Wednesday, December 09, 2009

What Matters Most

Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth,Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. Philippians 1:18

    The word “preached” in today’s verse means “to proclaim with authority.” Regardless of the personal cost, Paul was determined that Christ be proclaimed with authority.

Even when Paul’s detractors preached the true gospel, it had an impact. A selfishly motivated preacher can still be used of God because the truth is more powerful than the package it comes in.

Paul lived to see the gospel proclaimed—he didn’t care who received the credit. That’s to be the attitude of every pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, leader, and layperson in the church. In all that he suffered, Paul didn’t quit, lash out, break down, or lose his joy. That’s because the cause of Christ was being furthered and His name proclaimed. It was all Paul cared about. That’s an attitude the grace of Christ instills in all who would be godly.

MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : A daily touch of God's grace (370). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

Friday, November 27, 2009


God is glorified when we trust Him unquestioningly. Faith is perhaps the basic form of worship. Romans 4:20 says, “[Abraham] did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.”

Every Christian will say that he believes God keeps His Word, but so few Christians live lives of total trust that the world isn’t always sure of the trustworthiness of our God. The slightest doubt about God or His goodness or His Word implies that He is not all He says He is. First John 5:10 says, “The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar.” In other words, when you doubt God, you make Him appear to be unfaithful.

God’s clear promise is, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide a way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” If we say that we cannot bear our temptations and the trials of life, we call God a liar.

For some reason, we think of doubt and worry as “small” sins. But when a Christian displays unbelief, care, or an inability to cope with life, he is saying to the world, “My God cannot really be trusted,” and that kind of disrespect makes one guilty of a fundamental error, the heinous sin of dishonoring God. That is no small sin.

A good example of unwavering faith is the account of the three young men in the fiery furnace. Daniel 3 tells us that before Nebuchadnezzar cast them into the white–hot furnace he gave them a chance to recant their faith in God and worship a golden image of the king instead. Verse 17 is their answer to Him: “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” Then they added, “But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (v. 18, emphasis added).

They were in an extremely difficult position. No child of God on record had ever experienced the threat of a fiery furnace, and there were no convenient ready–reference Bible verses they could look to for a promise that they would survive. If they had succumbed to the circumstances, God would not have been glorified. Instead, they took a confident stand of faith in the goodness and justice of God. Their faith was vindicated, and God was glorified in the eyes of an entire nation.

John MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority : John MacArthur, Jr. on Worship, electronic ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998). 139–140.

Black Friday

Still thankful? The day after Thanksgiving certainly challenges that. I have decided to not be a part of that regardless of the sale. I am not interested in the day of greed. I remember one year when my father ventured out one early Friday morning to only have the items in his cart removed by some greedy shopper. What's the point? Whatever you do today, remember yesterday. But most importantly remember that "Thanksgiving" is not a day but an attitude. Be thankful!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Real Story of Thanksgiving

The story of the Pilgrims begins in the early part of the seventeenth century. The Church of England under King James I was persecuting anyone and everyone who did not recognize its absolute civil and spiritual authority. Those who challenged ecclesiastical authority and those who believed strongly in freedom of worship were hunted down, imprisoned, and sometimes executed for their beliefs.

A group of separatists first fled to Holland and established a community. After eleven years, about forty of them agreed to make a perilous journey to the New World, where they would certainly face hardships, but could live and worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences.

On August 1, 1620, the Mayflower set sail. It carried a total of 102 passengers, including forty Pilgrims led by William Bradford. On the journey, Bradford set up an agreement, a contract, that established just and equal laws for all members of the new community, irrespective of their religious beliefs. Where did the revolutionary ideas expressed in the Mayflower Compact come from? From the Bible.

The Pilgrims were a people completely steeped in the lessons of the Old and New Testaments. They looked to the ancient Israelites for their example. And, because of the biblical precedents set forth in Scripture, they never doubted that their experiment would work.

But this was no pleasure cruise, friends. The journey to the New World was a long and arduous one. And when the Pilgrims landed in New England in November, they found, according to Bradford's detailed journal, a cold, barren, desolate wilderness. There were no friends to greet them, he wrote. There were no houses to shelter them. There were no inns where they could refresh themselves.

And the sacrifice they had made for freedom was just beginning. During the first winter, half the Pilgrims – including Bradford's own wife – died of either starvation, sickness or exposure. When spring finally came, Indians taught the settlers how to plant corn, fish for cod and skin beavers for coats. Life improved for the Pilgrims, but they did not yet prosper!

This is important to understand because this is where modern American history lessons often end. Thanksgiving is actually explained in some textbooks as a holiday for which the Pilgrims gave thanks to the Indians for saving their lives, rather than as a devout expression of gratitude grounded in the tradition of both the Old and New Testaments.

Here is the part that has been omitted: The original contract the Pilgrims had entered into with their merchant-sponsors in London called for everything they produced to go into a common store, and each member of the community was entitled to one common share. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belong to the community as well.

They were going to distribute it equally. All of the land they cleared and the houses they built belonged to the community as well. Nobody owned anything. They just had a share in it.

Bradford, who had become the new governor of the colony, recognized that this form of collectivism was as costly and destructive to the Pilgrims as that first harsh winter, which had taken so many lives. He decided to take bold action. Bradford assigned a plot of land to each family to work and manage, thus turning loose the power of the marketplace.

That's right. Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work! Surprise, surprise, huh? What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation!

But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild's history lesson If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future.

"The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God," Bradford wrote. "For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense...that was thought injustice."

Why should you work for other people when you can't work for yourself? What's the point?

Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property. Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result?

"This had very good success," wrote Bradford, "for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been." In no time, the Pilgrims found they had more food than they could eat themselves.

Now, this is where it gets really good, folks, if you're laboring under the misconception that I was, as I was taught in school.

So they set up trading posts and exchanged goods with the Indians. The profits allowed them to pay off their debts to the merchants in London. And the success and prosperity of the Plymouth settlement attracted more Europeans and began what came to be known as the "Great Puritan Migration."

Thanksgiving, in other words, is not thanks to the Indians, and it's not thanks to William Bradford. It's not thanks to the merchants of London. Thanksgiving is thanks to God, pure and simple.

The REAL Story of Thanksgiving...
Dead White Guys - Or - What Your History Books Never Told You
November 23, 2005

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Thanks to the Lord

Psalm 136

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
4 To Him who alone does great wonders, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
5 To Him who made the heavens with skill, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
6 To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
7 To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
8 The sun to rule by day, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
9 The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

10 To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
11 And brought Israel out from their midst, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
12 With a strong hand and an outstretched arm, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
13 To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
15 But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
17 To Him who smote great kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
18 And slew mighty kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting:
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
20 And Og, king of Bashan, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
21 And gave their land as a heritage, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
22 Even a heritage to Israel His servant, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

23 Who remembered us in our low estate, For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
24 And has rescued us from our adversaries, For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
25 Who gives food to all flesh, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.


