Agonizomai: November 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 29/05
Our faith is not "tested" to see if we are strong. It is tried to prove that it is of God - to the praise of His glorious grace.

Harlan Ames - Gleanings 5.174
Pressing into 2Peter
I know - the title sounds like a stutter if you say it out loud. After a short break I am now publishing thoughts on the second chapter of 2Peter, which is where the true diatribe against false teaching reallly gets rolling. There is ample reason to apply the same watchfulness today.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans
2Peter 1:1-3 - Heresies - Recovered, Reused, Recycled ... Resold.
1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their licentiousness, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.

God has always given to His people the gift of prophets, through whom the Holy Spirit spoke eternal and unalterable truth concerning the Christ, and things touching Him and His people. But God always permitted false prophets to arise so that His people might be tested. Regrettably, the track history of both kingdoms in Israel was that they were led astray by them. Today, it is no different - in fact it is worse. And not only is it worse, but it will get a lot worse than it is even now. They will deceive millions and, if it were possible, even the elect will be led astray.

The most dangerous false teachers are not found in the world. True Christians have relatively little trouble with the inanities of a Deepak Chopra or the humanism of a Norman Vincent Peale. But they are increasingly befuddled, bamboozled and bedazzled by an unceasing stream of teachers who come dressed in "Christian" robes and who use all the right lingo - people who give enough of the truth to bait the hook so that the hearers will swallow it.

It is no accident that they come. God permits it. He permits it not so that His children will be ensnared, but so that they will be tested and proven. Those that fall permanently into heresy and apostasy through these wicked corrupters of the truth will fail the test because they are not truly of God. They were impostors - never truly born of Him and having climbed in over the wall, rather than coming through the gate. Yet even true believers need this kind of test because, when they have passed it, then they know - they are assured - they are witnesses to the power of God at work in them, upholding and guiding them to their home above.

Nevertheless, there is a terrible fury awaiting all false teachers who are the cause of even the minutest stumbling in the true saints. It would be better in that Day for them to have a millstone hung around their necks, and to be cast into the depths of the sea than to have caused one of Christ’s little ones to stumble. The elect of God cannot be permanently deceived, but they can be led astray for a season.

In Peter’s time there was no shortage of ready and villainous heresies. The gnostics were among the first, but they were by no means the only ones. In the next generation other perversions were added to these, involving all the heresies that we have today in a retread form. Unitarianism, spiritism, humanism, faith plus-isms of every stripe. Jesus was an angel, a man, a man who became God; He was a god (one of many), He was Lucifer under another name. He was a spirit and never actually came in the body. He never died. He was drugged and whisked away by the disciples. He was a conspiratorial invention of a bunch of 1st century Jews. All this is only scratching the surface.

Today there are hordes and hordes of false teachers, false prophets and false Christians out there still hacking away at the simplicity which is Christ - at the Apostles’ doctrine and the record of their witness. Some attack the Bible, some change it. Some deny Christ and some distort Him. I would that I could give a list of those professing Christ who blatantly misrepresent Him. Some are just ignorant, some sincerely self-deceived and others are vicious and deliberate enemies of Christ. The best defence against them - apart from being in Christ - is to know the Word of God. To know God in and through His Word and to be walking in the Spirit in that knowledge is to be clad in the armour of God. Know the Bible. Sit under accurate, thorough and faithful teaching and preaching of the whole counsel of God. Settle for nothing else and nothing less. And pray that He will not let you fall.

Moving along, some people today read the phrase "even denying the Master that bought them" and, being haters of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, will immediately jump on it. "There!" they will cry, "Aha! You see! Jesus bought them and they were saved and then they were lost. The Bible says you can lose your salvation!"

No it doesn’t. But they will say it does because they are ignorant, or because they have been taught heresy, or because they are stubbornly afraid of the truth. The Greek word for "master" or "Lord" that is used here is not the word used of Jesus’ relationship to His people. In that relationship the word used is kurios, meaning "Lord." There is a personal relational aspect to the word kurios. Here, however, the word is despotes, which is where we get our English word "despot." This word is all to do with absolute right of ownership and not personal relationship.

So whatever the Apostle intends, he is not speaking of the redeeming price for their souls, but more likely of the forbearance, the common grace and mercies that are provided by the Father in Christ towards even the reprobate, by which their just end is delayed. By flying in the face of God’s delayed judgement and forbearance and perverting even the gospel of grace, false teachers tempt God to bring a swifter end to their lives, and to hasten them on to final judgement.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Monday, November 28, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 28/05
"To destroy the power of sin in a man’s soul is as great a work as to take away the guilt of sin. It is easier to say to a blind man, See, and to a lame man, Walk, than to say to a man that lies under the power of sin, Live, be holy, for there is that that will not be subject."

Thomas Goodwin

Three-parter on Balance Ends
Today is the last of a three-part series on "Balance". It touches on the grace upon grace the is in Christ, for His saints. He is able to save to the uttermost those that draw near to God through Him.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans
“Et Tu Brute!”
Proverbs 11:2 When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but with the humble is wisdom.

The more I press on in the Christian walk the more I am convicted about the matter of pride. I begin to see its ugliness and its pervasiveness in my being. It is a monster that crowds out the presence of the God of all humility. How can I possibly expect to recognize such a quiet, meek and lowly God through the screaming arrogance of my own restless heart?

O how I begin to actually see what God says about me is true! How the Word of His Truth slays me. Thank you God! Bring it on and cut down every lofty branch, bring down every tower, undercut every battlement of my willful flesh that blocks my view of You! Use that sword to kill me, for it is then that I will be made alive by the only One Who can do it...You Yourself.

I must humble myself under your mighty hand, as you have commanded...and I will strive for it...but, in the end, I know that it will be You at work in me by the Holy Spirit through the grace of Jesus Christ that will have the effect. I have nothing that I did not first receive. No power, no knowledge, no will to be anything but what I was. It is you Who are able and Christ Who had done all, leaving me only to walk in it...and even that by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, sent to me by Him.

But again the understanding that I am nothing, that I know nothing and can do nothing...far from making me languid actually motivates and energizes me. The unconditional excellency and unbounded love in which You do all for me draws me through the mystery of the faith You wrought and gave to me, to run after You and to desire that You do more in me than I could possibly hope or think. I am like the man with a load of useless junk in his knapsack staggering towards a distant oasis, tossing and shedding it all, piece by piece, in anticipation of that life-giving stream of flowing water that is Your Own beautiful Person.

This verse contains more than the simple idea that I must be humble. It announces the very purposes of God regarding that which is opposed to Him. For every lofty thought is an abomination to the Most Holy God. It rightly provokes His anger. How can we mere creatures who are so obviously not self-existent not only deny the One Who made us, and Who holds all of creation in His hand, but also raise ourselves up in our own thoughts until we lose all sense what we really are? How arrogant! How despicable! How ungrateful!

I do not excuse myself in this. Before I was saved I was as bad as any other person on earth in this regard. But after God has given me light I am actually worse. My unrepented arrogance and foolish pride is a daily affront to His grace. It is a worse sin than when I was in ignorance of my true condition. Yet grace upon grace is given to those who are in Jesus Christ, that His bounteous mercy and love may be seen and extolled for all eternity. To those to have is more given. Yet from those who have not will be taken away, even that which they have.

The aggravating sin of my unhumbled soul, even in the light of His grace and truth, is a horror more worthy of eternal death than anything I did before I was saved. Yet the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. He fills the cup of grace, presses it down and it runs over in an infinite surfeit that springs from the shed blood of Christ. The excellency of His Being, the boundlessness of His mercy is magnified by His forgiveness of the betrayals in the sins of the saints whenever they repent. His love for them is so over-sufficient, so superabundant that their salvation is prevented from becoming their damnation.

This is what Jesus bought when He died in my place. This is what He knew of me...that I would presume upon the very grace that sought and bought me. And that even God’s anger against that further debauchery was satisfied by the Christ Who knew it would be necessary, to the very last drop of His blood. This love knows no bounds. When He decided to save me He counted the cost to the last penny and gladly paid it. The only redeeming thing about me is the Redeemer Who is in me.

O God, let me not be found presuming upon such love!

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Saturday, November 26, 2005

No Blogpost - Nov 27/05

"Et Tu Brute!", the third post in the series on Balance will have to wait until Monday as I am out of town visiting my younger son.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans
Quote of the Day - Nov 26/05
As the providence of God is a manifestation of His power in a continued creation, so the preservation of grace is a manifestation of His power in a continued regeneration.

A.W. Pink - "Practical Christianity"

Friday, November 25, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 25/05
The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.

Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest, December 15th
On Being Balanced
Before jumping into chapter 2 of 2Peter I want to post a series of three pieces that are all interrelated. They deal with the common Christian problem of balance.

