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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)

Salvation is of the Lord

I am not sure why there is a delay between the audio and video, but trust this can still be a blessing.

August 30, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Acts 13:48

Sometimes, the most profound truths are captured in a single Scripture verse; sometimes, in half a verse. The great and essential salvation doctrine of justification by faith alone was based on half a verse in the book of Habakkuk, chapter 2 and verse 4, namely "the just shall live by faith"; a statement repeated in the New Testament at Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38.

In the same way, a phrase in Acts 13:48 is loaded with profound insight for us. In context, the apostles had preached the word of God, and simply as a commentary on the event, Luke (the writer) tells us the result he observed:

"...and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Luke does not stop to explain this statement. It seems to be just a casual observation on Luke's part. Now Luke is ready to go on to the next thing. Pen (or more likely quill) in hand, he is ready to record for us the next event in the history of the ancient church.

But wait! Before we rush on to see the next thing that transpires in this exciting drama, lets just stop for a moment to think through the implications of Luke's statement. Luke wrote it, but it was the Holy Spirit who inspired it, and no word here is waisted or superfluous. God intends us to see this event through the lens of His own perspective. He wants us to see something very powerful here.

What do I mean?

Well as we pause to consider the phrase, lets ask ourselves three questions:

"...and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

1. WHICH comes first - believing or being appointed to eternal life?

There is no getting around it, first there is the appointment to eternal life, and then there is the belief. There is a cause and effect relationship. The cause is the secret and unseen heavenly, eternal decree of God - the setting of an appointment; the effect is what is observed on the earth - the people responding in faith to the gospel. The cause is the appointment by God; the effect is the exercise of faith by man.

2. Do any MORE believe?

"... and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

The answer has to be "No." The number of people who believe are NO MORE than the many who were appointed to do so.

3. Do any LESS believe?

"... and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

Once again, the answer has to be "No."

ALL who had the appointment, made the appointment.

Selah. Think, pause and meditate.

- John S

August 30, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Semper Reformanda

Dr. John MacArthur writes:

Semper reformanda (“always reforming”) is one of the enduring slogans often associated with the Protestant Reformation. The origins of the phrase are murky and probably date from the late 1600s. But the kernel of the idea is true enough: Until we are glorified—until we are fully, finally, perfectly conformed to the exact likeness of Christ—we as saints individually, and the whole church collectively, must always be reforming.

The idea is not that we should change for the sake of change. You can be sure that whoever first penned that slogan was not urging Christians to stay abreast of every wind of earthly fashion in order to suit someone’s shallow notion of “relevance.” Nor does the principle of semper reformanda require us to rewrite our doctrinal standards every generation in order to keep in step with the constantly-changing dogmas of human philosophy.

On the other hand, real Reformation is not about slavish subscription to one particular set of seventeenth-century confessional standards—as if the magisterial Reformers or their immediate successors reached a level of ecclesiastical and doctrinal perfection beyond which further reform is impossible. According to that view, you’re not truly Reformed if, for example, you reject paedobaptism or you employ musical instruments and hymns in your worship rather than strictly limiting your singing to metrical psalms sung a capella.

John Calvin was under no illusion that the Reformation had reached its goal in his lifetime—or that it would get there in a generation or two. He wrote,

Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish," (Eph. 5: 25-27.) Nevertheless, it is true, that the Lord is daily smoothing its wrinkles and wiping away its spots. Hence it follows that its holiness is not yet perfect. Such, then, is the holiness of the Church: it makes daily progress, but is not yet perfect; it daily advances, but as yet has not reached the goal. (Institutes, 4.1.17)

Here’s the point: the only true and valid reformation occurs as we align our beliefs, our behavior, and our worship with the Word of God. In fact, the full, unabbreviated version of the Latin slogan is Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (“The Church Reformed and always reforming according to the Word of God.”)

God’s Word is the only true standard we have a divine mandate to conform to, and it is the ultimate standard by which we will be judged. Success or failure in ministry therefore cannot be evaluated by numerical statistics, financial figures, popularity polls, public opinion, or any of the other factors the world typically associates with “success.” The only real triumph in ministry is to hear Christ say, “Well done.”

