The Question of Altar Calls
A Transcript: From the second Question and Answer session at "The Truth of the Cross - 2014 Regional Ligonier Conference"
What is your opinion of altar calls?
Dr. Stephen Nichols: I’ll speak about a Church history sermon, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” and Eleazar Wheelock was there present at Enfield when that sermon was preached. He went on to found Dartmouth University (College), and he recorded for us what happened at that sermon. And this of course is the sermon when Edwards had to stop speaking because of the shrieks of the congregation. And so at the conclusion of this Eleazar Wheelock writes that the minister concluded his sermon. We sung a hymn and we went home.
In those days they had this idea that if someone was so anxious they would, after the sermon, write a note and then have an elder or deacon from the Church come to them, and then as they counselled with them they would make a profession of faith and then on another Lord’s day or a few Lord’s day following they would then make their public profession of faith, and they would become full members and communicate members and partake of the Lord’s supper. This was how it was done in Edward’s Churches and the new England Churches in the Great Awakening. We really see the altar call as an American phenomenon in the Second Great Awakening with Charles Finney. And Finney had this idea of what he called “The Anxious Bench” – if you are so anxious then come down forward and you’ll be dealt with here in the service, and Finney called that an “anxious bench.” And that’s where the introduction of the altar call in American Church history. And this is what Church historians are good for. They simply give you the historical data; they leave it to the pastors and the theologians to judge. I just report. You can judge.
Dr. Lawson, you come from a Baptist tradition where altar calls are prominent. What is your opinion on that?
Dr. Steve Lawson: I remember when I graduated from seminary in 1980 I immediately went to a large Southern Baptist Church, and the very first week I was there I stepped into the College ministry, overseeing it as well as young marrieds. And I remember the very first weekend that I was there. There was already scheduled a young couples retreat. So there were about 50-60 of us that went on this young couple’s retreat and I remember Friday night we all got in a big circle and just as kind of an ice breaker way to start the weekend and for me to know the people I said “let’s go around the circle and I would like for everyone to give us your name, where you are from and give us your testimony, when you came to know Christ."
The Law and Gospel By Ernest Reisinger
If you are not familiar with Ernest Reisinger, you should be! He was one of R.C. Sprouls dearest friends and would stand outside many of the Southern Baptist seminaries handing out- James P Boyce's "Abstract of Theology". During his life, he was calling back Southern Baptists to their roots. Namely, returning back to their heritage of Calvinism.
Why is the subject of "law and gospel" important? Let me state six reasons: 1.Because there is no point of divine truth upon which ministers and Christians make greater mistakes than upon the proper relationship which exists between the law and the gospel.
2.Because there can be no true evangelical holiness, either in heart or life, except it proceed from faith working by love; and no true faith, either of the law or the gospel, unless the leading distinction between the one and the other are spiritually discerned. The law and the gospel are set before us in the Bible as one undivided system of truth, yet an unchangeable line of distinction is drawn between them. There is also an inseparable connection and relationship. Unfortunately, some see the difference between them but not the relationship; however, the man who knows the relative position of the law and the gospel has the keys of the situation in understanding the Bible and its doctrine.
3.Because a proper understanding between the law and the gospel is the mark of a minister who rightly divides the word of truth. Charles Bridges summed up this mark of a true minister: "The mark of a minister `approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed', is, that he `rightly divides the word of truth.' This implies a full and direct application of the gospel to the mass of his unconverted hearers, combines with a body of spiritual instruction to the several classes of Christians. His system will be marked by Scriptural symmetry and comprehensiveness. It will embrace the whole revelation of God, in its doctrinal instructions, experimental privileges and practical results. This revelation is divided into two parts--the Law and the Gospel--essentially distinct from each other; though so intimately connected, that no accurate knowledge of either can be obtained without the other...." (The Christian Ministry, [London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1967], p. 222).
The law, like Christ, has always been crucified between two thieves--Antinomianism on the one side and Legalism on the other side. The antinomian sees no relationship between the law and the gospel except that of being free. The legalist fails to understand that vital distinction between the two.
Some preach the law instead of the gospel. Some modify them and preach neither the law nor the gospel. Some think the law is the gospel, and some think the gospel is the law; those who hold these views are not clear on either.
But others ask, Has not the law been fully abrogated by the coming of Christ into the world? Would you bring us under that heavy yoke of bondage which none has ever been able to bear? Does not the New Testament expressly declare that we are not under the law but under grace? That Christ was made under the law to free His people therefrom? Is not an attempt to over-awe men's conscience by the authority of the Decalogue a legalistic imposition, altogether at variance with that Christian liberty which the Savior has brought in by His obedience unto death? We answer: so far from the law being abolished by the coming of Christ into this world, He Himself emphatically stated "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets [or the enforcers thereof]. I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law, till all is fulfilled" (Matt. 5:17, 18). True, the Christian is not under the law as a covenant of works nor as a ministration of condemnation, but he is under it as a rule of life and an objective standard of righteousness for all people for all times. This makes it important.
