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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)

Dealing with Disappointment

"During the period when lotteries were unhappily allowed to flourish in this country, a gentleman, looking into the window of a lottery office in St. Paul's Churchyard, discovered to his joy that his ticket had turned up a 10,000 pound prize. Intoxicated with this sudden accession of wealth, he walked round the churchyard, to consider calmly how he should dispose of his fortune. On again, in his circuit, passing the lottery office, he resolved to take another glance at the charming announcement in the window, when, to his dismay, he saw that a new number had been substituted. On inquiry, he found that a wrong number had at first been posted by mistake, and that after all he was not the holder of the prize. His chagrin was now as great as his previous pleasure had been." — W. Haig Miller's "Life's Pleasure Garden"

When you and I experience a disappointment far more grievious than the failure to win the lottery, what is our anchor? When the sea billows roll, what keeps us from drifting far from the safe refuge of His presence?

The answer is found in what we choose to think about. What we choose to believe.

The Psalmist David wrote, "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living! Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!" (Psalm 27:13, 14)

Hebrews 6:19 tells us that hope is "a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul." It is a certain expectation of future blessing and favor.

When you have lost something precious, perhaps even someone precious, even the most precious relationship you have ever had in this world, just remember, the same Sovereign One who has ordered your events in time is the all wise and Omniscient One too.

As much as a finite mind ever could ever be given access to even a measure of His thoughts and to know what He knows about you and the situation that greatly troubles your heart - if you could look beyond your present disappointment and see things as He does, you would have ordained the events of your life just as He did - you would have chosen what He has chosen for you. This indeed is the supreme comfort of the saints in their trials. God in His providence has ordered all the events of time and though the One who gave might have chosen to taken away, we should always say, "Blessed be the Name of the Lord."

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September 29, 2011  |  Comments (3)   |  Permalink

Among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander

Just today someone wrote to me asking this question:

Pastor John, some people look at the verses in 1 Timothy 1:18-20 and say that if Hymenaeus and Alexander once had faith, but now have shipwrecked it, we must conclude that one can lose true faith in Christ. How would you respond to this claim? Is there more that can be said about these two men, besides, “Since other Scriptures teach perseverance, then we must assume that the faith of Hymenaeus and Alexander must have been a mere profession”?

I sought to provide an answer here. I hope it can be useful to others. - JS

September 25, 2011  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

The Gospel According to the Church Fathers

by Nathan Busenitz (from a blogpost here). Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles, California.

After the apostles died, was the gospel hopelessly lost until the Reformation?

That certainly seems to be a common assumption in some Protestant circles today. Thankfully, it is a false assumption.

I’m not entirely sure where that misconception started. But one thing I do know: it did not come from the Protestant Reformers.

The Reformers themselves (including Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and others) were convinced that their position was not only biblical, but also historical. In other words, they contended that both the apostles and the church fathers would have agreed with them on the heart of the gospel.

For example, the second-generation Lutheran reformer, Martin Chemnitz (1522-1586), wrote a treatise on justification in which he defended the Protestant position by extensively using the church fathers. And John Calvin (1509-1564), in his Institutes, similarly claimed that he could easily debunk his Roman Catholic opponents using nothing but patristic sources. Here’s what he wrote:

If the contest were to be determined by patristic authority, the tide of victory — to put it very modestly —would turn to our side. Now, these fathers have written many wise and excellent things. . . . [Yet] the good things that these fathers have written they [the Roman Catholics] either do not notice, or misrepresent or pervert. . . . But we do not despise them [the church fathers]; in fact, if it were to our present purpose, I could with no trouble at all prove that the greater part of what we are saying today meets their approval.

Source: John Calvin, “Prefatory Address to King Francis I of France,” The Institutes of the Christian Religion, Section 4.

How could the Reformers be so confident that their understanding of the gospel was consistent with the teachings of the ancient church? Or perhaps more to the point: What did the early church fathers have to say about the gospel of grace?

Here is an admittedly brief collection of 30 patristic quotes, centering on the reality that justification is by grace alone through faith alone. Many more could be provided. But I think you’ll be encouraged by this survey look at the gospel according to the church fathers.