August 29, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Buses and Ambulances

"till we all come to the unity of the faith" Ephesians 4:13

"In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." - Augustine

The high amount of injury and bloodshed amongst the people hurled under proverbial buses has caused great concern to me recently.

I would just make the point that the reformation slogan of “Semper Reformanda” or “Always Reforming” is a very good one. The Reformation was never just a snap shot in time, but a desire for all Christians and the Church at large to be mastered by the God-breathed word of God until all thought and doctrine was bibline.

I for one, am so glad that succeeding generations have weighed up some of the things the Magesterial reformers have said and written and decided that they were wrong – plain wrong – on some things. For example, some of the worst things ever said about the Jews, come from the lips and pen of Luther. That indeed is a terrible tragedy.

Luther was a father to German hearts the way Lincoln was and is to the people of the United States. It could be argued that Germany’s history with anti-semitism could be traced back directly to Luther’s writings. It gives me no joy at all to say so, but that is a fact. As much as we love these heroes of the faith, only Scripture is the sole infallible rule of faith for the people of God. Yet we embrace these men even though we may strongly disagree with them on some things. Believe me, for a Jew, Luther’s rhetoric is very problematic, and I have had many a conversation with Jewish people where when the name of “Luther” came up, the conversation was basically over. Yet centuries on, I am happy to embrace Luther as my brother in Christ and fellow laborer in reformation and am thankful to God for his ministry.

I say all this because many seem to want to claim the title of “reformed” only for themselves. Some Presbytereans seek to outlaw Baptists as not being reformed, and so on. Cessationists want to do that with the likes of Piper, Grudem, Storms, D. A. Carson and so on. Without trying to be funny, I just think cessationists should just “stop it!” None of these men individually or not even all of them collectively are infallible (just like Luther or Calvin) but I think we are a sad, sad bunch of people if we do not allow these men (and others like them) to be included under the umbrella of “reformed,” because of our differences concerning spiritual gifts.

The issues are indeed important, but lets keep talking to one another, and not divide over these things, when what we share in common FAR outweighs our differences. If you can look at a D. A. Carson and say “I dont want you in our circles because you wrote a book about spiritual gifts and exegeted 1 Cor 12-14 in a way I dont agree with” – be my guest – go ahead.. but you wont find me cheering you on.

I thank God very much for my reformed cessationist friends and am happy to embrace them as co-laborers in reformation. I hope others on the other side of the aisle in this debate can do likewise in reciprocity.

Semper Reformanda,

John Samson

August 26, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

When You Pass Through the Waters, I Will Be With You

In late June of 2011, Minot, North Dakota experienced the worst flooding in its history. Thousands of homes and business were destroyed, and thousands of people are still displaced.

Slideshow

More than half a year earlier, I had agreed to preach five sermons during the month of July at Trinity Church in Minot, while our preaching pastor was away. The text I had decided upon? A five-part series on the Christ-centered message of Isaiah.

I didn't know when I agreed to preach that I would be addressing a congregation that had just seen their homes destroyed. But God knew. And he knew that the message they needed was exactly the message that he had given to his people thousands of years earlier, when they were about to undergo an even worse tragedy. Isaiah portrays the sovereign God of eternity with an unparalleled splendor; but he does not just show that God high and lifted up; he also shows him stooping even to the shame of the cross, to save his afflicted people. There is no more powerful gospel-balm to be had for those going through tragedy than the glorious prophecy of Isaiah. If you or someone you know is passing through some deep waters, flee to the God of the Evangelist-Prophet; his grace is always deeper than the floods rise against us.

Notes for my series, The Gospel According to Isaiah, are available here. Below, I've excerpted a brief portion introducing the central theme of Isaiah, from the first sermon.

Continue reading "When You Pass Through the Waters, I Will Be With You" »

August 25, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

If People are Already Elect What Need is there for Evangelism?

Without election no one would be saved. But election is not what saves. By it God determines who will be saved in Christ, in time, through the gospel, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. Evangelism casts the seed of the gospel, which the Holy Spirit uses to germinate the elect unto life.

August 24, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Comfort Ye My People

"...so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." Heb 9:28.