I am not a balanced Christian. But then, neither are you. Not perfectly. You might be more balanced than me, but there will always be someone else further along. Yet the plain truth is that the standard is not each other, but Christ. A preacher who I once heard put it this way.

Two of our most difficult areas as Christians - places where we all stumble towards one extreme or the other - are the areas of legalism and antinomianism. He explains that we make the mistake of seeing these as the extreme ends of a straight line upon which there are an infinite number of relative positions. Thus, we think that the best way to correct our legalism is to move towards antinomianism. Or the best way to right the ship when we find ourselves taking too many liberties with grace is to steer more towards the law. These notions he declares to be false. I agree.

The relationship between these extremes is not a straight line, but as the base of a triangle, the apex of which is the gospel. The right direction to steer in whenever we detect ourselves astray is never to go the opposite direction, but towards the gospel. It is the corrective for both conditions.

When I heard this, it touched so near to the thoughts of my own heart that I remembered these three pieces I had written. Recent manifestations I have noticed in myself have shown the need for me to revisit the issues personally.

And so, starting today and God willing, I give you this 3-part series:
1) How to Be a Perfect Christian Without Mr. Legalism
2) How to Be a Perfect Christian Without Mr. Libertinism
3) Et Tu Brute (touching on the abuse of grace by the Christian)
Enjoy. I hope they cut you to the heart, let in some light and bless you greatly. I certainly need the truths contained in them to reach deep into my own soul - and I pray that I will be laid low by revisiting them.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 24/05
When God ceases to be gracious, man ceases to be righteous.

William Secker - "The Nonsuch Professor"
Hermeneuting Hypostasis
I sometimes get the union between Christ's divinity and His humanity out of whack. If anything, I tend to err too much on the divine side at the expense of the human. So, once in a while, it's good to read something that cuts across my own leanings and reminds me of the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. This article by Doug Wilson on his blog (Blog and Mablog) blessed me greatly.
A Chink in the Armour
I usually word my posts as if I know what I'm talking about. It's for the reader to discern whether or not I actually do.

But the following post is something I wrote years ago that I have just dug up and re-read. I'm not completely sure if its right. But I like the thrust. If anybody out there wants to correct me on the theology please do.

Otherwise, here it comes - for better or worse....

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans
Keeping Covenants

I used to labour under the misapprehension that God has made a covenant of grace with me and that I am living to keep that covenant. I believed I had a personal relationship with the Living God in which He offered to me the means of salvation, and that my part of the covenant between us was to receive and then serve Jesus Christ. It was so nearly right that it was close to fatal. The truth is that there have only ever been two types of covenant - the law and grace. Each covenant was made with a single person in whom rested all the interests of any progeny who might eventually issue from them.

Adam sans skins, sans Eve.Adam, as the federal head of all humanity (even though they were as yet unborn), served God under the covenant of works. If He obeyed God explicitly in all points at all times down to the most exquisite of details, then God would remain his sovereign companion and provider. Adam willfully failed to keep his end of the agreement and, as a result, we live in a world of darkness and sin. All of Adam’s children are born in darkness - already lost and already dead in trespasses and sins because, outside of obedient fellowship with God, only sin is possible. As God Himself put it in describing people even before the flood, "Every imagination of the thoughts of men’s hearts was only evil continually."

But didn’t God make a new covenant with Abraham and then with Israel through Moses? Not really. He reaffirmed His original covenant with Adam to some of Adam’s descendants. It was the same covenant. It was the covenant of works. It required obedience to the immutable law of God in dizzying detail and with the most severe of penalties for failure. Not one person in all of Israel ever kept that covenant and, if one reads Romans, one sees that none ever could because they were already fallen, broken, dead, impotent, rebellious and perverse. That is why God gave the ritual sacrifice and why that sacrifice was going on so abundantly and continually. Adam, as their representative of the covenant, had already decided their status, their condition and their abilities. But the sacrifice was the harbinger and the promise of coming grace.

I know - the picture's tacky, but it was late.Jesus Christ is the only other man with whom God ever made a covenant. It was a new covenant – the covenant of grace – the new covenant in His blood. The only man that would ever keep the original covenant was the God/man Jesus Christ. God swore by Himself, since there was nothing greater by which He could swear, that He would redeem His people. God covenanted with Himself in the person of Christ, since there was no other who could live by the terms of the agreement. The new covenant extended to - it covered - all of those who were latently in Christ, who would later be revealed, who would spring from His spiritual loins, who were contained (through God’s election) in the mystery of His redemption.