Give Thanks With A Grateful Heart

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

What is Needed When Going Through Trials

All of us experience trouble. From the terms that James uses in chapter one, verses 2-3, the trouble that we experience cannot be determined beforehand, avoided, or determined to their degree. But we can be sure of this, they are “tests!” Specifically, the “testing of your faith” (v.3). The fact that we are sinful beings, living in a sinful world gives indication that we will experience trouble on a regular basis. Even when we succeed in getting our own little worlds under control, something inevitably messes them up. We do everything we can to attain peace and comfort by protecting ourselves from trouble, but trouble arises nonetheless. Take marriage for an example, it was designed by God as a source of fulfillment and happiness, yet 1 Corinthians 7:28 says those who are married “shall have trouble in the flesh.” There is going to be trouble even in the best of what God gives us because of the sin principle that is active in the world. Jesus Himself experienced trouble and warned His disciples to expect tribulation in the world (John 16:33). John 11:33; 12:27, and 13:21 record Jesus’ troubled responses to the devastating effects of sin.  In all three cases it says He was “troubled.” Troubled at sin – its cause and its effects. Paul said the same thing when he stated he was “troubled on every side” (2 Cor.4:8). It is reasonable to expect trouble in our lives as well and not be surprised or overwhelmed by them when they come. Trouble is a way of life, so don’t think you’re alone if you’re experiencing it right now. What we need to learn is what Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” In other words, as we said last time, we need to have a joyful heart, an understanding mind, and a submissive will. Because we are commanded to rejoice, we are not to let our troubles rob us of our joy. True biblical joy does not find its basis in the positive circumstances in our lives, it is based on the command of Scripture. We are to rejoice in the Lord regardless of the pains and difficulties in our lives because we know that trials test the strength and validity of our faith; they reveal what we really love; they enable us to help others; and they produce endurance and strength. Notice in verses 5 what James says you need so that you can have a joyful heart, an understanding mind, and a submissive will: Divine “wisdom.” He says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Notice the need we have for wisdom. He says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom.”

Everyone needs wisdom. James is not making this statement as if you have arrived and don’t need wisdom in your trials. He is stating it as a recognized fact. The verse could read this way: “If any of you lacks wisdom, and he does....”

Ralph Martin says, “The conditional clause does not imply doubt or suggest a contingency. Rather it presupposes "a standing fact" (Hiebert, 79). The readers are facing some real problems arising from persecution, and it is the gift and application of wisdom to see these trials in their proper light and respond accordingly” (Word Biblical Commentary, Vol.48).

You do not need philosophical speculation or worldly wisdom, you need wisdom “that is from above” (Jas.3:17). The first step in gaining such wisdom is the consciousness of our need of it. “If any of you” indicates that this consciousness of a wisdom shortage must come as an individual recognition. Proverbs 3:7 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes.” Romans 12:16 says, “Do not be wise in your own opinions.” Ephesians 5:17 says, “Therefore do not be unwise.” All of these passages reveal the need that we have for divine wisdom.

D. Edmond Hiebert says, “The believer needs ‘wisdom’ to see his trials in a true light and to profit spiritually from them. James knew from Psalm 73 and the book of Job that the trials that often overwhelm the godly do create struggles and call for God-given wisdom to resolve them. For James, wisdom is more than wide knowledge...As a Jew, James viewed wisdom as related to the practice of righteousness in daily life. It is that moral discernment that enables the believer to meet life and its trials with decisions and actions consistent with God’s will” (James, 79-80).

As you go through a trial, realize the need you have for divine wisdom so that you can respond with a joyful attitude, an understanding mind, and a submissive will.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Preventing Desire

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4–5
So many things in our evil society attempt to capture our attention: movies, television, books, music, clothing, advertisements, and now the Internet—all designed to capture the emotions. For example, advertising executives know that buying is ultimately an emotional decision. Few people know or even care about the mechanics of the car being advertised, yet they are impressed if it looks like a race car, or if a pretty girl is behind the wheel, or if other kinds of emotional bait are included in the ad.

We need to guard our minds, emotions, and wills. We need to seek God’s will by meditating on His Word and letting His will become ours. An unprotected, uncontrolled, and unyielded mind is going to be filled with evil desires that will result in evil deeds. We must control how our emotions and minds respond to the tempting bait they encounter.

MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : A daily touch of God's grace (326). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Serving God Our Leftovers

Our small group that meets twice a month has been going through the book "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. He begins chapter 5 "Of all the chapters in this book, this one was the hardest to write. I do not wish for my words to come across as controversial or difficult to swallow. But I had to write this chapter, because I believe what I'm about to talk about is important. And true.

In the last chapter we discussed various inappropriate responses to God's love.

Now we are going to look at Scriptural examples of poor responses to God's gift of love" (p.83).

Chapter 5 begins with a...


If You're Lukewarm You're Not A Christian

"A lukewarm Christian is an oxymoron; there's no such thing. To put it plainly, churchgoers who are ‘lukewarm' are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven" (p.84).

Revelation 3:15-18 (NASB) 'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 'So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. 17 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

To "spit" or "vomit" connotes "gagging, hurling, retching."

A.T. Robertson says it means "to reject with extreme disgust."

John Piper says, "Jesus' threat to the lukewarm church is that He will spew them out of His mouth. If you wanted to shock a lukewarm Christian, you could hardly think of a more gross and startling image: Jesus Christ putting the cup to His lips in the hope of tasting a pleasing drink, and then spitting it out on the ground. I find it very hard to make this mean that such people will, after all, be saved and enjoy the blessings and fellowship of Christ for all eternity. Surely the image of spitting people out of His mouth means that He has found them to be unacceptable and rejects them. The faith that saves is not lukewarm, half-hearted faith. And so He warns Laodicea, and every other church, if you do not repent (as verse 19 says) and become zealous, or hot, then the mechanical, cool, superficiality of your faith will be your destruction."

"When you read this passage, do you naturally conclude that to be ‘spit' our of Jesus' mouth means you're a part of His kingdom? When you read the words ‘wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked,' do you think He is describing saints?' When He counsels them to ‘buy white clothes to wear' in order to cover their ‘shameful nakedness,' does it sound like advice for those already saved?" (p.85).

There is No Such Thing As A No-Fruit Bearing Christian

All Christians bear fruit - only non-Christians do not bear fruit.

John 15:1-6 (NASB) "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 "Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 "If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

Matthew 13:18-23 (NASB) "Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20 "The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23 "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

"Is this idea of a non-fruit bearing Christian something that we have concocted in order to make Christianity ‘easier'?"

Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples.

Matthew 16:24-25 (NASB) Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

"Jesus' call to commitment is clear: He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a ‘Christian' without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd" (p.85).

"Can I go to heaven without faithfully loving Jesus?"

Each of us has lukewarm elements and practices in our life.

The Scripture demonstrates clearly that there is room for our failure and sin in our pursuit of God.