Comforting news. When Jesus returns He has no intention of dredging up your old sin but to embrace his child with open arms. So our hope is NOT based on the whole life lived, as the New Perspective believes but rather your complete acceptance by God based on the life and death of Christ alone.

August 23, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Lord Jesus Christ - One Person, Two Natures

Pastor John, when the second Person of the Trinity (identified as "the Word" in John 1:1) became flesh (John 1:14) did this signify a change in the Godhead in some way? I have heard more than one preacher say that in becoming man, He laid aside His divine characteristics such as omnipresence (being everywhere present) and omniscience (knowing all things). Is this true?

Thanks for writing in. The answer is a resounding "no" to both of your questions. The Godhead has not changed one iota and never will. God is both eternal and immutable (unchanging). Malachi 3:6 says, "I am the Lord, I change not." I would also say that Christ in no way laid aside His divine attributes at any time (though by becoming a man, those attributes were veiled to us).

Its important to know that these kind of questions are not new to our generation, but Christian scholars throughout the centuries have grappled with them and found biblical answers. To combat the gross heresy that was seeking to gain inroads in the Church, Christian leaders met together at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, to search the Bible and properly define what we call "the hypostatic union" - the union of the two natures of Christ. Here at this council (based on the revelation of Scripture) Jesus Christ was declared to be one Person with two natures, one that is fully human and one that is fully Divine. These two natures are united in the one Person. These natures can be distinguished from each other but never separated. How exactly this union of the two natures takes place is very much a mystery but it is certainly the case. Colossians 2:9 tells us that Christ is the fullness of Deity in bodily form.

The statement of the council was:

Continue reading "The Lord Jesus Christ - One Person, Two Natures" »

August 23, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

The Treasure Hid in the Scriptures is Christ

If any one, therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling [vocationis]. For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field, (1) that is, in this world (for "the field is the world"); (2) but the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables. Hence His human nature could not (3) be understood, prior to the consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the advent of Christ. And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet: "Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things." (4) But Jeremiah also says, "In the last days they shall understand these things." (5) For every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men [full of] enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition. And for this reason, indeed, when at this present time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the cross of Christ, and explained, both enriching the understanding of men, and showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring His dispensations with regard to man, and forming the kingdom of Christ beforehand, and preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy Jerusalem, and proclaiming beforehand that the man who loves God shall arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by Daniel: "Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous (6) as the stars for ever and ever." (7) Thus, then, I have shown it to be, (8) if any one read the Scriptures. For thus it was that the Lord discoursed with the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures themselves "that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the world." (9) And the disciple will be perfected, and [rendered] like the householder, "who bringeth forth from his treasure things new and old." (10) -- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book Four

source

1. Matt. xiii. 44.
2. Matt. xiii. 38.
3. Harvey cancels "non," and reads the sentence interrogatively.
4. Dan. xii. 4, 7.
5. Jer. xxiii. 20.
6. The Latin is "a multis justis," corresponding to the Greek version of the Hebrew text.
7. Dan. xii. 3.
8. The text and punctuation are here in great uncertainty, and very different views of both are taken by the editors.
9. Luke xxiv. 26, 47. [The walk to Emmaus is the fountain-head of Scriptural exposition, and the forty days (Acts i. 3) is the river that came forth like that which went out of Eden. Ecclesiasticus iv. 31.]
10. Matt. xiii. 52. [I must express my delight in the great principle of exposition here unfolded. The Old Scriptures are a night-bound wilderness, till Christ rises and illuminates them, glorying alike hill and dale, and, as this author supposes, every shrub and flower, also, making the smallest leaf with its dewdrops glitter like the rainbow.]

