the plethora of doctrinal and practical woes which abound everywhere in these dark days. That said, I would like to throw my own “top ten” list out there, with a mind to take the whole history of Christian literature into account. It is, of course, a most difficult thing to boil down two thousand years of solid writings into a mere ten suggestions, and for every book I picked I could have picked ten others just like it. But, in the end, I had to make some hard decisions, which is simply the nature of the exercise. Here are the final selections:

Continue reading "Ten Books That Every Christian Should Own and Read" »

January 03, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Contagious Joy!

In the first Church of the Frozen Chosen, one penguin has just learnt that he was predestined to be a 5 point Calvinist from before the foundation of the world, much to the annoyance of the others. - JS

January 03, 2011  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Prof. Horner’s Bible-Reading System

Prof. Horner’s Bible-Reading System
This is the Bible reading plan that I personally use because by reading multiple chapters of Scripture each day you are continually covering the whole counsel of Scripture thus allowing the Bible to interpret itself. I have already been using this for a couple of years and can vouch for its helpfulness.

January 02, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Introducing Shai Linne

The Reformers of old often brought their doctrines from the high and lofty ledge of theological discussion and down to the level of the normal person in the pew (so to speak) through the use of music. Martin Luther was a great hymn writer, and both he and others like him spread the reformed doctrines far and wide through such means. Shai Linne does the same thing in our day using a forum many of us have never encountered before – hip hop music. I concluded a brief series of articles on the subject of particular redemption with a song of his here. - JS

January 01, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink