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.”

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Irresistible Grace

What is irresistible grace? “Irresistible grace is the supernatural work of God wherein He works in the soul of the individual, changing the entire nature by the Holy Spirit’s operation” (Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology [Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1997, c1989]. 484). Those who oppose this teaching argue that if “grace is irresistible then God forces someone to come against his own will” (Ibid., Enns).Irresistible grace does not “make someone come contrary to his will. Rather, irresistible grace makes the individual willing to come” (Ibid., Enns). Louis Berkhof says, “By changing the heart it makes man perfectly willing to accept Jesus Christ unto salvation and to yield obedience to the will of God” (Ibid., Enns). So irresistible grace has to do with the heart or the inward call of God. It is the Holy Spirit intervening in man’s heart and sovereignly giving Him the new birth, faith, and repentance of which he does not resist. Apart from this intervention, he resists the outward call of God. To help us with this, it is important to note that Scripture teaches that there are two types of  “calls” from God. There’s the outward call of God and the inward call of God.

The outward call of God comes from the preaching of His word. Many share the gospel with others, but not all who hear the message receive it. For example, in Acts 18:6, Luke records the response of the Jews after Paul preached to them. He says, “But when they resisted and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.’” This is the outward call. The outward call of God can be resisted. In fact, apart from God’s working in us, we will resist this call (remember total depravity?). The inward call of God, on the other hand, is His secret work of regeneration (rebirth, a new beginning, spiritual resurrection) done in the souls of the elect by the work of the Holy Spirit. This work of the Holy Spirit changes us because it is inward. God places within us a desire for Him. Before the inward call of God, no person is inclined to come to Him. After the inward call, we respond to God with the gift of faith. The inward call of God cannot be resisted. So we could say that the word “Irresistible” means “that when God has chosen some to be saved and when he sends His Spirit to change them from being hateful to being loving, no one can resist Him. He is irresistible. He does what He sets out to do...If [this word] causes misunderstanding, then another word may be chosen. For example, efficacious, or effectual or unconquerable, or certain. All that irresistible means is that God sends His Holy Spirit to work in the lives of people so that they will definitely and certainly be changed from evil to good people. It means that the Holy Spirit will certainly—with-out any ands’s, if’s and but’s—cause everyone whom God has chosen from eternity and for whom Christ died to believe on Jesus” (Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, 58). In the words of the puritan preacher Christopher Love, who said, “The internal call is when the Spirit of God accompanies the outward administration of the Word to call a man from ignorance to knowledge, and a state of nature to a state of grace.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Limited Atonement

"In Him we have redemption through His blood" (Ephesians 1:7).

It is amazing how one word can change the course of everything we believe. That is true here. When we talk about the subject of redemption, we have to ask, "Who are the recipients?" Paul answer that in this verse with the word "we." The recipients of redemption are the elect (v.4). They are those who are “saints” and “faithful in Christ Jesus” (v.1). They are those who have been “blessed...with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (v.3). They are those whom God “chose” for Himself “before the foundation of the world” (v.4). They are those who have been “ adoption as sons through Jesus Christ” (v.5). Jesus Christ died for the redemption of the elect. Matt Slick, who is the founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry writes, “Jesus died only for the elect. Though Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient for all, it was not efficacious for all. Jesus only bore the sins of the elect. Support for this position is drawn from such scriptures as Matt. 26:28 where Jesus died for ‘many'; John 10:11,15 which say that Jesus died for the sheep (not the goats, per Matt. 25:32-33); John 17:9 where Jesus in prayer interceded for the ones given Him, not those of the entire world; Acts 20:28 and Eph. 5:25-27 which state that the Church was purchased by Christ, not all people; and Isaiah 53:12 which is a prophecy of Jesus’ crucifixion where he would bear the sins of many (not all)” [].

Matthew 1:21 says that He came to “save His people from their sins.”

Who are “His people”? It could be a reference to the Jews because “salvation is from the Jews” (Jn.4:22). But I believe it has a specific reference to the elect—those chosen in Him before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4). To limit it to a nationality of people ignores what Paul said to the Gentiles in Acts 13:46-48. He says to the Jews: “Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 "For so the Lord has commanded us,  'I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH.' "  48 When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

Jesus came to save those who were “appointed to eternal life” before the world began.

What about those passages that say speak of Christ’s redemption being for the whole “world” or for “all”?

John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

1 John 2:1-2 says, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

1 Timothy 2:3-6 says, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”

These three verses are speaking “of Christ’s work in general terms...and was to correct the false notion that salvation was for the Jews alone. Such phrases as ‘the world,’ ‘all men,’ ‘all nations,’ and ‘every creature’ were used by the New Testament writers to emphatically correct this mistake. These expressions are intended to show that Christ died for all men without distinction (i.e., He died for Jews and Gentiles alike), but they are not intended to indicate that Christ died for all men without exception (i.e., He did not die for the purpose of saving each and every lost sinner)” (David Steele, The Five Points of Calvinism, 50). 

Charles Spurgeon said, “The Arminians say, 'Christ died for all men.' Ask them what they mean by it. Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of all men? They say, 'No, certainly not.' We ask them the next question: Did Christ die so as to secure the salvation of any man in particular? They answer 'No.' They are obliged to admit this, if they are consistent. They say, 'No; Christ has died that any man may be saved if ?' and then follow certain conditions of salvation. Now, who is it that limits the death of Christ? Why, you. You say that Christ did not die so as infallibly to secure the salvation of anybody. We beg your pardon, when you say we limit Christ's death; we say, 'No, my dear sir, it is you that do it.' We say Christ so died that he infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ's death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved. You are welcome to your atonement; you may keep it. We will never renounce ours for the sake of it.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Unconditional Election (Pt.2)

“Just as He chose us in Him" (Ephesians 1:4).