August 22, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Naked and Empty-Handed, We Flee to His Mercy - Quote by John Calvin

"For God has shut up all men in unbelief," not that he may destroy all or suffer all to perish, but "that he may have mercy upon all" [ Romans 11:32]. This means that, dismissing the stupid opinion of their own strength, they come to realize that they stand and are upheld by God's hand alone; that, naked and empty-handed, they flee to his mercy, repose entirely in it, hide deep within it, and seize upon it alone for righteousness and merit. For God's mercy is revealed in Christ to all who seek and wait upon it with true faith. In the precepts of the law, God is but the rewarder of perfect righteousness, which all of us lack, and conversely, the severe judge of evil deeds. But in Christ his face shines, full of grace and gentleness, even upon us poor and unworthy sinners. - John Calvin

August 21, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

A Challenging Suggestion

Back in 2009 Ligonier Ministries hosted a Conference for Pastors and Leaders called "Pillars of the Christian Faith." It was described in the following way:

"While always initiated and empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit, history tells us that the most powerful periods of church renewal and reformation follow the efforts of Christian leaders to teach the Word of God accurately. These gifted teachers held in common a solid grounding in the essential truths of the prophetic and apostolic writings, the foundation upon which Christ builds His church. Christian leaders today must likewise be established in these biblical truths if the church would enjoy a new reformation.

In Ligonier Ministries’ 2009 Ministry Leadership Conference, “Pillars of the Christian Faith,” Ligon Duncan, Sinclair Ferguson, Steven Lawson, and R.C. Sproul seek to equip you for effective, biblical leadership based upon the essential truths of the Christian faith."

The sessions were as follows:

Continue reading "A Challenging Suggestion" »

August 21, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Temple: A Sonnet Crown

Come, make your dwelling in my humble heart:
although the outside is a hut of clay,
inside eons compact into a day
and there's a universe in every part,
but without form and void, lacking the art
that spoke the worlds into divine array.
You breathed in life; I breathed out the decay
that undid what was well done at the start,
and made myself unfit to be your home.
You could have passed the sentence even then,
but stooped instead to indwell a virgin's womb;
stoop further now, to the dark home within,
where dust and disrepair dwell till you come
set my flawed house in order once again.

Set my flawed house in order once again:
Sloth lazes on the couch; Lust, in the bed,
mocks when mad Envy strikes Wrath on the head
till he fling furniture around the den
where Petulance, Self-Love, and Pride have been;
there Gluttony and Idol-Worship spread
a feast of mice in filth and pig's blood bred,
and the Strong Man keeps all enchained within.
Bind the Strong Man with his own cruel chain;
with the coiled whip that cleansed God's holy ground,
drive out the seven demons that remain
in my dark house; rebuild it all around,
purge it till it's as free from crook and stain
as the tent patterned on the heavenly mount.

As the tent patterned on the heavenly mount,
so are God's graces ordered all aright:
the altar, where God's Lamb burns out of sight
our sin; then purity flows from the fount
before the door; inside, the loaves abound
to feed our faith; we may read, “I am Light”
in the flaming candle; to the ceiling's height,
soft smoke shields from the glory blazing round
God's fierce shekinah on the mercy-seat,
from which we are prevented by a veil
(his own torn flesh) his holiness to meet.
But, transitory types of what is real,
they cry out for a lasting home instead,
a perfect temple where God's Name might dwell.

Continue reading "The Temple: A Sonnet Crown" »

August 19, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

A Theocratic or a Secularist State? Or Neither?

Until the Lord Jesus Christ returns and establishes justice (Rev 6:16, 17; 11:18) by trampling down his enemies in the great winepress of His wrath (Rev 14:19, 20), Christians are to advance the kingdom of God through proclaiming his word with love and persuasion. Aside from the secularist hysteria about the dangers of Christian theocracy, the vast majority of Christians actually have no more interest in establishing a theocratic Christian state, than in establishing a purely secularist state. Both are equally loathsome to us. Here is why. The secularist mullahs are just as dangerous as the Christian ones. Too much power in the hands of anyone, including certain denominations of Christians, is dangerous because man is corruptible. That is why limited government and a balance of power is a reasonable idea, because it understands the sinful limitations of human beings, whether they be secularist, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist.