4.Because the power of a holy life needs to be accompanied by instruction in the pattern of it. In what does sanctified behavior consist? It consists in pleasing God. What is it that pleases God? The doing of His will. Where is His will to be discerned? In His holy law. The law, then, is the Christian's rule of life, and the believer finds that he delights in the law of God after the inward man (Rom. 7:22). The Christian is not lawless but "under the law to Christ", a phrase from Paul which would be more accurately rendered "in the law of Christ" (1 Cor. 9:21). Sin is lawlessness, and salvation is the bringing of the lawless one into his true relation to God, within the blessedness of His holy law. The law of Moses is not other than the law of Christ; it is an objective standard just as Christ is our pattern.
5.Because the Ten Commandments were uniquely honored by God, founded in love, and are obeyed out of affection for the One who provided redemption. A. W. Pink, writing about the uniqueness of the Ten Commandments, said, "Their uniqueness appears first in that this revelation of God at Sinai--which was to serve for all coming ages as the grand expression of his holiness and the summation of man's duty--was attended with such awe-inspiring phenomena that the very manner of their publication plainly showed that God Himself assigned to the Decalogue peculiar importance. The Ten Commandments were uttered by God in an audible voice, with the fearful adjuncts of clouds and darkness, thunders and lightenings and the sound of a trumpet, and they were the only parts of Divine Revelation so spoken--none of the ceremonial or civil precepts were thus distinguished. Those Ten Words, and they alone, were written by the finger of God upon tables of stone, and they alone were deposited in the holy ark for safe keeping. Thus, in the unique honor conferred upon the Decalogue itself we nay perceive its paramount importance in the Divine government." (The Ten Commandments, ([Swengel Pennsylvania: Reiner Publications 1961], p.5).
6.Because there is a need for a fixed, objective, moral standard. The moral law carries permanent validity since it is an objective standard uniquely sanctioned by God and goes straight to the root of our moral problems. It lays its finger on the church's deepest need in evangelism as well as in the Christian life: sanctification. The Ten Commandments are desperately needed not only in the church but also in society. We live in a lawless age at the end of the twentieth century; lawlessness reigns in the home, in the church, in the school, and in the land. The Scriptures tell us that "righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people." The Ten Commandments are the only true standard of righteousness.
Read more here: http://www.founders.org/journal/fj28/article1.html
You can find the book here: http://www.monergismbooks.com/?which=1&search=The+Law+and+the+Gospel
Talking to Mormon Missionaries
This is actual recorded video footage of my friend, Pastor Jeff Durbin speaking with two Mormon missionaries yesterday. Jeff spotted these missionaries riding their bikes across the street while he was with the head of ‘The Red Door’ abortion ministry (Jamie) outside of an abortion clinic in Tempe, Arizona. Jeff called out to the missionaries and they rode their bikes up.
The video footage includes the discussion that took place. This is an excellent resource to share with Mormons and Christians alike.
Is the Outward Calling of the Gospel a Mere Formality Since No one Can Respond?
Someone recently told me that the outward calling of the gospel (in Reformed theology) is merely a formality (and not genuine) since no one can respond to it. But this is like saying it is vain (or a mere formality) for a farmer to cast seed on the ground since it will not sprout on its own without rain and the right weather conditions. The Scripture declares that Word and Spirit work together. We indiscriminately cast the seed of the gospel and some falls on fallow ground while others on ground that has been plowed up (by God). Yet. even then the word by itself will still not be fruitful unless God showers it with blessing from above and the Spirit works by germinating the word in people's hearts (1 Thessalonians 1:4-5)
Election does not save anyone, but is a blueprint of what God intends to do in time through the redemptive work of his Son, proclaimed by His church, and applied by the Holy Spirit on those He has set his affection on (Eph 1:3-5)
The Results Depend On God
Transcript excerpt from a message by Dr. John Macarthur, spoken at the Truth Matters Conference 2011:
Some people say, “You know, we have to kind of change the message cause we’re not getting results. We’ve got to deal with this message because it’s not very effective.” Really? Well the next point I want to give you is this. If you really understand the glory of the gospel, you know the results depend on God. Okay? The results depend on God.
Remember the parable of the sower? What does it say about the sower? Nothing, absolutely nothing, it doesn’t say whether he uses his left hand, right hand, throw high, low, curve ball. It didn’t say anything about the sower. What does it say about the bag he carried the seed in? Nothing, didn’t say anything about that. What does it say about the method he used to throw it? Nothing, absolutely nothing. It’s a parable about soil, it doesn’t even say anything about the seed other than the seed is the truth, the gospel. It’s not about your technique in throwing the seed, it’s about the state of the soil. I don’t do soil work. That’s Holy Spirit work.
I love that passage in Mark, the parable where Jesus says the farmer sows the seed and goes to sleep because he has no idea how it grows. That’s right. You say, “We not getting the results.” Really, you think you’re in charge of results? I hear there’s some discussions, “We have to overcome consumer resistance.” Lots of luck. Consumer resistance is called depravity. Consumer resistance means the sinner is unable and unwilling, left to himself.