Lamentations 3:23 (NASB) They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB) And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

To call someone a Christian simply because he does Christian-y things is giving a false comfort to the unsaved. But to declare anyone who sins ‘unsaved' is to deny the reality and truth of God's grace.

From Colossians 2:1; 4:13, 15-16, the church at Laodicea appears to have been a healthy and legitimate church. But something happened. By the time Revelation was writer, about twenty-five years after the letter to the Colossians, the Laodicean's hearts apparently didn't belong to God-despite the fact that they were still active as a church. Their church was prospering, and they didn't seem to be experiencing any persecution. They were comfortable and proud. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?" (pp.87-88).


God "wants our best, deserves our best, and demands our best. From the beginning of time, He has been clear that some offerings are acceptable to Him and others not. Just as Cain, upon whose offering God ‘did not look with favor' (Gen.4:5)" (pp.90-91).

We Give God Our Leftovers And He Doesn't Accept It

Genesis 4:5 (NASB) but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.

Hosea 13:6 (NASB) As they had their pasture, they became satisfied, And being satisfied, their heart became proud; Therefore they forgot Me.

Malachi 1:8 (NASB) "But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the Lord of hosts.

"They assumed God was pleased because they had sacrificed something. God described their practice as evil" (p.91).

Leftovers Are Not Merely Inadequate, They're Evil

"Let's stop calling it ‘a busy schedule' or ‘bills' or ‘forgetfulness.' It's called evil.

God is holy. In heaven exists a Being who decides whether or not I take another breath. This holy God deserves our excellence, the very best I have" (p.92).

Malachi 1:10 (NASB) "Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you," says the Lord of hosts, "nor will I accept an offering from you.

"God wanted the temple gate shut. The weak sacrifices of the laid-back priests were an insult to Him. He was saying that no worship is better than apathetic worship" (p.92).

"Jesus' instruction to the people of the church at Laodicea was to buy from Him the things that really matter, the things they didn't even realize they needed. They were wealthy, but Jesus asks them to exchange their wealth for His gold that is refined through fire; they had clothing, but Jesus counsels them to buy clothes that were truly white and would cover their nakedness; they did not desire anything, but Jesus say they needed salve for their eyes that would cure their blindness. He asks them to give up what they thought was so necessary and valuable, in exchange for what really matters" (p.92).

God Measures Our Lives By How We Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV) So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

"According to God, we are here to love. Not much else really matters" (p.94).

Personal Challenge:

Take the phrase "Love is patient" and substitute your name for the love love" (e.g, "Steve is patient). Do it for every phrase.

1 Corinthians 13:4-6 (ESV) Steve is patient and kind; Steve does not envy or boast; Steve is not arrogant 5 or rude. Steve does not insist on its own way; Steve is not irritable or resentful; 6 Steve does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

"By the end, don't you feel like a liar? If I am meant to represent what love is, then I often fail to love people well" (p.94).

"Following Christ isn't something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when it is useful. It must be central to everything we do and are.

Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants?

Do you believe the wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life?

Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then let your bet match your talk.

Truth faith means holding nothing back; it bets everything on the hope of eternity" (p.97).

So which are you? Lukewarm, cold, hot?

Are you truly saved?

Are you offering God your leftovers?

Remember "Truth faith means holding nothing back; it bets everything on the hope of eternity."

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Definition of Pride

When someone is proud they are focused on self. This is a form of self-worship. A person is prideful who believe that they, in and of themselves, are or should be the source of what is good, right and worthy of praise. They, also believe that they, by themselves, are (or should be) the accomplisher of anything that is worthwhile to accomplish, and that they should certainly be the benefactor of all things. In essence, they are believing that all things should be from them, through them, and to them or for them. Pride is competitive toward others, and especially toward God. Pride wants to be on top. Thomas Watson is quoted to have said, ‘Pride seeks to ungod God.’ That phrase certainly describes the arrogant.

(Stuart Scott, The Exemplary Husband)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Who Are You Following?

Isn't it amazing who some people will follow? No matter how they were treated by that person. Some follow others purely for selfish reasons, others simply out of amazement. But when is it is right not to follow someone? Let me be more specific. For the Christian what kind of people should he/she follow? First, the obvious, you must follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, "And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me" (emphasis added).

Second, you must follow only after those who follow Jesus. Yes, everyone is claiming they follow Jesus but there are some distinguishing characteristics that accompany those who truly follow Jesus. Notice the examples from the apostle John's first letter. He says:

  • Children of God have true “fellowship...with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1:3)
  • Children of God “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1:7)
  • Children of God have been cleansed “from all sin” (1:7, 9)
  • Children of God “confess” sin (1:9)
  • Children of God have “an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (2:1)
  • Children of God “keep His commandments” (2:3-5)
  • Children of God love their brothers (2:9-10)
  • Children of God abide in the light (2:10)
  • Children of God know the Father (2:13)
  • Children of God “have overcome the wicked one” (2:13)
  • Children of God hate the world (2:15-17)
  • Children of God do not abandon the faith (2:19)
  • Children of God have “an anointing from the Holy One” (2:20, 27)
  • Children of God know the truth (2:21)
  • Children of God confess the Son (2:22-25)
  • Children of God “practices righteousness” (2:29)
  • Children of God “lay down [their] lives for the brethren” (3:16-19)
  • Children of God “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God” (4:1-3)
  • Children of God overcome “the world” (5:4-5)

If the people you follow after are not marked by these characteristics, you should not be following them. Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11:1, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (emphasis added). Make sure who you follow is truly a child of God who is an imitator of Christ, otherwise turn away from them. Romans 16:18 says, "For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Compel Them to Come In

Compel them to come in."--Luke 14:23.

I feel in such a haste to go out and obey this commandment this morning, by compelling those to come in who are now tarrying in the highways and hedges, that I cannot wait for an introduction, but must at once set about my business.

Hear then, O ye that are strangers to the truth as it is in Jesus--hear then the message that I have to bring you. Ye have fallen, fallen in your father Adam; ye have fallen also in yourselves, by your daily sin and your constant iniquity; you have provoked the anger of the Most High; and as assuredly as you have sinned, so certainly must God punish you if you persevere in your iniquity, for the Lord is a God of justice, and will by no means spare the guilty. But have you not heard, hath it not long been spoken in your ears, that God, in his infinite mercy, has devised a way whereby, without any infringement upon his honour, he can have mercy upon you, the guilty and the undeserving? To you I speak; and my voice is unto you, O sons of men; Jesus Christ, very God of very God, hath descended from heaven, and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. begotten of the Holy Ghost, he was born of the Virgin Mary; he lived in this world a life of exemplary holiness, and of the deepest suffering, till at last he gave himself up to die for our sins, "the just for the unjust, to bring us to God." And now the plan of salvation is simply declared unto you--"Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved." For you who have violated all the precepts of God, and have disdained his mercy and dared his vengeance, there is yet mercy proclaimed, for "whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." "For this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief;" "whosoever cometh unto him he will in no wise cast out, for he is able also to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us."