(Even if you don’t read every quote, just take a moment to consider the fact that, long before Luther, the leaders of the ancient church were clearly proclaiming the gospel of grace through faith in Christ.)

1. Clement of Rome (30-100): “And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

Source: Clement, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 32.4.

2. Epistle to Diognetus (second century): “He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! That the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!”

Source: The Epistle to Diognetus, 9.2-5.

3. Justin Martyr (100-165) speaks of “those who repented, and who no longer were purified by the blood of goats and of sheep, or by the ashes of an heifer, or by the offerings of fine flour, but by faith through the blood of Christ, and through His death.”

Source: Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 13.

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September 24, 2011  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

The Gospel According to Paul

The kind folks at Grace To You have made the recent “Truth Matters 2011 Conference” available for free listening and download at their site. I watched the conference through their online live streaming of the event earlier this month, and now the teaching is being made available to a wider audience who can listen in at their own convenience.

The series of messages by Dr. John Macarthur were particularly outstanding. They enriched my soul.

This teaching will form the basis of an up-coming book by Dr. Macarthur, the final installment in his trilogy on the Gospel. The first was "The Gospel According to Jesus"; the second, "The Gospel According to the Apostles"; and this third one will be "The Gospel According to Paul."

Here are the session titles by Dr. Macarthur:

(1) The Glorious Gospel

(2) The Gospel Satisfies the Sinner’s Need

(3) The Gospel Satisfies God’s Demands

(4) The Reconciling Gospel

(5) An Introduction to the Sovereign Gospel

(6) An Explanation of the Sovereign Gospel

(7) The Humbling Gospel

Then a final session:
(8) Practical Concerns in the Local Church: An Interview with John MacArthur

Here's the link to either hear, download or purchase the Conference messages. Having heard each session one time through, I now aim to go through them again, this time taking extensive notes. - JS

September 22, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

No one Can Believe in Jesus Unless God Grants It

Synergists teach that that we are born as God's children by the will of man but the Bible teaches that we "were born, not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:13)

In context verse 13 says,

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 (King James Version)

The literary structure of these two verses points out that the antecedent efficient cause of "those who received Him" (in faith) is that they were born of God. So, in short, those who receive Christ must, necessarily, be born of God first. Regeneration "unto" faith. verse 13 modifies verse 12.. No one receives him unless God first opens his heart in regeneration. John continues this theme throughout his book in chapter 3 and again in chapter 6. No one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it (John 6:65) and ALL to whom God grants it will believe (John 6:37) The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing (John 6:63). A syllogism which leaves no room for synergism.

Back to verse 12 & 13: To all who received him... God gave them the power to become sons of God, and they did so not by the will of the flesh or of the will of man but because they were born of God. If you don't read it that way, verse 13 has no meaning. You cannot receive Christ apart from the use of your will and unless the will is renewed, there is no hope of receiving Him.

September 21, 2011  |  Comments (8)   |  Permalink

There is No God Seeker (Romans 3:11)

By Pastor John Samson

"I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." - Romans 10:20

Here in this verse, God declares that He revealed Himself to those who were not even seeking or asking for Him. That is something to really think about.

Who was this group that God revealed Himself to?

Well, we might think it is some distant African tribe or all of the many atheists who at one time professed that there was no God at all. However, the startling biblical answer to the question is that its all of those who have come to have faith in Christ.

Romans 3:11 says "no one seeks for God." Literally the text reads, "there is no God seeker."

We tend to be blind to this truth, especially when we might have heard numerous testimonies of (now) Christian people who say they were seeking for God all their lives - seeking Him in many different spiritual experiences, even through searching out many different religions.

While it is certainly true that these people sought many different experiences and were involved in other religions, what the Bible teaches is that none of us by nature wish to know the God of the Bible. We are born DOA (dead on arrival) spiritually speaking, yet we walk a course mapped out for us by the Prince of darkness. We are by nature children of wrath rather than children of God and unless God intervenes, we will never seek to know the one true God. That is the clear teaching of the opening verses of Ephesians chapter 2. All our religious "searchings" are really attempts to run and hide from Him. Like Adam in the garden of Eden after he had sinned, He hid from the presence of the Lord. That is our inner disposition towards God until God moves upon the heart and draws us to Himself. Before that we might want all the trappings of what a relationship with God brings - forgiveness, freedom from a guilty conscience, feelings of happiness and assurance, peace within; but we just dont want to go to God to get these things. We often mistake a desire for these things as a desire for God. Hear again the word of the Lord, "there is no God seeker." (Romans 3:11).