Evangelism is Highly Theological
"Why is it that you call people to repent? Why do you call them to believe the Gospel? You cannot deal properly with repentance without dealing with the doctrine of man, the doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of sin and the wrath of God against sin. Then when you call men to come to Christ and to give themselves to Him, how can you do so without knowing who He is, and on what grounds you invite them to come to Him, and so on. In other words it is all highly theological. Evangelism which is not theological is not evangelism at all in any true sense. It may be a calling for decisions, it may be a calling on people to come to religion, or to live a better life, or the offering of some psychological benefits; but it cannot by any definition be regarded as Christian evangelism, because there is no true reason for what you are doing apart from these great theological principles. I assert therefore that every type of preaching must be theological, including evangelistic preaching."
- Martyn Lloyd Jones, ‘Preaching and Preachers’, pg. 65.
Meditating on God's Mercy Toward Us
"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...."
Evangelism and the Extent of the Atonement
This article by Mike Riccardi is excellent on this important theme - found here. - JS
But I thought Calvinists Never Evangelize...
Here's a wonderful photo of my friend Justin preaching the Gospel (and handing out Gospel Tracts) to the passing crowds at the Superbowl last week. He and his team spent 4 days at the event reaching out to people with the Good News of Jesus Christ. They did not watch the actual game. They were there on a mission.
I've just had good news too - the publisher for my book in paperback has agreed with my request to allow a certain percentage of book sales for "Twelve What Abouts" to go towards printing Gospel tracts in India. - JS
Sovereign Election, Human Responsibility, Evangelism and the Gospel
These two messages by Dr. John MacArthur are exceptional. Taken from the recent "Truth Matters Conference" where the theme was "The Gospel According to Paul", the two sessions I make mention of here seek to provide biblical answers to questions such as "How are we to harmonize divine sovereignty with human responsibility? How can we understand that salvation is a matter of Godâ€™s will and Godâ€™s choice and Godâ€™s purpose, and Godâ€™s timing, and at the same time, make man in any sense responsible for what happens? How do we harmonize the issue of divine sovereignty and human responsibility with our evangelistic duty."
I am delighted that these teaching sessions have now been made available in this way and I hope a great many people take the time to watch them. Get ready for deep insights into God's word, the fruit of a lifetime of service from Dr. MacArthur.
As each of us learn and inwardly digest the contents, I am confident that the biblical truths learned here will have deep and profound effects as to how each of us conduct Christian ministry helping us become more informed and effective servants of Christ. I cannot recommend these videos highly enough. - JS
(Full transcripts of the messages are available at the above links also)
What is the Gospel?
The gospel is not behavior modification, becoming a better person or learning to become more moral. it is not taking the life of Jesus as a model way to live or transforming/redeeming the secular realm. It is not living highly communal lives with others and sharing generously in communities who practice the way of Jesus in local culture.
These may all be good things, but they are not to be confused with the gospel. Did you notice the one characteristic of all of the above activities has nothing to do with what Christ has done for us, but all about what we do for him. The true gospel, rather, is news about what Christ the Saviour, has already done for us (in his life, death and resurrection) rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. Christ's accomplishment, not ours, is the essence of the gospel. Above all the gospel of Christ brings good news, rather than instruction. The gospel of not about what we do, but our acts inevitably follow in thanksgiving because of what Christ has done for us. ... more>>>
This Good Friday in Kerala, India
I would really value and covet your prayers for this Gospel outreach this Good Friday in Kerala, India. - JS
Is every Christian supposed to be involved in Evangelism?
Dr. James White's answer may surprise you here. - JS
Cling to the Cross: A Gospel Message for Muslims
The six minute video below is a small portion of one of the live Answering Islam episodes entitled "The Crucifixion" from the Aramaic Broadcasting Network (www.abnsat.com) focusing upon why Christians refuse to accept Muhammad's denial of the death of Christ upon the cross and how this is central to the gospel proclamation to which all true Christians are pledged. Having spent a good deal of time outlining the very strong historical basis for believing Jesus was indeed crucified, Dr. James White now speaks directly to the heart of his mainly Muslim audience as to why this is vital for peace with God. Please share this with your Muslim friends, family and co-workers.
Repenting of our Good Works by Tim Keller
What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness â€“ the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that weâ€™ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.
It is only when you see the desire to be your own Savior and Lordâ€”lying beneath both your sins and your moral goodnessâ€”that you are on the verge of becoming a Christian indeed. When you realize that the antidote to being bad is not just being good, you are on the brink. If you follow through, it will change everythingâ€”how you relate to God, self, others, the world, your work, you sins, your virtue. Itâ€™s called the new birth because its so radicalâ€
â€“ Timothy Keller The Prodigal God (Dutton Books 2008) pp 77-78
What's would be the point of Evangelism if Divine Election is true? by Pastor John Samson
What would be the point of evangelism if some people are "elect" and some are not and don't have the free will to choose Christ? Doesn't this make evangelism a farce?
Well may I first alter the question? In that I am convinced that Divine election is clearly taught in Scripture, I believe it would be better to ask, "Since Divine election is true, why are we told to evangelize?"
The first obvious answer to this is because God tells us to. The same Bible that teaches Divine Sovereign Election in Romans chapters 8 and 9, also gives us Romans 10, saying "how shall they hear without a preacher?" Romans 10 is in no way a contradiction to Romans 8 and 9.
