Sunday, November 29, 2009

An Early Christmas Gift

From The Desk of Pastor Ron Bridge

A few days ago I received an early Christmas gift. It was a request to do a funeral service (actually the graveside service) of a woman I knew only briefly some years ago. I am writing this on Friday, November 27; the service will take place tomorrow morning. I suppose most people would not classify such a request as a gift, so an explanation is due as to why I think it is.

I first met this lady when she was already in her mid-eighties. She and her husband attended RBC for a few short months and then moved out of state to a retirement community. During those few months I had opportunity to visit them in their home and on one occasion she asked me if she could be saved. I am always thrilled when I have an opportunity to share the gospel with anyone, but especially so when it is evident that the Lord has been moving in a person's heart to draw them close to the throne of grace. But this time it was different. As I asked a few preliminary questions it became obvious that she had been carrying a very heavy burden for a very long time - the burden of uncertainty.

As her story unfolded I went through a series of emotions - my first reaction was anger, then sadness and deep compassion. I had a hard time holding back the tears. She grew up the daughter of a fundamentalist pastor, who, at the end of each sermon gave an invitation, what is generally known as an alter call. However, she never felt called to go forward, even though in her heart she believed the gospel. After yet another such invitation and her failure to go forward, her father walked to where she was sitting and said if she did not go forward she could not be saved. She never did go forward in that or any other church. Seventy years later she was still carrying
the burden of uncertainty concerning her standing with the Lord.

I asked: Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that He died for your sin? Have you asked His forgiveness? Is He Lord of your life? Without hesitation she affirmed these things and had believed them for decades. It was then my privilege to affirm her standing as a child of God. I will never forget the reaction from both her and her husband. You will forgive me for saying no more than it was one of the most tender moments I have known in my ministry.

It has been several years since the evening the Lord used me to lift so heavy a burden from one of His precious children. Time has passed, the events of that night forgotten. The soul of this dear lady passed into the presence of her Savior last week and her body will be laid in the earth tomorrow. Her husband called and asked me to conduct the graveside service, but to me it was God who called. He called to remind me of the privilege He has given me as an under-shepherd of His sheep.

This Christmas I will receive gifts from those who love me and I will appreciate each one, but none as much as the gift from the One who loves me best. God has given me the gift of eternal life through the gift of His own beloved Son. He has called me to serve Him by serving the church and He reminds me sometimes in very special ways, and sometimes in very ordinary ways of how great a blessing this is. Thank you Lord for an early Christmas gift, but most of all for the best gift of all (2 Cor. 9:15).

From: The Mustard Seed - December 2009

Make War! (John Piper)

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. -Romans 8:13



HT: Truth Matters

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The True Face of Evil

by David Robertson

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.” So writes the Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Steven Weinberg. His observation has become a standard mantra of the new atheism. So how should a Christian respond? We will leave the Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, and Jedi Knights to respond for themselves, although we note in passing that it is another fundamental belief of the atheist creed that all religions are essentially the same — hence the oft repeated statement or accusation that “atheists do not fly planes into skyscrapers.” It may have escaped the new atheists, but neither do Presbyterians, Catholics, or Southern Baptists!

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins repeats Weinberg’s claim that religion is a virus that infects the human race and causes otherwise “good” people to behave in a way which is dangerous and evil. Given Dawkins faith in empiricism, what is his evidence for this sweeping condemnation? His major evidence appears to be 9/11 and Fred Phelps of Godhatesfags.com infamy. The new atheists also declare that we are all implicated in the “extremist” forms of Christianity (and Islam) because we keep silent and because they are just being consistent with the Scriptures! Apart from the danger of taking our theology from atheists, let me point out unequivocally that Fred Phelps has nothing whatsoever to do with any form of biblical Christianity. His “gospel” is a self-serving rant from the pit of hell and is utterly repudiated by all biblical Christians.

We could have endless fun ridiculing the inconsistencies and ad hominem attacks of Dawkins and his friends, but that would be like shooting ducks at a fairground, and some of our brethren do not think it is “nice.” (Although the methodology of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:27, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened,” does have a lot to commend it.) So, what other approach can we take?

We could point out that Dawkins’ view is a simplistic and fundamentalist Hollywood fantasy view of the world that divides humanity into the good guys and the bad guys.

We could admit mea culpa, and agree that religion has done a great deal of harm. Furthermore, although we would not accept that all religions are the same, we must also acknowledge that many bad things have been done in the name of Christianity and that the name of God has often been blasphemed amongst the Gentiles because of those who have inconsistently professed the precious name of Christ.

And then we could swap accusations, gently reminding our new atheists that when atheism has become the state philosophy, it has rarely lead to an outbreak of love and peace. Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hitler, and others who also shared the belief that religion is a virus that needs to be eradicated, are hardly shining examples of the good that atheism has brought to the world. At least they were consistent in following their prophet Nietzsche who declared, “I call Christianity the one great curse, the one great intrinsic depravity, the one great instinct for revenge for which no expedient is sufficiently poisonous, secret, subterranean, petty — I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind.”

We could point out that Western civilization, including the science and morality that Dawkins and the new atheists profess to love, is rooted in Christian teaching. We could indicate the numerous examples of Christians who have built hospitals, set up schools, and provided multiple social work programs. Dawkins, of course, would argue that people would have done this anyway and that atheists are just as moral and virtuous as Christians. Thus we end up in a kind of spitting contest where Christians could easily demonstrate that we build more schools, paint more pictures, and heal more people than members of American Atheists. But that would ultimately prove nothing. As Christopher Hitchens points out, one could just as easily argue that Hamas provides a great social welfare program in the West Bank.

We need more than this. The proof that Christianity is a force for good rather than evil is found in the outworking of the great biblical doctrines — the teachings about Christ and humanity that provide us with the explanation as to why our world is in such a mess; the motivation for us to do something about it; and the means whereby we can.

Total Depravity

In the words of George Thorogood, we are “bad to the bone.” We do not believe in “good empires” and “bad empires,” “good” people and “bad” people. We accept the biblical teaching that all humans and all areas of human life are infected by sin. Religion is not the virus. Sin is. As a result, religion becomes a tool for human sinfulness. Rather than the simplistic and foolish optimism of the new atheism, we know that human beings are inherently and deeply flawed. Christless religion only adds fuel to the fire, but take away all religion and we will still have the fire. As G.K. Chesterton so masterfully wrote in a letter to The Times: “Dear Sir, What’s wrong with the world? I am.” The loss of this basic doctrine thanks to an unjustified Enlightenment optimism was a major factor in the genocidal regimes of the twentieth century, the failed atheist century. The philosopher John Gray, no friend of Christianity, summarizes it neatly: “As we understand it today, utopianism began to develop along with the retreat of Christian belief” (Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia).

Idolatry

Human beings have a sense of God. The law of God is written in our hearts. Even Dawkins admits that there is an inherent God consciousness in children, but he attempts to explain it away by regarding it as an “evolutionary misfiring.” The biblical explanation is much simpler. We are created in the image of God. We are created with a capacity for relationship with our Creator. We do have a “God-shaped hole.” The trouble is that we attempt to fill that hole with anything or anyone except God. We invent our own religions, we create our own idols, and we even deify ourselves. It is little wonder that the hole is not filled and that the result is discord, frustration, anger, and brokenness. Idolatry is false religion. It is an argument for, rather than against, true religion.

The Cross

Jesus Christ and Him crucified is the divine surgery that fixes the problem. We do not need to be patched up. We do need forgiveness, grace, mercy, a new heart, and a new birth. The cross deals with every aspect of human sinfulness, individually and communally. It is through the cross that the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. The Beatles were right to sing, “All you need is love.” They just did not know what they were singing about. This is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.

The Sovereignty of God

Jesus is Lord and Savior. Everything comes under His lordship. There is no area of life that is not His. Therefore those who belong to Him, go on to live for Him in every area of life — in education, family, work, sport, politics, healthcare, social work, and entertainment.

Rooted in these great biblical doctrines we then go on to produce fruit. Christians are not utopians or religious moralists. We do not think that we can legislate to make people moral, or that there is some kind of religious band-aid that will soothe over the deep wounds in humanity. Neither are we pietists who retreat into our religious communes. We are salt and light in a world that is tasteless and dark. Because we have come to know the love of Christ, we cannot but reflect and share that love. The love of Christ constrains us. According to his secretary, Traudl Junge, Hitler despised the church because “only mankind and above all the church have made it their aims to keep alive the weak, those unfit to live, and people of an inferior kind.” Exactly. The history of the Christian church is full of people who, having been ransomed, healed, restored, and forgiven, are then set free to serve the living God and do so by going on to keep alive the weak, heal the sick, fight injustice, feed the hungry, visit the prisoners and demonstrate in their life, words, and deeds the mercy and compassion of God.

It is ironic that in 2007 members of the British Parliament listed as their favorite summer reading two books: the first being Dawkins’ The God Delusion, the second, William Hague’s wonderful William Wilberforce. Whilst the Dawkins rant exemplifies the irrational and deeply rooted hatred of humans for God, the life of the great anti–slavery campaigner Wilberforce demonstrates what a powerful force for good is a forgiven sinner in the hands of a gracious God. Wilberforce exemplifies the great argument of Jesus against the new atheist creed that all religion is de facto evil: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

From: Ligonier Ministries and R.C. Sproul. © Tabletalk magazine.
Website: www.ligonier.org/tabletalk

Monday, November 23, 2009

"If Calvinism is True, Why Evangelize?"

"God has called me to preach His word and if I knew that all the elect had a yellow stripe painted down their backs, then I would give up preaching the Gospel and go and lift up shirt tails!"

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon



HT: http://www.lanechaplin.com/

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Prayer Closet

Paul Washer talks about seeking God until he allows himself to be found.



HT: http://battle4truth.wordpress.com

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Excerpt From The Great Privilege (Paul Washer)



The full message can be seen here.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Assorted Attacks on the Bible (Romans 1:18-32)

by John MacArthur

Gods Word. Inspired. Inerrant. Infallible. Christians have always labored to defend it. The first step, recognize those attacks in every form. From the overt frontal assault to the covert inside job we must never be caught off guard. Attacks come from the critics, the cults, the charismatics, and the culture.



Watch the rest of the video here: http://www.gty.org/Resources/Videos/T8290-320

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No Thanksgiving!

What attitude is fostered by removing God from His rightful place as Creator and Lord? Without a doubt it is one of unthankfulness. In fact, ingratitude always accompanies departure from God. In (Romans 1:21) we read that turning away from God's testimony of Himself in creation, which renders the heathen without excuse, made them "unthankful" as well as vain, foolish and darkened.

One of the signs of the last days is that men will be "unthankful" (2 Timothy 3:2). Not many would question that this condition exists today. And the rapidity with which this attitude is permeating all levels of society, accompanied with selfish, hateful words and riotous deeds, only manifests how steadily unthankfulness is engulfing this Christless world.

Apostasy is the giving up of truth once nominally held. This is what Christendom is guilty of today. True, there is the "form of godliness," but "denying the power thereof" (2 Timothy 3:5) which reveals it is merely a degenerating profession of "Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Only a ministry of Christ can produce an attitude of thankfulness in the heart and cause an expression of true thanksgiving with the lips. The rejection of such ministry only further opens man's sinful, selfish heart to display itself more fully, just as it is doing today.

How is it with you, dear reader? Are you marked out by "No thanksgiving" in your heart and life? Or are you truly grateful for the grace and the mercy God has shown to you in His blessed Son?
Have you been cleansed from your sins (1 John 1:7), and like the leper who was cleansed from his leprosy, returned to give the Lord Jesus thanks for His merciful kindness (Luke 17:11-19)? Have you received His marvelous gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23), and do you join in with those who exclaim, "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable Gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15)?

Do you realize that every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above? Are you therefore known as "giving thanks always for all things" (Ephesians 5:20)? If so, you are a product of divine grace, and for this you will be eternally thankful, never ceasing to be amazed that He should have ever loved you (Revelation 5:9-14).

If, however, "No thanksgiving" characterizes you, be warned that you are in danger of the "weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Luke 13:22-28) in hell forever. Then there will be no opportunity nor cause to give thanks. "For in death there is no remembrance of Thee: in the grave who shall give Thee thanks?" (Psalm 6:5). Turn now to God in repentance and by faith "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved" (Acts 16:31). By thus accepting Christ as your personal Saviour, you will be able to join in the following ascription of grateful, eternal Thanksgiving:

"Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:12-14).

As you can see, dear friend, though the terms "no thanksgiving" and "unthankful" may not at first seem too bad, especially since the whole world is characterized by them, they are indeed a serious, solemn warning that we are living in the last days of God's grace, just preceding His righteous judgments. May you heed this warning, and be one of the thankful "few" who find life in Christ (Matthew 7:13,14).
--D.T.J.

Scripture verses quoted from the King James Version (KJV).
Source: Moments With The Book, www.mwtb.org
No Thanksgiving or Thankful

Thoughts on celebrating God during Thanksgiving

What are your thoughts on celebrating God during the Thanksgiving holiday? -John MacArthur


Source: http://www.gty.org

CJ Mahaney The Cup of Christ

What was in the cup Christ talked about in the garden of Gethsemane?



HT: http://www.againsttheflowmedia.com

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Presumptuous Synergism: Save A Soul For $48

By Jim Bublitz

It's that modern synergistic mindset again, but maybe a little more bold.

Here's a ministry that's so confident in their crusades and evangelism campaigns that they are convinced of their ability to predict how many souls will be saved through their efforts. What's more, they've also done the math to determine how many donation-dollars will be required for each soul saved.

On their website, the leader of the ministry states: "I was [visiting a church] and made the statement that for every $48.00 given to [our ministry] someone will get saved. A couple after the service said to me, 'Why don't you start a Soul-A-Month club. We would like to send you $48.00 a month.' Ministry born!"
More on their website:
http://www.baileysmith.org/soulamonth.asp

Their flawed thinking is the logical out-flowing of a belief called "synergism" that's wide-spread in modern times. It means that God and man cooperate together to cause salvation to occur. And since synergists usually believe that God is trying his hardest to save everyone, then the only thing that's really needed is for man to decide to "choose Christ". The ministry (above) goes so far as to claim they've determined a ratio of "dollars to decisions".

If we go back a couple of hundred years in Christian history, we find a completely different mindset called "monergism". The Reformers and Puritans were monergists (as opposed to synergists), believing that God causes man to be born again, without any assistance from man. One of the passages in scripture where this is taught is John chapter 3 where Jesus tells Nicodemus that "the Spirit blows where it wishes". It means that God decides the who, what, when, and where of being Born Again. A great scripture-packed website dealing with this old truth is: www.monergism.com

Some noteworthy monergists include:
John MacArthur, RC Sproul, John Piper, D. James Kennedy, Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Martin Luther.

Noteworthy synergists include:
Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Tim Lahaye, Charles Stanley, Jerry Falwell, John Wesley, Charles Finney, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, and the Catholic church.

In fact, here's a demonstration of synergism in action. This is a quote from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life:

"Wherever you are listening to this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity. "Jesus, I believe in You and I receive You." Go ahead. Just say "Jesus, I believe in You and I receive You." If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God!"

Warren's emphasis is placed here on something that man does, and when man does it, he's the determining factor in the salvation of his own soul. Again, very different thinking than in centuries-past.

Originally posted at http://www.oldtruth.com on August 20, 2005

What is the Gospel?