Even though Christians know the only truth, they also know themselves too well as sinners to be without the restraint of law or a balance of power. So when Christians speak of separation of church and state we include all ideas under this umbrella, including secularism. One thing many secularists fail to realize though, is that neither they nor their ideas are religiously neutral. Yet they seem to have convinced themselves that they are neutral....even though (ironically) the secularists want to vigorously impose their own moral code on society, ideas which have both affirmations and denials about the nature of good and evil. Even in the face of this obvious truth, the secularists amazingly still want to exempt themselves from the separation of church and state clause. It is amazing to me that they do not see how very exclusionary of all other ideas this is and leaves power in the hands of secularists alone. They think, "others are forbidden to speak in the public square because they are religious but WE CAN because we are not religious." But if, on the other hand, we understand the separation clause more broadly, wherein all views are included under the separation of church and state (that is NO religion can be established, including secularism) then ALL religions and worldviews can speak freely in the public square and compete in the free market of ideas... That is closer to true liberty. Remember, we live in a secular country, not a secularist country.

So because of the sin nature a good Christian should never be anti-government (because all government is established by God) but he should believe in a limited government and rule of law so as to promote the most good by avoiding the tyranny of any one group, including his own. Let's say Christians did get power. Which Christian denomination will you trust to impose laws on the USA? If you know yourself and the nature of man well, you will answer that none should have such power. The Lord alone has the omniscience to judge right and wrong and do it with absolute justice and equity when He comes. For now we are to win people's hearts and minds through the gospel, which God uses to change hearts, and which ALONE will make people eager to follow God's laws. He can gather people for his kingdom under any type of government. Some of the biggest revivals in world history have taken place under the most inhospitable of regimes. So we fear no man or law for what can he do beyond kill our body? Nothing.

August 17, 2011  |  Comments (19)   |  Permalink

A Man of Two Questions

“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” 2 Tim 2:7

MESSAGE TO SELF:

You may be armed with an inspiring quote, found a good phrase you might use as a punch line, you might have heard a great story that is sure to “wow” the people, you might have up to date facts and figures at your disposal that might possibly be shocking or even frightening, but certainly, enlightening; you might have a file of pithy quotes showing how the great thinkers of the church have seen the issue; yes, you may have all of this and more, but remember this, when you step into your office to study the word of God, you enter what for you is sacred space.

Of course, it may not be seen that way to others, but it has to be this way for you. There should be no discussion or debate on this. This is the time when you pour out your heart to God, pleading with Him to open up the text of the Bible to you. This is where you declare your total dependence on the Holy Spirit, even though He might use your study habits as a means to opening up your understanding. This is the place where the man becomes the man of God. Alone with God, your gaze is heavenward in heart, while your eyes peer downward at the text of the Bible in front of you.

Remember too that all of hell trembles as you enter this place. Hell fears the proclamation of the word of God as no other thing in this world. You wrestle not with flesh and blood but against hostile unseen forces seeking to distract you from your calling. Hell has no fear of a joke; of a punch line; or an insightful quote, but hell trembles when a man of God proclaims the word of God. If the devil cannot stop you in public, he will seek to win the war in private, distracting you with a million other things and a million other affections.

So knowing that there is both heavenly and hellish interest in what you do in your study, settle it forever. This is a sacred place to you. Its a place where you are unreachable (and those close to you know it) unless there is an emergency. Your phone is off. There are no earthly distractions. Outside the study, you have all the time in the world for people – your family especially; but inside, you have entered, what is for you, the very holy of holies.

Your task is not complicated but amazingly simple – to please the audience of One.

How exactly do you do that?

You know the answer, but let me remind you once again. Your task is not first to think of how to communicate truth; how to say it with passion, how to communicate in such a way that people can identify with it.. no, no, no, a thousand times, no. That is important. God offers no rewards for the boring preacher. Yet communication is a secondary matter. That comes later.

Your first priority is to ask (and then answer) two simple questions:

(1) What does the Bible say?

(2) What does it mean by what it says?

- JS

August 16, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Bible Verses Usually Not Displayed on the Refrigerator

From Matthew 11:25-30

(1) God hides some things from some and reveals them to others (election)

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

(2) Come to me all…. (the evangelistic call)

28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

From Luke 24:16-31

(3) God veiling:

v. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

(4) Human responsibility and culpability:

v. 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

(5) God Revealing:

v. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

From Romans 11:7-10

(6) God making eyes blind and ears deaf to His truth:

7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” 9 And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, a stumbling block and a retribution for them; 10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see, and bend their backs forever.”