Now all that God asks of you--and this he gives you--is that you will simply look at his bleeding dying son, and trust your souls in the hands of him whose name alone can save from death and hell. Is it not a marvelous thing, that the proclamation of this gospel does not receive the unanimous consent of men? One would think that as soon as ever this was preached, "That whosoever believeth shall have eternal life," every one of you, "casting away every man his sins and his iniquities," would lay hold on Jesus Christ, and look alone to his cross. But alas! such is the desperate evil of our nature, such the pernicious depravity of our character, that this message is despised, the invitation to the gospel feast is rejected, and there are many of you who are this day enemies of God by wicked works, enemies to the God who preaches Christ to you today, enemies to him who sent his Son to give his life a ransom for many. Strange I say it is that it should be so, yet nevertheless it is the fact, and hence the necessity for the command of the text,--"Compel them to come in."

Children of God, ye who have believed, I shall have little or nothing to say to you this morning; I am going straight to my business--I am going after those that will not come--those that are in the byways and hedges, and God going with me, it is my duty now to fulfil this command, "Compel them to come in."

Compel Them to Come In
December 5, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON 1834-1892

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bad Day

The Roman historian Tacitus said, ‘Besides being put to death, [Christians] were made to serve as objects of amusement; they were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs; others were crucified, others set on fire to serve to illuminate the night when daylight failed’ (Annales 15.44 quoted in the Life Application Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Peter and Jude, introduction).

And you say you had a bad day?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Soul Winner

In his book The Soul Winner, Charles Haddon Spurgeon says, “The soul-winner must be a master of the art of prayer. You cannot bring souls to God if you do not go to God yourself. You must get your battle-axe, and your weapons of war, from the armoury of sacred communication with Christ. If you are much alone with Jesus, you will catch His Spirit. You will be fired with the flame that burned in His breast and consumed His life. You will weep with the tears that fell upon Jerusalem when He saw it perishing; and if you cannot speak so eloquently as He did, yet shall there be about what you say somewhat of the same power which in Him thrilled the hearts and awoke the consciences of men. My dear hearers, especially you members of the church, I am always so anxious lest any of you should begin to lie upon your oars, and take things easy in the matters of God’s kingdom. There are some of you—I bless you, and I bless God at the remembrance of you—who are in season, and out of season, in earnest for winning souls, and you are the truly wise; but I fear there are others whose hands are slack, who are satisfied to let me preach, but do not themselves preach; who take these seats, and occupy these pews, and hope the cause goes well, but that is all they do” (246-47).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

God's Character Does Not Change

A.W. Pink says, “Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so forever. Necessarily so; for they are the very perfections, the essential qualities of His being. Semper idem (always the same) is written across every one of them. His power is unabated, His wisdom undiminished, His holiness unsullied. The attributes of God can no more change than Deity can cease to be. His veracity is immutable, for His Word is "forever settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89). His love is eternal: "I have loved thee with an everlasting love" (Jer. 31:3) and "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end" (John 13:1). His mercy ceases not, for it is "everlasting" (Ps. 100:5)” (The Attributes of God).

That is Reflected in His Name

In Exodus 3:14 God discloses His name to Moses as “I Am Who I Am” which is the definition of the Hebrew Yahweh. “This sacred name is known as the tetragrammaton (‘four letters’). English Jehovah comes from the Hebrew YHWH,...The Jews consider YHWH too sacred to utter. The name proclaims God as self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, and sovereign” (MacDonald, W., & Farstad, A. Believer's Bible Commentary). “This name is not a description of God, but simply a declaration of His self-existence and his eternal changelessness” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). In Ex.34:5-7 we read how God proclaim YHWH to Moses by listing the various facets of His holy character. “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, 7 keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children to the third and the fourth generation.”

That is Reflected in His Nature

James said in Jas.1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” “The celestial bodies God created have various phases of movement and rotation, changing from hour to hour and varying in intensity and shadow. God, however, is changeless” (John MacArthur, James). A. W. Pink again says, “He cannot change for the better, for He is already perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse. Altogether unaffected by anything outside Himself, improvement or deterioration is impossible. He is perpetually the same” (The Attributes of God). God's unchanging character sets Him apart from everyone and everything.

The heavens are subject to change. They move about, following their courses. The Book of Revelation gives us a drastic picture of the extreme changes the heavens will undergo until fire eventually dissolves them. The stars will fall, the sun will go out, the moon will turn a bloody hue, and the heavens will roll up like a scroll. The earth also is subject to change. People have been changing the face of the earth with their bulldozers and the atmosphere with pollution. The Book of Revelation says that in the end times both people and plant life will die and the seas will be polluted. The earth was changed once by a flood; it will be changed again as it is consumed with intense heat (2 Peter 3:6-7). The ungodly are subject to change. Unbelievers now think they have a happy or at least an acceptable life. But one day they will realize that an eternity without God is a tragic existence. Angels are also subject to change, for some "did not keep their own domain, but abandoned their proper abode" (Jude 1:6). Those beings are demons. Even believers change. There are times when our love for Christ burns and we obey Him, but there are other times when it smolders and we disobey. On the one hand, David trusted the Lord as his Rock and Refuge (2 Sam. 22:3); on the other hand, he feared for his life, saying, "I will perish one day by the hand of Saul" (1 Sam. 27:1). Everyone and everything in the universe changes. But not God! (Taken from Our Awesome God by John MacArthur, 34-5).

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

God is

We are considering the immutability of God. That means God never changes. In the next couple of post we will consider how God does not change. The first is God's life does not change.

He Has Always Been

In Psalm 93:2, the psalmist says, “Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting.” That means He has always existed with no beginning. Psalm 102:25-27 says it further, “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. 27 But You are the same, And Your years will have no end.” “Created things have a beginning and an ending, but not so their Creator” (J.I. Packer, Knowing God). “There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved. All that He is today, He has ever been, and ever will be” (A.W. Pink, The Attributes of God). When referring to God, Paul calls Him “the immortal God” (Romans 1:23; 1 Tim.6:16). God even asked Job in Job 38:4-7, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

Not only has God always been but...

He Will Always Be

In Hebrews 1:10-12 a combination of these references already mentioned are used of God the Son like Ps.102:25-27; Isa.34:4; 50:9; 51:6. Verse 8 begins by noting to us that the writer of Hebrews is referring to the Son (“But to the Son He says”). Verses 10-12 says, “And: ‘You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” Also Hebrews 13:8 he says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He never changes because He is God the Son. In Revelation 4:9-10 there is a phrase used two times showing that there is no end with God. He lives “forever." It says, “Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne.”

God has always been and will always be because...