As we look at this verse, I want us to consider what Paul is saying in his careful selection of words. He begins this verse with “Just as.” This is the Greek word kathos and is translated “just as” or “according as.” It refers back to the reason why Paul is blessing God. It is “even as, in conformity to or with the fact” of His blessing. Marvin Vincent says: “Explaining blessed us, in v. 3. His blessing is in conformity with the fact that He chose” (Vincent’s Word Studies). Kenneth Wuest says, “Here kathos designates the ground of the ‘blessing’ and so is also the note of its grandeur. The ‘blessing’ proceeded on the divine election, and took effect in accordance with that. It has its foundation, therefore, in eternity, and is neither an incidental thing nor an afterthought of God” (Word’s Studies from the Greek NT).  “The writer asserts that God has blessed believers both because and to the extent that he elected them” (Lincoln, A. T. (2002). Vol. 42: Word Biblical Commentary : Ephesians).

The word “chose” is the Greek word eklego. It means “to pick out, select” (Vine) or “choose out for one’s own self” (Wuest). This word “indicates God’s totally independent choice” (MacArthur). This verb is “found twenty-two times in the New Testament. It is used eight times of Christ’s choosing or electing his disciples (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 13:18; 15:16 (twice),19; Acts 1:2; 2:4). On one occasion Jesus is himself the person chosen (Luke 9:35). Six times it is used in a context that does not pertain to salvation (Luke 10:42; 14:7; Acts 6:5; 15:7,22,25). The remaining seven occurrences refer to men and women as the objects of election to eternal life (Mark 13:20; Acts 13:17; 1 Cor. 1:27 (twice),28; Eph. 1:4; James 2:5).

The noun “elect” (eklektos) is also used twenty-two times in the New Testament. On three occasions Jesus is the “elect” one (Luke 23:35; 1 Peter 2:4,6), and in one text the word refers to angels (1 Tim. 5:21). There is also one passage in which the word has no bearing on salvation (Rom. 16:13). In the seventeen remaining cases the word is used of men and women as God’s “elect,” those chosen to eternal life (Matt. 22:14; 24:22,24,31; Mark 13:20,22,27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Titus 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1; 2:9; 2 John 1,13; Rev. 17:14)” (Dr. Sam Storms, The Biblical Terminology of Election, Enjoying God Ministries,

Charles Spurgeon said, “You cannot look to Christ before He has looked to you. If you are willing to be saved, He gave you that will” (Effectual Calling, March 30, 1856).

What is the doctrine of election?

It means “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”)” (John Piper, Summary of the Sovereignty of God in Salvation, December 10, 1997). One writer says, "Election is...that decree of God which He eternally makes, by which, with sovereign freedom, He chooses to Himself a people, upon whom He determines to set His love, whom He rescues from sin and death through Jesus Christ, unto Himself in everlasting glory" (Herman Hanko, The Five Points of Calvinism). John Piper adds, " unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him. Man is dead in trespasses and sins. So there is no condition he can meet before God chooses to save him from his deadness. We are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. It is because God chose us before the foundation of the world that he purchases our redemption at the cross and quickens us with irresistible grace and brings us to faith" (Sermon manuscript What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism, John MacArthur, in his book, The God Who Loves, also writes, "We are redeemed not because of anything good in us, but because God chose us unto salvation. He chose certain individuals and passed over others, and He made that choice in eternity past, before the foundation of the world (Eph.1:4). Moreover, He chose without regard to anything He foresaw in the elect; simply ‘according to the good pleasure of His will [and] to the praise of the glory of His grace’ (vv.4-6, KJV). Election arises from the love of God. Those whom He chose, He ‘loved...with an everlasting love [and drew them to Himself] with lovingkindness’ (Jer.31:3) [p.12].

“The meaning of the phrase ‘before the foundation of the world’ means ‘from all eternity’ (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek NT, 521).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Unconditional Election

We are in a new series called “The Doctrines of Grace” or “The Five Points of Calvinism.” We have already looked at the first point, total depravity, and tonight we’re considering the second, unconditional election. As we consider this, I want to look briefly at Ephesians 1:4. Verse 4 is a very familiar verse of Scripture to any child of God. Notice what it says,  “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

Paul begins this letter in verse 3 by eulogizing or speaking well of God. Why does he do this? Verse 3 says because God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Now beginning at verse 4 running through verse 14 he gives what some of those blessings are. He begins in verse 4 with election. In verses 5-6 he mentions predestination and adoption. In verses 7-8, he mentions our redemption and forgiveness. In verses 8-10, he talk about God making “known to us the mystery of His will,” in other words, revelation, and in verses 11-14 he concludes with our inheritance. No wonder Paul blesses God! God has blessed us with election, predestination, adoption, redemption, forgiveness, revelation, and inheritance. Unfortunately we will not be able to look at all these spiritual blessings, because that is not our purpose in this study. But we must keep them in mind to help us understand the context of what Paul is saying here in Ephesians 1:4.