The simple answer to this question is that God has ordained both the ends and the means. The ends, are His elect coming to Himself in saving faith. The means, is the proclamation of the Gospel.
In John 10: 16, Jesus, in speaking of His sheep amongst the Gentiles said, "I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."
Acts 13:48 and Evangelism
From Great Falls in Montana, Dr. James White teaches on God's Sovereignty and the ministry of apologetics and evangelism (approx. 53 minutes).
"And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." - Acts 13:48
Chapter Eleven: My Reward is With Me
We have now come to the final chapter in this description of just what Christianity is and what it means for all of us, no matter who we are. In this chapter, I would motivate you to be living your life in light of eternity. This life, in which we invest all our time, labors and resources, and in which we make very clear what is of ultimate importance to us, does not end after eighty years (or even a hundred, for that matter). It is just the stepping stone to eternity, and what we do with our time now, how we spend the few years we have on this earth, will determine what we will be doing with our time for all eternity, for good or bad. But there are no shades of gray, no middle ground, in the eternal destinies confronting us in the here and now. There are only two options: for those who have given up everything to follow the Savior, there is eternal joy and reward beyond imagination; but for those to whom the pleasures of this life have been ultimate, whether they professed to be Christians or not, there is only unspeakable, unending darkness and wrath. Christianity is not just some game to be played or some hobby to occupy our time â€“ it is where true, ultimate, eternal reality confronts us, and how we respond will have effects more real and lasting and dramatic than any other decision we will ever make.
Chapter Ten: Sanctify Them By Your Truth
If there is one thing that non-Christians usually associate Christianity with, it is moral behavior, or a â€œholy lifestyleâ€ in some sense of the term. This could be largely negative â€“ Christians may be seen as â€œholier-than-thouâ€ hypocrites, who maintain squeaky clean external lives but are filled with pride and hatred, and look down on all the heathen sinners out there, whom they gladly profess to be different from. Or perhaps, Christianity may be seen as basically comprising some list of rules and regulations, which many good, sincere, persons strive to follow. The specific list may differ widely from culture to culture, but in many places in modern America it would probably include such elements as abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, performing well and without complaint in the workplace, and refusing to cheat in school. In some cultures, however, Christianity may be seen as characterized by an altogether different set of rules â€“ for instance, the best Christians may be they who have given up any association with the world whatsoever, in order to pray in a solitary place in the desert, eating only crusts of bread and wearing nothing but rags. But in any case, a lifestyle that is different from the typical, and that is somehow viewed as holy, is what sets a real Christian apart from the rest of the world.
Chapter Nine: They Are They Which Testify of Me
In our quest to determine just what Christianity is, and whether it really matters to ordinary men and women in America and beyond, we have discovered a few, basic, all-important truths, including the little-recognized fact that Christianity is not primarily about individual salvation, but on the contrary, its ultimate design is to fashion a new, corporate body of redeemed persons, perfectly unified and purified, to be presented as a glorious bride to Christ, who before the world began had chosen this people as his reward for the great sufferings he would willingly undergo. What that means in our daily lives, as we examined in the last chapter, is that true Christians always advance in their journey to consummate their union with Christ from within the realm of local churches, that is, among others who share a commonality in the gospel accomplishment of Christ, and who, by the structures and institutions that God has prescribed for us in his word, continue to prod each other on to greater faith and holiness. In concluding that chapter, we looked at three marks by which to distinguish a true local church from a false one: the word must be rightly preached, the sacraments rightly administered, and church discipline faithfully enforced.
Chapter Eight: The King Will Desire Your Beauty
We have now seen just what the true message of Christianity is, and how it applies to every person under heaven, regardless of circumstances or background. We have seen that this gospel-message demands a response, and have made clear the high cost of following Jesus, and the priceless reward that it will bring. But we must still touch upon another matter, which is equally misunderstood in American Christianity today; and that is, just what it means to be a Christian, what we are saved to and for; in a word, exactly what is the purpose of all that we have been speaking of. Is the ultimate goal of God's plan of salvation simply to give me a â€œget out of hell free cardâ€? Is the reason for evangelism and missions just to get as many individuals as possible into heaven? Now, these things are not at all bad â€“ it is good, unimaginably good, to be delivered from hell, and there is great rejoicing in heaven over every individual soul that is converted1 â€“ but still, there is a greater, unifying purpose to the whole plan that does not end with individual destinies alone. And in order truly to understand Christianity, we must understand this overarching goal. In the next chapters, that is what we will be discussing.
Chapter Seven: Choose This Day
Thus far in my message to you, I have tried to do two things: first, show you exactly what Christianity is, and second, show how it applies to you personally, no matter who you may be. Now, I intend to show you that this message, with its necessary personal application, cannot be ignored or shelved indefinitely: it demands a response, and the time for that response is now. I repeat the words of the prophet Elijah, when on Mount Carmel he put the truth of his God to the proof against the opposing religions of his day: â€œIf the Lord [Christ] is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow himâ€1. So today, I am proclaiming, â€œIf Christ is the Lord, submit to him and embrace his gospel; but if whatever other religion or philosophy you embrace is true, then follow it.â€ In either case, a decision must be made. â€œChoose for yourselves this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lordâ€2.
