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Monday, November 29, 2010

That "All" Should Come to Repentance?

By Justin Edwards

John Samson from Effectual Grace addressed two passages of Scripture recently where many get hung up due to not understanding the proper context. These passages are often used to argue against the Doctrines of Grace, but understood correctly, they give strong credence to these biblical truths.

The first passage of Scripture is found in 2 Peter 3:9:

The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

John's argument for this text can be found here: Understanding 2 Peter 3:9

The second difficult passage is from 1 Timothy 2:4:

who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

John's argument for this Scripture can be found here: Understanding 1 Timothy 2:4

As John explains,

We can go for many years without asking questions about a text of Scripture because we assume we have already understood it. This is the very hallmark of tradition. Blind to our own assumptions we see no need to look at the text objectively and see if our understanding of the text can be verified by the text itself. However, if we take a deep breath and summon up the courage to ask the simple question, “what does the context tell us about the use of the word “all” here?”, I believe we will come away with the correct interpretation. Actually, it is absolutely vital we do this because context tells us how a word is being used.

Before reading these articles, I encourage you to check any preconceived notions or traditions at the door and ask God to give you a fresh pair of eyes to read these passages in context. Though I trusted God's sovereignty in salvation, I had not yet fully addressed these passages to gain better understanding in how they are reconciled with sovereign election. In reading John's two articles, the light bulb has come on for me and I can now understand them in their proper contexts.

If you haven't been following Effectual Grace, which has only been online for about a month, now is a great time to start. John's succinct articles provide wonderful insight into some of the most difficult passages of Scripture, especially as they relate to the sovereignty of God and what we know as the Doctrines of Grace.

May you continue to grow in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What I'm Thankful For

By Justin Edwards

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I am thankful to my God and Savior Jesus Christ for pulling me out of the flames of hell, who granted me eternal life according to His own good purposes, for His own good pleasure, and according to the counsel of His own will, to the praise of His own glory. I am thankful for His enduring mercy, patience, and love toward a wretch like me. I am thankful that He removed the scales from my eyes, that He gave me a heart of flesh, and granted me repentance in March 2009. And I am thankful for the work He continues to do in me, conforming me to the Lord Jesus Christ, renewing my mind by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, and producing in me a joyful desire to present my body as a living sacrifice to Him.

I am thankful for the godly wife He has so blessed me. I am thankful to be able to watch her grow in her relationship with the Lord. I am thankful for her love for me, and especially her patience. I am thankful of her support in my God-pursuing endeavors, and I am thankful for her trust and expectation of me to be the godly leader of our home.

I am thankful for our two healthy children God has graced us with. I am thankful for the responsibility to raise them according to His ways.

I am thankful for the desire and the opportunities He has blessed me with to share the Good News with the lost.

I am thankful for the opportunities to love and serve as many as God lays before me.

I am thankful for my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who challenge me, encourage me, exhort me, admonish me, love me, and influence me to pursue a holy life.

I am thankful for my church to which God has led us. I am thankful for our God-exalting choir and orchestra, the leaders over the many ministries, the church's passion for Jesus Christ and to make His name known around the world, and I am thankful for our shepherd, Loran Livingston, who God appointed to lead this flock who does not compromise the truth and stands firm on the whole counsel of Almighty God.

I am thankful for my immediate and extended family He has blessed me with - a large family who grew up together, laughed together, cried together, has shared many great memories together, and has been there for each other through many ups and downs.

I am thankful for the many godly men God has raised up and afforded the means to reach millions worldwide through the internet. These men have greatly influenced my life, and I am thankful for their submission to the Lord Jesus Christ to be used for the building of His Kingdom.

I am thankful for this blog that God has entrusted me with to declare the eternal truths of His Word.

I am thankful for the online discernment ministries God has raised up to contend for the faith.

I am thankful for the trials and afflictions I go through as God uses them to perform His perfect work in me and they serve to bear witness for Christ.

I am thankful for the providence of God to draw the Puritans to America, where they faced many tribulations, to the point of elimination, except that God had already prepared an English-speaking Indian named Squanto to facilitate these Pilgrims' survival (here's an excellent account of the events leading up to the first Thanksgiving: Historian Peter Marshall on Thanksgiving).

I am thankful for being born in the United States of America, though our freedoms are waning, we are still able to worship freely and share the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I am thankful for our military who volunteer to defend our freedom with their blood and with their lives.

I am thankful for the many temporal things the Provider has so blessed us. I am thankful for our jobs, our home, our vehicles, a safe neighborhood, our clothes, and hot food.

And last but certainly not least, I am thankful to my many online friends, my brothers and sisters in Christ, who I have met and come to cherish over the last couple of years. Though we've never met face to face, I look forward to that soon day where we will meet each other before our Sovereign King - oh what a day that will be!

I am thankful for many things. The kindness of the Lord and the good things He has done for someone as unworthy as me is so humbling. I am thankful for God revealing Himself to me in His Word and His creation each day, for giving me a hunger and thirst to know Him more, which produces in me the capacity to love Him more.

May each one of you reading this blog today be reminded of the many things for which you should be thankful. His mercy is infinite for His children, and that indeed is something we should never take for granted. Writing this short piece has made me realize I do not thank Him enough for all of His many blessings, and as the great saint of the Lord, Charles Hadden Spurgeon so rightly said,

If we will only think, we shall begin to thank.

May you have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sovereign Grace in the Garden

By Justin Edwards

I recently began reading Dr. Steven Lawson's Foundations of Grace: A Long Line of Godly Men, volume 1 of a 5-volume series on the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God. In my thirst to gain deeper understanding of the doctrines of grace, I found the premise of Foundations of Grace to be most intriguing. In this first volume, Dr. Lawson surveys the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, from Moses to the prophets to Jesus to the Apostles, to clearly show these doctrines resound through the Word of God. As this first installment is the foundation from which the remaining series will be built, latter volumes will focus on the early church fathers, the reformers, the Puritans, stalwarts of the 17th and 18th centuries, and modern men of God who were chosen by Him to proclaim these sovereign truths. For more details on the projected series, please go here. You can also read Amazon reviews in addition to the foreword and afterword from John MacArthur and R.C. Sproul, respectively, here.

The second chapter of Foundations of Grace titled, "Where the Long Line Begins: The Lawgiver Moses - Genesis", takes us through God's sovereignty in creation and His sovereign attributes in relation to the salvation of sinners. It further displays God's sovereignty in the lives of His chosen vessels found in the book of Genesis. In reading of God's sovereign initiative for the redemption of His people, I stand in awe to witness this truth come alive from the first pages of Scripture. Though Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, His mercy and love for His children is reflected through a bloody sacrifice to restore Adam and Eve to Himself. This is a picture of what the Lord Jesus Christ would one day accomplish to redeem His people - the innocent Lamb of God sacrificing Himself for the guilty.