The doctrine of election is not a new teaching for the apostle Paul. He references it over 50 times in his 13 epistles. It is sad that there are some in the church who hate this doctrine and lead others to hate it because it is a glorious doctrine. This doctrine has certainly divided many in the church. A.W. Pink said, “No doctrine is so detested by proud human nature as this one, which make nothing of the creature and everything of the Creator; yea, at no other point is the enmity of the carnal mind so blatantly and hotly evident” (The Doctrine of Election). Without the doctrine of election we would not understand salvation. We would be left to “boast” thinking we had something to do with it. But because it is here in God’s Word, it confirms the opposite—our salvation is wholly of God. He calls, elects, chooses— He is in control of our salvation. A.W. Pink again says, “God is not working at random: the gospel has been sent forth on no uncertain mission: the final outcome in the conflict between good and evil has not been left indeterminate; how many are to be saved or lost depends not on the will of the creature. Everything was infallibly determined and immutably fixed by God from the beginning, and all that happens in time is but the accomplishment of what was ordained in eternity.” So “Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man, but in the will of God (see John 1:13; Rom. 9:16), that were it not so none would or could be saved—for as the result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good (John 5:40; Rom. 3:11)—and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing (Ps. 110:3), and loud will be the cries of indignation raised against such teaching” (The Doctrine of Election).

For those who say the Bible does NOT teach the doctrine of election, I want to invite you to just listen to the following verses:

In John 15:16 Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” Earlier in John 6:70 He said to them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Acts 13:48 says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” Paul refers to the Colossians in Colossians 3:12 as “those who have been chosen of God.” When Paul sent his first letter to the Thessalonians, he was thankful to God for them after he saw their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, he knew their “election by God” ( 1 Thess.1:4, NKJV). Paul said in his second letter to the Thessalonians that “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth” (2 Thess.2:13). When Paul was speaking with Timothy concerning persecution and suffering he said 2 Timothy 2:10, “For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory.” When Paul wrote to Titus, he said in Titus1:1, “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.” 1 Peter 1:1-2 says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.” Psalm 65:4 says, “How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You To dwell in Your courts. We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.” Psalm 105:6 says, “O seed of Abraham, His servant, O sons of Jacob, His chosen ones!” Deuteronomy 7:6 says, “For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” Isaiah 43:20-21 says, “The beasts of the field will glorify Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I have given waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My chosen people. 21 "The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise.”

What was the common truth in all of those verses? God’s chosing. Salvation is God’s choice. As we saw in our previous study of total depravity, man is dead in trespasses and sins and therefore unable to choose God. As Acts 16:14 illustrates, God has to open the “heart to respond to the things spoken.” When Paul went to Philippi, he went to a place “where [they] were supposing that there would be a place of prayer, and [they] sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thysatira, a seller of purpose fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” In other words, God’s gave her the faith to believe the gospel spoken by Paul. According to verse 15, not just her but also “her household.” Over and over in Scripture we hear that “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Ps.3:8). It is, as David confessed in Psalm 51:12, “your salvation.”

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Total Depravity

As we think about the subject of Calvinism, let me caution you about labels. I personally do not like to say I am a Calvinist only because of the baggage that comes with that label. To use that label causes me to become everything that Calvin believed. The same is true about Martin Luther or anyone else. As for John Calvin and Martin Luther, both of these godly men believed in infant baptism. I don’t believe in that teaching, so for me to label myself, also causes me to take to myself other doctrines that these men taught. I have been a pastor for 20 years and during that time I have had only one goal—preach the Word! So as I do that, I try to stray from labels and just teach what is the meaning of Scripture. So when we’re studying through a book in the Bible and we come across total depravity or election or any other theological teaching, I will teach what that passage says. If I come to a passage that teaches about the limited atonement, irresistible grace or the perseverance of the saints, I will teach what that passage says about that doctrine.

Now let me further state about the five points of Calvinism that Calvin taught very little on this subject. This should be called the five points of Augustine or Luther because they taught more on this than Calvin. Having said all that, let’s begin with the first point: total depravity.

First, let me give you a definition of total depravity. Total depravity is defined in this way: “Sin controls every part of man. He is spiritually dead and blind, and unable to obey, believe, or repent. He continually sins, for his nature is completely evil.” Now the first question we need to ask is, “What does this mean?” It means that sin has affected every part of man. The heart, emotions, will, mind, and body are all affected by sin. We are completely sinful. We are not as sinful as we could be, but we are completely affected by sin. The word “total” is used to indicate that the whole of man’s being has been affected by sin. The corruption extends to every part of man, his body and soul. It has affected all of man’s facultities—his mind, his will, etc. The doctrine of total depravity is derived from Scriptures that reveal human character. For example, Mark 7:21-23 shows us that man’s heart is evil. Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. 23 "All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.” Jeremiah 17:9 says “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” Romans 6:14-20 says that man is a slave of sin when it says, “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! 16 Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” Even Romans 3:11 says he does not seek for God: “There is none  who understands , There is none  who seeks  for God.” 1 Corinthians 2:14 says he cannot understand spiritual things: “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Ephesians 2:14-15 says he is at enmity with God: “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15 by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” And last, Ephesians 2:3 says he is by nature a child of wrath: “And were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Those who adhere to what these Scriptures teach ask this question, “In light of the Scriptures that declare man’s true nature as being utterly lost and incapable, how is it possible for anyone to choose or desire God?” What’s the answer? That’s what we’re going to explore in this study of the Doctrines of Grace. Calvinism or Augustinism also maintains that because of our fallen nature we are born again not by our own will but God’s will. John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. They also believe that God is the one who grants who will  believe. Philippians 1:29 says, “For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” Further they believe that faith is the work of God as Ephesians 2:8-9 says. They also believe God appoints people to believe. Acts 13:48 says, “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.” And they believe God predestines as Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined.”