Chapter Six: To the Christian (Part Two)
If there is one thing that the preceding overview of contemporary western Christianity has made clear, it is that there is surprisingly little true Christianity left in the midst of a thousand different false gospels and counterfeit Christian movements and denominations across the religious landscape. But this fact should not discourage anyone seeking a true Christianity to follow or a certain gospel to trust. Yes, the gospel has been twisted, perverted, denied, and misrepresented, but it has not been overcome, nor will it ever be overcome, but will finally triumph over every scheme of the enemy, and bring all of God's children home to glory. That is the unshakeable conviction compelling me to write, and it is the foundational truth I want to drive home to you before I even address you, and keep ever before you as I speak.
Chapter Five: To the Christian (Part One)
I have spent the last two chapters speaking to non-Christians of all sorts, and telling them what the basic message of true Christianity has to say to them in particular. In these next two chapters, I will shift my focus to American Christendom, and show why the truth of the gospel matters for professing Christians, and what it has to say to them. So if you call yourself a Christian, whether Catholic or Protestant, liberal or conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical, or emergent, these chapters are for you. The truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which I laid out in chapter two, has something profound and important to say to you. That message of Christ and him crucified matters immensely. It is not just one part of what you claim to be as a Christian, it is your very life and breath, it is what defines you, it is your heritage from eternity past and your destiny into eternity future, it holds forth everything you need for this life and the life which is to come. But if you are a Christian in name only, then that which should bring eternal joy and glory will bring only eternal destruction and an unimaginable multiplication of wrath on the day of judgment. It would be better to be an outspoken pagan than an impostor and hypocrite in the house of God.
Chapter Four: To the Non-Christian (Part Two)
In the previous chapter, I spent some time speaking to non-Christians with definite religious convictions, whether convinced atheists or adherents to other world religions. In this chapter, I would extend my audience, and speak to those of you who are agnostic in some sense. Perhaps you are blithely agnostic â€“ you have given little thought to the whole matter of religion, you don't know for sure what to think of spirituality and the afterlife, but your agnosticism is not an uncertainty born of deep thought and bitter striving of spirit. It surrounds you like the atmosphere, it is as natural as the air you breathe, you are frankly so busy with the affairs of this life that you have no time even to consider seriously whether you are an atheist, an agnostic, or anything else. Or maybe you genuinely are agnostic; you have struggled and striven with the weighty things of eternity, but to no avail, and with no blessed end of the peace of certain conviction for your souls. Perhaps you are downcast and depressed, or cynical and bitter. Perhaps you are seeking for something to believe in, something great enough to satisfy your empty heart. But in any case, no matter what your particular situation may be, you do not have definite, settled convictions on the topic of religion. It is to you that I now speak. God grant that you may find the certainty which you lack in the blessed truth of Christianity!
Chapter Three: To the Non-Christian (Part One)
I am writing this book, not just because the message I have is good and true (although it is); but primarily, because the message I have matters. It matters to you. Whoever you might be, whatever you might think about Christianity, whether you're content as you are, looking for something more, unsure of Christianity, antagonistic to Christianity, or almost persuaded of Christianity â€“ no matter what your situation may be, the true message of Christianity has something to say to you. In the next two chapters, I hope to speak to you specifically with some clear implications of the message I detailed in the previous chapter; and in order to do so as comprehensively as possible, I intend to address in order first the convinced atheists, agnostics, or adherents to non-Christian religions; second, the content, the satisfied and secular, the pursuers of pleasure and the American Dream; third, the dissatisfied, depressed, cynical or unsure; and fourth, those who are considering, who are at least open to Christianity, who are already searching and wanting to think these things through.
Chapter Two: What is Christianity?
Let me tell you from the beginning that Christianity is probably not what you think it is. It is probably much bigger, for one thing. Christianity is not just something you do on Sunday, it is not just one part of your life, another category to be fit in somewhere with work, friends, family, and entertainment. I am not a father, a husband, a co-worker, and a Christian. I am first, fundamentally, and all-inclusively a Christian. That is my identity, that is what defines me. I am no longer my own, and the life I live is no longer my own life: it is Christ who lives in me, and that makes me what I am, in every part of my life1. So then, I am not a Christian and a father, I am fundamentally a Christian father. I am not a Christian and a husband, I am fundamentally a Christian husband. I am a Christian co-worker, a Christian friend, a Christian while I work, eat, sleep, and play, a Christian who enjoys all the good gifts of God Christianly and acknowledges his glory in providing them all the while.
Speaking Boldly Without Compromise
For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. - Psalm 106:45, 46
God is controlling everything: the smallest molecules, big events, and even the hearts of men (Proverbs 21:1). God has a specific plan for you in redemptive history. And God reveals to us in the Scripture that he wants us to be witnesses in Babylon. God has a specific plan for our lives and, according to Scripture, will move into the heart of those he foreordains to put in our paths.