(7) Jesus' explanation as to why He told Parables

Matthew 13:10-17

10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”

11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘You will indeed hear but never understand,
and you will indeed see but never perceive.
15 For this people’s heart has grown dull,
and with their ears they can barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
and turn, and I would heal them.’

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. 17 For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Also, in the parallel account in Mark:

Mark 4:10-12
10 And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, 12 so that

“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”

And in Luke:

Luke 8:9-10
9 And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, 10 he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’

According to Jesus, the reason that He spoke in parables was so that God would leave certain people in their blindness, while at the same time, using them to reveal His truth to others (to whom these things had been “given”.)

“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.” – Matt 13:11

August 13, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

The Parable of the Wedding Feast

Matthew 22:1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

There are many things that could and should be said about this parable. I just want to focus on one aspect in this short post – the wedding garment.

Because it is not explicitly stated by the text and because most of us who read this parable are not aware of first century Jewish culture (the context in which this parable was given), we miss something that would have needed no explanation to those who heard Jesus. In the ancient world it was expected that when a king invited guests to a wedding, he (the king) would provide the wedding garments. For anyone to show up to the wedding in something else, it means that he REJECTED what the king had provided. It wasn’t just that he did not have enough righteousness to enter the wedding; it was an act of defiance and the ultimate insult to the king. Until I understood this, I thought that in all honesty, the king’s actions were more than a little over the top; an over-reaction, if you will. Yet such is certainly not the case when we understand what was really going on here. The man was in absolute defiance of the king when he came wearing something of his own choosing.

What a parallel this is to the righteousness of Christ. All we bring to the wedding is our tattered and polluted, sin stained garments, yet in accepting the invitation to come, we are given the gift of the most ultimate wedding attire imaginable. In biblical terms this is a righteousness that is perfect, that has never known sin, the very righteousness of Christ.

Paul wrote, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith..” (Phil 3:8, 9)

The fate of the man in this parable is indeed haunting as he is thrown out into outer darkness (the picture of hell). Yet what else could be the fate of One who rejects the perfect righteousness of the Savior?

In contrast, those at the wedding can say with Isaiah, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)

Who clothed me?

God did!!!

Soli Deo Gloria

- JS

August 08, 2011  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

The Intention and Result of Christ’s Sacrifice

Hebrews 9:24 - 10:14 in the New American Standard Bible (Updated) reads:

24 For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, 28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? 3 But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says,
“SACRIFICE AND OFFERING YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, BUT A BODY YOU HAVE PREPARED FOR ME;
6 IN WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE TAKEN NO PLEASURE.
7 “THEN I SAID, ‘BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.’”

8 After saying above, “SACRIFICES AND OFFERINGS AND WHOLE BURNT OFFERINGS AND sacrifices FOR SIN YOU HAVE NOT DESIRED, NOR HAVE YOU TAKEN PLEASURE in them” (which are offered according to the Law), 9 then He said, “BEHOLD, I HAVE COME TO DO YOUR WILL.” He takes away the first in order to establish the second. 10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; 12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, 13 waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. 14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

Over the last two weeks, my friend, Dr. James White has preached four sermons on this tremendous passage of Scripture (above). They contain extremely rich and powerful insights into what the cross of Christ actually accomplished for the people of God. Knowing these things is the necessary antidote to so much false religion that masquerades under the banner and guise of Christianity in our day.

These sermons are now available to hear at the sermon audio site at the following links (below) and are VERY HIGHLY recommended. - JS

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August 08, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

India Gospel Outreach (Update)

Before I share an update, I would strongly encourage you to watch the following video:

The first of my four ministry trips to India took place in 1987. Though each of the trips only lasted around 3 weeks, God used those seasons of ministry to plant a very deep love in my heart for the precious people of India. There are tears in my eyes as I recall the faces of young boys and girls as well as many adults making a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus for the first time. Over the years I have been privileged to see thousands do this exact thing.

I am very aware that my part in it all was simply the final link in a long chain of people - those who had prayed for, given towards and sacrificed in ways only heaven will reveal, so that the people of Kerala, India might know salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, all these years later, a new opportunity is before us. One missionary can do only so much and go to only so many places by himself; but a tract can go to places a missionary would never get to on his own. A tract is like a trained armed soldier, standing on guard, always ready to be used in the hand of God.