Let say another thing about total depravity—it is not the same as absolute depravity. Absolute depravity means that a person expresses his depravity to the nth degree at all times. Not only are all of his thoughts, words, and deeds sinful, but they are as vicious as possible” (Edwin H. Palmer, The Five Points of Calvinism, 9). There are restraints in our lives to prevent this. When Calvinism speaks of total depravity, the “inability intended by this terminology is spiritual inability; it means that the sinner is so spiritually bankrupt that he can do nothing pertaining to his salvation. It is quite evident that many unsaved people, when judged by man’s standards, do possess admirable qualities and do perform virtuous acts. But in the spiritual realm, when judged by God’s standards, the unsaved sinner is incapable of good. The natural man is enslaved to sin; he is a child of Satan, rebellious toward God, blind to truth, corrupt, and unable to save himself or to prepare himself for salvation. In short, the unregenerate man is dead in sin, and his will is enslaved to his evil nature” (David Steele, The Five Points of Calvinism, 19). I think one of the most revealing passages on this subject is found in Ephesians 2:1-3. In these three verses, Paul shows the Ephesians what they were before coming to Christ and reveals their total depravity or to use Paul’s terminology, their being dead in trespasses and sins. Listen to what it says. "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience; Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest."

Paul has just completed his discussion in chapter 1 of the blessings believers have received as well as his prayer for them to realize what they have. Here he continues his thoughts that began in verse 19 of the resurrection of the believer. He not only prayed that their “understanding” be “enlightened” and that they “may know what is the hope of His calling...the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints”, but he also prayed that they would know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe” (NKJV). This same power that “raised” Jesus “from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” (vv.18-20, NKJV) is the same power that raises the believer from spiritual death to spiritual life. John 5:21 says, “the Father raises the dead and gives life to them” (NKJV). In other words, the dead do not raise themselves. When we read Ephesians 1:20 that is what we’re seeing. God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. ” (vv.20-23). Then chapter two says, “And you....” Chapter breaks many times interrupt a passage as is the case here. Verse 1 is still part of the content of Paul’s prayer. Only now in verse 1 does he turn his attention to the resurrection of the believer. He says that the same power which raised Jesus from the dead raised you from spiritual death.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The History of Calvinism

In 1610, one year after the death of James Arminius, five articles of faith based on his teachings were drawn up by his followers. They were: free will, conditional election, universal atonement, resistible grace, and falling from grace. These were presented to the state of Holland in the form of a "Remonstrance" or "protest." The followers of James Arminius or commonly known as Armenians' insisted that the Belgic Confession of Faith and the Heidelberg Catechism which was the official expression of the doctrinal position of the churches of Holland be changed to conform to the doctrinal views contained in the Remonstrance or protest. A national synod was called to meet in Dort in 1618 for the purpose of examining the views of Arminius in the light of Scripture. The Great Synod was convened by the State General of Holland on November 13, 1618 with 84 members and 18 secular commissioners. Included were 27 delegates from Germany, the Palatinate, Switzerland and England. There were 154 sessions held during the 7 months that the Synod met together to consider these matters, the last of which was on May 9, 1619. The five articles of faith presented by the Armenians' were unanimously rejected. As part of their rejection, they produced the five points of Calvinism.

Edwin H. Palmer, in his book The Five Points of Calvinism, says, “The title the five points of Calvinism can be misleading. For Calvinism does not have five points, and, neither is Calvin the author of the five points.

First of all, Calvinism is not restricted to five points: it has thousands of points. The first word that Calvinism suggests to most people is predestination; and if they have a modicum of theological knowledge, the other four points follow. But this is wrong. Calvinism is much broader than five points. It is not even primarily concerned with the five points. In the first catechism which Calvin drew up (1537), predestination is only briefly mentioned. In the Confession of Faith, drawn up in the same year, there is no mention of it at all. In another catechism and four confessions attributed to Calvin, the doctrine is mentioned only in passing. And in the first edition of his monumental work, The Institutes, it is given no important place even when he treats the matter of salvation. It was only in later editions, after attacks had been made on the grace of God, that he enlarged upon predestination.

Calvinism has an unlimited number of points: it is as broad as the Bible. Does the Bible teach about the Trinity? Then, Calvinism does. Does the Bible deal with the deity of Christ, the covenant of grace, justification by faith, sanctification, the second coming of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture and the world-and-life view? Then, Calvinism does, too. For John Calvin’s goal in his preaching, teaching, and writing was to expound all the Word of God—and the Word of God alone. Scriptura tota: Scriptura sola. Calvinism is an attempt to express all the Bible and only the Bible. To restrict it to five points is to misjudge and dishonor the man and movement that bears the name Calvin.

Not only can the word five be misleading in the name the Five Points of Calvinism, but also the word Calvinism. At first glance, many believe that Calvin is the author of the five points. Such a misconception ignores the fact that Calvinism simply expounded the Bible. Calvin did not invent a new teaching any more than Columbus invented America or newton the law of gravity. As Columbus and Newton merely discovered what had existed all along, so Calvin uncovered truths that had been in the Bible all the time. And Calvin was not the first nor the last to uncover these Biblical truths. Many others confessed them, too. From Augustine to Gottschalk to Spurgeon; from Lutherans to Baptists to Dominicans; from Dutch to Scottish to French; from individuals to associations to church confessions; from laymen to hymn-writers to theologians. The name Calvinism has often been used, not because Calvin was the first or sole teacher, but because after the long silence of the Middle Ages, he was the most eloquent and systematic expositor of these truths” (The Five Points of Calvinism, Foward).

Friday, August 21, 2009


"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Mat.5:8).