Just as surely as all who sprang from the fallen Adam were (apart from His elective grace) forever dead in trespasses and sins - so all who are born again in Christ are alive in Him forevermore. As one who is saved, I benefit from God’s covenant with Christ - it is extended to cover me – I am included - only because I was in Him already at the time, waiting to be revealed. He undertook to be the representative of all who would believe because of Him. But God’s covenant of grace is not with me - it is with Christ - extending to all His seed, just as all the terms and effects of God’s covenant with Adam extended to all of his seed.

So – it is not that I considered a proposal of God’s in which the rights and duties of both sides were laid out, and then agreed to it by signing on for eternity at the time of my acceptance of Him. This is the modern gospel - the gospel of man’s rights before God, and of his “response-abilities” to God - the gospel of man’s ability to perform his end of the bargain. It is the gospel that many lambs have been led to by two centuries of preaching and teaching which ignore sound doctrine in favour of a belief in human power. It is the pint of poison in the ocean of truth. Let me, once for all, understand that God’s covenant of grace is made with Christ – not me - and that I am included only in Him, and only because the Father has given me to Him out of love. This is the true meaning of grace - that while we were still sinners Christ died for the ungodly , and lost not one of those whom the Father had given unto Him.

I do not live under the covenant of grace as if it were possible of myself to perform the duties that entitle me to the benefits. Rather, I live by grace as beneficiary of Him Who kept the covenant of the Law in order to receive and to impart the covenant of grace to His people.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 23/05
I know that whatever God does endures for ever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has made it so, in order that men should fear before him.

Ecclesiastes 3:14
2Peter 1:19-21 - Prophecy=Proof+Hope
2Peter 1:19-21

19-21 And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

The historical facts of the gospel borne out in the events surrounding the life of Christ both testify to and are testified of by the prophetic word - that is, the Old Testament, which was the "prophetic writing" of the time. Christ fulfilled the scriptures in every way. And the Scriptures testified to the One of Whom they had been written and Who had come so that they might be fulfilled. It was all the foreordained plan of God - the God Who came to fulfill. This is "having the prophetic word made more sure." The whole thing hangs together. Prophecy in past history and its fulfillment in Christ is what was then present history.

Not all prophecies concerning the Christ have yet been fulfilled in history. So we must take great note of those that have not so far come to pass. The incarnation is history, but the parousia is not. Christ will come again. The evidence, the certainty, the proof of the reliability of the revealed purposes of God through prophecy are in the coming of Christ the first time - and their fulfillment is an encouragement as we look forward to the completion of all things by the second coming of our Lord. God does what He says He’s going to do and Christ is the proof of it.

So, while we abide in the dark place of this fallen and sinful world, just as the contemporary brethren of Peter did, the light of the utter dependability, steadfastness, truth and promises of God is our hope - just as theirs was. We must keep on abiding in that light until Christ returns. Let us not let our guard down and join the false professors who ask, "Where is the promise of His coming?" Let us not weary in watchfulness, nor in well doing.

Prophecies, though they came through men, did not find their origins in human purposes or thoughts. They were the work of the Holy Spirit. It was God speaking. That is why every prophecy of God comes true. That is why God commanded Israel to put to death any professing prophet giving a false prophecy - the standard of judgment for which was whether it came to pass or not. If it didn’t then the person had falsely stated, "Thus saith the LORD," and was therefore to die the death.

Prophecy comes to us embedded in the histories of the patriarchs, and the rest of the writings. It is seamlessly interwoven. So, though there are specific prophecies, there is also revelational and historical truth amidst which these came. All scripture is, in some sense, prophecy. It is the God-breathed, Holy Spirit inspired revelation of God’s purposes in Jesus Christ. It either has come to pass or it will come to pass, just as God stated. God has purposed it and He will do it.

Now, when Peter says that "no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation" he is speaking not so much to the receiving of prophecy as to the giving of it. In other words, men didn’t think up something or put their own slant on something, or devise a theology to fit what they thought were the essential facts. But either way the underlying meaning is that the Holy Spirit declared through men what He alone can interpret to men. And He does, to each of His own, for we read in the God-breathed scripture of the New Testament...

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand..." {John 10:25-28}

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 22/05
“If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.... The devil has ever shown a mortal spite and hatred towards that holy book, the Bible: he has done all in his power to extinguish that light and to draw men off from it: He knows it to be that light by which the kingdom of darkness is to be overthrown.... He is enraged against the Bible and hates every word in it: And we may be sure that he never will attempt to raise persons' esteem of it or affection to it.”