The following excerpt is taken from page 64 of Foundations of Grace:

Specific Substitution. In the garden, God also gave a symbolic picture of the future death of Christ for His chosen ones. By His sovereign initiative, He made conveings for the nakedness of the first couple:

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21

The Lord Himself killed an innocent animal and made coverings for the nakedness and guilt of Adam and Eve. This was the first death in God's newly created world - a slain sacrifice. This animal was killed at the hands of God Himself, and He provided its skin freely for the first couple as an expression restoring Adam's and Eve's relationship with Himself. This bloody sacrifice pictured the coming of Christ into the world to redeem His people. God's Son would be the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of His people (John 1:29, 36). His sacrifice alone would provide a covering for the exposed nakedness of Adam and Eve's guilt.

In explaining this substitutionary death, [Dr. James] Boice points out that it symbolized the shed blood and perfect righteousness of Christ. Boice writes: "In order to make clothes of skin, God had to kill animals. It was the first death Adam and Eve had witnessed, as far as we know. It must have seemed horrible to them and have made an indelible impression. 'So this is what death is; this is what sin causes,' they must have exclaimed. But even more important, the death of the animals must have taught them the principle of substitution, the innocent dying for the guilty, just as the innocent Son of God would one day die for the sins of those God was giving to him. When God clothed our first parents in the animals' skins, Adam and Eve must have had at least a first faint glimmer of the doctrine of imputed righteousness...God saved Adam and Eve from their sins by clothing them in the heavenly righteousness of Jesus Christ, which he symbolized by their being clothed with skins of animals."

I hope that gives you a taste of what to expect from this most fascinating book demonstrating the "joy-giving, life-changing, Christ-exalting, God-glorifying, missions-motivating, evangelism-encouraging, and discipleship-promoting truths" of the doctrines of grace and the sovereignty of God (1). Though I am just beginning chapter 3, I am driven with anticipation to grow deeper in understanding of these magnificent truths. The more I learn of God's sovereignty, the more I rest in His grace and humbly rejoice in His mercy toward me. If you would also like to discover or sharpen your understanding of the doctrines of grace, then Foundations of Grace is a must-read for you. May God be glorified in our pursuit to know and love Him more.

(1) Review by J. Ligon Duncan III, PhD, Senior Minister First Baptist Church, Jackson MS

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two Ways (Life or Destruction)

By Mike Ratliff

Go in through the narrow gate; because wide is the gate and broad is the way leading to destruction and many are those going in through it. How narrow the gate and how hard is the way that leads to life and few are the ones finding it! (a personal translation of Matthew 7:13,14 from the Greek text)

Εἰσέλθετε διὰ τῆς στενῆς πύλης· ὅτι πλατεῖα ἡ πύλη καὶ εὐρύχωρος ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ἀπώλειαν, καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι δι᾿ αὐτῆς. ὅτι στενὴ ἡ πύλη καὶ τεθλιμμένη ἡ ὁδὸς ἡ ἀπάγουσα εἰς τὴν ζωήν, καὶ ὀλίγοι εἰσὶν οἱ εὑρίσκοντες αὐτήν. (Matthew 7:13,14 GNT)

It has been said that no prophet preached about Hell as much as our Lord Jesus Christ. It is also true that His preaching would be considered “divisive” and “offensive” in today’s politically correct culture. However, I seriously doubt that if preaching the truth or hurting someone’s feelings or offending someone’s “sensibilities” were the issue with our Lord it would make any difference. He would not hesitate to preach the truth because in God’s truth is life. In man-made truth is only death. Consider the passage at the top of this post. The lie that has taken over our society is that it is a sin to be narrow-minded. We must be as broad and as accepting as possible. We must be all-inclusive in all things to the point of madness. From this our enemy has sown the lies such as “There are many roads to heaven,” and since God is a good God He must also me a “fair God” so “eventually everyone will be saved.” The problems with this are that this “god” is a creation of these people’s wishful thinking not The God, our God, the Creator of all things. Also, in His Word, our Lord Jesus taught exactly the opposite of this as the passage above clearly says.

The word I translated from Matthew 7:13 as “way” is ὁδὸς or hodos, “a way, road, highway, or street in their many possible forms.”

Nearly half (46x) the occurrences of this word are figurative in meaning, focusing on the course one takes in life. Jesus speaks of the “road” to life: the gate that leas to it is small, and the “road” itself is small, while the “way” to destruction is through a wide gate and the “way” itself is broad. Many go to destruction; few travel to life (Mt. 7:13-14). There are thus, in life. only two possible roads to travel; there is no third option! Ultimately Jesus is “the way (Jn 14:6: Acts 18:25-26; Heb. 10”20) to life as God intends it to be lived. He is also the one who will “guide our feet into the path of peace” (Lk. 1:79; cf. Rom. 3:17). – Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words, page 779.

Jesus said to him; I am the way and the truth and the life; not one come to the Father except through me. (a personal translation of John 14:6 from the Greek text)

There is the way to life. Jesus made that very clear. This is the narrow gate that leads to the hard way that leads to life (emphasis added). If you listen to popular preaching in our time you will never hear this. No, you will hear things like Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life and all you have to do is make some sort of decision, find that vision God has for you, exhibit audacious faith, and God will then bless you with abundant living. Well, that isn’t what Jesus says here at all. He says that the gate to salvation is narrow. This is the Greek word στενῆς the genitive singular form of στενός or stenos. Genitive is similar to the English possessive case, however, here we are seeing that Matthew, inspired by God, is using the word for “narrow” to give special meaning to the head noun, which, here, is “gate.” The word describes a gate that is constricted and precise, which is exactly what true salvation by faith through Christ alone is. This is God’s way that leads to life eternal. The wide gate is the exact opposite. It includes all religions of works and self-righteousness, with no single way (Acts 4:12), but leads to Hell, not Heaven (emphasis added).

Notice also that the narrow gate leads to the hard way that leads to life eternal. What is this talking about? Jesus pulled no punches. He always emphasized the difficulty of following Him (Matthew 10:38; 16:24; John 15:18, 19, 16:1-3; cf. Acts 14:22). Genuine salvation is by grace alone, but it is not easy. It calls for knowledge of the truth, repentance, submission to Christ as Lord, and a willingness to obey His will and Word. Notice that I preceded all of that by say salvation is by grace alone. This obedience is only possible for us by this grace as well. Our Lord said in John 15:1-5, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (ESV)

Notice especially the part I put in italics. There are some who claim that those of us who teach that salvation is according to the Sovereignty of God and what is called Lordship salvation are preaching a damnable heresy and works righteousness. They are biblically ignorant. I preach and teach only what God’s Word says. We are completely incapable of any good work unless we abide in Christ by His grace and through that He enables us to obey Him. No one is saved unless they turn in repentance to Him as Lord according the faith given to them by God at their quickening. (Ephesians 2:8,9). Remember we do not make Jesus Lord, He is Lord (emphasis added). What did our Lord say about that in John 14:6 above? How about this passage:

“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? (Matthew 16:24-26 ESV)

This is a description of what Lordship salvation is. We must follow Jesus as Lord or He is not our Lord for He also said (emphasis added):

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39 ESV)

So you see, the gate to life is narrow and way to life is hard and only a few find the gate and only a few take the hard way while the multitude take the broad gate and easy way that only leads to eternal damnation. There is only two ways. If you are on the narrow, hard way then praise God, glory be His name. However, if you are pridefully refusing to go any way but your own way or the way that “feels good” or the the way “that’s cool” or the way “that’s politically correct” well then, you are on the broad way and I pray for God to open your eyes to the truth before it is too late
(emphasis added).