I believe there is strong scriptural warrant to believe that you will enjoy an unearthly protection when you live for Christ and speak boldly about Him. Many of us worry that if we stick our neck out to speak about Christ people may react negatively. We may worry about such things for a minute, but since God got us into this situation by calling us to be witnesses for him, he can get us out of it. God protects those who make a commitment to Him. And however people may react, the outcome is according to God's perfect plan. He has ultimate control over how the message you bring to people will be received. Remember, you are just the mailman. We do not create the massage, God does, and we must deliver that message intact. He will determine the outcome.
But many times we compromise because we're afraid we'll come in harm's way or be ridiculed when we speak about Christ but the fact is if we do not compromise, God will be our protection in the midst of trouble ... but as soon as you compromise, you forfeit that unearthly protection and, at that point, you're on your own.
Speaking of Israel Psalm 106:46 says, "He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives."Do you realize that God can not only sway a king, God can sway an entire society? This is because, verse 45 says He is a covenant keeping God and He made a covenant with His people. And, friends, we have a covenant with our God in Christ. In it he remembers not to treat us as our sins justly deserve. And further, because he has imputed to us Christ's righteousness, You are now children of God, in a covenant relationship that is indelible and unbreakable. So as you pray, ask God to have you move out into the world and engage with those who will be worthy of your time, and even if you do not see instant results, know that you are just the messenger whom God has assigned to this very encounter.
Chapter One: The Reason I Write
I have recently begun writing a new book titled, If I Could Tell You Just One Thing. It's basically an appeal directed to a wide audience, including atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, nominal Christians, etc., with the foundationally important message of the gospel and its necessary implications. I'll occasionally be posting chapters here and would invite feedback on any of them. One final note: much of the material in the second chapter is taken from short articles I've written and posted here in the past, but the rest of the book will be entirely new.
Chapter One: The Reason I Write
Why I am writing this book and why do I want you to read it?
The question is simple enough, but it has sufficient complexity, below its surface, to warrant an answer and an explanation, which I will attempt to give you in this chapter, in three parts: the first will deal with why I am writing; the second with why I am writing this book; and the third with why I want you to read it.
Monergistic Regeneration T-Shirt (Brown)
By popular demand we have reprinted our Regeneration T-Shirts. With the upsurge of interest in a more robust biblical and Reformation theology, many search for ways to expose their friends and neighbors to monergistic regeneration and the doctrines of grace. This T-shirt piques the interest of onlookers and provides an excellent bridge for introducing the Biblical beliefs recovered and heralded during the Reformation.
When you wear the T-Shirt you help spread the word about Monergism.com and the five solas of the Reformation. The Chinese characters in the logo on the back can be translated as "regeneration precedes faith." The back of the shirt bears the large distressed text "REGENERATION" with a heart that is being transformed from stone to flesh by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit--impossible with man, but possible with God.
A video outreach tool from England for Christmas
This video presentation, made by a church in London, England called St. Helens Bishopsgate is a very thought provoking, biblical presentation about the true meaning of Christmas. Something to point people to click on and watch:
Should we use altar calls in our evangelism?
Genuine conversion - its something every true child of God wishes to see. As Christians, we all pray to God for souls to be saved and thankfully, this is happening all across our world. We also seek to reach out to people at home and abroad with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is both a privilege and a duty. What we often fail to question is our own methodology in evangelism. We all have traditions. Some of them are biblical and helpful; others are not so.
So what about the altar call?
It may be something of a surprise for most Christians in our day to learn that the "altar call" is very much a modern day invention in Church history, made famous by the heretic Charles Finney. It may sound like extremely strong language and even ridiculous to some people for me to class Finney as a heretic. He is perceived by many as one of the great heroes in Church history, especially for his efforts in evangelism. Yet I do not say these words lightly. If I met someone on the street (who did not have the famous name of Finney) and they denied the substitutionary atonement of Christ, justification by faith alone, and the imputation of the righteousness of Christ (amongst other things) I would immediately seek to lead that person to Christ. If they remained convinced that these biblical doctrines were error, I would be very surprised to see that person in heaven. Yet Finney clearly denied these major doctrines (for more on this, read his Systematic Theology and these articles and lectures here)
Before Charles Finney, the "altar call" was basically unknown. The likes of Martin Luther, George Whitefield and C. H. Spurgeon, great Evangelists in the history of the Church, were men who shook entire nations as they were used mightily by the Lord in evangelism, yet never once did any of them use the modern day "altar call."
Sowing Seeds for Christ
What About Those Who Have Never Heard?
One question frequently stops Christians in their tracks: "If the Gospel alone saves, then what about the heathen in Africa who never heard?" Can God justly convict a man who hasn't heard about Jesus? Some people hear the Gospel and reject it, but most never hear it. How can God condemn them? Christians are ill-equipped to respond because they don't really understand something vital about sin and mercy. Sin brings guilt. Mercy is a gift. Anyone who is a sinner receives punishment he deserves. Anyone who is saved receives mercy he does not deserve and which is not owed him. Think of this question: How could the sheriff send anyone to jail if he didn't offer him a pardon first? The answer is simple. If he's guilty, the sheriff is justified in throwing him in jail. There is no obligation to offer a pardon to a guilty man. The same is true of God. He can justly convict a man who has broken His law even though the sinner has heard nothing about God's pardon in Jesus. God owes no one salvation. He can offer it to whomever He wishes. That's why it's called grace. -Gregory Koukl
Exposition of Revelation 5:9 - Particular Redemption
"Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth."