He is From All Eternity

Moses said in Psalm 90:2 that He is “from everlasting to everlasting.” That phrase is repeated in Psalm 106:48 when the psalmist says, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting!” He is from all eternity. Even Jeremiah 10:10 refers to Him as “the eternal King.” In Micah 5:2 we have the term “everlasting” used in reference to Jesus, which is quoted in Matthew 2:6: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

Our God is unchanging. He is immutable. He has always been, will always be, because He is from all eternity. Man is always changing but God never vacillates. What He does is perfect never needing revision. Praise God for who He is and worship Him in the beauty of holiness. For He takes delight in the praises of His people.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Our Unchanging God

In our last study together on the doctrine of God, we looked at the existence and nature of God. In the existence of God we said that it is assumed in the Scriptures. William Evans, in his book Great Doctrines of the Bible, says, “It does not seem to have occurred to any of the writers of either the Old or the New Testaments to attempt to prove or to argue for the existence of God. Everywhere and at all times it is a fact taken for granted.” That fact is also seen in His creation. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.” Theologians often use theological terms that we’re unfamiliar with but none the less often state truths in a concise way. There are six arguments that theologians use to prove the existence of God. The first is the teleological argument which says design implies a designer. When you look at something that has been finished or perfected, we conclude its resulting design must have had a designer. The second argument was ontological, which comes from a Greek participle “to be.” This argument reasons that man’s ability to conceive of an absolutely perfect Being implies the reality and existence of that Being. The third was aesthetical. Because there is beauty and truth in the world, it is logical to assume that somewhere in the universe is a standard upon which beauty and truth are based. A fourth argument is volitional. Because man faces a myriad of choices and exercises volition, it is logical to assume that there must be an infinite will somewhere. The world exists as an expression of that will. The fifth argument is moral. This argument says that since we know there is a right and wrong this suggests the necessity of an absolute standard. And the sixth argument is cosmological. Cosmology is the argument of cause and effect. The world and the universe exist, and we conclude that someone made it. Think about it for a moment. The cause of limitless space must be infinite; the cause of endless time must be eternal; the cause of perceptual motion must be powerful; the cause of complexity must be omniscient; the cause of consciousness must be personal; the cause of feeling must be emotional; the cause of will must be volitional; the cause of ethical values must be moral; the cause of religious values must be spiritual; the cause of beauty must be aesthetical; the cause of righteousness must be holy; the cause of justice must be just; the cause of love must be loving; the cause of life must be living. Our world give evidence that there must be a God who is the cause of all those qualities.

We also looked at the nature of God. This is where we examined more closely what the Bible reveals about the Person of God. We said that there are two ways to look at this: according to man and according to the Bible. When you look at it according to man, you come up when man created God in his own image. But when you look at the Bible, you see something entirely different. The Bible reveals that God is a Person, who is described by personal titles, personal pronouns, and personal characteristics. It also reveals that God is a Spirit which refers to Him as being immaterial. Charles Hodge says “in revealing...that God is Spirit, the Bible reveals to us that no attribute of matter can be predicated of the divine essence” (Systematic Theology, 138-9).

We further said that God is One and Three. As One, He is the only God. There are no other gods besides Him. As three, He exists as three distinct persons and we saw those distinctions in the Old and New Testmament. Now let's consider the attributes of God.

When we refer to the attributes of God, we are referring to the “Virtues, excellencies, and perfections of God” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary). James P. Boyce, in his Abstract of Systematic Theology, says, “The attributes of God are those peculiarities which mark or define the mode of His existence, or which constitute His character. They are not separate nor separable from His essence or nature, and yet are not that essence, but simply have the ground or cause of their existence in it, and are at the same time the peculiarities which constitute the mode and character of His being” (65). In other words, they are the “Inherent characteristics of God revealed in Scripture and..are characteristics equally of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary). The one that we are considering is referred to as His immutability. A.W. Pink says of this attribute: “This is one of the Divine perfections which is not sufficiently pondered. It is one of the excellencies of the Creator which distinguishes Him from all His creatures. God is perpetually the same: subject to no change in His being, attributes, or determinations” (The Attributes of God). Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.”

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Trinity

God is one, yet exists as three distinct persons. That is revealed in the Bible from beginning to end.

The Old Testament Expresses the Plurality of the Godhead in its Opening Words

Genesis 1:1 - “In the beginning God." The Hebrew word translated “God” there is Elohim. The plural suffix, im, means it’s plural and presents a singular God who is expressed as a plurality. Genesis 1:26 also presents the plurality of the Godhead which it says, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” Genesis 3:22 also uses the plural in the Godhead when it says, “Then the Lord God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” When the Lord was about to destory the Tower of Babel, He said in Gen.11:7, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.”

Distinctions Between Members of the Trinity are Apparent in the Old Testament

Genesis 19:24 says, “Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.” Charles Hodge says, “We . . . find throughout the Old Testament constant mention made of a person to whom, though distinct from Jehovah as a person, the titles, attributes, and works of Jehovah are nevertheless ascribed. This person is called the angel of God, the angel of Jehovah, Adonai, Jehovah, and Elohim. He claims divine authority, exercises divine prerogatives, and receives divine homage. . . .Besides this we have the express testimony of the inspired writers of the New Testament that the angel of the Lord, the manifested Jehovah who led the Israelites through the wilderness and who dwelt in the temple, was Christ; that is, the angel was the Word . . . who became flesh and fulfilled the work which it was predicted the Messiah should accomplish (Systematic Theology, p. 177). Numbers 6:22-26 says, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, 'This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: 24 "The Lord bless you and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." '

Distinctions Between Members of the Trinity are also Apparent in the New Testament

Notice several passages of Scripture that mark the distinctions: Matthew 3:16-17—As Jesus is being baptized by John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove. The Father replied, “is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (v.17). We see the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in the same scene. John 14:16-17—Jesus said, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.” 2 Corinthians 13:14 says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” 1 Peter 1:2 says, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied.”

Who Can Comprehend the Trinity? God is Three in One, and One in Three-An Eternal Mystery

J.I. Packer wrote: “Here we face the most dizzying and unfathomable truth of all, the truth of the Trinity. . . . What should we make of it? In itself, the divine tri-unity is a mystery, a transcendent fact which passes our understanding. . . .How the one eternal God is eternally both singular and plural, how Father, Son, and Spirit are personally distinct yet essentially one . . . is more than we can know, and any attempt to "explain" it-to dispel the mystery by reasoning, as distinct from confessing it from Scripture-is bound to falsify it. Here, as elsewhere, our God is too big for his creatures' little minds (I Want to Be a Christian [Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale, 1977], pp. 29-30). We cannot comprehend this Triune God, but we do know that He is a Father who loves us, a Son who died for us, and a Spirit who comforts us.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

God is One

“Although the Bible teaches that there is only one God (Is 45:18, 21-22; Mk 12:32), heathen people in ancient times quickly developed a belief in large numbers of so-called gods (Jer 10:11) and goddesses. Eventually each nation created and worshiped its own deities, usually more than one. Many of these "foreign gods" (1 Sm 7:3) are named in the Bible, and in most cases we are told to what nation each belonged. The list from Mesopotamia, a center of idol worship, is the longest: Adrammelech and Anammelech (2 Kgs 17:31), Bel (also known as Marduk, Is 46:1; Jer 50:2; 51:44), Kaiwan (Am 5:26), Nebo or Nabu (Is 46:1), Nergal (2 Kgs 17:30), Nisroch (19:37; Is 37:38), Rephan (Acts 7:43), Sakkuth (Am 5:26), Succoth-benoth (2 Kgs 17:30), Tammuz (Ez 8:14), and Tartak (2 Kgs 17:31). The Syrians were devoted to Ashima (v 30) and Rimmon (5:18), who was also worshiped under the compound name Hadad-rimmon (Zec 12:11). Israel's eastern neighbors, Ammon and Moab, worshiped Milcom or Molech (1 Kgs 11:5-7, 33; 2 Kgs 23:13) and Chemosh, respectively, although the Moabites also worshiped a local manifestation of Baal (Nm 25:3-5). The Philistine gods were Dagon and Baal-zebub (2 Kgs 1:2-3, 6, 16), who is the equivalent of the NT Beelzebul (Mt 12:24; Lk 11:15). One Canaanite god, Baal, and two Canaanite goddesses, Asherah and Ashtoreth, are mentioned frequently in the OT; Ashtoreth was the same as the Mesopotamian Ishtar, also known as the "Queen of Heaven" (Jer 7:18; 44:17-19, 25). The gods of Egypt are represented by only two names in the Bible: Amon (Jer 46:25) and Apis (v 15). Nibhaz (2 Kgs 17:31) was probably an Elamite god. At least three Greco-Roman deities are mentioned in the NT: the Greek goddess Artemis (Acts 19:24-28, 34-35), known as Diana by the Romans, and the Greek gods Zeus and Hermes (Acts 14:12-13), known as Jupiter and Mercury, respectively, by the Romans.

The Bible clearly teaches that the gods of the nations have no objective reality (Jer 2:11), even though their worshipers sincerely believe that they actually exist (v 28). But the Lord proclaims that "they are no gods," (Jer 2:11; 16:20) or "gods that are not gods" (5:7, NIV). The NT further declares of idols that "an idol has no real existence" (1 Cor 8:4) and that "gods made with hands are not gods" (Acts 19:26). It is not surprising, then, that when the Israelites began to encounter other nations in significant ways-that is, as early as the time of the exodus-they were told repeatedly that the Lord is greater than all other gods (Ex 15:11; 18:11; Dt 10:17; 1 Chr 16:25; 2 Chr 2:5; Pss 86:8; 95:3; 96:4-5; 97:7-9; 135:5, 136:2; Dn 2:47; Zep 2:11).

Such so-called gods were not worthy of Israel's attention or veneration” (Tyndale Bible Dictionary) because there is only one God. And to believe that there were more than one God was blasphemy and idolatry against the One God.

Deut.6:4 says, “The LORD our God is one LORD.”
1 Cor.8:6 says, “There is only one God.”
1 Tim.2:5 says, “There is one God.”
Isa.44:6 says, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.”
Ex.20:5 reveals that God is a jealous God which means He alone is to be worshiped.

“There can be but one infinite” (Elisha Coles, The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations). Because Israel lived in the midst of a polytheistic society, it was vital that they give their allegiance to the one true God. The same is true today. Where is your allegiance?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Existence of God

The Bible does not seek to prove the existence of God, it assumes it. The Puritan John Preston said, “Now concerning God, two things are to be known: (1) that He is, (2) what He is” (The Golden Treasury of Puritan Quotations).

It is Assumed in the Scriptures

Genesis 1:1 begins like this: “In the beginning God.” Moses, who wrote the book of Genesis also wrote Psalm 90 and in verse 2 He elaborates on the phrase in Genesis 1:1 when he says, “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” The apostle John makes an attempt at this in his gospel when speaking of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He says in John 1:1-2 - “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” You must understand when you hear the words “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1-2, it is not saying that God has a beginning. In fact both of those verses say nothing about this. Genesis 1:1 takes us to the beginning of the creation of the heavens and the earth. John 1:1-2 takes us to the beginning but it’s not referring to the beginning of the Word to assume that He was created or had a beginning. No it is taking us into a realm where our understanding ceases to exist. The verse would be better read this way: “In the beginning, whenever there was a beginning, the Word! ”Psalm 90:2 states it appropriately: “Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”

It is Revealed in the Creation

We read verses like Psalm 19:1 which says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” Or Romans 1:19-20 which says, “Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” God has always existed. The Bible does not set out to prove this, it assumes it directly or in creation. William Temple gives us this warning: “It is much worse to have a false idea of God than no idea at all” (Christianity Today, Vol.34, No.3, September 15, 1989).

It is Proven Theologically

Let me give you 6 arguments that theologians propose:

Teleological - This comes from the Greek word teleios which means, “perfection,” “result,” or “end.” When you look at something that has been finished or perfected, we conclude its resulting design must have had a designer. (eg. Watch) Design implies a designer.

Ontological - Ontos is a Greek participle from the verb translated “to be.” This argument reasons that man’s ability to conceive of an absolutely perfect Being implies the reality and existence of that Being.

Aesthetical - Because there is beauty and truth in the world, it is logical to assume that somewhere in the universe is a standard upon which beauty and truth are based.

Volitional - Because man faces a myriad of choices and exercises volition, it is logical to assume that there must be an infinite will somewhere. The world exists as an expression of that will.

Moral - That we know there is right and wrong suggests the necessity of an absolute standard.

Cosmological - Cosmology is the argument of cause and effect. The world and the universe exist, and we conclude that someone made it. That makes more sense than believing that everything came out of nothing—that at one point nothing equaled all things—which is essentially what the theory of evolution says.

As we carefully examine the world, we learn more about the One who made it. The cause of limitless space must be infinite. The cause of endless time must be eternal. The cause of perpetual motion must be powerful. The cause of complexity must be omniscient. The cause of consciousness must be personal. The cause of feeling must be emotional. The cause of will must be volitional. The cause of ethical values must be moral. The cause of religious values must be spiritual. The cause of beauty must be aesthetic. The cause of righteousness must be holy. The cause of justice must be just. The cause of love must be loving. The cause of life must be living

Our world gives evidence that there must be a God who is the cause of all those qualities, which are merely reflections of His character. And the Bible substantiates everyone.

John Owen on Knowing God

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Doctrine of God

“On January 7, 1855, the minister of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark, England, opened his morning sermon as follows:

 ‘It has been said by someone that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I will not oppose the idea, but I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.

There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a contemplation of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. Other subjects we can compass and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-content, and go our way with the thought, “Behold I am wise.” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb line cannot sound its depth, and that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought that vain man would be wise, but he is like a wild ass’s colt; and with solemn exclamation, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing.” No subject of contemplation will tend more to humble the mind, than thoughts of God. . .

But while the subject humbles the mind, it also expands it. He who often thinks of God, will have a larger mind than the man who simply plods around this narrow globe. . . . The most excellent study for expanding the soul, is the science of Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity. Nothing will so enlarge the intellect, nothing so magnify the whole soul of man, as a devout, earnest, continued investigation of the great subject of the Deity.

And, whilst humbling and expanding, this subject is eminently consolatory. Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrow? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead’s deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of sorrow and grief; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead. It is to that subject that I invite you this morning.

These words, spoken over a century ago by twenty-year old C. H. Spurgeon were true then, and they are true now. But the human dilemma is that man does not want to engage in “the most excellent study for expanding the soul,” nor does he want to contemplate “Christ, and Him crucified, and the knowledge of the Godhead in the glorious Trinity.” Man’s true  desire is he wished the God of the Bible did not exist at all and would rather have the god of his own making. Erwin Lutzer, in his book, “Ten Lies About God,” writes: “‘I believe in God’ is perhaps one of the most meaningless statements we can make today. The word God has become a canvas on which each is free to paint his own portrait of the divine; like the boy scribbling at his desk, we can draw God according to whatever specifications we please. For some He is ‘psychic energy”; for others He is ‘whatever is stronger than I am’ or ‘an inner power to lead us to deeper consciousness.’ To say, ‘I believe in God’ might simply mean that we are seeing ourselves in a full-length mirror” (pp.2-3). Donald McCullough adds: “When the true story gets told, whether in the partial light of historical perspective or in the perfect light of eternity, it may well be revealed that the worst sin of the church at the end of the twentieth century has been the trivialization of God...We prefer the illusion of a safer deity, and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions” (Ten Lies About God by Erwin Lutzer). How do you see God? Do you see Him as “a safer deity” or a “God of more manageable proportions?” Listen to how these two concepts play out in our society.

Some see God as an eager bellhop. He’s always there when you need him. He carries your baggage. He never argues with you because you’re in charge. His only responsibility is to make you happy. What he gets from you is: a smile, a thank you, and, if he’s lucky, a tip.

Others see Him as a stern school teacher whose destiny it seems is to ruin a year of your life. He’s the ultimate record keeper who monitors all your activities and gives hard tests to see if his students suffer. He has wants and demands, but seemingly never gives or encourages.

Some even see Him as an impersonal scientist. He’s intellectual but not emotional. He spends all his time locked away in his heavenly laboratory working on unknowable wonders.

If not an eager bellhop, stern school teacher, or impersonal scientist. Some see him as a clever magician who must always work through signs, miracles and wonders. If there is no manifestation of power, they conclude God really isn’t involved. Jesus said to the Pharisees: “A wicked and perverse generation seeks after a sign” (Mat.16:4).

You may have heard this one: a heavenly grandfather. Whose presence is acknowledged. Who is visited occasionally. Who “smiles and tells them he loves them” when they misbehave.

Lastly, some see him as Mr. Fix-It. “To view God merely as Mr. Fix-It makes Him worthless for anything else. He’s great when were in a fix; but unnecessary when everything is going well” (Points and article from Masterpiece Magazine, Gregg Cantelmo, 6-7). To view God in this way is painting your own portrait of the Divine,” as Erwin Lutzer says. And to do that is nothing short of idolatry. To view God in any way or manner other than what is given in the Bible is idolatry. “Contrary to popular belief, idolatry is more than bowing down to a small figure or worshiping in a pagan temple. According to the Bible, it is thinking anything about God that isn’t true or attempting to transform Him into something He isn’t” (John MacArthur, Our Awesome God, Introduction, 7).

So for us to understand who God is and what He is like, we have to come to the Bible alone. We cannot entertain, “Well, I think God is like....” and our definition be other than what the Bible gives. We must come to the Bible to understand God. I use that term “understand” only to mean that such is only possible with the illumination of the Holy Spirit. We will spend all of our earthly life seeking to understand the infinite God and that alone will be by faith empowered by His Spirit.

John Owen has a good comment on this when he says, “There are some truths of God that He has taught us to speak of. He has even guided us in our expressions of them. But when we have done so we do not really fully understand these things. All we can do is believe and admire. We profess, as we are taught that God is infinite, omnipotent, eternal; and we know the discussions about His omnipresence, immensity, infinity and eternity. We have, I say, words and notions about these things; but as to the things themselves, what do we really know? What do we comprehend of them? Can the mind of man do any more than be swallowed up in an infinite abyss and give itself up to what it cannot conceive or express? Is not our understanding ‘brutish’ in the contemplation of such things?

We are more perfect in our understanding when we realize that we cannot understand, and rest there. It is just the back parts of eternity and infinity that we see. What shall we say of the Trinity, or the existence of three Persons in the same individual essence? This is such a mystery that it is denied by many, because they cannot understand it. Is it not indeed a mystery whose every letter is mysterious? Who can declare the generation of the Son, the procession of the Spirit, or the difference of the one from the other? Thus, the infinite and inconceivable distance that is between Him and us keeps us in the dark as to any sight of His face or clear apprehension of His perfections.

We know Him rather by what He does than by what He is. We understand His doing us goo, but not truly His essential goodness. How little a portion of Him, as Job says, is discovered in this way! (The Mortification of Sin, 94-5).

Commenting on that last paragraph, John MacArthur says, “To define the infinite God in ways we can understand, we often have to state what He is not for a basis of comparison. For example, when we say that God is holy, we mean He has no sin. We cannot conceive of absolute holiness since we’re all too familiar with sin” (Our Awesome God, 8-9).

So we have to turn to the only Book that can assist our understanding of God and we have to turn to the author of this great Book in order to know Him. “Knowing what God is like is foundational to knowing God Himself. And knowing God is the essence of being a Christian” (MacArthur, 9). The apostle John wrote, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

For the next week or so we will explore the subject of the doctrine of God.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

When is Anger Right?

Ephesians 4:26-27 says, "Be angry , and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

What is Anger?

Anger is An Emotion. Like laughter and sadness. To deny anger is also to deny other emotions you possess. What we need to understand is that it is normal and natural. All of us become angry, the question is, when is it the right kind of anger?

Anger is a Feeling of Displeasure. Webster defines anger as “a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc., and usually showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling” (Second College Edition, p.53). The only problem with that definition is that it is one-sided. It is talking about YOUR “injury, mistreatment, opposition” and YOUR “desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.” That is not what Ephesians 4:26-27 is saying. But before we look at when it is right, let’s see this definition in action:

1 Samuel 25, Verse 13 - David was angered at how he and his servants were mistreated by Nabal. Verses 21-22 - He wanted to take vengeance because of his mistreatment. David’s anger was unjustified. It was “evil” (v.39) as David admits later. David’s pride was hurt and he was determined to avenge himself because of it. This is a good example of our definition of “a feeling of displeasure resulting from injury, mistreatment, opposition, etc., and usually  showing itself in a desire to fight back at the supposed cause of this feeling.”