Soli Deo Gloria!

(HT: Possessing the Treasure)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blessed Purity

By Justin Edwards

I have been meaning to listen to Dr. Steven Lawson's message from the 2009 Resolved Conference, "Blessed Purity", for quite some time now, but just last week finally got around to do so - and I'm so thankful I did. Over the last several months I have had the opportunity to read and listen to some great messages on the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, but I must say this may be the most important I have heard to date.  By the words of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see the spiritual evolution from the broken sinner to the sanctified saint. While Dr. Lawson goes through each beatitude with fine exegetical precision, his focus of this message is the 6th beatitude in Matthew 5:8,

  Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.

We must understand it is only the pure in heart who will see God. It is only they who will enter through the Narrow Gate, it is only they who will enter into the King's court, and it is only they who will inherit eternal life. Those who bear the religious facade, whose repentance is superficial and rooted in worldly sorrow, whose hands are unclean and whose hearts are impure, not only will they not see God, but they will face His everlasting wrath should they die with hearts of stone. Are you the former or latter?

Dr. Lawson begins with the four spiritual laws by which we may be saved and are found in verses3-6. Matthew 5:3,

  Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Only those who recognize their spiritual bankruptcy before a Holy God will enter the kingdom of heaven. We must realize we have broken the Law of God and fall short of His perfect standard. There is no one righteous and it is only by the perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus that we may be justified before God. Jesus only came to save sinners, therefore it is only those recognize themselves as such who may be saved.

Matthew 5:4,

  Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.

Only those who are broken and sorrow over their sin will be comforted by the grace of a merciful God. But this is not just any sorrow as we see in 2 Corinthians 7:10,

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

It is godly sorrow, the kind of sorrow that pierces the soul for offending God, that leads to the Peace that passes all understanding. Understanding and grieving over the depths of our sin produces in us the desire to put on the yoke of Christ, which, though this yoke be easy, leads us to walk in practical righteousness. These then, are the meek of Matthew 5:5:

  Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.

Only those who humbly submit their lives to the Master shall inherit the earth. These who grieve over their sin and surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ are in a right position to be instructed, directed, and guided by the One leading them in the Shepherd's yoke. They are gentle and lowly in heart and yield themselves to the authority of King Jesus. As they surrender themselves to this King, they hunger and thirst for the King's righteousness. Matthew 5:6,

  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.

The lowly, poor and broken spirit cry out to the only righteousness that will clothe them perfection. While our righteous works are but filthy rags, the righteousness of Christ is faultless and is the Rock by which we must build our foundation. The righteousness of Christ is the narrow gate we must each pass through, and those whose pride pave the way through the broad gate of self-righteousness and idolatry (creating a god in their own image) will only find destruction through its passage.

Those who pass through the narrow gate by the sovereign grace of God will continue to be poor in spirit, they will continue to weep when they sin against God, they will continue to be meek, and they will continue to thirst for the righteousness of Christ. Not only that, but they will continue to be pure in heart as God continues to set them further apart from the world. The moment we are justified by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit begins a work in us that He will see to completion. This work is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit through sanctification. Those who undergo this refinement by fire are the pure in heart, and they are most blessed for they will see God.

The heart is our very soul and the most important thing in us before God. I challenge you to conduct a word-search of "heart" to see just how often it is referred to in Scripture.  Our heart is where our motives, affections, and will reside. It is where we resolve to work in step with the Holy Spirit to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.  When God sets us apart by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, He calls us to continue to separate ourselves from the world (1 John 2:15) and present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1). In reference to a pure heart, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:22,

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

A pure heart is only possible by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:4-5,

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
In Titus 2:11-12 we see the grace of God that brings salvation teaches that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age...

1 John 3:3 tells us,

And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

Those with pure hearts have been washed and renewed by the Holy Spirit. They have been covered by the grace of God that brings forth saving faith, which results in the pursuit of godliness, righteousness, faith, love, and peace. In short, God's work of justification must yield His work of sanctification. Only those with pure hearts will be sanctified, and only those who are sanctified will see God.

I cannot possibly share all of my notes from Dr. Steven Lawson's message here due to length. But you will find an outline of the remainder of Dr. Lawson's message below where he hones in on the heart:

1. Priority of the heart
2. Purity of the heart
3. Problem of the heart
4. Purifying of the heart
     a.Wash in the Word (Psalm 119:11, Ephesians 5:26)
     b. Bathe in the blood (Psalm 51:2, 1 John 1:9)
     c. Submit to Spirit (Romans 1:4, 2 Corinthians 3:18)
     d. Pray for purity (Job 14:4, Psalm 51:7, 10)
     e. Run with the righteous (Proverbs 13:20, 1 Corinthians 15:33)
5. Privilege of the heart
     a. We see God in creation (Romans 1:20, Psalm 19:1-4)
     b. We see God in providence (Romans 8:28)
     c. We see God in Scripture
     d. We see God in Christ (John 14:9-10)
     e. One day we will see God face to face (Revelation 22:4)

What is the condition of your heart?  Do you continue to justify your sins against God? Do you continue to live a lifestyle that is totally contrary to the nature of God? Do you love the world? Does sin have dominion over you? Are you proud? Do you have need of nothing? If asked about your spiritual condition, would you say, "I'm ok, don't worry about me"? Dear friend, it is only those who habitually confess and repent of their sin, who hate the things God hates and love the things He loves, who love His Word and His Church, who are not controlled by their flesh nor slaves of sin, who have humbled themselves before the Lord and donned the yoke of Jesus Christ, who have been justified by the righteousness of Christ and purified by His Spirit - only these will see God.

You will never see God if your heart is still one of stone. You will never see God if your heart is impure and your hands unclean. You must have a heart of flesh, and you must be poor in spirit, you must be broken over your sin, you must be meek, and you must hunger and thirst for the righteousness of Jesus Christ. You can only be these things if you have been given eyes to see and ears to hear. No amount of outward religious activities or deeds will make you pure. Purity only comes from the inward work of the Holy Spirit. You must be washed - you must be born again! Cry out to God and plead with Him to save you and He will!

Don't you want to see God? He will not only save you from His wrath, but He will save you from your sins. You must be set apart. You must be pure. Turn to Him today and be healed so you can see Him face to face.

Dr. Lawson's message, Blessed Purity, can be viewed in the video below or downloaded for your mp3 player here: Blessed Purity mp3

  Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
         Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
         Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
         Nor sworn deceitfully. - Psalm 24:3-4

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Can Man Choose God?

By Justin Edwards

Does man have the ability to choose God? What is man's free will? Can man, out of his own volition, choose to respond to God's call to repentance apart from His sovereign grace?