Though the Bible commands us, "Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near," (Isa. 55:6) none of us by nature will actually ever do that. We have the responsibility, just not the interest.

We fail to seek Him, not because we have no physical ability to seek. We seek many things. We are insatiably curious at heart. We want to know things. We want to know how things work. We want to know the truth, or so we think. Yet while still in an unregenerate state, the one thing we will never seek is to know God; not the real God; not the God of the Bible. By nature we are not God seekers; but are actually hostile to God at heart. The heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. We are searching, not for God, but for ways to live independently from God, often through the means of religion.

The Scripture verse above reads, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." Every true child of God, trained and taught by the Scripture, knows that we now seek and love Him, because He first sought and loved us.

Continue reading "There is No God Seeker (Romans 3:11)" »

September 20, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

2 Peter 3:9 & John 12:30

Question:

Lets start with 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, ...as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Now if I just took that verse by itself I would run to the Universal Redemption side. It certainly shows that it is not God's intention for any of his creatures to suffer an eternity apart from him.

Then there is John 12:30 Jesus said, “This voice has not come for my benefit but for yours. 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ...all people to myself.” 12:33 (Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.)

So if God does not want any to perish and it is his intention to draw all men to himself, but somehow this doesn't seem to be enough for some, the answer "the free will of man" to choose not to believe. We all get to make the choice because... God draws us to him and gives us all that we need in order to freely make the choice. This for the free will side is where the mystery stuff happens. How is it that God is able to enlighten man's soul to the brink of knowledge and faith, it leaves only one thing left to do, believe or not, the work is already done, all the effort spent, all the issues set aside, only one thing remains between God and man.

Now if I take that verse well, it sounds like all men will be saved. But there are other verses that say different.

Response:

I can understand how you may have drawn the conclusions you have...but lets look at each in context.

The desire for "all to come to repentance" is an imperative. The Bible says "God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel" (Acts 17:30) i.e. the repentance of man is an imperative (command), not an indicative (fact). A command does not show what we can do, but what we OUGHT to do. it is a conditional statement that asserts nothing indicatively. It would be a contradiction to say that God commands something that he does not want us to do. Likewise statements such as "be perfect", "if you are willing", "if you hear", "if you do" declare, not man's ability, but his duty. To infer "free will" from this, therefore, is simply importing a meaning in the text that is not there and confusing indicatives (facts) with imperatives (commands). Of course we agree that God wants all men to obey the command to repent. This is his preceptive will about what he wants man to do. Is says nothing about what God has done, or will do, or about man's ability. The command to believe does not imply ability. For instance, if I borrowed $100 million to establish a new company and instead squandered it in Vegas, my inability to repay the loan does not alleviate me of responsibility to do so. Likewise before God we owe a debt we cannot repay. Faith and good works are equally difficult without renewal of heart (Ezek 36:26).

Consider this ..."Does it follow from God's command: 'turn' that therefore you can turn? Does it follow from "'Love the Lord thy God with all your heart' (Deut 6.5) that therefore you can love Him with all your heart? Does this mean you believe 'free-will' does not need the grace of God, but can do all things by its own power? It does not follow from this that man is converted by his own power, nor does it say so in the Text; they simply says: "if you will turn, telling man what he ought to do.

Synergists,teach that 'salvation depends on human will', but the Bible teaches that (and I quote) 'it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." (Rom 9:16) God commands repentance and belief but no do so ... only by his mercy do they come.