Holiness is a very important word in the Bible. For it speaks of the triune God. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are holy. The Israelites sang of God’s holiness when they were delivered from Pharaoh and his army at the Red Sea. They sang, “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Ex.15:11). 1 Samuel 2:2 answers by saying, “There is none holy like the Lord, for there is none besides You, nor is there any rock like our God.” As we have studied on past occasions, we have come to understand that there is another word that speaks about God’s holiness and it’s the word, transcendent. The word “transcendence” means literally “to climb across.” It is defined as “exceeding usual limits.” To transcend is to rise above something, to go above and beyond a certain limit. When we speak of the transcendence of God we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. It tries to get at His supreme and absolute greatness. The word here is used to describe God’s relationship to the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature. When the Bible calls God holy it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate.  He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be “other,” to be different in a special way. In the words of A.W. Tozer, “Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fulness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy.” Charles Spurgeon said, “...this is the crown of His honor and the honor of His crown. His power is not His choicest jewel, nor His sovereignty, but His holiness.” Because this is the case, holiness is important for us to understand if we’re going to understand God. Matthew 5:8 is essential for our walk with God because it focuses on the holiness that God requires.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


“Blessed are those who mourn" (Matthew 5:4).

“Mourn” is the Greek word pentheo (Pres.part.). Generally it means, “to lament, to mourn for the dead. To grieve with a grief which so takes possession of the whole being that it cannot be hid” (Fritz Rienecker, The Linguistic Key to the Greek NT, 12). This is the strongest term used for sorrow. “It represents the deepest, most heart-felt grief.” It carries “the idea of deep inner agony, which may or may not be expressed by outward weeping, wailing or lament” (John MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, 154). The mourning that Jesus is referring to here is not the mourning for the dead but mourning over sin. When you have the right attitude toward sin, which is “poor in spirit,” then you mourn over it. Thomas Watson says, “Our mourning for sin must be so great as to exceed all other grief. Eli’s mourning for the ark was such that it swallowed up the loss of his two children. Spiritual grief must preponderate (to outweigh) over all other. We should mourn more for sin than for the loss of friends or estate. We should endeavour to have our sorrow rise up to the same height and proportion as our sin does” (The Beatitudes, 71). It’s important to understand that the “happiness or blessedness does not come in the mourning itself. Happiness comes with what God does in response to it, with the forgiveness that such mourning brings. Godly mourning brings God’s forgiveness, which brings God’s happiness” (MacArthur). Thomas Watson again says, “We must go through the valley of tears to paradise. Mourning were a sad and unpleasant subject to treat on, were it not that it has blessedness going before, and comfort coming after. Mourning is put here for repentance. It implies both sorrow, which is the cloud, and tears which are the rain distilling in this golden shower; God comes down to us” (The Beatitudes, 59).

There is an improper mourning. “This is the sorrow of those who are frustrated in fulfilling evil plans and lusts or who have misguided loyalties and affections” (MacArthur). Thomas Watson calls this “diabolical mourning...when a man mourns that he cannot satisfy his impure lust, this is like the devil, whose greatest torture is that he can be no more wicked” (The Beatitudes, 60).

Which type of mourning consumes you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summary of the Beattitudes

“We see first the poor in spirit, which is the right attitude toward sin and which leads to mourning in verse 4. After you’ve seen your sinfulness and mourned, you’re meek with a sense of humility. Then you seek and hunger and thirst for righteousness. That manifests itself in mercy (v.7), in purity of heart (v.8), and in a peacemaking spirit (v.9). The result of being merciful and pure in heart and peacemaking is that you are reviled and persecuted and falsely accused. But when it’s all said and done, Jesus said you can rejoice and be glad (v.12), for a great reward awaits in heaven” (John MacArthur, The Only Way to Happiness).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew.5:3)

The kingdom of heaven belongs to the "poor in spirit" Jesus says. But what does it mean to be "poor in spirit." Is Jesus talking about physical poverty? No. Being “poor in spirit,” “signifies those who are brought to the sense of their sins, and seeing no goodness in themselves, despair in themselves and sue wholly to the mercy of God in Christ.” This is a "kind of self-annihilation...The poor in spirit are they who see nothing in themselves, but fly to mercy for sanctuary” (Thomas Watson, The Beatitudes, 42). So "poor in spirit" refers then to “the humble, and lowly-minded, and self-abased; He (Jesus) means those who are deeply convinced of their own sinfulness in God’s sight...They regard themselves as ‘wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked’ (Rev.3:17) (J.C. Ryal, Matthew: The Crossway Classic Commentaries).

Those who are “poor in spirit” are those who in humility “see nothing in themselves.” They are “spiritually destitute----spiritually bankrupt.” And they come empty handed before a holy God. How do you see yourself?

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Tongue

He was a new clerk in the greens goods department of a supermarket. A lady came up to him and said she wanted to buy half a head of lettuce. He tried to dissuade her from that goal, but she persisted. Finally he said, “I’ll have to go back and talk to the manager.” He went to the rear of the store to talk to the manager, not noticing that the woman was walking right behind him. When he got into the back of the store, he said to the manager, “There’s some stupid old bag out there who wants to buy half a head of lettuce. What should I tell her?” Seeing the horrified look on the face of the manager, he turned around, and seeing the woman, added, “And this nice lady wants to buy the other half of the head of lettuce. Will it be alright?” Considerably relieved, the manager said, “That would be fine.” Later in the day, he congratulated the boy on his quick thinking. He then asked, “Where are you from, son?” The boy said, “I’m from Toronto, Canada, the home of beautiful hockey players and ugly women.” The manager looked at him and said, “My wife is from Toronto.” The boy said, “Oh, what team did she play for?” (From Bruce Thielemann, “Because,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 105).