John Samson from the Effectual Grace blog answers these questions and more in his article, Three Views on Man's Condition. By no means an exhaustive presentation on the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, John presents three different views on the condition of man, namely Pelagianism, Synergism, and Monergism. In defining Divine monergism (the doctrine that God saves by His Divine power alone), John explains,

Lazarus, being a lifeless corpse in the tomb, did not cooperate with Christ with regard to his own resurrection. Jesus simply cried out “Lazarus come forth!” and this call was powerful and sufficient in and of itself to bring dead Lazarus back to life. Christ did not interview the dead man Lazarus and ask if he would like to be resurrected, and once he got the “all clear” went ahead with his plan, now having obtained Lazarus’ permission and assent. Nor did Lazarus, once brought back to life, immediately take Jesus to court in attempt to sue him for violating his free will – his libertarian rights as a dead man to stay dead! No, for the rest of his earthly life, Lazarus was deeply grateful for the unspeakable mercy he had received from the Master.

This is a beautiful picture of what God does in our regeneration from spiritual death. Man, once receiving this grace of regeneration, then infallibly responds in faith to the effectual call of God.

By effectual grace, John simply means that all of whom God has called will indeed come. We see this clearly in John 6:37

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

Without God's spiritual awakening of our hearts, without His making us alive while we were yet the walking dead, without His removing our spiritual blindness, we cannot awake, we cannot be made alive, and we cannot see the truth of our depraved condition before a holy God and the need for His redeeming blood. It is by His grace we are saved, and those He has called by His grace will indeed respond to the calling. His grace is therefore effectually applied, or absolutely effective. God's grace will bring about it's intended effect. In other words, His sovereign grace cannot be resisted, and that is a glorious truth! This effectual grace guarantees a redeemed Church for which Christ shed His blood, otherwise Christ would have died in vain as man's free will leads him to choose himself, not God.

Please continue to John's article to read the different views on the condition of man:  Three Views on Man's Condition

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mormon Parents Can't Be Scout Leaders Says Local Church

By Justin Edwards

The Defending.Contending blog posted an important news story regarding a Mormon couple's desire to be leaders of a Boy Scout troop chartered by Christ Covenant Church of Matthews, NC. As my family once attended this church and my brother was enrolled in its grade school for a couple years, it's very encouraging to learn they are standing firm for the truth and resisting to compromise on this issue.

Indeed, Mormons are not Christians because they reject the essential doctrines of the faith including the doctrine of the Trinity, justification by faith alone, and the sufficiency of Christ's death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. Mormon doctrine also teaches polytheism (there is more than one god), that a good Mormon may become a god, that Jesus is a created being, that God was once a man who achieved godhood, different levels of heaven, and they believe the Book of Mormon is greater than the Bible. To learn more about the false teachings of the cult of Mormonism and how you can equip yourself to love Mormons through the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, please visit the Cults and World Religions page.

Here's the story from Defending.Contending:

Back in September we reported on a sad co-mingling with Mormonism by a Presbyterian church (see Compromising with a cult), but today we are pleased to report of another Presbyterian church not willing to compromise with LDS, much to the chagrin of some Mormons.

Hats off to Christ Covenant Church for being one of the few churches left in America who stills sees a difference between truth and error, right and wrong, and light and darkness.

This story was first reported here in the Charlotte Observer and contained the typical appeals from Mormons for us to accept them as true Christians (citing such evidences as the name of their church and a picture of “Jesus” in their living room as proof of their Christianity). The story also has a bit of irony to it when it reports:

“Mormon Bishop Rowlan, who heads the Stokes’ Weddington church, would not say whether he would be open to naming a non-Mormon as a Scouting leader.

‘I’d have to take each one on an individual basis,’ he said, adding that that is the policy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

The folks over at Mormon Coffee did a great job answering some of the remarks made in the article found on their site here, and they even went so far as to answer inevitably predictable questions here.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sanctification - The Christian Grows in Grace

By J.I. Packer (from Concise Theology)

"Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?...And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9, 11).

Sanctification, says the Westminster Shorter Catechism (Q.35), is "the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness." The concept is not of sin being totally eradicated (that is to claim too much) or merely counteracted (that is to say too little), but of a divinely wrought character change freeing us from sinful habits and forming in us Christlike affections, dispositions, and virtues.

Sanctification is an ongoing transformation within a maintained consecration, and it engenders real righteousness within the frame of relational holiness. Relational sanctification, the state of being permanently set apart for God, flows from the cross, where God through Christ purchased and claimed us for himself (Acts 20:28; 26:18; Heb. 10:10). Moral renovation, whereby we are increasingly changed from what we once were, flows from the agency of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:13; 12:1-2; 1 Cor. 6:11, 19-20; 2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 13:20-21). God calls his children to sanctity and graciously gives what he commands (1 Thess. 4:4; 5:23).

Regeneration is birth; sanctification is growth. In regeneration, God implants desires that were not there before: desire for God, for holiness, and for the hallowing and glorifying of God's name in this world; desire to pray, worship, love, serve, honor, and please God; desire to show love and bring benefit to others. In sanctification, the Holy Spirit "works in you to will and to act" according to God's purpose; what he does is prompt you to "work out your salvation" (i.e., express it in action) by fulfilling these new desires (Phil. 2:12-13). Christians become increasingly Christlike as the moral profile of Jesus (the "fruit of the Spirit") is progressively formed in them (2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; 5:22-25). Paul's use of glory in 2 Corinthians 3:18 shows that for him sanctification of character is glorification begun. Then the physical transformation that gives us a body like Christ's, one that will match our totally transformed character and be a perfect means of expressing it, will be glorification completed (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:49-53).

Regeneration was a momentary monergistic act of quickening the spiritually dead. As such, it was God's work alone. Sanctification, however, is in one sense synergistic - it is an ongoing cooperative process in which regenerate persons, alive to God and freed from sin's dominion (Rom. 6:11, 14-18), are required to exert themselves in sustained obedience. God's method of sanctification is neither activism (self-reliant activity) nor apathy (God-reliant passivity), but God-dependent effort (2 Cor. 7:1; Phil. 3:10-14; Heb. 12:14). Knowing that without Christ's enabling we can do nothing, morally speaking, as we should, and that he is ready to strengthen us for all that we have to do (Phil. 4:13), we "stay put" (remain, abide) in Christ, asking for his help constantly - and we receive it (Col. 1:11; 1 Tim. 1:12; 2 Tim. 1:7; 2:1).

The standard to which God's work of sanctifying his saints is directed is his own revealed moral law, as expounded and modeled by Christ himself. Christ's love, humility, and patience under pressure are to be consciously imitated (Eph. 5:2; Phil. 2:5-11; 1 Pet. 2:21), for a Christlike spirit and attitude are part of what law-keeping involves.

Believers find within themselves contrary urgings. The Spirit sustains their regenerate desires and purposes; their fallen, Adamic instincts (the "flesh") which, though dethroned, are not yet destroyed, constantly distract them from doing God's will and allure them along paths that lead to death (Gal. 5:16-17; James 1:14-15). To clarify the relationship between the law and sin, Paul analyzes in a personal and dramatic way the sense of impotence for complete law-keeping, and the enslavement to behavior one dislikes, that the Spirit-flesh tension produces (Rom. 7:14-25). This conflict and frustration will be with Christians as long as they are in the body. Yet by watching and praying against temptation, and cultivating opposite virtues, they may through the Spirit's help "mortify" (i.e., drain the life out of, weaken as a means of killing) particular bad habits, and in that sense more and more die unto sin (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5). They will experience many particular deliverances and victories in their unending battle with sin, while never being exposed to temptations that are impossible to resist (1 Cor. 10:13).