As for for the Text "drawing all men to himself" (John 12:33) I believe you should take a closer look at the context. Jesus is speaking to Greeks, not Jews and it is clear from the context that he is referring to all nations. So when he says "when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself", he simply means that he will draw not only Jews but the Gentile nations as well, fulfilling the promise to Abraham that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed. In other words, Jesus does not say he will draw all men on earth without exception, but rather, he will draw all men without distinction. So because the context and use of words differs, it is inappropriate to interpret John 6 in light of John 12 ... (different conversations).

Actually, in case you think I made this "without distinction" thing up, the apostle John often speaks this same way of nations and groups; consider John 11:49-52"

"But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish." He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad."

In other words, Caiaphas is referring to all people without distinction from every nation, not all people without exception on the earth. Not Jews only, but Jews and Gentiles who are scattered on the whole earth from every nation.

Also, the text in John 6 which says ALL the Father gives to Jesus will come to him (6:37) makes your interpretation from John 12 an impossible supposition. Look carefully at John 6:65 -- No one can believe unless God grants it (universal negative) (John 6:37) All that the Father gives to me WILL come to me (universal positive). In other words, together it plainly states that no one can believe in Jesus unless God grants it and all whom he grants in Christ will believe. Jesus is careful to say that the Father first gives people to the son prior to their believing in him (V. 37). These versus dismantle any possibility that it means he will draw all without exception. John 6:44 must, therefore, be read in light of John 6:37 (in context), not John 12.

We must thank God for all that we have, including the new heart to believe. We must not think that it was due to our own wisdom or prudence, or good will that God then responded to us. Grace is not a reward for faith, it is the cause of it.

Note: I recognize another way of understanding 2 Peter 3:9 as speaking in context of the elect. I do not discount this interpretation. Many Reformed theologians point this out. But it is also true that God wants all to obey his command to repent - speaking of man's duty, not God's will of decree.

September 17, 2011  |  Comments (4)   |  Permalink

Understanding Hebrews 2:9

Pastor John, I am studying the Doctrines of Grace, but am struggling with the concept of the "L" in the TULIP, namely "Limited Atonement" because Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus tasted death for everyone. Does this not refute the idea or you able to explain this verse?

Thanks for your question. I can understand your struggle as I also found the "L" doctrine the most difficult one to grasp. That is not because the Bible is unclear. I don't believe that is the case at all. My problem was that I was reading the Bible with a traditional lens, so to speak. Thankfully, what was once fuzzy to me is now extremely clear. Christ is a powerful and perfect Savior!

The whole issue revolves around what exactly was in the mind of God from all eternity in the cross of Christ. In sending His Son to die on the cross, what was God's intention? Was He merely trying to save as many people as He could, hoping that man would take Him up on the offer, or was He actually securing salvation for those He chose to redeem?

More here.

September 16, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Means of Regenerating Grace

At a time of His sovereign choosing, the Lord grants regeneration to the elect while they are hearing the gospel proclaimed. As soon as God opens the sinners eyes, ears and hearts to the gospel it is understood and he beholds the beauty, truth and excellency of Christ for the first time.

The hearing of the Word of God is a necessary means through which comes the faith which appropriates salvation. However, the word does not, in and of itself, produce faith. It is only when joined with the power of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God has the power to graciously open our eyes, ears and heart to the gospel.

You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God..." 1 Peter 1:23-25


"Truths and prospects are already contained in the word of God; but without the light of the Spirit they are not discerned...You will not understand, or discern the truth as it is in Jesus, unless the Lord the Spirit shews it to you. The dispensation of truth is in his hand; and without him all the fancied advantages of superior capacity, learning, criticism, and books, will prove as useless as spectacles to the blind."" - John Newton

September 16, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The Church: A Pillar and Buttress of the Truth

“I am writing these things to you so that you may know how one ought to behave in the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” - 1 Timothy 3:14-15

Definition: A Pillar supports the roof and walls of a structure and a buttress supports a pillar, allowing it to stand stronger and higher. Therefore the Church is called to stand strong by supporting the truth of the gospel and sound doctrine.

Key Thought: The function of both a pillar and a buttress is to hold something other than itself up.