The scope of Christ's work of redemption is both universal and particular: universal because it includes people of every ethnicity and nation; particular because Christ redeems a people for Himself from out of these nations, having had an eye for a remnant of mankind from every tribe. Here is the climax of God's redemptive purpose, fulfilling God's covenant to Abraham to bless the children of promise through his seed (Gen 12:2; Rom 9:6-13). This is why God has commanded the church to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matt 28:18, 19) that He might gather those he has set apart for Himself in every city and town (Acts 18:10; John 17:9, 20)
The great, ultimate, and final exodus is here (Rev 5) being declared in song. There are three (3) reasons which define the lamb's worthiness to open the scroll
1) you were slain,
2) with your blood your purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (That is the meaning of the event). and
3) v10. You have made them to be a kingdom of priests and to reign on the earth. (That is the consequence of the event).
What is actually in view here? It is the final exodus and the ultimate, eternal establishment of a covenantal relationship between God and His people. It is what we see at the end of the Revelation. "Now I will be their God and they will be my people..." This event also uses language similar to the Exodus of the Jews. It not only points forward to the final consummation but also points back to that Passover event. This passage actually lifts language from the Book of Exodus, interpreting its ultimate meaning. What actually took place on the evening of the first Passover? A lamb was slain and painted on the doorposts of every Jewish home. That was the event. But what was the meaning of that event?. The Text is clear. The purchase of the firstborn for God. The firstborn in Israel were just as guilty as any Egyptian. The Jews were not saved because they were more righteous than anyone else. They were saved because God made them a provision of atonement. They too were liable to the death blow of the angel, but were purchased by the blood of an unblemished sacrifice that pointed to the ultimate sacrifice. To what end, and with what final consequence in mind? In their language: "That out of all the nations of the world they would become the personal possession of God, purchased out of Egypt to be made a kingdom and priests" (Ex 19).
Word & Spirit by John Calvin
The following is an expression of the extraordinarily balanced understanding of John Calvin with regards to the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing persons to faith through the preaching of the gospel. Commenting on Acts, it shows the outworking of God's plan through the agency of men in casting forth the seed of the gospel, which, the Bible testifies, can only be responded to when germinated (so to speak) by the Holy Spirit. The Scripture is plain that that the word alone is not enough to enter and change the heart of natural man (who is hostile to God's word) but that the heart must be opened and the mind illumined by the concurrent work of the Spirit. An biblical example of this can be found in 1 Thes 1:4, 5. "For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction..."
In the same spirit, here is John Calvin commenting on Acts 16:14-15, â€œ14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.â€1
Now when in fact only one hears attentively and effectively, could it not have appeared that the way was blocked for Christ to make an entry? But afterwards from that frail shoot a famous church sprang up, whose praises Paul sings in splendid terms. Yet it is possible that Lydia had some companions, of whom no mention is made, because she herself far surpassed them. Yet Luke does not attribute the cause for this one woman having shown herself docile, to the fact that she was sharperwitted than the others, or that she had some preparation by herself, but says that the Lord opened her heart, so that she gave heed to Paulâ€™s words. He had just praised her piety; and yet he shows that she could not understand the teaching of the Gospel without the illumination of the Spirit. Accordingly we see that not only faith, but also all understanding of spiritual things, is a special gift of God, and that ministers do not accomplish anything by speaking, unless the inward calling of God is added at the same time.
By the word heart Scripture sometimes means the mind, as when Moses says (Deut. 29:4), â€˜until now the Lord has not given you a heart to understand.â€™ So also in this verse Luke means not only that Lydia was moved by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to embrace the Gospel with a feeling of the heart, but that her mind was illuminated to understand. We may learn from this that such is the dullness, such the blindness of men, that in hearing they do not hear, or seeing they do not see, until God forms new ears and new eyes for them.
But we must note the expression that the heart of Lydia was opened so that she paid attention to the external voice of a teacher. For as preaching on its own is nothing else but a dead letter, so, on the other hand, we must beware lest a false imagination, or the semblance of secret illumination, leads us away from the Word upon which faith depends, and on which it rests. For in order to increase the grace of the Spirit, many invent for themselves vague inspirations so that no use is left for the external Word. But the Scripture does not allow such a separation to be made, for it unites the ministry of men with the secret inspiration of the Spirit. If the mind of Lydia had not been opened, the preaching of Paul would have been mere words; yet God inspires her not only with the mere revelations but with reverence for His Word, so that the voice of a man, which otherwise would have vanished into thin air, penetrates a mind that has received the gift of heavenly light.
Therefore let us hear no more of the fanatics who make the excuse of the Spirit to reject external teaching. For we must preserve the balance which Luke established here, that we obtain nothing from the hearing of the Word alone, without the grace of the Spirit, and that the Spirit is conferred on us not that He may produce contempt of the Word, but rather to instill confidence in it in our minds and write it on our hearts.