(HT: Monergism)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Get Sanctified! (Sexual Impurity)

From the Grace to You blog:

In terms of its depravity, America is beginning to look like ancient Rome as it plunges into new depths of sexual immorality. Here are a few examples of how pervasive our perversions have become:

In the last 50 years, public opinion on fornication has changed dramatically. Educational institutions used to discourage premarital sex. Now they begin preparing children as early as grade-school for safe-sex courses in junior high school, warning them about STDs and handing out free condoms.

In the same amount of time, the nation has shifted from condemning homosexual behavior to accepting, condoning, encouraging, and protecting it legally. Homosexual “marriage” is on the rise, and those who criticize homosexuality are labeled bigots, guilty of “hate speech.”

Pornography is now a billion dollar industry. Like typical drug-dealers, pornographers offer your first taste free-of-charge. All it takes is the click of the mouse.

If the recent Amazon controversy is any indication, it would seem even pedophilia has a market these days. (I can’t believe I’m even writing about this!)

And let’s not forget the old, commonplace sin of adultery. Blushing over that sin is definitely a thing of the past. Truth be told, adultery is one of the most insidious of them all. It has decimated families and is the likely culprit that has given rise to much of the aforementioned perversion.

So, what does all that have to do with God’s will? Lots.

As Christians living in a sexually-saturated culture, the Bible commands us to live sanctified lives. That is God’s will, clearly revealed.

If that seems impossible to you, if the pervasiveness of depravity seems like an insurmountable problem, remember this: there’s nothing new under the sun. First-century Christians lived in a similar culture—in some ways it was even worse—and God still expected the pursuit of sexual purity (1 Thess. 4:3-8). It’s no different for you and me today.

This is the will of God—your sanctification. Here’s John to talk more about it…

To review, here’s what John said about being sanctified: Stay away from sex sins. Keep your body pure. Don’t act like the world. Don’t defraud others sexually.

Those are some of the most critical problems of our day, problems that touch every local church. Here’s the question as it relates to following God’s will: How does sexual immorality hinder us in recognizing and following God’s will? Or, to state it positively, how does sexual purity help us recognize and follow God’s will?

Friday, November 12, 2010

10 Principles for New Christians

By Justin Edwards

When one surrenders their life to the Lord Jesus Christ and is saved by grace through faith, the next step is submitting to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.  Your being justified before God is only the beginning, now it's time for you to grow in the knowledge of God through the study of His Word and applying it to every area of your life. There are other things God has prepared for you including trusting and obeying what you read in Scripture, waging war on your flesh (your sinful desires), pursuing His holiness and becoming like Him, communicating with Him through prayer (He communicates with you through His Word), sharing your faith with others, fellowshiping with other believers, worshiping and giving Him praise and thanksgiving, surrendering your finances to Him, and last but certainly not least, being obedient to His call to baptism.

Living Waters has provided you with a list of 10 principles on how to live your faith practically and biblically. And don't worry, there's no need to feel overwhelmed. If you have genuinely given your life to the Lord, He has planted His seed in you (1 John 3:9) and will work His purposes through you according to His will. So take a deep breath, rest in the grace that covers you with eternal life, and pursue and love God with all of your mind, heart, soul, and strength. Read the Bible daily and take to heart these principles. And by the way, if you don't know where to start reading, I encourage you to begin in the Gospel of John and proceed with the New Testament (John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc...).

The following is principle number 1, and just proceed to the link to read the others (you might even want to print them out and put in your Bible). The introduction at the link is very important for you to read as well:

Save Yourself Some Pain

A healthy baby has a healthy appetite. If you have truly been "born" of the Spirit of God, you will have a healthy appetite. The Bible says, "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby," (1 Peter 2:2). Feed yourself every day without fail. Job said, "I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food," (Job 23:12). The more you eat, the quicker you will grow, and the less bruising you will have. Speed up the process and save yourself some pain -- vow to read God's Word every day, without fail. Say to yourself, "No Bible, no breakfast. No read, no feed." Be like Job, and put your Bible before your belly. If you do that, God promises that you will be like a fruitful, strong and healthy tree (see Psalm 1). Each day, find somewhere quiet, and thoroughly soak your soul in the Word of God.

There may be times when you read through its pages with great enthusiasm, and there may be other times when it seems dry and even boring. But food profits your body whether you enjoy it or not. As a child, you no doubt ate desserts with great enthusiasm. Perhaps vegetables weren't so exciting. If you were a normal child, you probably had to be encouraged to eat them at first. Then, as you matured in life you were taught to discipline yourself to eat vegetables. This is because they would physically benefit you, even though they may not have at the time, brought pleasure to your taste buds.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Page on airō: Cults and World Religions

By Justin Edwards

A new page full of excellent resources on major Cults and World Religions with an emphasis in reaching those trapped under these false teachings has been added to the blog.  Here's the intro:

Jesus made it clear that salvation comes through no other but Himself in John 14:6 when He said,

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Yet one must only survey the multitudes of world religions and cults to understand the majority of the world's population deny this truth. And while Christian cults may acknowledge and accept the words of Christ in the passage above, they twist and distort other Scriptures to deny the deity of Christ and the doctrine of justification by faith alone, thus stripping away the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sin and adding works as necessary for salvation.

Similar to the Last Days Apostasy page, this page is dedicated to providing you the best resources to equip and prepare you to understand the basic teachings of religions and cults in order for you to defend the Christian faith and share the Gospel with the lost. In these last days of deception, Christian intolerance, paganism, and calls for religious unity at the cost of denying the fundamentals of Christianity, it is imperative you are well-informed not only to defend the truth against the lies, but to

...always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear... - 1 Peter 3:15

Each section is broken down by religion or cult and will include various trusted websites, books, videos, and other tools to prepare you for battle. This is a lot of information, so please take your time and visit often as you finish with each resource. The Cults and World Religions page will be updated as new resources are discovered. I pray God uses this page

...for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ. - Ephesians 4:12

If you are a non-Christian and perhaps belong to one of the belief systems mentioned on this page, please know the purpose here is to lead you to the love, grace, and mercy of the One True God through His Son Jesus Christ. Please consider exploring the resources in the applicable section and seriously examine whether what you believe is actually true. Eternity is forever, so it is critical you have the right Answer as our beliefs do not create truth, rather our beliefs must conform to the truth. I pray you seek the Truth that offers you eternal life, for there is no other name, Jesus Christ, under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). And remember,

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6

Please click the following link to visit the new page: Cults and World Religions

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Sovereignty of God in Creation

By Justin Edwards

From Chapter 2 of A.W. Pink's The Sovereignty of God, titled "The Sovereignty of God in Creation":

"Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11).