Pillar

By all accounts, when Paul wrote this letter to his son in the faith, Timothy was the pastor of the Church in Ephesus. Paul's use of imagery would not be lost either on him or his congregation. Ephesus was the home of the great Temple of Diana (or Artemis), known as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

William Barclay describes this Temple as follows:

“One of its features was its pillars. It contained one hundred and twenty-seven pillars, every one of them the gift of a king. All were made of marble, and some were studded with jewels and overlaid with gold.” (The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 89).

Knowing this background, Paul's obvious intention in describing the Church as a pillar is two fold. Firstly, He wishes to express the Church's immense dignity and value in the sight of God. Though often scorned by men, the Church is exceedingly precious and beautiful to Him.

Secondly, the term "pillar" denotes the Church's function; that of holding up the truth of God to the world around her.

Buttress

From the Ligonier Website:

Other translations use the word "foundation" in place of buttress, suggesting that the truth finds its grounding in the church, which is the Roman Catholic position. Yet Paul cannot be saying that the church establishes truth, as elsewhere he says the Word of God — the apostolic and prophetic writings — is the church’s foundation, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone (Eph. 2:19–20). As the second-century church father Irenaeus reminds us, “the ‘pillar and ground’ of the church is the gospel and the spirit of life” (ACCNT, vol. 9, p. 178).

Buttress is a more appropriate term here because the apostle is emphasizing the way in which the church supports the truth. As the church faithfully obeys Scripture it lives out the truth and supports its claim that the gospel brings real change. When the church presents the gospel accurately it holds forth the truth to the world much as statues were displayed on pillars in the ancient world. The church is no afterthought but is established by the Father’s plan and Jesus’ work and used by the Holy Spirit to persuade the world of the love of God in Christ.

The NASB translates the final phrase of this verse as "the pillar and support of the truth." Concerning this, Dr. James White writes:

"The description of the Church as the "pillar and support of the truth" is thoroughly biblical and proper. There is, of course, a vast difference between recognizing and confessing the Church as the pillar and support of the truth, and confessing the Church to be the final arbiter of truth itself. A pillar holds something else up, and in this case, it is the truth of God. The Church as the body of Christ, presents and upholds the truth, but she remains subservient to it. The Church remains the bride of Christ, and as such, she listens obediently and intently to the words of her Lord Jesus Christ, and those words are found in Scripture itself." (The Roman Catholic Controversy, p. 58)


The great Reformer of Geneva, John Calvin, had a clear grasp of this issue:

"This, then, is the difference. Our opponents (speaking of the Roman Catholic Church) locate the authority of the Church outside God's Word, that is, outside of Scripture and Scripture alone. But we insist that it be attached to the Word and to not allow it to be separated from it. And what wonder if Christ's bride and pupil be subject to her spouse and teacher so that she pays constant and careful attention to His words. For this is the arrangement of a well-governed house. The wife obeys the husband's authority. This is the plan of a well-ordered school, that there the teaching of the schoolmaster alone should be heard. For this reason the Church should not be wise of itself, should not devise anything of itself but should set the limit of its own wisdom where Christ has made an end of speaking. In this way, the Church will distrust all the devisings of its own reason. But in those things where it rests upon God's Word, the Church will not waiver with any distrust or doubting but will repose in great assurance and firm constancy." (Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV:8:13)

God has given the Church immense dignity and has made her beautiful in His sight. As Paul stated elsewhere, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish." (Ephesians 5: 25-27)

The Church is immensely precious to God, yet this is only half the story. She also has a distinct role to play in this world: holding up the truth of the word of God and the wonderful Gospel of Grace. That is her function, the very reason she exists in this world. When a so called "Church" fails to do this, or distorts the message of the Gospel, she can no longer be thought of as "the Church" at all. As Martin Luther made clear, "Justification by faith alone is the article upon which the Church stands or falls."

- JS

September 14, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Are Arminians Saved?

I seek to provide an answer here. - JS

September 13, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

The 18 on whom the tower in Siloam fell

A good word about humility in light of disasters.