1 From Calvin, John. The Acts of the Apostles. 2 vols. Trans. by John W. Fraser and W.J.G. McDonald. Ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965.
John Piper on How We Might Respond to Muslim Anger over the Pope's Comments
John Piper suggesting How Christians Might Respond to Muslim Outrage at the Pope's Regensburg Message About Violence and Reason.
Here is an outline of his ten points:
1. Admit that the Christian church has often been too entangled with civil governments, with the result that violence has been endorsed by the church as a way of accomplishing religious, and not just civil, goals.
2. Make clear that the use of God-sanctioned violence between Israel and the nations in the Old Testament is no longer Godâ€™s will for his people.
3. Admit that there are many Muslims today who do not approve of violence in the spread of Islam.
4. Point out how Islam, in its most sacred writings and authoritative teachings, belittles Jesus Christ, not just occasionally in the news, but constantly by its dominant claims.
5. Point out that, in response to this constant defamation of Jesus Christ, there are no public threats or demands for apologies.
"Save Yourselves" (Acts 2:40)
I am sorry to bother you again with another email. But, I was reading through Acts in my daily scripture readings and came across Acts 2:40 which quotes Jesus saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation (ESV)." I am not one who needs to be convinced of monergistic regeneration...I wholly submit to that scriptural understanding of conversion. However I think if any Calvinistic preacher ever used Jesus' command here they would immediately be accused of being a monergistic preacher, I guess this is my speculation. Yet, this is quoted from the mover of monergistic regeneration. Unless there is a debate on weather or not this should translated as indicative (be saved) as opposed to imperative (save yourselves)...but I am no greek scholar...So please lend me some help and answer these three questions: 1. Is this accurate to the greek text? 2. How can this be said while holding to monergistic presuppositions? 3. How might this influence our preaching today?
Thanks for your very important question. Lets first look at this whole passage in context where Peter is preaching in Acts 2:38: Peter replied, ""Brothers, what shall we do?" 38And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." 40And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, "Save yourselves from this crooked generation." 41So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls...(vs 47) And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
So if read in context we immediately understand that Peter qualifies his statement with "...everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself." How many people is everyone? It is a universal positive, excluding no one in the context of the sentence. This means that all persons, without exception. who are called by God will believe and be saved. This is again confirmed by the last sentence of the chapter which states that it is the Lord who "added to their number day by day those who were being saved. "
The Conversion and Preaching of (St) Patrick in Ireland
An extract from the â€œHistory of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Centuryâ€ by J. H. Merle dâ€™AubignÃ© (1794-1872)
On the picturesque banks of the Clyde, not far from Glasgow, in the Christian village of Bonavern, now Kilpatrick, a little boy, of tender heart, lively temperament, and indefatigable activity, passed the earlier days of his life. He was born about the year 372 A. D., of a British family, and was named Succat.1 His father, Calpurnius, deacon of the church of Bonavern, a simple-hearted pious man, and his mother, Conchessa, sister to the celebrated Martin, archbishop of Tours,2 and a woman superior to the majority of her sex, had endeavoured to instil into his heart the doctrines of Christianity; but Succat did not understand them. He was fond of pleasure, and delighted to be the leader of his youthful companions. In the midst of his frivolities, he committed a serious fault.
Some few years later, his parents having quitted Scotland and settled in Armorica (Bretagne), a terrible calamity befell them. One day as Succat was playing near the seashore with two of his sisters, some Irish pirates, commanded by Oâ€™ Neal, carried them all three off to their boats, and sold them in Ireland to the petty chieftain of some pagan clan. Succat was sent into the fields to keep swine.3 It was while alone in these solitary pastures, without priest and without temple, that the young slave called to mind the divine lessons which his pious mother had so often read to him. The fault which he had committed pressed heavily night and day upon his soul: he groaned in heart, and wept. He turned repenting towards that meek Saviour of whom Conchessa had so often spoken; he fell at His knees in that heathen land, and imagined he felt the arms of a father uplifting the prodigal son. Succat was then born from on high, but by an agent so spiritual, so internal, that he knew not â€œwhence it cometh or whither it goeth.â€ The gospel was written with the finger of God on the tablets of his heart. â€œI was sixteen years old,â€ said he, â€œand knew not the true God; but in that strange land the Lord opened my unbelieving eyes, and, although late, I called my sins to mind, and was converted with my whole heart to the Lord my God, who regarded my low estate, had pity on my youth and ignorance, and consoled me as a father consoles his children.â€4
Theology & Evangelism by J.I. Packer
"Evangelism and theology for the most part go separate ways, and the result is great loss for both. When theology is not held on course by the demands of evangelistic communcation, it grows abstract and speculative, wayward in method, theoretical in interest and irresponsible in stance. When evangelism is not fertilized, fed and controlled by theology, it becomes a stylized performance seeking its effect through manipulative skills rather than the power of vision and the force of truth. Both theology and evangelism are then, in one important sense, unreal, false to their own God-given nature; for all true theology has an evangelistic thrust, and all true evangelism is theology in action." - J.I. Packer