The gospel of Christ in general is this: It is the good tidings that God has revealed concerning Christ. More largely it is this: As all mankind was lost in Adam and became the children of wrath, put under the sentence of death, God, though He left His fallen angels and has reserved them in the chains of eternal darkness, yet He has thought upon the children of men and has provided a way of atonement to reconcile them to Himself again...Namely, the second person of the Trinity takes man's nature upon Himself, and becomes the Head of a second covenant, standing charged with sin. He answers for it by suffering what the law and divine justice required, and by making satisfaction by keeping the law perfectly, which satisfaction and righteousness He tenders up to the Father as a sweet savor of rest for the souls that are given to Him...And now this mediation of Christ is, by the appointment of the Father, preached to the children of men, of whatever nation or rank, freely offering this atonement unto sinners for atonement, requiring them to believe in Him and, upon believing, promising not only a discharge of all their former sins, but that they shall not enter into condemnation, that none of their sins or unworthiness shall ever hinder the peace of God with them, but that they shall through Him be received into the number of those who shall have the image of God again to be renewed unto them, and they they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Jeremiah Burroughs

...and Heaven have mercy on us all - Presbyterians and Pagans alike - for we are all dreadfully cracked about the head and desperately in need of mending.
Herman Melville Moby Dick

We must not suppose that if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world.
C.S. Lewis

We must have the full message. . . 'deliver the whole counsel of God'. . . . It starts with the Law. The Law of God ... the demands of a righteous God, the wrath of God. That is the way to bring men and women to conviction; not by modifying the Truth.... We must confront them with the fact that they are men and that they are fallible men, that they are dying men, that they are sinful men, and that they will all have to stand before God at the Bar of Eternal Judgement....And then we must present to them the full-orbed doctrine of the Grace of God in Salvation in Jesus Christ. We must show that no man is saved 'by the deeds of the Law', by his own goodness or righteousness, or church membership or anything else, but solely, utterly, entirely by the free gift of God in Jesus Christ His Son. . . . We must preach the full-orbed doctrine leaving nothing out-conviction of sin, the reality of Judgement and Hell, free grace, justification, sanctification, glorification. We must also show that there is a world view in the Bible ... that here alone you can understand history-past history, present history, future history. Let us show this great world view, and God's Eternal purpose.... Let us at the same time be very careful that we are giving it to the whole man ... the gospel is not only for a man's heart, that you start with his head and present Truth to it ... Let us show that it is a great message given by God which we in turn pass on to the mind, to the heart, to the will. There is ever this danger of leaving out some part or other of man's personality... Let us be certain that we address the whole man-his mind, his emotions and his will.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones The Weapons of our Warfare pg. 21-22

HT: http://www.monergism.com

The Scandal of Grace - John MacArthur

So it is today, this church, the church of Jesus Christ is not made up of good people, it's made up of bad people. It's not made up of people who think they're righteous, it's made up of people who know they're not. It's not made up of the people who have attained to a certain acceptable degree with God, it's made up of people who know they could never attain to an acceptable place before God.

It's not made up of people who think they're good, it's made up of people who know they're wicked. It's not made up of people who have achieved righteousness on their own, it's made up of people who have received righteousness from God as a gift. This is the gospel.

Excerpted from: The Scandal of Grace video part 2.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

True Faith Perseveres - John MacArthur

It is crucial to understand what the biblical doctrine of perseverance does not mean. It does not mean that people who “accept Christ” can then live any way they please without fear of hell. The expression “eternal security” is sometimes used in this sense, as is “once saved, always saved.” R. T. Kendall, arguing for the latter phrase, defines its meaning thus:

Whoever once truly believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies. But I will not stop there. Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith. (Once Saved, Always Saved, p. 19)

Kendall also writes, “I hope no one will take this as an attack on the Westminster Confession. It is not that” (p. 22).

But it is precisely that! Kendall expressly argues against Westminster’s assertion that faith cannot fail. He believes faith is best characterized as a single look: “one need only see the Sin Bearer once to be saved” (p. 23).This is a full-scale assault against the doctrine of perseverance affirmed in the Westminster Confession. Worse, it subverts Scripture itself. Unfortunately, it is a view that has come to be widely believed by Christians today.

John Murray, noting this trend a half-century ago, defended the expression “perseverance of the saints”:

It is not in the best interests of the doctrine involved to substitute the designation, “The Security of the Believer,” not because the latter is wrong in itself but because the other formula is much more carefully and inclusively framed. . . . It is not true that the believer is secure however much he may fall into sin and unfaithfulness. Why is this not true? It is not true because it sets up an impossible combination. It is true that a believer sins; he may fall into grievous sin and backslide for lengthy periods. But it is also true that a believer cannot abandon himself to sin; he cannot come under the dominion of sin; he cannot be guilty of certain kinds of unfaithfulness. The truth is that the faith of Jesus Christ is always respective of the life of holiness and fidelity. And so it is never proper to think of a believer irrespective of the fruits in faith and holiness. To say that a believer is secure whatever may be the extent of his addiction to sin in his subsequent life is to abstract faith in Christ from its very definition and it ministers to that abuse which turns the grace of God into lasciviousness. The doctrine of perseverance is the doctrine that believers persevere. . . . It is not at all that they will be saved irrespective of the their perseverance or their continuance, but that they will assuredly persevere. Consequently the security that is theirs is inseparable from their perseverance. Is this not what Jesus said? “He than endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

Let us not then take refuge in our sloth or encouragement in our lust from the abused doctrine of the security of the believer. But let us appreciate the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and recognize that we may entertain the faith of our security in Christ only as we persevere in faith and holiness to the end. (Redemption Accomplished and Applied, 154-55)

Any doctrine of eternal security that leaves out perseverance distorts the doctrine of salvation itself. Heaven without holiness ignores the whole purpose for which God chose and redeemed His people:

God elected us for this very purpose. “He chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph. 1:4). We were predestinated to be conformed to the image of Christ in all His spotless purity (Rom. 8:29). This divine choice makes it certain that we shall be like Him when He appears (1 John 3:2). From this fact, John deduces that everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as Christ is pure (1 John 3:3). His use of the word “everyone” makes it quite certain that those who do not purify themselves will not see Christ, nor be like Him. By their lack of holiness they prove that they were not so predestinated. The apostle thus deals a crushing blow to Antinomianism. (Richard Alderson, No Holiness, No Heaven!, p. 88)

God’s own holiness thus requires perseverance. “God’s grace insures our persevering`but this does not make it any less our persevering.” Believers cannot acquire “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” unless they “press on toward the goal” (Phil 3:14). But as they “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), they find that “it is God who is at work in [them], both to will and work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Source: http://www.gty.org

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Behold Your King

The Old Testament includes about 60 different prophecies, with more than 300 references, of the coming of the Messiah. Here is a short clip highlighting 22 of them which the Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled.