It’s amazing what a little member in the body can do. As one person said, “Because the tongue is in a wet place, it can easily slip.” Warren Wiersbe, in his book “Be Mature,” tells about a pastor friend who told him “about a member of his church who was a notorious gossip. She would ‘hang on the phone’ most of the day, sharing tidbits with any and all who would listen. She came to the pastor one day and said, ‘Pastor, the Lord has convicted me of my sin of gossip. My tongue is getting me and others into trouble.’ My friend knew she was not sincere because she had gone through that routine before. Guardedly he asked, ‘Well, what do you plan to do?’ ‘I want to put my tongue on the altar,’ she replied with pious fervor. Calmly my friend replied, ‘There isn’t an altar big enough,’ and he left her to think it over’” (89).

Saturday, August 15, 2009

What is it to indulge sin?

"To give the breast to it and feed it. As a fond parent humours his child and lets him have what he wants, so to indulge sin is to humour sin.

To indulge sin is to commit it with delight: 'they had pleasure in unrighteousness' (2 Thess.2:12).

In this sense, a godly man does not indulge sin. Though sin is in him, he is troubled at it and would gladly get rid of it. There is as much difference between sin in the wicked and the godly as between poison being in a serpent and in a man. Poison in a serpent is in its natural place and is delightful, but poison in a man's body is offensive and he uses antidotes to expel it. So sin in a wicked man is delightful, being in its natural place, but sin in a child of God is burdensome and he uses all means to expel it. The sin is trimmed off. The will is against it. A godly man enters protest against sin: 'What I do I allow not' (Rom.7:15). A child of God, while he commits sin, hates the sin he commits (Rom.7)." (Thomas Watson, The Godly Man's Picture, 146).

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Doctrine of Election

“God is not working at random: the gospel has been sent forth on no uncertain mission: the final outcome in the conflict between good and evil has not been left indeterminate; how many are to be saved or lost depends not on the will of the creature. Everything was infallibly determined and immutably fixed by God from the beginning, and all that happens in time is but the accomplishment of what was ordained in eternity.”

So “Let it be plainly announced that salvation originated not in the will of man, but in the will of God (see John 1:13; Rom. 9:16), that were it not so none would or could be saved—for as the result of the fall man has lost all desire and will unto that which is good (John 5:40; Rom. 3:11)—and that even the elect themselves have to be made willing (Ps. 110:3), and loud will be the cries of indignation raised against such teaching” (A.W. Pink, The Doctrine of Election).

Thursday, August 13, 2009

True Worship

“A few years ago the Chicago Tribune reported the story of a New Mexico woman who was frying tortillas when she noticed that the skillet burns on one of her tortillas resembled the face of Jesus. Excited, she showed it to her husband and neighbors, and they all agreed that there was a face etched on the tortilla and that it truly bore a resemblance to Jesus. So the woman went to her priest to have the tortilla blessed. She testified that the tortilla had changed her life, and her husband agreed that she had been a more peaceful, happy, submissive wife since the tortilla had arrived. The priest, not accustomed to blessing tortillas, was somewhat reluctant but agreed to do it. The woman took the tortilla home, put it in a glass case with piles of cotton to make it look like it was floating on clouds, built a special altar for it, and opened the little shrine to visitors. Within a few months, more than eight thousand people came to the shrine of the Jesus of the Tortilla, and all of them agreed that the face in the burn marks on the tortilla was the face of Jesus (except for one reporter who said he thought it looked like former heavy-weight boxing champion Leon Spinks)” (John MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority, p.1).

It seems incredible that so many people would worship a tortilla, but such a distorted concept of worship is not really unusual in contemporary society. Tragically, although the Bible is clear about how and whom and when we are to worship, little genuine worship takes place today. In fact, worship is one of the most misunderstood doctrines in all the Scriptures. The concept of worship dominates the Bible.

In Genesis, we discover that the Fall came when man failed to worship God. In Revelation we learn that all of history culminates in an eternal worshiping community in the presence of a loving God. From the beginning of Genesis all the way through to the consummation in Revelation, the doctrine of worship into the biblical text.

Jesus quoted Deut.6:4-6 and called it the greatest commandment: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mk.12:29-30). This is a call to worship, and it affirms worship as the universal priority.

Exodus 20 records the giving of the Ten Commandments. The very first of those commandments calls for and regulates worship: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3  "You shall have no other gods before Me. 4  "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (vv.2-5).

In the OT, worship covered all of life. It was the focus of the people of God. For example, the Tabernacle was designed and laid out to emphasize the priority of worship. The description of its details requires seven chapters — 243 verses — in Leviticus, yet only 31 verses in Genesis are devoted to the creation of the world. The Tabernacle was designed only for worship. It was the place where God met His people, and to use it for anything but worship would have been considered the grossest blasphemy. In the Tabernacle there were no seats — the Israelites didn’t go there to attend a service, and they didn’t go there for entertainment. They went there to worship God. No wonder A.W. Tozer says, “The greatest tragedy in the world today is that God has made man in His image and made him to worship Him, made him to play the harp of worship before the face of God day and night, but he has failed God and dropped the harp. It lies voiceless at his feet” (The Quotable Tozer, p.198). “The person who uses his life for any purpose other than worship — no matter how noble that purpose may seem — is guilty of a grave sin. It is the same sin as that of an Israelite who misused the holy incense — a sin so serious that under the law it was punishable by death” (John MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority, p.4).