In the great expanse of eternity which stretches behind Genesis 1:1, the universe was unborn and creation existed only in the mind of the great Creator. In His Sovereign majesty God dwelt all alone. We refer to that far distant period before the heavens and the earth were created. There were then no angels to hymn God's praises, no creatures to occupy His notice, no rebels to be brought into subjection. The great God was all alone amid the awful Silence of His own vast universe. But even at that time, if time it could be called, God was Sovereign. He might create or not create according to His own good pleasure. He might create this way or that way; He might create one world or one million worlds, and who was there to resist His will? He might call into existence a million different creatures and place them on absolute equality, endowing them with the same faculties and placing them in the same environment; or, He might create a million creatures each differing from the others, and possessing nothing in common save their creaturehood, and who was there to challenge His right?

If He so pleased, He might call into existence a world so immense that its dimensions were utterly beyond finite computation; and were He so disposed, He might create an organism so small that nothing but the most powerful microscope could reveal its existence to human eyes. It was His Sovereign right to create, on the one hand, the exalted seraphim to burn around His throne, and on the other hand, the tiny insect which dies the same hour that it is born. If the mighty God chose to have one vast gradation in His universe, from loftiest seraph to creeping reptile, from revolving worlds to floating atoms, from macrocosm to microcosm, instead of making everything uniform, who was there to question His Sovereign pleasure?

Behold then the exercise of Divine Sovereignty long before man ever saw the light. With whom took God counsel in the creation and disposition of His creatures? See the birds as they fly through the air, the beasts as they roam the earth, the fishes as they swim in the sea, and then ask, Who was it that made them to differ? Was it not their Creator who Sovereignly assigned their various locations and adaptations to them!

Turn your eye to the heavens and observe the mysteries of Divine Sovereignty which there confront the thoughtful beholder: "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory" (1 Cor. 15:41). But why should they? Why should the sun be more glorious than all the other planets? Why should there be stars of the first magnitude and others of the tenth? Why such amazing inequalities? Why should some of the heavenly bodies be more favorably placed than others in their relation to the sun? And why should there be "shooting stars," falling stars, "wandering stars" (Jude 13), in a word, ruined stars? And the only possible answer is, "For Thy pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11).

Come now to our own planet. Why should two thirds of its surface be covered with water, and why should so much of its remaining third be unfit for human cultivation or habitation? Why should there be vast stretches of marshes, deserts and ice-fields? Why should one country be so inferior, topographically, from another? Why should one be fertile, and another almost barren? Why should one be rich in minerals and another own none? Why should the climate of one be congenial and healthy, and another uncongenial and unhealthy? Why should one abound in rivers and lakes, and another be almost devoid of them? Why should one be constantly troubled with earthquakes, and another be almost entirely free from then? Why? Because thus it pleased the Creator and Upholder of all things.

Look at the animal kingdom and note the wondrous variety. What comparison is possible between the lion and the lamb, the bear and the kid, the elephant and the mouse? Some, like the horse and the dog, are gifted with great intelligence; while others, like sheep and swine, are almost devoid of it. Why? Some are designed to be beasts of burden, while others enjoy a life of freedom. But why should the mule and the donkey be shackled to a life of drudgery while the lion and tiger are allowed to roam the jungle at their pleasure? Some are fit for food, others unfit; some are beautiful, others ugly; some are endowed with great strength, others are quite helpless; some are fleet of foot, others can scarcely crawl-contrast the hare and the tortoise; some are of use to man, others appear to be quite valueless; some live for centuries, others a few months at most; some are tame, others fierce. But why all these variations and differences? What is true of the animals is equally true of the birds and fishes.

But consider now the vegetable kingdom. Why should roses have thorns, and lilies grow without them? Why should one flower emit a fragrant aroma and another have none? Why should one tree bear fruit which is wholesome and another that which is poisonous? Why should one vegetable be capable of enduring frost and another wither under it? Why should one apple tree be loaded with fruit, and another tree of the same age and in the same orchard be almost barren? Why should one plant flower a dozen times in a year and another bear blossoms but once a century? Truly, "whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did He in Heaven, and in the earth, in the seas, and all deep places" (Psa. 135:6).

Consider the angelic hosts. Surely we shall find uniformity here. But no; there, as elsewhere, the same Sovereign pleasure of the Creator is displayed. Some are higher in rank than others; some are more powerful than others; some are nearer to God than others. Scripture reveals a definite and well-defined gradation in the angelic orders. From arch-angel, past seraphim and cherubim, we come to "principalities and powers" (Eph. 3:10), and from principalities and powers to "rulers" (Eph. 6:12), and then to the angels themselves, and even among them we read of "the elect angels" (1 Tim. 5:21). Again we ask, Why this inequality, this difference in rank and order? And all we can say is "Our God is in the heavens, He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased" (Psa. 115:3).

If then we see the Sovereignty of God displayed throughout all creation, why should it be thought a strange thing if we behold it operating in the midst of the human family? Why should it be thought strange if to one God is pleased to give five talents and to another only one? Why should it be thought strange if one is born with a robust constitution and another of the same parents is frail and sickly? Why should it be thought strange if Abel is cut off in his prime, while Cain is suffered to live on for many years? Why should it be thought strange that some should be born black and others white; some be born idiots and others with high intellectual endowments; some be born constitutionally lethargic and others full of energy; some be born with a temperament that is selfish, fiery, egotistical, others who are naturally self-sacrificing, submissive and meek? Why should it be thought strange if some are qualified by nature to lead and rule, while others are only fitted to follow and serve? Heredity and environment cannot account for all these variations and inequalities. No; it is God who maketh one to differ from another. Why should He? "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight" must be our reply.

Learn then this basic truth, that the Creator is absolute Sovereign, executing His own will, performing His own pleasure, and considering nought but His own glory. "The LORD hath made all things FOR HIMSELF" (Prov. 16:4). And had He not a perfect right to? Since God is God, who dare challenge His prerogative? To murmur against Him is rank rebellion. To question His ways is to impugn His wisdom. To criticize Him is sin of the deepest dye. Have we forgotten who He is? Behold, "All nations before Him as are nothing; and they are counted to Him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God?" (Isa. 40:17, 18).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sola Gratia and Sovereign Grace with Dr. James White

By Justin Edwards

Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries sat down with Echo Zoe Radio a few weeks ago to discuss the doctrine of Sola Gratia (grace alone) in addition to Sovereign Grace. From the plug for the show,

During the course of conversation, Dr. White explains Sola Gratia as a doctrine of the Reformation which was brought about to counter the Roman Catholic doctrine of Provenient Grace. He then went on to describe Sovereign Grace from a Reformed perspective and contrasted it with “Free Grace.” He gave his primary texts for support of the Sovereign Grace point of view: Titus 2, and 1 John. We discussed “moderate Calvinism”, how it’s a misnomer, as well as hyper-Calvinism. Dr. White then described some of the practical implications of coming to an understanding of Sovereign Grace. He also talked about works that he recommends on Election and Sovereign Grace. My favorite question was to ask how to explain these things to a three-year-old.

A very informative show indeed. You may also want to download Dr. White's message from September on the same topic where he exegetes John 6:35-45: Sola Gratia (Grace Alone).