"...those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13 1-5)

Therefore (because you are no better than they), humble yourselves, put away your self-righteousness and do not boast over your neighbor. The mercy of Jesus Christ is the only hope for any man. Only as we approach skeptics with this kind of humility that our only standing before God is his mercy, as beggars pointing other beggars to bread, as sinners leading other sinners to Christ, as those who recognize they have a log in their own eye removed by grace, yet sensitive of our weakness and Christ's strength, can we have the most impact on people for the gospel. As long as we are arrogant when we point out our neighbors' immorality with the law - then we have missed a great opportunity for the gospel.

Jesus is saying that no amount of religion or good works can save you. You and your whole city are no better than the persons who suffered this fate. There is no hope whatsoever to be had in yourselves and, as such, all need a Savior from the outside. Repent of trusting in your good works and your boasting over your neighbor, as if you were better. We are all responsible for natural disasters, suffering and the death that overtakes us all. Skeptics need to repent of their immorality but perhaps even more importantly, religious people need to repent of their morality. The number one characteristic of those whom Christ has intervened is that the word of God will shatter their self-complacency and cause them to renounce their self-righteousness. Those in whom God has done a work of grace are convicted of their woeful, guilty, and lost condition, apart from grace. This true view of self, continues throughout the Christian life as the first order of business. If not, and If I think I am better than my neighbor, or more moral, and therefore, by extension, somehow more deserving, then I have forgotten that it was mercy alone which saved me and mercy alone which keeps me there. Thus the more grounded we are in the knowledge of God's mercy toward us, the easier it is for us to maintain humility among our neighbors, regardless of how depraved we may be tempted to think they are.

September 12, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

"Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus"

When someone says, "Don't give me doctrine, I just want to follow Jesus", what they are really saying is "give me law, not gospel. Give me more imperatives and less indicatives. I just want something practical." But how is this any different than Mormons or theological liberals? Fact is, we need a Savior, not just a moral example.

You could not have believed the gospel of Jesus Christ without knowing its contents. You did not just follow a generic Jesus. To be saved you understood that you had no self righteousness of your own and you trusted in Christ's finished work... which included His living the life you should have lived and dying the death you deserved. This is doctrine. The idea of simply "following Jesus" is requiring more demands of the law because you are looking for Jesus to tell you something you can do. But you need the gospel, not merely law, to be saved or to grow in grace. Indeed following Jesus springs out of a renewed heart. As Christians we only follow Jesus when we know Who we are following and as such we need to preach the gospel to ourselves daily.

The Spirit first first brings an elect soul face to face with God’s holy Law, for “by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). It condemns and curses him because it demands perfect obedience in thought, word, and deed. Next, the Spirit brings before the soul the precious Gospel where the law's demands are perfectly met by Jesus Christ. The Spirit so works in his heart that He appears to him to be the most glorious object in the world; and so rests entirely upon His finished work.

No one is suggesting that we have right doctrine but do not follow Jesus, but the imperatives (Commands) always spring from indicatives (what Jesus has done). Look at Ephesians for example. The first 3 chapters are pure doctrine... - "this is what Jesus has done for you". Chapter four (4) then says THEREFORE, "live like this". But the opposite is not true Biblically... right doctrine does NOT flow out of right living.

To those who squirm at the word "doctrine" it simply means "teaching" - the Bible is full of teaching from start to finish. It does not matter if your church never used the word. Your eyes were opened an you believed because the Holy Spirit gave you understanding of the gospel and the teaching or doctrine in the Bible that Jesus is not just a moral example, but a Savior. You could not have been saved unless you FIRST understood the doctrine about these teachings about what Jesus did for you . You could not have been saved simply by saying "I am going to obey Jesus".... that is moralism --- and no one is saved by obeying the moral commands of Jesus. They will damn you if you trust in them.

But anticipating your criticisms, let me also declare that a simple reciting of doctrine without a changed heart has no value. Having pride is how good your doctrine is would mean that they have not yet grasped the most basic doctrine that we are saved by grace ALONE. Such a tragic misapplication of the doctrine we have learned denies Christ because it is trusting in something else (how good ones doctrine is). but again, the opposite is most often true in this day and age ... that many people will say, "I don't want doctrine at all, I just want to follow Jesus." This is to want only instruction for practical living by giving them law.... and to shun the teaching of the gospel altogether. This is the root of all cults and heresy.