The Heart of the True Christian (Mark Kielar)

Mark Kielar on Jonathan Edward's Resolutions 37 and 56.

37. Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year. Dec.22 and 26, 1722.

56. Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.



Taken from the message: The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

9 Ways to Know the Gospel of Christ Is True

1. Jesus Christ, as he is presented to us in the New Testament, and as he stands forth from all its writings, is too single and too great to have been invented so uniformly by all these writers.

The force of Jesus Christ unleashed these writings; the writings did not create the force. Jesus is far bigger and more compelling than any of his witnesses. His reality stands behind these writings as a great, global event stands behind a thousand newscasters. Something stupendous unleashed these diverse witnesses to tell these stunning and varied, yet unified, stories of Jesus Christ.

2. Nobody has ever explained the empty tomb of Jesus in the hostile environment of Jerusalem where the enemies of Jesus would have given anything to produce the corpse, but could not.

The earliest attempts to cover the scandal of resurrection were manifestly contradictory to all human experience—disciples do not steal a body (Matthew 28:13) and then sacrifice their lives to preach a glorious gospel of grace on the basis of the deception. Modern theories that Jesus didn't die but swooned, and then awoke in the tomb and moved the stone and tricked his skeptical disciples into believing he was risen as the Lord of the universe don't persuade.

3. Cynical opponents of Christianity abounded where claims were made that many eyewitnesses were available to consult concerning the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

"After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:6). Such claims would be exposed as immediate falsehood if they could. But we know of no exposure. Eyewitnesses of the risen Lord abounded when the crucial claims were being made.

4. The early church was an indomitable force of faith and love and sacrifice on the basis of the reality of Jesus Christ.

The character of this church, and the nature of the gospel of grace and forgiveness, and the undaunted courage of men and women—even unto death—do not fit the hypothesis of mass hysteria. They simply were not like that. Something utterly real and magnificent had happened in the world and they were close enough to know it, and be assured of it, and be gripped by its power. That something was Jesus Christ, as all of them testified, even as they died singing.

5. The prophesies of the Old Testament find stunning fulfillment in the history of Jesus Christ.

The witness to these fulfillments are too many, too diverse, too subtle and too interwoven into the history of the New Testament church and its many writings to be fabricated by some great conspiracy. Down to the details, Jesus Christ fulfilled dozens of Old Testament prophecies that vindicate his truth.

6. The witnesses to Jesus Christ who wrote the New Testament gospels and letters are not gullible or deceitful or demented.

This is manifest from the writings themselves. The books bear the marks of intelligence and clear-headedness and maturity and a moral vision that is compelling. They win our trust as witnesses, especially when all taken together with one great unifying, but distinctively told, message about Jesus Christ.

7. The worldview that emerges from the writings of the New Testament makes more sense out of more reality than any other worldview.

It not only fits the human heart, but also the cosmos and history and God as he reveals himself in nature and conscience. Some may come to this conclusion after much reflection, others may arrive at this conviction by a pre-reflective, intuitive sense of the deep suitability of Christ and his message to the world that they know.

8. When one sees Christ as he is portrayed truly in the gospel, there shines forth a spiritual light that is a self-authenticating.

This is "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God" (2 Corinthians 4:6), and it is as immediately perceived by the Spirit-awakened heart as light is perceived by the open eye. The eye does not argue that there is light. It sees light.

9. When we see and believe the glory of God in the gospel, the Holy Spirit is given to us so that the love of God might be "poured out in our hearts" (Romans 5:5).

This experience of the love of God known in the heart through the gospel of Him who died for us while we were yet ungodly assures us that the hope awakened by all the evidences we have seen will not disappoint us.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Background of the Shocking Youth Message - Paul Washer

On Oct. 26, 2009, Paul Washer shared some of the background behind the "Shocking Youth Message" given in 2002 which has been viewed well over a million times and has greatly impacted a large number of people around the world.



HT: http://www.reformedvoices.com

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Rebuilding Some Basics of Bethlehem: The Centrality of the Glory of God

By John Piper November 4, 2009

We use the term “glory of God” so often that it tends to lose its biblical force. But the sun is no less blazing, and no less beneficial, because people ignore it.

Yet God does not like to be ignored. “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!” (Psalms 50:22). So let’s focus again on the glory of God. What is it? How important is it?

What Is the Glory of God?

The glory of God is the holiness of God put on display. That is, it is the infinite worth of God made manifest. Notice how Isaiah shifts from “holy” to “glory”: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). When the holiness of God fills the earth for people to see, it is called glory.

The basic meaning of holy is “separated” from the common. Thus, when you carry that definition all the way to the infinite “separation” of God from all that is common, the effect is to make him the infinite “one of a kind”—like the rarest and most perfect diamond in the world. Only there are no other diamond-gods. God’s uniqueness as the only God—his God-ness—makes him infinitely valuable, that is, holy.

The most common meaning for God’s glory in the Bible assumes that this infinite value has entered created experience. It has, as it were, shined. God’s glory is the radiance of his holiness. It is the out-streaming of his infinite value. And when it streams out, it is seen as beautiful and great. It has both infinite quality and infinite magnitude. So we may define the glory of God as the beauty and greatness of God’s manifold perfections.

I say “manifold perfections” because specific aspects of God’s being are said to have glory. For example: “the glory of his grace” (Ephesians 1:6) and “the glory of his might” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). God himself is glorious because he is the perfect unity of all his manifold and glorious perfections.

But this definition must be qualified. The Bible also speaks of God’s glory before it is revealed in creation. For example, Jesus prays, “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). So I would suggest a definition something like this: God’s glory is the outward radiance of the intrinsic beauty and greatness of his manifold perfections.

I am aware that words are poor pointers here. I have replaced one inadequate word with two others: glory with beauty and greatness. But we must try. God has revealed himself to us in words like “the glory of God.” And he does not want them to be meaningless.

We must constantly remind ourselves that we are speaking of a glory that is ultimately beyond created comparison. “The glory of God” is the way you designate the infinite beauty and the infinite greatness of the Person who was there before anything else was there. In other words, it is the beauty and the greatness that exists without origin, without comparison, without analogy, without being judged or assessed by any external criterion. It is the all-defining absolute original of greatness and beauty. All created greatness and beauty comes from it, and points to it, but does not comprehensively or adequately reproduce it.

“The glory of God” is a way of saying that there is objective, absolute reality to which all human admiration, wonder, awe, veneration, praise, honor, acclaim, and worship is pointing. We were made to find our deepest pleasure in admiring what is infinitely admirable, that is, the glory of God. The glory of God is not the psychological projection of human longing onto reality. On the contrary, inconsolable human longing is the evidence that we were made for God’s glory.

How Central Is the Glory of God in the Bible?

The glory of God is the goal of all things. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). All things were created for God’s glory (Isaiah 43:6-7).

The great mission of the church is to declare God’s glory among the nations. “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!” (Psalms 96:1-3; Ezekiel 39:21; Isaiah 66:18-19).

What Is Our Hope? Seeing the Glory of God

Seeing the glory of God is our ultimate hope. “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2). God will “present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24). He will “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). “He calls you into his own kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:12). “Our blessed hope [is] the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

Jesus, in all his person and work, is the incarnation and ultimate revelation of the glory of God. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Hebrews 1:3). “Father, I desire that they . . . may be with me where I am, to see my glory” (John 17:24).

What Is Our Hope? Sharing in the Glory of God

“So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). “The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). “We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).“This light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). “Those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30).

Summary

Seeing and sharing in God’s glory is our ultimate hope through the gospel of Christ.

Hope that is really known and treasured has a huge and decisive effect on our present values and choices and actions.

Get to know the glory of God. Study the glory of God, the glory of Christ, the glory of the world that reveals the glory of God, the glory of the gospel that reveals the glory of Christ.

Treasure the glory of God above all things.

Study your soul. Know the glory you are seduced by, and know why you treasure glories that are not God’s glory. Study your own soul to know how to make the glories of the world collapse like Dagon (1 Samuel 5:4) in the pitiful pieces on the floor of the world’s temples.

Hungering to see and share in more of the glory of Christ, the image of God,

Pastor John

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Grace In The Law Of God – The Third Commandment

by Greg Mills

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. – Exodus 20:7 (ESV)

I. The third commandment specifically condemns the profanity that has become the socially accepted norm in our day.

Exposition With Application
I. The verb translated as take has the sense of use, or employ. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

II. The name of God carries a host of meanings in Scripture.

A. His proper name
B. His titles: Creator, Judge, Savior, Shepherd
C. His attributes: holiness, wisdom, faithfulness
D. His Word, Psalm 138:2
E. His grace and mercy toward sinners, John 17:6
F. His majesty revealed in creation, Psalm 8:1

The name of God is either God Himself, or anything by which He is made known. Anything that pertains to God, His will or His worship is included in His name.

III. The primary meaning of the word translated vain is emptiness, worthlessness. It can also mean falsehood or wickedness.

IV. To take God’s name in vain then, is to use it in any irreverent, trifling, or wicked way.

The third commandment insures that everything God uses to make Himself known is treated with reverence.

V. In the first petition to the Lord’s prayer, Hallowed be Thy name, Jesus reaffirms the third commandment.

VI. This commandment is broken in two general ways.

A. Using God’s name in a trivial way.
B. Swearing by God’s name, either
1. To that which is untrue, or
2. When it is unecessary to do so

VII. There are legitimate reasons to swear by God’s name: courtroom testimony, marriage vows, oaths of office. God Himself sanctions swearing by His name when it is appropriate: Isa. 45:23; Jer. 4:2; Phil. 2:11

Christ’s injunction against swearing prohibits frivolous, unnecessary oaths and enjoins believers to cultivate a reputation for being true to their word.

VIII. God’s name is also used in vain when

A. Worship lacks the proper decorum, solemnity and reverence.
B. When preaching or teaching is vague, compromising, or speculative.

Application
I. The third commandment, like all the rest, has a deeper application than our outward words and actions. It extends to the thoughts and meditations of our hearts. (Mal. 3:16)

II. Un practice, anytime we use the name of God

A. Our purpose is to be His glory
B. Our speech is to be solemn, intelligent, informed and with forethought.

III. We never use God’s name

A. When it’s not necessary to do so
B. To sanction our own superstitions, or speculations.

IV. The tongue is impossible for the natural man to control. James 3:8. Profanity is the evidence of a polluted soul. Matt. 18:18-20.

The only way this stain can ever be removed is through faith in the finished work of Christ.

HT: http://5ptsalt.com

The Unbridled Gospel - 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Article 1: God's Right to Condemn All People
Since all people have sinned in Adam and have come under the sentence of the curse and eternal death, God would have done no one an injustice if it had been his will to leave the entire human race in sin and under the curse, and to condemn them on account of their sin. As the apostle says: The whole world is liable to the condemnation of God (Rom. 3:19), All have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).*

(*All quotations from Scripture are translations of the original Latin manuscript.)

Article 2: The Manifestation of God's Love
But this is how God showed his love: he sent his only begotten Son into the world, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Article 3: The Preaching of the Gospel
In order that people may be brought to faith, God mercifully sends proclaimers of this very joyful message to the people he wishes and at the time he wishes. By this ministry people are called to repentance and faith in Christ crucified. For how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without someone preaching? And how shall they preach unless they have been sent? (Rom. 10:14-15).

Article 4: A Twofold Response to the Gospel
God's anger remains on those who do not believe this gospel. But those who do accept it and embrace Jesus the Savior with a true and living faith are delivered through him from God's anger and from destruction, and receive the gift of eternal life.

Article 5: The Sources of Unbelief and of Faith
The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man. Faith in Jesus Christ, however, and salvation through him is a free gift of God. As Scripture says, It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8). Likewise: It has been freely given to you to believe in Christ (Phil. 1:29).

Article 6: God's Eternal Decision
The fact that some receive from God the gift of faith within time, and that others do not, stems from his eternal decision. For all his works are known to God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:11). In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen. And in this especially is disclosed to us his act--unfathomable, and as merciful as it is just--of distinguishing between people equally lost. This is the well-known decision of election and reprobation revealed in God's Word. This decision the wicked, impure, and unstable distort to their own ruin, but it provides holy and godly souls with comfort beyond words.

Article 7: Election
Election [or choosing] is God's unchangeable purpose by which he did the following:

Before the foundation of the world, by sheer grace, according to the free good pleasure of his will, he chose in Christ to salvation a definite number of particular people out of the entire human race, which had fallen by its own fault from its original innocence into sin and ruin. Those chosen were neither better nor more deserving than the others, but lay with them in the common misery. He did this in Christ, whom he also appointed from eternity to be the mediator, the head of all those chosen, and the foundation of their salvation. And so he decided to give the chosen ones to Christ to be saved, and to call and draw them effectively into Christ's fellowship through his Word and Spirit. In other words, he decided to grant them true faith in Christ, to justify them, to sanctify them, and finally, after powerfully preserving them in the fellowship of his Son, to glorify them.

God did all this in order to demonstrate his mercy, to the praise of the riches of his glorious grace.

As Scripture says, God chose us in Christ, before the foundation of the world, so that we should be holy and blameless before him with love; he predestined us whom he adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, by which he freely made us pleasing to himself in his beloved (Eph. 1:4-6). And elsewhere, Those whom he predestined, he also called; and those whom he called, he also justified; and those whom he justified, he also glorified (Rom. 8:30).

Article 8: A Single Decision of Election
This election is not of many kinds; it is one and the same election for all who were to be saved in the Old and the New Testament. For Scripture declares that there is a single good pleasure, purpose, and plan of God's will, by which he chose us from eternity both to grace and to glory, both to salvation and to the way of salvation, which he prepared in advance for us to walk in.

Article 9: Election Not Based on Foreseen Faith
This same election took place, not on the basis of foreseen faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, or of any other good quality and disposition, as though it were based on a prerequisite cause or condition in the person to be chosen, but rather for the purpose of faith, of the obedience of faith, of holiness, and so on. Accordingly, election is the source of each of the benefits of salvation. Faith, holiness, and the other saving gifts, and at last eternal life itself, flow forth from election as its fruits and effects. As the apostle says, He chose us (not because we were, but) so that we should be holy and blameless before him in love (Eph. 1:4).

Article 10: Election Based on God's Good Pleasure
But the cause of this undeserved election is exclusively the good pleasure of God. This does not involve his choosing certain human qualities or actions from among all those possible as a condition of salvation, but rather involves his adopting certain particular persons from among the common mass of sinners as his own possession. As Scripture says, When the children were not yet born, and had done nothing either good or bad..., she (Rebecca) was told, "The older will serve the younger." As it is written, "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated" (Rom. 9:11-13). Also, All who were appointed for eternal life believed (Acts 13:48).

Article 11: Election Unchangeable
Just as God himself is most wise, unchangeable, all-knowing, and almighty, so the election made by him can neither be suspended nor altered, revoked, or annulled; neither can his chosen ones be cast off, nor their number reduced.

Article 12: The Assurance of Election
Assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election to salvation is given to the chosen in due time, though by various stages and in differing measure. Such assurance comes not by inquisitive searching into the hidden and deep things of God, but by noticing within themselves, with spiritual joy and holy delight, the unmistakable fruits of election pointed out in God's Word-- such as a true faith in Christ, a childlike fear of God, a godly sorrow for their sins, a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and so on.

The above articles were taken from the Canons of Dort (1618-1619)

HT: http://stevenjcamp.blogspot.com

Monday, November 2, 2009

The True Measure of Success - John MacArthur

If we judged success by worldly standards, some might be inclined to assess Paul’s leadership career as an abject failure and a bitter disappointment.

In the closing days of his life, when Paul wrote 2 Timothy, Luke was virtually his only contact with the outside world (4:11). Paul was confined in a Roman dungeon, dreading the savage cold of coming winter (vv. 13, 21), and without any hope of deliverance from the death sentence that had been imposed on him. He suffered because of the sadistic contempt of his enemies. He was even abandoned or disavowed by some of his closest friends. He wrote, “This you know, that all those in Asia have turned away from me” (2 Timothy 1:15). “Asia” refers to Asia Minor, where Paul had focused his missionary work. Ephesus, where Timothy pastored, was the capital of that region. So Paul wasn’t telling Timothy anything Timothy didn’t already know firsthand. In that time of fierce persecution, association with Paul had become so costly that all but a few of the apostle’s own spiritual children had in effect disowned and abandoned him.

That’s why people who see things superficially might think the end of Paul’s life was tragic. At first glance, it might even seem as if his enemies had finally defeated him.

A failure? Actually, the apostle Paul was not a failure as a leader by any measure. His influence continues worldwide even today. By contrast, Nero, the corrupt but powerful Roman emperor who ordered Paul’s death, is one of history’s most despised figures. This is yet another reminder that influence is the true test of a person’s leadership, not power or position per se. In fact, a careful look at how Paul’s life and ministry came to an end can teach us a lot about how to gauge the success or failure of a leader.

Paul’s first long imprisonment and trial before Nero apparently ended in the apostle’s release sometime before AD 64, because he wrote the epistles of 1 Timothy and Titus as a free man (1 Timothy 3:14-15; 4:13; Titus 3:12). But that liberty was short-lived. In July of the year 64, seven of Rome’s fourteen districts burned. When the original fire was nearly extinguished, another fire, fanned by fierce winds, broke out in another district. Rumors circulated that Nero himself had ordered the burning of the city to make room for some ambitious building projects, including a golden palace for himself.

Trying desperately to deflect suspicion, Nero blamed Christians for starting the fires. That began the first of several major, aggressive campaigns by the Roman government to destroy the church. Christians in Rome were rounded up and executed in unspeakably cruel ways. Some were sewn into animal skins and ripped to death by dogs. Others were impaled on stakes, covered with pitch, and burned as human torches to light Nero’s garden parties. Many were beheaded, fed to lions, or otherwise disposed of at Nero’s command in equally ruthless ways.

During that persecution, Paul was again taken prisoner by the Roman authorities, brought to Rome, subjected to persecution and torment (2 Timothy 4:17), and finally executed as a traitor because of his relentless devotion to the lordship of Christ.

Throughout his first imprisonment at Rome, Paul had been kept under house arrest (Acts 28:16, 30). He was allowed freedom to preach and teach those who visited him (v. 23). He was under the constant guard of a Roman soldier but was treated with respect. The influence of his ministry had therefore reached right into the household of Caesar (Philippians 4:22).

Paul’s second imprisonment, however, was markedly different. He was virtually cut off from all outside contact and kept chained in a dungeon (2 Timothy 1:16). He was probably held underground in the Mamertine Prison, adjacent to the Roman forum, in a small, dark, bare stone dungeon whose only entrance was a hole in the ceiling scarcely large enough for one person to pass through. The dungeon itself is not large; about half the size of a small one-car garage. Yet it was sometimes used to hold as many as forty prisoners. The discomfort, the dark, the stench, and the misery were almost unbearable.

That dungeon still exists, and I have been in it. The stifling, claustrophobic confines of that dark hole are eerie and depressing even today. It was there (or in a dungeon just like it) that Paul spent the final days of his life.

There is no reliable record of Paul’s execution, but he obviously knew the end of his life was imminent when he wrote his second epistle to Timothy. Evidently he had already been tried, convicted, and condemned for preaching Christ, and perhaps the day of his execution was already scheduled. He wrote to Timothy, “I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand” (2 Timothy 4:6).

Naturally, there are notes of profound sadness in Paul’s final epistle. But its dominant theme is triumph, not defeat. Paul wrote that last letter to Timothy to encourage the young pastor to be bold and courageous and to continue following the example he had learned from his apostolic mentor. Far from writing a concession of failure, Paul sounds a clarion note of victory: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Facing his own imminent martyrdom, Paul had no fear, no despondency, and no desire to stay in this world. He longed to be with Christ and eagerly anticipated the reward He would receive in the next world. Therefore, as he reviewed the course of his life, he expressed no regret, no sense of unfulfillment, and no feeling of incompleteness. There was not the smallest duty left undone. He had finished the work the Lord gave him to do, just as in Acts 20:24 he had hoped and prayed he would do: “so that I may finish my race with joy.”

Paul measured his own success as a leader, as an apostle, and as a Christian by a single criterion: He had “kept the faith”—meaning both that he had remained faithful to Christ and that he had kept the message of Christ’s gospel intact, just as he had received it. He had proclaimed the Word of God faithfully and fearlessly. And now he was passing the baton to Timothy and to others, who would be “able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

Therefore, Paul faced his own death with a triumphant spirit and with a deep sense of joy. He had seen the grace of God accomplish all that God designed in him and through him, and now he was ready to meet Christ face-to-face.

Excerpted from The Book on Leadership, 181-84.
© 2004 by John MacArthur.

Source: http://www.gty.org