How are you using your life today? Is it for worship?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Good News

The Bible provides the answer to our dilemma in a Person. His name is Jesus Christ. Paul describes him in Ephesians 5:23 as the “Savior.” And according to 1 Timothy 1:15, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save [or rescue] sinners” from God’s judgment. How did He do that? He took in His body on the cross the consequences of our sin. By Him bearing our sin in His own body, He provided the justice that the Law demanded for our sin. The Law said the penalty for breaking God’s Law was death and Jesus took our penalty for us. In other words, instead of God punishing us for our sin, He punished Jesus. Paul describes it in 2 Corinthians 5:21 in this way when He says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” In other words, God treated Jesus as if He sinned. Isaiah 53:4-6 says, “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” When Paul says that God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us,” he tells why He did this—“That we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” To “become the righteousness of God in Him,” refers to salvation from your sin. It refers to deliverance from sin and judgment. How does one acquire the righteousness of God? Paul answers that question in Ephesians 2:8-9 when he says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” It is “by grace...through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” To receive this gift of grace the Bible says you must turn from your sin and surrender your life to Jesus Christ who alone can save and forgive you of your sin. Acts 17:30-31 says, “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” I would like to pause at this point and ask you to pray with me. Pray that God will open your eyes and heart to what I have just shared with you. To come to Christ is not easy. In fact it is the greatest commitment you will ever make.

Lord Jesus, open the eyes of the one reading this post that they will understand the truth presented here and turn from their sin and surrender their life to Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Bad News

In the fourth book in the New Testament, known as the Gospel of John, we hear about a religious leader who came to Jesus at night seeking to know more about Him and His message. But before he could even ask what was truly on his heart, Jesus answered Him by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). In this one statement, Jesus gave Nicodemus the necessary condition for going to heaven. He said, “unless one is born again.” You cannot go to heaven when you die “unless” this occurs first. He stated it again in verse 5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” To be born again, Jesus says, you have to be born “of water,” that is, you have to be spiritual cleansed of your sin, and you have to be born of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is saying there must be a spiritual renewal and cleansing in order to go to heaven. And for that to take place, Nicodemus needed to stop trusting in himself and his accomplishments to get him to heaven but in Christ who alone was to die in his place for His sin. Jesus tells Nicodemus in verses 14-15, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” But, according to verse 19, man has two problems. First, he will not believe on his own. And second, verse 19 says, he loves “the darkness rather than the Light.” In other words, he loves his sin. So what can man do?

First, he needs to see he is a sinner who loves his sin.

Romans 3:10-18 says, “as it is written, "There is none  righteous , not even  one; 11 There is none  who understands , There is none  who seeks  for God; 12 All  have turned  aside , together  they have become  useless ; There is none  who does  good , There is not even  one." 13 "Their throat  is an open  grave , With their tongues  they keep deceiving ," "The poison  of asps  is under  their lips"; 14 "Whose  mouth  is full  of cursing  and bitterness"; 15 "Their feet  are swift  to shed  blood, 16 Destruction  and misery  are in their paths, 17 And the path  of peace  they have not known." 18 "There is no  fear  of God  before  their eyes.” Jesus said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3:18-19). The history of sin takes us back to the first book of the Bible—Genesis. We are told in Genesis 2:16-17 that After God created the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, He “commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” In chapter 3 of Genesis we read in verses 6-7: “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” This is what the Bible calls sin or disobedience to God’s specific command. Romans 5:12 sums it up by saying, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” The consequences of what Adam and Eve did that day was passed to every person who would ever be born. But death itself was not the only thing passed to every person, also the sin nature. Every person would now have the knowledge of evil which would manifest in “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] blasphemies” (Mat.15:19).  And even the good that man could express would be considered as “filthy rags” in God’s sight.

In Exodus chapter 20, God gave His Law, the Ten Commandments, to man to follow. But because of man’s sin nature, he could not live up to what God commanded. For example, the Law says: (Ex.20:3-17):

  • “You shall have no other gods before Me,” but man fashions a god after his own likeness.
  • The Law says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image,” but man bows down before everything his heart desires.
  • The Law says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,” but man uses God’s name as a filthy four letter curse word.
  • The Law said, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,” but man refuses to rest one day a week and worship God.
  • The Law said, “Honor your father and mother,” and “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” But man says, “'Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God’– then he need not honor his father or mother.’Thus [he has] made the commandment of God of no effect by [his] tradition” (Mat.15:4-6).
  • The Law said, “You shall not murder,” but Jesus said that “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Mat.5:22).
  • The Law said, “You shall not commit adultery” but Jesus said “that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Mat.5:28).
  • The Law said, “You shall not steal,” but man takes what is not his and uses it for his own purposes.
  • The Law said, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” but man lies and slanders because his tongue is set on fire by hell itself.
  • The Law said, “You shall not covet” but man lusts after what his neighbor possesses.
Because of man’s sin nature, he has broken every one of these commandments and is guilty of being an idolatrous, blasphemous, lying, thieving, adulterer at heart. And God says he will not be innocent on the day of judgment. Because Adam’s sin was passed to every person, they will be given the wages of their sin—death (Rom.6:23). And if the picture of the human dilemma was not bad enough, Paul said in Ephesians 2:1 that because of Adam’s sin everyone is therefore “dead in trespasses and sin.” Spiritual death not only speaks of our nature but also of our inability to do what is pleasing to God. It paints a helpless situation with no where to go, no where to hide, and no remedy. And if the Bible stopped right there none would have any hope. But praise God it doesn’t stop there. God has provided a Savior the Lord Jesus Christ! We will talk more about the Savior God sent in our next post.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's All There in the Word "Therefore."

"Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called" (Ephesians 4:1).