Most of the people who say "I don't want doctrine" are usually the same people would say in the same breath "just give me something practical from the Bible"- and what they mean by this is that they want instructions about WHAT TO DO... rather than hear about what God has done for them in Christ. The phrase 'Jesus follower' places the focus on my following and the moral imperatives of Jesus. "Theological Liberals" and Mormons are characterized by their sermons on moral instruction - not the priority of Jesus as God the Savior. While people in the above cults all say they want to follow the Bible, but look closely because they only want the LAW part of the bible because that is practical for me. They don't want to hear about the gospel part of it because it is doctrinal and, more importantly, it strips us of all hope in ourselves and places our hope in Another.

September 10, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Romans 10:9

"if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

What exactly does that mean?

Paul Washer explains:

September 07, 2011  |  Comments (6)   |  Permalink

Reclaiming the Gospel

Kirk Cameron interviews Dr. John MacArthur on the TBN set, September 9, 2004.

September 06, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Three Choice Quotes on Bondage of the Will

"Free will I have often heard of, but I have never seen it. I have always met with will, and plenty of it, but it has either been led captive by sin or held in the blessed bonds of grace."
- C. H. Spurgeon

“I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavour after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground …; but because even were there no dangers … I should still be forced to labour with no guarantee of success … But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is faithful and will not lie to me, and that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him. Furthermore, I have the comfortable certainty that I please God, not by reason of the merit of my works, but by reason of His merciful favour promised to me; so that, if I work too little, or badly, He does not impute it to me, but with fatherly compassion pardons me and makes me better. This is the glorying of all the saints in their God”
- Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1957), 313-314.


man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.
- John Calvin, BLW pp 69, 70

September 04, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink

Kings and Priests of the Whole World

The land that God had promised to Abraham pointed to a much greater reality, the claim of the Creator upon the whole creation. The land promise to Abraham and to his descendants, was that he should inherit, not just one small strip of territory between the Jordan and the Mediterranean sea, but the whole world (Rom 4:13; Matt 5:5; Rev 5:10; Psalm 2:8)

‎"...it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring."(Rom 9:8)

"And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise." (Gal 3:29)

"For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory." (2 Cor 1:20)

September 04, 2011  |  Comments (2)   |  Permalink

Does the Natural Man Have Free Will or Not?

Some reformed theologians say that man has a "free will" and other theologians say that he does not? Confused?

The ones who say the natural man has a "free will" mean by this that man is free to do what he wants according to his fallen nature. A voluntary choice that is not coerced. We can agree with their concept, but even these Reformed theologians who say man has a free will would openly acknowledge that man's will is free only to do evil, but his WILL is not free to do good -- and I say in response to this that if the will is not free to do good it is not free in the only thing that counts when discussing the subject. Because when you talk about free will it is almost always with regard to sin and salvation... not free will in some general sense. The question is whether the sinner is "free" to choose Christ or not? No, he is not. He is by nature hostile to God (Rom 8:7), loves darkness and hates the light (John 3:19, 20). This is the only thing we are discussing when the topic of free will comes up. no? Fallen men and women are not dragged unwillingly into sinning, but because their will is held captive under the yoke of sin they do evil of necessity.

The will is corrupt and therefore, of necessity, chooses evil. And if it is of necessity that they act this way and not another, then the will is not free. Freedom in the Bible is almost always referring to freedom from sin. For example... Jesus says, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.(John 8:34-36). The Bible never speaks positively about the will being bound to sin and always speaks positively about the will being bound to God, in fact it calls this kind of slavery "freedom" in a positive sense. Jesus never once refers to being free from God and a slave to the devil as a positive thing. The only freedom Jesus declared as good and something to hope for was freedom from bondage to sin and a slave to God.