Here's the interview: Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 1:05:58 — 22.7MB)

(HT: Reformation Theology)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Justification and Sanctification

By Justin Edwards

John Samson at his new Effectual Grace blog posts an excellent article on justification and sanctification, where he explains that justification necessitates sanctification. From the article:

Having made the distinction between justification and sanctification, let me affirm straight away that these two cannot be separated. That is because the truly justified person will be involved in this process of sanctification. If someone claims to be justified, but there is no desire to be sanctified, the claim to justification is proven to be fraudulent. The justified man possesses the Holy Spirit and He sets about the task of sanctification the moment He comes in to the human heart. He desires holiness, and He stirs up that desire in the heart of the true Christian. The Christian still sins, but there is now a struggle against sin, whereas before there was no struggle at all. The fact that you wish to be free from sin is an indication that the Holy Spirit is at work in the heart. When a person is happy to stay in a lifestyle that knowingly displeases the Master, it raises huge red warning flags to indicate that we need to analyze any claim to true justification.

Please follow the link to read the rest of the article: Justification and Sanctification

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Unrivaled Supremacy of Jesus Christ

By Justin Edwards

Dr. Steven Lawson delivered a powerful message exegeting Hebrews 1:1-4 at the 2007 Resolved Conference titled, The Unrivaled Supremacy of Jesus Christ.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

This supreme Lord of all lords and unrivaled King of all kings is worthy of our supreme devotion, radical allegiance, and unwavering loyalty. I pray this message helps give you a glimpse of the matchless supremacy of Christ and leads you to worship Him with your life.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. - Romans 12:1

Please click to listen: The Unrivaled Supremacy of Jesus Christ

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

I Hate Green Beans

By Justin Edwards

I don't really hate green beans, but I sure don't like them. Have you ever considered the times you actually use the word "hate"? It's a word that is commonly trivialized to show one's dislike for something, yet how often do we truly hate the object of our disfavor?

Webster defines hate to mean "to express or feel extreme enmity or active hostility." Synonyms for hate include abhor, abominate, despise, detest, execrate, and loathe. As much as I don't like green beans (except french-cut in green bean casserole - yes, one of my peculiarities), I cannot honestly say I abhor or despise them. Linguistically-speaking, there would not necessarily be anything wrong with using these type of verbs, but does the weight of my distaste for green beans justify their usage?

We find the word "hate" throughout the Bible and it is often used by the Lord to reveal the detestation the wicked have for Him. And of those who hate God? This is what the Lord says of their fate in Deuteronomy 32:40-42:

For I raise My hand to heaven,
And say, “As I live forever,

41 If I whet My glittering sword,
And My hand takes hold on judgment,
I will render vengeance to My enemies,
And repay those who hate Me.

42 I will make My arrows drunk with blood,
And My sword shall devour flesh,
With the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the heads of the leaders of the enemy.”’

Quite the different sentiment than a "hatred" of green beans, yes? As we see in Scripture, to hate something is serious business. As born again believers, we are commanded to walk in love at all times. In fact, there is never an excuse under the sun to ever hate any person as Jesus says in Matthew 5:43-44,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you...

To hate anyone or be angry with them without just cause is to commit murder in your heart (Matthew 5:21-22). In 1 John 4:20 we are told,

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

Indeed, this person is said to be walking in darkness who hates his brother (1 John 2:9,11). Without righteous cause (Ephesians 4:26-27), we should never let anyone or anything drive us to hatred (Hebrews 12:15). And our hatred should never be directed towards another human being no matter what they might have done to offend us. Remember, we are to love all of our enemies.

Is there ever a time that we should hate? Most certainly, but this is not directed toward people. It is directed towards the very things that God hates, namely evil. Consider the following Scriptures:

Psalm 97:10a You who love the LORD, hate evil!
Psalm 101:3 I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
         I hate the work of those who fall away;
         It shall not cling to me.
Psalm 119:104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
         Therefore I hate every false way.
Psalm 119:113  I hate the double-minded,
         But I love Your law.
Psalm 119:128 Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things
         I consider to be right;
         I hate every false way.
Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil;
      Pride and arrogance and the evil way
      And the perverse mouth I hate
Proverbs 13:5 A righteous man hates lying,
      But a wicked man is loathsome and comes to shame.

We are to hate ungodliness, wickedness, idolatry, vanity, pride, deception, lying, perversion and all other sin. These are the things God hates; they are an abomination to Him. Anything that opposes the holiness and character of God we are to detest with all of our heart, mind, and soul. We are to hate anything that opposes the truth of God, which means we are to hate anything that seeks to replace the truth with a lie. We are to hate immorality, injustice, and everything that calls evil good. Yet, despite the things we are to hate, we must never make the immoral, corrupt, degenerate, ungodly, or proud person the object of this hatred. On the contrary, we must love them and speak the truth to them in love (Ephesians 4:15).

God is love (1 John 4:8-9), and it is the very fruit of His character that permeates the life of the Christian (Galatians 5:22). We are to love our neighbors (Luke 10:27), love our enemies (Luke 6:27-28), and love our brethren (John 13:34) all the same. This love is an unconditional, sacrificial love (agape love) that is impossible to emanate apart from abiding in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us in Ephesians 5:1-2,

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 

I believe one of the ways that may help us walk in love is to examine something as simple as our vocabulary and its usage. Personally-speaking, I have found the less I use the word "hate" in such trivial things as disliking green beans, the more removed hate will be from my heart and the more the word can be reserved for things that I should truly hate, abhor, and detest (evil). Maybe there's a sports team that you "hate", or an annoying TV show, or certain weather or seasons, or dogs, or eating habits, or exercise, or food, or job, or school work, or any number of things that repulse you. But do you really hate it? Even if you do, is it something worth hating?

In my walk I am realizing some many things are just not worth getting bent out of shape over. Even though my saying "I hate green beans" may seem to be a trivial matter to some, I try not to use "hate" for something so ridiculous.

Yes, "hate" is an ugly word as I'm sure we all heard growing up, but there is indeed a time when we should hate things. By looking into the perfect wisdom of God's Word, the things we should hate and not hate are clear. When I use the word hate, I want it to hold weight, and I want it to be reserved for the things I should genuinely hate - the very things that God hates. The less trivial things I "hate", the more I can walk honestly, uprightly, nobly, with integrity, and in good character. Let's be resolved to choose our words wisely, for:

    Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
      And those who love it will eat its fruit.- Proverbs 18:21

Now, Thanksgiving is just a few weeks away - who's bringing the casserole?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Embrace of Contemplative Spirituality in the (Post)Modern Church

By Justin Edwards

Lighthouse Trails Research has just posted a revealing article illustrating the extent to which contemplative spirituality and mysticism (CSM) has infiltrated the evangelical church. In a new book titled, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, author Carl McColman explains there is no distinction between Christian mysticism and non-Christian mysticism. Proponents of contemplative prayer include Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Tony Campola, Richard Rohr, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Rob Bell, and Phyllis Tickle who embrace the teachings of mystics Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, Henri Nowen, and Brother Lawrence. However, you might be surprised to learn popular teachers such as Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, Max Lucado, John Ortberg, and even a major Christian empire like Focus on the Family endorse these practices.