God has called us to holy living. That statement alone should suffice in answering our question of whether we can live anyway we choose or not. But to heighten that thought further, we hear Paul’s response in Ephesians 4. He begins verse 1 with the word “therefore.” “This word marks the transition from doctrine to duty, principle to practice, position to behavior” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible: Ephesians). “Our exalted standing in Christ calls for corresponding godly conduct” (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians). In Jesus Christ we are righteous and holy, now we’re to act like who we are by living in a manner that is worthy. The purpose of the “therefore” in verse 1 is to tell us “in view of all that God has done for the believer, which we have seen in the first three chapters of this epistle” (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible), “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.”

In other words, "Because you have been ‘blessed with every spiritual blessing’ (1:3), ‘chosen in Him before the foundation of the world’ (1:4), ‘predestined to adoption as sons’ (1:5), given ‘redemption’ and the ‘forgiveness of sins’ (1:7), given the understanding of ‘His will’ (1:9), ‘an inheritance’ (1:11), given the Holy Spirit (1:13), made alive by God (2:4-5) and ‘brought near by the blood of Christ’ (2:13), live in a manner befitting your calling” (MacArthur).

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Get Off Facebook - Be a Man - Paul Washer

Get off facebook, BE A MAN - Paul Washer

In case you're wondering, I got off Facebook before I saw this video.

Friday, August 07, 2009


I have been writing in the last several post about trusting God in the midst of trials. The outcome to that is "joy" that James refers to in James 1:2. My second question is, how do you get past what others think of us? We are all human and none of us like it when people talk behind our backs or when we are not liked. There are numerous examples in Scripture of this but what does Scripture say in how we are to deal with it when it happens?

Romans 12:14 says to "bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." The word "bless" means to speak well of. The word "curse" refers to wishing eternal ruin on a person. It is equivalent to saying, "Go to hell." Paul is saying we are to always speak well of others, especially those who cause us great trouble and harm and never wish that God would repay their evil deeds by sending them to hell. Jesus said it another way: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Mat.5:44). The problem, though, is it is not our nature to forgive, love, and speak well of those who hurt us. James recognizes this when he says in James 3:10-11 that the tongue blesses "our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way." One minute we are worshiping God and the next wishing harm to those who harm us and James says this is inconsistent with who we are. God made all of us in His image and therefore when we speak against someone we are striking out against His image. So what should be our response then? Maybe another question is, "How do we set aside the feelings that many times control and overwhelm us and not strike out against someone? Jesus already gave us the answer in Matthew 5:44. He said to "love" and "pray." You say, "But I don't love them, how in the world can I pray for them? All I desire is that they hurt as much as they have hurt me." The next word is to "forgive." In order to love someone you have to "forgive" them when they wrong you. The word "forgive" means to "release." When you forgive someone, you are "releasing" them of any debt you think they owe you. You say, "That is so hard!" Yes, it is hard but it doesn't erase the fact that we are to do it. In fact, there is one thing we can do to help us when we're struggling with unforgiveness, it is to remember what each of us did to Jesus on the cross. Jesus went to the cross because of our "offenses" and "transgressions." Isaiah 53:5 says, "But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities." Everytime when we're struggling with something someone says about us or with something someone does to us, we should remember that we all have done this over and over to Jesus.

So, what am I saying in all of this? We have to transfer our feelings, desires, hurts, frustrations, etc. to His control. We have to stop holding on and relinquish all control to Him. Is it even possible? Yes. Is it difficult? Yes. But God is able to do this in us as we surrender to Him. So, before you criticize your situation, pray and ask God for the wisdom you need in this situation. Also remember that in this trial He is not going to give you more than your able to bear (see 1 Cor.10:13). And finally, remember that He "gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to [you]" (Jas.1:5).

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Everyone needs to hear this.....

A Biblical Church by Paul Washer

No Worries

Disney's Lion King was famous for their song, "No Worries" or as the kids would recall kunnamatota. Not sure if I spelled that right but you got the idea. Is it possible to live a worry-free life? Paul says in Philippians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Jesus even said in Matthew 6, "Do not worry." Why then do we worry?

In my previous post, I mentioned what I am seeing as the key to joy in trials. It is trusting God. I'm not talking about putting on this "happy" face but truly experiencing the joy of the Lord from the heart. We can only do that when we give everything we are feeling and experiencing to Him. Peter said it this way in 1 Peter 5:7, "Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you." The psalmist agreed when he said in Psalm 55:22,  "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken." When Peter says to cast all your anxiety on Him, he is calling for a once for all action on our part. Do this and never turn back. There is nothing you can't give Him that He will not receive.

Count it all Joy?

James 1:2 says to "count it all joy when you encounter various trials."

All of us experience trials but how can we go through them and experience full joy? There is only one answer, trust. We have to trust God that He is in control of our lives. It is when we do this that we are able to count it all joy. Maybe we could phrase it "no worries." When we stop worrying or fretting over our situation and trust God then we can experience His joy. So "be anxious for nothing" or "stop worrying." Trust God that He is in control.

No More Facebook.......for Now!

If you have been following me on Facebook, I have decided to deactivate my account for now. You can follow me on twitter at if you want updates. For now I want to simplify and focus my energies on this blog and twitter. Too cumbersome to keep Facebook up-to-date.

So keep watching for more........

Pastor Steve

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Death to Self

Why are those three words the most difficult to live? Well I think the answer is obvious. Think about it for a minute. Everything we do is for "self." Even those thngs which are so natural tend to have only "self" in mind. But Jesus says we are to "deny ourselves" (Lk.9:23). He even says to do this "daily" while "taking up your cross." Is it possible to live this way when everything we do, say or pursue is for "self?" It is if you want His gift of salvation. It is a prerequisite. It is more that just believing, it is surrendering "self." It is "death to self." Have you died today? Think about it.