A second passage is Genesis 4:1-8. Here we see that Cain was jealous for Abel. Cain’s “displeasure” toward God and his brother caused him to murder his brother but in reality he really wanted to kill God but since he couldn’t he killed Abel. 1 John 3:12 says that “Cain was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.” Both of these passages illustrate the selfish anger that Webster’s dictionary refers to as “anger.” Before we address the other side to this definition, let’s ask the second question regarding anger:

How Does Anger Manifest Itself?

By Rage, Gr.chaloa, “signifies bitter anger.” It means “to be enraged.” “Rage” is a furious, uncontrolled anger. It is a “violent outburst of anger where self-control is lost” (Webster). You could say that our two passages illustrated “rage.”

By Fury. “Fury” is violent anger. It “implies a frenzied rage that borders on madness” (Webster). You could also say that David and Cain also possessed this type of “anger.”

By Wrath. “Wrath” is intense anger. The Greek word thumos, expresses more the inward feeling that quickly blazes up and quickly subsides. It is an outburst of wrath. It may issue in revenge, though it does not necessarily include it. “Wrath” is an action carried out in great anger, especially for punishment or vengeance. David definitely revealed this kind of “anger.” Cain’s was more of “rage and fury” which then resulted in “murder.”

The kind of anger that Ephesians 4:26-27 refers to is:

By Righteous Indignation. Aristotle said, "Anybody can become angry-that is easy; but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way-that is not easy." This is anger resulting from injustice or ingratitude. It implies righteous anger aroused by what seems unjust, mean or insulting” (Webster).

All four types of anger are illustrated in the Scriptures and can be visible when anger is aroused. “It is difficult for us to practice a truly holy anger or righteous indignation because our emotions are tainted by sin, and we do not have the same knowledge that God has in all matters” (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary). “When it is an emotion of malice, jealousy, resentment, vindictiveness, or hatred because of personal wrongs, it is forbidden” (Believer’s Bible Commentary).

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Perseverance of the Saints

We come now to the 5th and final point in the five points of Calvinism: Perseverance of the Saints. Let me begin tonight by giving you a working definition of this truth. When we talk about the perseverance of the saints, we are saying that “God preserves all the elect and causes them to persevere in faith and obedience to the end. None are continually back-slidden or finally lost.” In other words, those whom God has chosen, Christ has died for, and the Spirit has effectually called, will persevere in faith unto the end either death or the second coming of Christ. So all those who are spiritually united to Christ through regeneration are eternally secure in Him. Nothing can separate them from the eternal and unchangeable love of God. They have been predestined to eternal glory and are therefore assured of heaven. Romans 8:28-30 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

Definition of Perseverance from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

17.1 They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

17.2 This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ; the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them; and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

17.3 Nevertheless, they may, through the temptations of Satan and of the world, the prevalence of corruption remaining in them, and the neglect of the means of their preservation, fall into grievous sins; and, for a time, continue therein: whereby they incur God's displeasure, and grieve His Holy Spirit, come to be deprived of some measure of their graces and comforts; have their hearts hardened, and their consciences wounded; hurt and scandalize others, and bring temporal judgments upon themselves.

Let me use terms we’re all familiar with: “Once Saved, Always Saved” or “eternal security.” Both emphasize the certainty of salvation of the elect. Those whom Christ effectually calls He saves. And those whom He saves He keeps forever. Jesus said in John 6:39, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.” It should be observed that the perseverance of the saints is logically connected with the preceding points. If man is totally depraved then he cannot respond to God; God must unconditionally elect man to salvation. For those who are elected, Christ has died to secure their salvation. God then irresistibly draws them to effect their salvation but also keeps them secure in that salvation to the end. There are two aspects to this definition. The first is God preserves all the elect and causes them to persevere in faith and obedience to the end. A good illustration is found in John chapter 6. Jesus had just fed the 5000. Before they could pursue making Him their king He dismisses them and the disciples and goes up the mountain to pray. After it became dark the disciples decided to cross the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum. While they were in the middle of the sea, a storm arose but all of sudden they saw Jesus coming to them walking on the water. Peter calls out and says if it is you bid me to come to you on the water, so Jesus said come. But when he saw the storm he began to sink and called on the Lord to save Him. The Lord took him by the hand and they both entered the boat and immediately the storm stopped and they were on the shore of Capernaum. The next morning the crowds went looking for Jesus. They found Him in Capernaum and began questioning Him as to when He got there. But Jesus knew the true motive of their hearts and said in verses 26-27, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, but not because you saw signs, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” After further dialogue, Jesus plainly states to them that He is “the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (v.35) but they were not interested in this spiritual bread only physical. Jesus even said in verse 36 that they had seen Him, and “yet [they] do not believe.” They didn’t understand that the One who turned the five barley loaves and two fish into enough food to feed 15-20 thousand people was the Messiah the prophets spoke of. All they saw Jesus as someone who could be their political leader who would deliver them from Roman oppression and provide their daily needs. But Jesus says something in verse 37 that is most revealing in regards to salvation. He says, “John 6:37, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” John MacArthur summarizes this verse by saying, “This verse emphasizes the sovereign will of God in the selection of those who come to come to Him for salvation (cf. vv. 44, 65; 17:6, 12, 24). The Father has predestined those who would be saved (see notes on Rom. 8:29, 30; Eph. 1:3–6; 1 Pet. 1:2). The absolute sovereignty of God is the basis of Jesus’ confidence in the success of His mission (see note on v. 40; cf. Phil. 1:6). The security of salvation rests in the sovereignty of God, for God is the guarantee that "all" He has chosen will come to Him for salvation. The idea of "gives me" is that every person chosen by God and drawn by God (v. 44) must be seen as a gift of the Father’s love to the Son. The Son receives each "love gift" (v. 37), holds on to each (v. 39), and will raise each to eternal glory (vv. 39, 40). No one chosen will be lost (see notes on Rom. 8:31–39). This saving purpose is the Father’s will which the Son will not fail to do perfectly (v. 38; cf. 4:34; 10:28, 29; 17:6, 12, 24).”

Jesus makes two other statements similar to this one. Verse 44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” He also states this in verse 65, “And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” All three verses point to the sovereign, electing, predetermination of God in salvation. God elects, chooses, before the foundation of the world whom He will save and whom He will pass by and leave to unbelief and sin and rebellion. He does this unconditionally, not on the basis of foreseen faith that humans produce by a supposed power of ultimate self-determination (‘free will’).” Those whom the Father gives to Jesus will come. No one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him or grants him. Notice the second half of John 6:37 tells us that “All that the Father Gives to Jesus He Preserves.” The last part of verse 67 is a reference to preservation. To understand this verse we need to understand the word “cast out” (ekballo) which means to “drive away or cast out.” D.A. Carson says, “In almost all of its parallel occurrences, it is presupposed that what is driven out or cast out is already ‘in’. ‘I will never drive away’ therefore means ‘I will certainly keep in’.” In other words, this last clause assures the eternal preservation of everyone that comes to Christ. Jesus says to the Father concerning His disciples in John 17:12, “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled.”