Please take the time to see how these share a common thread in contemplative spirituality by clicking on the following link to the LHTR blog: Brian McLaren and Richard Foster’s Editorial Team Agree with Lighthouse Trails – Contemplative Prayer and Eastern Mysticism Are Same Thing

The article closes with this bottom line and offers the concluding p.s.:

To those who know and embrace the glorious Gospel of Christ, there can be no fellowship with religions that reject the very foundation of the biblical Christian faith. Something is radically wrong when someone who claims to be a Christian has a sense of solidarity with someone who has a view that man is divine (i.e., man is God). Shear logic should point out the truth of what we are trying to say. Lighthouse Trails’ hope is that you look at this issue with an open mind and honest discernment. The truth is in plain view.

P.S. If you have had family members or friends who have rejected or ridiculed you for speaking up against contemplative spirituality (i.e., spiritual formation), show them this article.

This is that important. You might also want to check out the following post that lists common buzzwords and major proponents of CSM:  Emergence Christianity - Naming Names and Providing Terms. Please don't sweep this under the rug or brush it off and accuse these matters as legalism. The visible church is very sick, and it's a blaring indication that Jesus Christ is coming for His True Church soon. What we are witnessing is the falling away of the church (2 Thessalonians 2:3), and we must arm ourselves with the whole armor of God and defend the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Deception is running amok, and it's imperative we cling to sound doctrine, never compromising the truth.

Please heed the warnings.

Be Comforted, My Brethren

By Justin Edwards

It's been about 5 weeks since I began a series titled The Coming of the Lord that was to be based on a sermon series from my pastor, Loran Livingston, on 1 Thessalonians 1-5. As the messages on chapters 3 and 4 were not necessarily on the coming of the Lord as I had anticipated, I did not feel led to write about them. However, the message on 10/31/10 was quite uplifting and comforting for the Bride of Christ, so I will conclude the series with this message and a different title (you can read Parts 1 and 2 here: The Coming of the Lord - Part 1; The Coming of the Lord - Part 2 (A Message on Pastors)).

The Apostle Paul ends chapter 4 with a reference to the Rapture of the Church, and in combination with references from John 14:1-3 and 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, we have the clear biblical basis for this doctrine. Although the rapture doctrine cannot be honestly disregarded in Scripture, the timing of the rapture of the Church has caused much division in the Body of Christ. Moreover, extreme views and extra-biblical liberties have led many to attempt to predict the date of the rapture (datesetting), but the fact of the matter is, NO ONE knows the hour, and to suggest foreknowledge of this spectacular event is utter foolishness. Discussing the timing of the rapture is perfectly fine, but when division occurs between different "camps" (pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib), there is nothing that edifies the Body or brings glory to God. If this topic creates a stumbling block for the furtherance of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, it's best not to argue over such things if it cannot be done peaceably.

With that said, Scripture is indeed quite clear that the Bride of Christ will not be here for the Day of the Lord, otherwise known as the Time of Jacob's Trouble, the 70th week of Daniel, and the 7-year tribulation (the latter half often referred as the Great Tribulation). Scripture references supporting a pre-tribulation rapture include:  Revelation 3:10, 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10, and 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11. There are other Scriptures that show imminence and provide logical evidence the Church will not be present during the tribulation, but for the sake of brevity in this article, I will focus on the Scripture of yesterday's message.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 reads,

1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

Paul opens by saying the brethren have no need to be concerned with the timing of the tribulation. He exhorts them to not be distracted with the timing of God's final judgment, but rather to occupy their time in living godly lives knowing full well that judgment is coming unexpectedly upon the people of the earth. As verses 2 and 3 make clear, judgment will come as a thief in the night when the people of the earth least expect it. At a time when the world is saying "peace and safety" (which will have culminated with the signing of the 7-year covenant between the Antichrist and Israel), sudden destruction will come upon them and they shall not escape. Yet, distracting ourselves with trying to figure out who the Antichrist is or when this covenant will be signed is futile because no one knows, and more importantly, we will not be here to find out (so why are you stocking up on supplies?).

We are not in darkness so to be overtaken by this unexpected judgment. We, the Body of Christ, are children of light (Ephesians 5:8) and walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7). Those who walk in darkness, however, are subject to the wrath of God as children of wrath and disobedience (Ephesians 2:2-3, Ephesians 5:6, 1 John 1:6). Paul also makes this contrast clear in verses 4 and 5.

And because we are not children of darkness but of light, let us walk in a manner worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1, Philippians 1:27, Colossians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:12, 1 Thessalonians 4:1). As such and as instructed in verses 6 and 8, let us be sober and be watchful of the spiritual darkness around us. As we have been redeemed from our fallen spiritual condition, we must live accordingly by the power of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, those who are walking in darkness will be drunk with darkness when the wrath of God falls on the earth, as if jolted out of a coma for they are spiritually unconscious. And while we wait for the coming of our Lord, we must continue in our work of faith, labor of love, and hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 1:3) that awaits us when we are glorified with the Son of God (Romans 8:18).

My brothers and sisters, God has not appointed us to wrath and the Apostle Paul makes this evident in verse 9 and also 1 Thessalonians 1:10 (in addition to the Lord's revelation in Revelation 3:10). Whether born again believers have already died or they live today, we will all be together one day soon (verse 10). To make this all the more clear (that we have no reason to fear the Day of the Lord), let's take another look at verses 1-10. Pay special attention to the contrasting pronouns Paul uses to distinguish between believers and those in darkness:

1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.
Isn't it clear? There is a marked difference between "us" and "them". "They" will incur the wrath of God. "We" will be kept from the hour of trial that will come upon dwellers of the earth. "They" are sons of the devil (1 John 3:8), while "we" are already citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). "Their" end is destruction and have their minds set on earthly things (Philippians 3:19), while "we" have been sealed by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22) and have our minds set on heavenly things (Colossians 3:1-2). "They" stand condemned (John 3:18), while there is no condemnation for "us" who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

So be comforted, my brethren. If you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, then you need not fear the days to come. Once God has planted His seed in you (1 John 3:9), you are His forever as God does not revoke His promises (Romans 11:29). If you have been called, you will be justified, and if you have been justified, you will be conformed to Christ, and if you are conformed to Christ, you will be glorified (Romans 8:29-30). All who the Father has given to the Son will never be lost (John 6:39), no one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28-29), and nothing in ALL of creation will ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Let us take comfort in knowing that God has secured our salvation for His glory alone, and He has not appointed us to His wrath but has made for Himself a bride that is holy and blameless before the sight of God (Colossians 1:22).

If you have some time now or this week, please take a moment to watch or listen to Loran Livingston's message from Sunday (see below). If you need to be spiritually renewed and find yourselves weary of this world and the things of the world, this is a timely message for you. The days ahead may be few or many, and they will surely be difficult as the darkness continues to restrict around us. But keep your eyes on Jesus and take comfort in the Hope of your salvation Who has delivered you from the wrath to come, and know that He will never forsake you no matter the trials and tribulation you are currently going through.

The King is coming, let us watch and be sober.

Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

Loran Livingston Video 10/31/10 

Loran Livingston mp3 10/31/10

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