One testimony I heard recently was from a gentleman who kept a tract in his wallet for 3 years, "almost" throwing it away many different times, only to keep it, thinking he might read it "one day" when he had time... Then finally, alone in a hotel room, while fumbling through his wallet, he came across the tract and finally decided to read it. As he did so, he understood the gospel, was immediately convicted of his sin, and right there on the spot, the Holy Spirit brought the miracle of conversion as he trusted in Christ to save him.

You may remember we provided 10,000 copies of the Gospel tract I wrote "The Thief on the Cross" in the Malayalam language which were handed out to people in the state of Kerala at Easter time. I have learnt through my friend Pastor Pappy Daniel, that the response and feedback to this very clear gospel presentation has been extremely encouraging. So much so that we made a tentative inquiry to find out how much it would cost for 100,000 tracts to be printed.

Whereas the cost for 10,000 tracts was approximately $400 USA Dollars, the cost for 100,000 tracts will be $2,600.00. This is the full cost, which includes paper, printing, shipping and distribution handling costs. As you can see, there is a substantial savings (per tract) when there is a larger quantity being printed.

Perhaps this Gospel outreach is something you or your church might like to get behind and support. If so, just write to me at this contact address and I will give you further details.

Goal: $2,600.00

Amount received (as of 8/5/11): $330.00

Thank you D.B. and T.G. for your sacrificial gifts for this project. May many others be inspired to do the same.


August 05, 2011  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Those Pesky Arminian Verses

This blog title is written with a big "tongue in cheek" as I am convinced that the Bible presents a consistent message and that when properly understood, there are no "Arminian verses" in God's word. However, in my discussions with Arminians, four verses are normally raised as proof texts for their view: John 3:16; 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:4 and Matthew 23:37.

For those who like videos, here are some that have been made to specifically address these verses in their context. The first three are by Pastor Jim McClarty of Grace Christian Assembly, Smyrna, Tennessee. The last one is by Dr. James White of www.aomin.org. Enjoy! - John S

John 3:16


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August 05, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Why I Love the Doctrines of Grace

Please allow me to introduce Christina Langella to you and her blog Heavenly Springs. Though we speak the same English language, being from Brooklyn, New York, her accent is about as far removed from mine as is humanly possible. Fugheddabout it! Her love for the Lord is both heart warming and contagious. She is also a very gifted communicator, as you will see (below).

So often we present truth with fervent zeal, but those we are seeking to minister to have not yet seen the reason why the truth we share is important, nor have they fathomed anything of the practical benefits of the teaching under discussion. In other words, they have not yet comprehended the reason why they should take the time to try to understand what is being communicated. I think Christina remedies that exceptionally well in the following article, which was part of a larger series on the internet. I believe you will be blessed to read this, just as I was. - John S

WHY I LOVE THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
In the first post of this series, sister Norma discussed the importance of studying doctrine. Doctrine, she explained, is not just for the seminarian, the professor, the pastor, or the missionary. It is rather, the responsibility of every person who wears the name of Christ.

The title of our series, “Doctrines in the Kitchen” reminds us of the very practical nature of the Word of God. It confirms that our faith encompasses the whole of our being and affects every sphere of our life – both public and private.

A.W. Pink, in his book, Practical Christianity explains it nicely. “Some of us are single, others married; some are children, others parents; some are masters, others servants. Scripture supplies definite precepts and rules, motives and encouragement for each alike. It not only teaches us how we are to behave in the church and in the home, but equally so in the workshop and in the kitchen…”

As someone who embraces Reformed/Calvinistic Theology, I point to the doctrines of grace, also known as the five points of Calvinism, as the system of theology that has put me on the most solid theological footing ever.

Calvinism, in and of itself, is not the Gospel, however when these doctrines come together they provide the theological framework for what is the gospel. In the gospel God saves totally depraved sinners, He chooses them unconditionally, He draws them irresistibly, and He preserves them until the end. If you remove one of these pillars then you will have succeeded in diminishing the gospel.

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August 04, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

The Holiness of God (Russian)

Dr. R. C. Sproul's landmark series "the holiness of God" can now be heard in the russian language here.

August 02, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink