Friday, February 24, 2006

Armour for Family Worship: Of Perishable and Imperishable Wreaths

1 Corinthians 9:25

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

(Hymn: O Speed Thee, Christian, on Thy Way [Bradfield])

As a family, our exposure to the TV is remarkably limited. We essentially use it for playing the occasional video, and for those rare occasions when there is actually something that might be worth watching. In my opinion, we have the perfect setup. We live in an area that has horrible reception, and the rabbit-ears antenna behind the TV is so limited that we can get no more than five channels of decent reception - and that’s on a good day. So, as you might imagine, the TV is a very limited tool in our home. Don’t feel bad for us, this is more by design than anything else - I like it just the way it is.

The reason why I’m so content that our TV is disfunctional, hard to use and generally something to avoid in our home is this: most television programming today is a cesspool of filth and therefore not worth the time (I’m sorry, am I beating around the bush here?). Amazingly, what has become in our culture a surrogate baby sitter is in reality a device that can fill children with enough filth in a short amount of time sufficient to pollute their minds for a lifetime. Of course, this is not only true regarding television, but every form of media (even highway billboard signs) will either be a vehicle for that which is useful, or more frequently, for that which is utterly vile and reprehensible. As parents, we need to train our children so that they will be wise about the world, without their becoming corrupted by their knowledge of it. Such a philosophy of teaching finds its corollary in the Savior’s training of the disciples:

Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves.”

In this text we have a very important example for a pedagogy of discernment and wisdom. When you think about it, the goal of the parent is the same: to raise children into young adulthood so that they can someday enter into the world as discerning disciples of Christ; and this we do, knowing that this world is filled with many ravenous wolves. What we don’t want to do is to send them out as naïve sheep who are so illiterate about the world around them that they have no way of coping with modern society, and its worldly ways. On the other hand, we don’t want to expose them so extensively to the ills of this planet that we end up corrupting them in the process; therefore, the great challenge for parents is to teach their children discernment, but in a way that seeks to preserve their innocence in relation to worldly corruption.

Just using the TV (or movies) as an example, I find that the problems which prevail in even some of the better programs today can still be used as opportunities to learn about the world in which we live, and how we can apply the wisdom of God’s Word in relation to life. Consider for a moment the winter Olympics. Now I don’t have to name names and list circumstances here in order to suggest that there have been several examples of both good and bad sportsmanship. As it is always the case, you will have those who by God’s grace (common or special) are able to maintain good diligence and dignity in their competition; while others behave themselves like immature children for the whole world to see. As a family, we have had a few moments to watch the games and then discuss them, after all, such life examples can be turned to Scriptural life lessons very easily:

  • We Have a Great Need for Seriousness, Diligence and Godly Priorities: 1 Corinthians 9:25: Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
  • We Have a Great Need to Focus on Christ Throughout Life: Hebrews 12:1-2: 1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
  • We Have a Great Need to Forget What Lies Behind Us in the Race of Life: Philippians 3:13: 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead I press on toward the goal for the prize...

These NT texts remind us that the picture of an athlete competing in a race serves as an important illustration concerning the Christian’s diligence with the Gospel, His fixation on Christ alone and His need to be undistracted by past offenses that have been forgiven by Christ. It also supplies a very real contrast concerning those whose race in life is focused upon the acquisition of a perishable wreath rather than the imperishable one. Sadly, many in America (and the world) literally worship sports, and the Olympic contests offer no small supply of such examples. One young lady, in a recent interview, joyfully confessed that her sport was her life. This is of course sad; but as sad as it is, it is still a very real picture of the world itself. But let us not fixate on just one idol here - whether it is a sport, a career, money, hobbies, relationships or the pursuit of an education, life does boil down to this simple construct: there are only two wreaths - the perishable and the imperishable. Lessons such as these are profitable and enable us to bring the central principles of the Gospel to our children for the sake of their salvation, discernment and purity in life.

A Hymn of Meditation: O Speed Thee, Christian, on Thy Way
Tune by Jean Baptiste Calkin

~ Bradfield ~

1 O speed thee, Christian, on thy way,

And to thy armour cling;

With girded loins the call obey

That grace and mercy bring.

2 There is a battle to be fought,

An upward race to run,

A crown of glory to be sought,

A victory to be won.

3 O faint not, Christian, for thy sighs

Are heard before His throne;

The race must come before the prize,

The cross before the crown.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Global Warming is Real - I Have Proof

I must take a stand here and even run the risk of being at odds with others over this matter concerning global warming. Contrary to the indifference of many, I happen to believe that the subject of global warming is very important and will require some very serious minded examination and study. In fact I am even concerned that, as Christians, we may be missing out on an important opportunity here, especially if we make the mistake of simply brushing this important subject aside.

I know that many today will scoff at some of the current research that is being conducted, but I must go on record here and say that I am convinced that global warming is more than a hypothesis or theory, but is an undeniable reality that will certainly come. And when it does come, it will affect a vast number of people throughout the world. I submit to you that as Christians, we cannot ignore what will in fact take place:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! [2 Peter 3:10-12]
In reality, this is the global warming to end all “global warming.” In the day of the Lord’s wrathful judgment, all of the heavens and the earth will be destroyed by burning such that the elements themselves will melt [teketai] with intense heat.

So much for the first law of thermodynamics.

Well, now that you know that I am not a signer of the Evangelical Climate Initiative, I would offer the following suggestion. The subject of global warming is becoming increasingly popular in our culture and will likely be with us for some time. Rather than counting it a nuisance, we ought to embrace this discussion for the opportunity that it is. Like the Savior, we need to help people to look beyond the earthly and temporal, so that they might consider the eternal salvation that is offered in Christ alone:

John 4:7-14: 7 There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. 9 Therefore the Samaritan woman said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.” 11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 12 “You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” 13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
There is a great beauty in what the Savior did here. The Samaritan woman had her mind set upon physical water, but the Savior used this as an opportunity to speak of the water of eternal life. Rather than spending time talking about how hot it was, or the history of Jacob’s well, the Savior moved from a discussion of the temporal to the eternal. What a needful example this is! The next time that you have an opportunity to have a water-cooler discussion with someone, and they bring up their concerns about global warming, consider how you might respond to them. You could focus on the facts and data that surround the contemporary debate; or, you could accept this as an open door to speak to them about the Savior who extends His hand of mercy to sinners today, but will expend His fiery wrath upon the world when He returns in judgment (Acts 17:31).

Please Note: No donations from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation were used in the creation of this post.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Signs and Wonders Part II: The Treasury of Christ’s Gifts - A Worthy Discussion

  • Introduction & Rules for this Series.
  • Is the Question of Cessationism/Continuationism Worth a Discussion?
  • The Absolute Sufficiency of God’s Word.
  • God’s Providence in History: A Punctuation of the Miraculous.
  • And He Gave Gifts: An Evaluation of Ephesians 4.
  • Understanding 1 Corinthians 12-14: The Fruit of the Spirit is Love.
  • Arguments of Omission and NT Revelation.
  • A Brief Comment About Church History.
  • Conclusion.

In my introductory post, I promised to take my time in getting to this series. The very fact that this introductory post was made nearly three weeks ago proves that I have already fulfilled this promise to take my time! But I must say that I do not intend to take this long between posts again; instead, I hope to stay closer to a once/week schedule in the future (Lord willing). I have been extremely busy due to several factors: my privileges as a husband, father, and pastor have taken every ounce of energy over the last month. Clearly, weblogging is an ancillary priority for me! But I do hope to maintain a stronger stride, especially with this series on cessationism/continuationism.

In this post we will consider why the discussion of God's signs and wonders is important. But first, let us begin by looking into those frequently used terms of cessationism and continuationism. Normally, cessationism and continuationism are labels that are used to identify the question about the duration of God’s supernatural signs and wonders. In addition to this, these terms also bring us into contact with the question concerning the revelatory offices of the Apostles and Prophets. Having said this much thus far, we'll start off with some very basic questions about the Lord's signs, wonders and revelatory gifts, as follows:

  • “Why does God bring about His supernatural signs and wonders...what purpose do they serve?”
  • “Does God accomplish His signs and wonders in the same manner for every generation?”
  • "Does God accomplish His signs and wonders with the same frequency in every generation?"
  • “If He does not accomplish His signs and wonders with such continuity and regularity, then what expectations should be have concerning the Lord’s signs and wonders?”
These last three questions will obviously govern the majority of our study together (in the posts to come), but for now we will focus on the first question concerning the purpose of God’s signs and wonders. When we consult the Scriptures, we find that the signs and wonders of God serve (at least) four important purposes:

  • To disclose God’s glory and power to this world of men, without exception (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:20).
  • To render a clear confirmation of His divine revelation (Joel 2:30-32, Luke 21:25-26).
  • To affirm His uniquely appointed messengers (Romans 15:18-19, 2 Corinthians 12:12).
  • To disclose His glory for all eternity (Revelation 15:1-4).
Much more could be said about the purposes of God’s signs and wonders. For instance, when we say that they serve the purposes of confirming God’s revealed message, along with His messengers, we must subsequently acknowledge that the Lord’s signs and wonders can either serve God’s redemptive purposes (John 4:43-54), or His purposes of judging the wicked (John 12:37-40). We’ll examine those layers of truth later on, but for now we must take a hard look at the aforementioned four points concerning God’s purposes in His signs and wonders. Frankly, just by examining this list, we should conclude that the discussion is important - without a doubt. After all, to say that the signs and wonders of God point to His glory among men; His special revelation to men; His unique messengers among men; and His glory for all eternity is...extremely significant. Such a first layer of observation helps us to understand that this is not a subject that we should just brush aside in order to avoid controversy. Of course, there will be some who might insist that this is a non-issue and that we should all just “live and let live.” Well, some subjects are worthy of deep study and a thorough defense, and this is certainly one of them.

As already stated, when we address the subject of God's signs and wonders, it is necessary to address the matter concerning the Lord's revelatory gifts as well: particularly, do we still have apostles and prophets today? Some will say that there are no apostles, but that there are prophets; some will say that both offices remain with us today, while others will say that both have ceased.

Are these important questions for us to answer? Absolutely!

The offices of Prophet and Apostle have a very important valuation assigned to them. Because of this valuation, we ought to consider the question of their continuation or cessation with great care, after all, the maturity of the church is at stake in these very questions:

Ephesians 4:1-12: 1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;
Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians has a similar structure to many of his other letters. It begins with a doctrinal section (chapters 1-3) and then ends with an exhortation to apply such doctrine (chapters 4-6). This is why the Apostle uses the word “walk” 5 times in chapters 4-6 - his chapters on application. In other words, the Ephesian believers were to take the Apostle’s doctrinal instructions and then walk in accordance with God’s sovereign calling in their life. Notice the way in which he begins this important section on application:

His exhortation to walk in the manner of godly living (according to the calling with which they were called, chapters 1-3) is foundational to his overall thrust in the latter portion this epistle. These instructions to the church at Ephesus remind us that all believers are to walk in a manner that is in keeping with God's calling; as well, such a walk is therefore contrary to our former manner of life (Ephesians 2:1-3, 4:17). Thus, as believers we are to walk in love after the pattern of Christ (Ephesians 5:2); we are to walk as the children of light, rather than in the darkness of this world (Ephesians 5:8); as well, we are to walk in wisdom, rather than in foolishness (Ephesians 5:15). Next, Paul exhorts believers to this walk of wisdom so that we would engage in godly relationships within the church (Ephesians 5:18-21); in our marriages (Ephesians 5:22-33); with our children (Ephesians 6:1-4); and within the world (Ephesians 6:5-18). But before he launches into these important exhortations, Paul helps us to understand all that the Lord has done in order to establish the unity and maturity of the body of Christ:

It is important to note that the Lord is the one who creates the unity of the church, not men; after all, there is one body and one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and he says. Our challenge is to use the very gifts of grace that He has give in order to preserve that unity that He created, rather than to allow it to decay through our own pride, arrogance, impatience, intemperance and indifference toward one another (vs. 2-3). And so we should ask the question: “what gifts have been given to the church for her maturation, and how have they been given?” Well, the gifts that were given to the church are presented in two layers in this section. First there are the gifts of His grace which are manifested in the forms of humility, gentleness, patience, forearance and love as the fruit of the Spirit (vs. 2-3); such gifts are universally given to all members of the body of Christ. Second, we see the unique gifts that have been bestowed upon the church, and they are clearly laid out in verse 11: Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and pastor-teachers. He also explains to us how these gifts were given:

In verse 8, Paul supplies us with a brief reference to Psalm 68 which supplies an important and historic picture of Jehovah's conquest over His enemies. By citing this text, Paul helps us to see the Savior's victory, through His death and ascension, such that He (Christ) was endowed with the spoils of His conquest (Psalm 68:18) sufficient to supply the church with what she needs. Thus, by these endowments of Christ, the church is equipped with everything that she needs in order grow, mature and to proceed in the battles of daily life (Ephesians 6:10-18). Thus the gifts that He obtained through His death, burial and resurrection have been bestowed upon the church through the Holy Spirit's work in her midst, and through the Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and pastors-teachers. Here is an important valuation indeed. When we speak of Christ’s gifts to the church, along with the ...and He gave some as apostles, and some as prophetsaccompanying signs and wonders that were given with Christ's messengers, we understand that we are speaking of the very value of Christ’s own sacrifice which He made on our behalf. What we cannot forget is that His sacrifice not only purchased our salvation in Him, but it also procured the very gifts and riches that have been endowed to His church on this earth - and we are called to spend these riches liberally for the preservation of the unity of the body of Christ: for His glory, and for our Gospel testimony in this world.

In view of all this, I contend that this is not a discussion that should be brushed aside as though it were unimportant!

There is no greater price tag that could be assigned to this discussion concerning Christ’s gifts to the church - I can assure you! Paul’s evaluation of Christ’s gifts should increase our sense of sobriety when discussing the question of cessationism or continuationism. This is why we have begun with a survey of Ephesians chapter 4, for this text answers the question concerning the high value of this discussion about the treasury of Christ’s gifts, as well as the signs and wonders that He has given for the sake of His glory, His message, and His messengers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Interpreting the Message of Homosexuality, Part IV - The Challenge of Evangelism

In the first three posts in this series, we looked at the cultural prevalence of homosexuality and even of effeminate men. Overall, we can see that when men and women defect from their God-ordained roles, the consequences will be many, however the greatest defection of all enters into this realm of men and women exchanging their natural function for that which is unnatural (Romans 1:18-32). But such extreme manifestations of corruption and sin should not detract us from the reality of universal depravity; nor should it alter our understanding of our mission to the lost - homosexual or not. Thus, the singular solution to the problem of homosexuality, or any sin for that matter, is found in the life changing Gospel of Jesus Christ - period.

Well, now that I have told you something that you already know - now what?1 Corinthians 6:11 And such were some of you...

I find that there still is a need to address this subject of evangelism, rather than assume that it is all too obvious to everyone reading this. While all genuine believers would affirm this priority of proclaiming the Gospel, there is however a great disconnect that can develop between what we affirm as being true versus what we are willing to practice in our daily lives; and this is true for all us. Our repulsion to the sins of others can sometimes lead us to forget that before grace, we too exercised great rebellion before God. But our journey through grace must never lead us to think that we are compositionally different than any other sinner in this world. After all, we are cut out of the same fallen fabric as any other descendent of Adam and Eve in this world - and we cannot forget it (Ephesians 2:1-3, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

When contemplating the subject of evangelism and homosexuality, I am brought back to the distant memory of my earliest days as a believer. When I was newly converted I found myself surrounded by a smorgasbord of humanity. At work, my 4 co-laborers were Mormon, Roman Catholic, Unitarian and Buddhist. As you might deduce on your own, such an environment as this supplied me with no shortage of challenges; but the Lord used it all to send me to my knees and into His Word on a daily basis. At home (in my military barracks), I lived in close proximity to a wide variety of men, but one day I found that I had a new neighbor moving in - he was a younger man who was remarkably effeminate. Suspicions grew in our squadron that this man, and a close friend of his, were homosexual. I was only a few months old in the Lord when this happened. Frankly, I remember asking the Lord why it was that I had to be located right across the hall from this person. I was so repulsed by this young man that I wanted to avoid him altogether. But in a short span of time, I was convicted over my own selfishness as I realized that the Lord had His purposes in this. I was also convicted that my focus on his effeminate nature led me to a strange hypcocicy - one that led me to believe (falsely) that I had the right to ignore him. However, I didn’t have that right, and God in His grace spared me of the experience of having to be swallowed by a fish in order to send me over to this young man with the Gospel. What the Lord was teaching me through this experience was that while it is needful for us to be repulsed by sin (all sin), we cannot lose our compassion for lost souls and thus think that our Gospel mission can be altered in any way - for the Lord calls us to be merciful to the lost while hating the pollution of sin in this world:

Jude 21-23: 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life. 22 And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

Spending time with this young man was difficult, but by God’s grace I was able to have several direct conversations with him about Christ. Strangely enough, he was only with us for a few weeks. He and his “friend” were soon discharged from service when it became evident that they were in fact homosexuals. When this happened, my worst suspicions were confirmed. Both of these men were moved out so quickly, that no-one really knew what had happened. Their immediate departure made me all the more glad that the Lord had convicted me of my pride and arrogance so quickly. Who knows if the Scriptures that I shared with that young man will ever take root in his life - only eternity will reveal that; but I thank the Lord that His rebukes to my heart came early, and with such an important lesson; after all, the Lord Jesus Christ was faithful to proclaim good news to wretched sinners - even to myself. Should His disciples be Revelation 21:6 I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.committed to any standard less than that?

As in all things, we must avoid the extremes which tempt us to err on either side. On the one hand we cannot ignore sin in an effort to be loving and gracious to others; and on the other hand, we cannot allow our focus on particular sins to steer us away from others who need the Gospel just as desperately as we did before we were redeemed by God’s grace. Our Lord is not a respecter of persons, and He delights in magnifying His grace and mercy through those whom He redeems. It is certainly not up to us to determine who will be His vessels of mercy or wrath - that is His choice, and His choice alone.

Of Short Order Prophets and Their “New” Wares

I discovered an interesting link at Fide-O that reveals the growing trend of what I call “short order spirituality”:

We can get anything we want, from anywhere in the world, whenever we want it. That's how it is and that's how we want it to be. Still, our lives aren't any different than other generations before us. Our time is. We want spiritual direction, but it has to be real for us and available when we need it. We want a new format for getting Christian perspectives. NOOMA is the new format. [Rob Bell of NOOMA]

Whenever someone claims to have something new, it becomes important to make a necessary clarification. Despite what Mr. Bell says, NOOMA is not new in the broader scheme of things. Clearly, the appeal for for a new format in spirituality is - not new:

Ecclesiastes 1:10 Is there anything of which one might say, “See this, it is new?” Already it has existed for ages which were before us.

Despite Mr. Bell’s attempts to “repaint” Christianity, as he puts it, God's ancient method of offering spiritual direction has always been found in the daily labor of hiding God's Word in our heart (Psalm 119:11) and seeking Him in continual prayer (Ephesian 6:18). Such an approach to spiritual growth means having to live our Christian lives without a video screen. More than this, such an approach to spiritual direction means having to accept the Lord’s guidance in our lives on His terms, rather than on our own.

We are oftentimes impatient concerning the Lord’s leading in our life. Too many times we want the Lord to answer our prayers immediately, or for Him to give us a clear sense of direction concerning the choices we must make in our lives, when in reality, it is the Lord’s will that we learn how to wait upon Him for spiritual direction through prayer and by meditating on His written Word. In an impatient society which expects to receive things instantly and easily, the ideas of waiting upon the Lord, or working out our salvation with fear and trembling, are now passé. Many times we find ourselves seeking the Lord and needing to wait on Him, rather than getting a quick fix (Psalm 27:14); or even struggling over our despair and sorrow as we cry out to the Lord in prayer (Psalm 6:6). Such disciplines of the Christian life require active diligence and perseverance through the Spirit's continued work within us. But in this microwave culture of ours, there are those who want to be able to set the timer and cook up spiritual maturity on demand. Such a short order spirituality is not new at all, but has existed for ages which were before us.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

POST 1920: Christ, Our Righteous Substitute

~Gleaning Light from the Luminaries of the Past~

Proverbs 19:20: Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future (ESV).

The Reformers of yesteryear would have shown little patience towards those today who make light of the doctrines of grace, and who vainly imagine that men can render even the slightest contribution to their own redemption. What was counted as repugnant doctrine among men like John Calvin is often tolerated as a legitimate alternative within the realm of modern “Evangelicalism.” This shift, from a sound doctrinal guardianship to a more tolerant approach to the core truths of of theology and soteriology, has continued to advance to the present day. But when you read the works of those men of the past who had to endure great hardship and persecution over these issues, you find the precious sobriety of men who comprehended that this is no game. Consider the following from John Calvin:

“The Lord having so often declared that he recognizes no justification by works unless they be works by which the Law is perfectly fulfilled, how perverse is it, while we are devoid of such works, to endeavor to secure some ground of glorying to ourselves; that is not to yield it entirely to God, by boasting of some kind of fragments of works, and trying to supply the deficiency by other satisfactions? Satisfactions have already been so completely disposed of, that we ought never again even to dream of them. Here all I say is, that those who thus trifle with sin do not at all consider how execrable it is in the sight of God; if they did, they would assuredly understand, that all the righteousness of men collected into one heap would be inadequate to compensate for a single sin. For we see that by one sin man was so cast off and forsaken by God, that he at the same time lost all power of recovering salvation. He was, therefore, deprived of the power of giving satisfaction. Those who flatter themselves with this idea will never satisfy God, who cannot possibly accept or be pleased with anything that proceeds from his enemies. But all to whom he imputes sin are enemies, and, therefore, our sins must be covered and forgiven before the Lord has respect to any of our works. From this it follows, that the forgiveness of sins is gratuitous, and this forgiveness is wickedly insulted by those who introduce the idea of satisfaction. Let us, therefore, after the example of the Apostle, ‘forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,’ ‘press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ,’ (Phil. 3:13, 14).” Calvin, J., Institutes of the Christian religion. (III, xiv, 13).

Mark the sobriety of Calvin’s rebuke: the Lord’s forgiveness of sin “is wickedly insulted” by those who introduce the idea of satisfaction by human means. Calvin pulls no punches here. To suggest that there is anything that a man can do to appease Almighty God is nothing less than a pure mockery of divine grace. As Calvin said, by one sin man lost all power of recovering salvation. Let there be no doubt concerning Calvin’s unqualified “all” in this passage - for as it is with the Apostles’ doctrine, so it is with the Reformers: By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified (Galatians 2:16). Such a point as this is no small matter, for mankind’s powerlessness through sin is the Savior’s great glory in our redemption.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Supreme Court

Release Date:

February 3rd, 2006

The Supreme Court

Last year our family had the unique opportunity of attending the final senate judiciary committee meeting for Chief Justice John Roberts. Frankly, it was one of the highlights of our entire week in Washington D.C. this last September. Our family of seven barely fit inside that standing-room-only chamber where the final vote was taken, but it was certainly worth it all! Afterwards, I spoke to our children about the importance of establishing justice in a society of imperfect, sinful people; and that without the standard of law in our land our society would be given over to pure anarchy and mayhem. This also gave me the opportunity to decipher some of the debate that they heard in the hearing, which then led us to the important question concerning the very nature of truth: “does truth change from generation to generation by the whim and judgment of men, or is truth a static entity that is fixed for all time?” During those discussions, I couldn’t help but to think that such a simple question as this is not only the stuff of a children’s lesson, but it is one of the most central questions for all mankind!

By nature we humans often want to believe that truth can change, especially if that change can render a perceived benefit to us. But when we consider the reality of absolute truth, we must first comprehend the simple fact that there is no variation or shifting shadow in the Lord Himself, nor in His truth (James 1:17). You won’t wake up tomorrow and find that murder, theft and lying are acceptable forms of behavior; or that the laws of physics have been overturned. The constancy of the Universe is itself a faint illustration of the immutable nature of God and His eternal Word; thus we must never liken the Lord to the shifting sands of the sea, because He is the solid and immovable Rock upon which the believer stands (Malachi 3:6, Deuteronomy 32:4). Such thoughts ought to be comforting to us, for they yield the assurance that in the days to come our police officers won’t be charged to ignore violent crime, nor will we float out into space due to the absence of gravity. But sadly, this concept of absolute truth is often seen as a troubling nuisance by selfish men and women who will gladly murder, steal or lie in order to fulfill their objectives in life. Conversely, it even gets in the way of people who wish to believe that they deserve the reward of heaven because of the things that they have done in this life – but this too is a gross error: “...a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). I am always amazed whenever the Bible repeats itself like this. Three times the Apostle declares that we are not justified by our own works. And why the repetition? Because apparently we need to hear this again, and again, and again. This brings us to an important conflict: not only are God’s laws immutably binding, but we also see that our observance of His laws cannot merit us a place in heaven – so what hope is there in our works?

Answer: None.

That’s right. There is no hope for men to be justified by their own works of the law. All men are criminals in view of their sin (Romans 3:23), and therefore the wrath of God abides on all who have not placed their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ (John3:36). Mankind’s singular hope is to believe in the only One who perfectly fulfilled all of the requirements of God’s unchanging Law - and that One is the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 10:4). How we often hear people citing John 3:16, but without the verses that follow. Yes, God did lovingly send His only begotten Son (v.16), but then Christ also issued this severe warning in verse 18: “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Men and women who have not placed their faith and trust in Christ have been judged already. Thus, all humanity will be adjudicated in God’s Supreme Court by this very standard of whether we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ in this life – or not. And when His judgment is complete, there will be no filibusters; no petitions heard; no protests permitted; and not a single appeal will be entertained. God’s absolute truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ will not be modified in order to accommodate those who rejected Him in this life. Therefore, knowing that all mankind will make this court appearance one day, you must consider how you will appear before the Chief Justice of all Creation. Are you hoping to be justified by your own works of the law? Are you expecting to have an opportunity to make a final appeal, or offer some excuses for why you refused to believe in Christ and follow Him in this life? Or will you be able to genuinely confess that you truly believed in the Savior, trusting in His finished work on the cross alone? I urge you to consider these important matters because the eternal state of your soul depends upon these very questions. Pilgrim Bible Church, Pastor M. J. Beasley.