While I understand what the some Reformed folks mean when they say man has a "free will" but I think, at worst, we may be using the phrase "free will" on our libertarian opponents terms or, at best, present a confused picture since with regard to Christ, sin and salvation, which is the Bible's core focus, we all believe man's will is not free. Even an Arminian would acknowledge that the very need to grace does away with free will altogether. For no man can come to Christ apart from grace (John 6:65)

September 03, 2011  |  Comments (5)   |  Permalink

Best Books for Parenting & Best Children's Books

Best Books for Parenting

* Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp



* Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd & Margie Tripp



* Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware



*  Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski



* Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick



Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William P. Farley



* Disciple Like Jesus: For Parents by Alan Melton



* Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp



* Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God by Voddie Baucham




* The Family: God's Weapon for Victory by Robert Andrews








BEST BOOK FOR CHILDREN BY AGE GROUP


Infants and Toddlers (6 months - 2)



* The Toddler’s ABC Bible Storybook by Carolyn Larsen



* Our Home is like a Little Church by Lindsey Blair



* Most of All, Jesus Loves You by Noel Piper



* A Bible Alphabet Book by Alison Brown


Preschoolers (Age 3)



* My First Book of Bible Prayers



* My First Book of Christian Values



* My First Book of Memory Verses



* My First Book of Bible Promises



* My First Book About Jesus



* Jesus is Coming Back by Debbie Anderso



* I Love My Bible by Debbie Anderson



Youngsters (Ages 4-5)



* Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers Bundle



* Jesus Finds His People by Catherine Mackenzie



* Peter: The Apostle Carine MacKenzie



* Get Wisdom!: 23 Lessons for Children about Living for Jesus by Ruth Younts



* That’s When I Talk to God by Dan & Alison Morrow



* God’s Little Guidebooks: Ten Commandments Box Set by Hazel Scrimshire


Early Years (Ages 6-7)



* The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name by Sally Lloyd-Jones



* 365 Great Bible Stories: The Good News of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation by Carine Mackenzie



* The Big Picture Story Bible (Book and CD Set) by David Helm



* Mighty Acts of God: A Family Bible Story Book by Starr Meade



* God’s Mighty Acts in Creation & Salvation by Starr Meade


Elementary (Ages 8-9)

* Bible Doctrine for Younger Children: Book A & Book B by James W. Beeke



* Big Book of Questions and Answers by Sinclair Ferguson



* Big Book of Questions and Answers About Jesus by Sinclair Ferguson



* Building on the Rock Series (5-Volume Set) by Joel R. Beeke & Diana Kleyn



* Trailblazers Series Bundle (14 books)



* Guarding the Treasure: How God’s People Preserve God’s Word by Linda Finlayson



* Augustine of Hippo (Christian Biographies for Young Readers) by Simonetta Carr



* Peril and Peace: Chronicles of the Ancient Church (History Lives Series) by Brandon & Mindy Withrow




Higher Elementary (Ages 10-12)



* Bible Doctrine for Older Children: Book A & Book B



* Light Keepers series (Ten Boys and Ten Girls) by Irene Howat



* Herein is Love Commentary Series: Genesis – A Commentary for Children by Nancy E. Ganz



* The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan



* Amazing Stories from Times Past: Devotions for Families and Children by Christine Farenhorst



* Crown & Covenant, 3 Volume Set by Douglas Bond



* In God’s School: Foundations for a Christian Life by Charles Pierre



Books for Teens



The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study: A Survey of the Bible (5-Volume Set)
Starr Meade



Growing Up Christian
Karl Graustein and Mark Jacobsen

September 03, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Born Dead

Men are born alive carnally (John 3:7), but born dead spiritually (Eph 2:1; 1 Cor 2:14), making it impossible to receive life apart from God’s radical intervention (John 6:65). Life comes through means of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (John 6::63) who joins the sinner to Christ by applying the culmination of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to the elect sinner (Gal. 2:20; Col. 2:20; Rom. 6:4; Eph. 2:5. Col. 3:1). There are no human efforts of any kind that can provide this life.

September 03, 2011  |  Comments (1)   |  Permalink

Religiously Neutral in the Public Square?

Have you ever noticed that that those who pour the most scorn on traditional principles in the public square as being "religious", not least about sexual behavior and abortion, all the while, insist most loudly on establishing their own principles on the same issues and yet exempting it from the category of religion? At least be honest ... Establishing a universal moral principle is never religiously neutral.

September 01, 2011  |  Comments (0)   |  Permalink