Jonathan Edwards
Discerning False Prophets
One of my favourite preachers is Dr. David Harrell. He recently preached a two-part sermon on "Contrasting True vs. False Shepherds". I strongly recommend listening to both parts.
Part 1 can be heard by clicking this link.

Part 2 can be heard by clicking this link.
In case the church's home site doesn't respond well I am giving links to the same sermons at If you are not registered there, just scroll down to the bottom of the intro notice and click "later".
Part 1 can be heard by clicking this link.

Part 2 can be heard by clicking this link.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans
2Peter 1:16-18 - Kangaroo Court Collapses!
(Jesus Seminar Declared Redundant)

2Peter 1:16-18

16-18 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased," 18 we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

This is the sort of thing that distinguishes Christianity from most of the other religions of the world. It is historical. It is based in observed, witnessed, falsifiable data that has never been able to be falsified. In this regard, it is more scientific than the theory of evolution.

There is more documentary evidence for the reliability of the Christian Scriptures than for some of what we rely upon for secular history. For example, Caesar’s "Gallic Wars" exists in only a few manuscripts all dating from the 9th century or later. Yet nobody doubts that Caesar pacified Western Europe. There are thousands and thousands of codices, papyri and fragments of the New Testament books, some dating back to the mid-1st Century, all in virtually complete agreement as to words and content, with very minor grammatical variations. Yet liberals and pagans are constantly trying to undermine its veracity and reliability.

No one ever produced the body of Jesus. The Jews never denied it was missing. The Romans never denied it was missing. False rumours - never proven - were put about that the disciples has spirited it away. Other stories were made up to insinuate that Christ never actually died, but was revived later and went to live in Asia, or some such place. None of this nonsense would stand in anything but a kangaroo court. All the historical evidence, all the eyewitness evidence, all the documentary evidence point to the incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of the Christ, the Eternal Son of Eternal God.

Michael Servetus, a 16th century heretic sometimes associated with the Anabaptist movement - like all the most damnable of heretics - agreed with much of Christian doctrine, but twisted it in one or more essential points. He refused to believe that Christ was the Eternal Son of God. He believed that Jesus became the Son of God. That is rank heresy which, if believed, undermines and ultimately destroys the one true faith. His was a poignant case. He believed what he propagated. He died for it. He was burned to death declaring it. His last words are reported to have been, "Jesus, son of Eternal God have mercy on me!" Sounds wonderful doesn’t it? What a martyr! But he was reaffirming the heresy he had believed and propagated all his life. He didn’t say, "Jesus, Eternal Son of God..." but rather, "Jesus, Son of Eternal God..." These things matter.

So the Christian faith is not amenable to alteration of the facts presented, substantiated, witnessed and recorded in history. There are no "cleverly devised myths," like the Haida stories of whales and giant ravens - or the Babylonian fables of the flood and of creation. Nor yet like the fantastic tales of creation found among the South American peoples such as the Aztecs and Incas. The whole world over there are myths and stories of an obviously fabulous nature that generations of people have believed because their minds were darkened, on account of their claim to be wise - ending in the complete rejection of the one true God.

Jesus came from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost. He was born a man, born under the law, lived a life of perfect obedience to the Father, was crucified, dead and buried. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand (the hand of power) of the Father. The facts are historically sound, and proven by the mouths of two or three, or five hundred witnesses.

The Father Himself spoke in the hearing of the writer of this epistle, testifying to the Eternal Son. The majesty of Christ’s unveiled God-ness was manifested, however briefly, to the living, waking eyes of Peter, James and John by the Father in Glory.

Finally, the Spirit of God testifies to the truth in the hearts of all who believe. He is in us so that we may cry, "Abba, Father!" It is a familial term. It is an intimate term. But let’s not make it a familiar one. If you want to call God "Abba, Father" then remember Who it was that did so by right of eternal Being (not adoption) and how that was manifested in His humanity. It was manifested in suffering, rejection, wounding, marring, abuse, shame, despite - as well as in joy and fulfillment. And if God was thus with His only begotten Son, then what can that mean for His created and adopted children? Will we identify with Him in these? Will we fill up what is lacking? Will we despise the shame for the joy that lays before us?

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Monday, November 21, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 21/05
Any man who by repentance and a sincere return to God will break himself out of the mold in which he has been held, and will go to the Bible itself for his spiritual standards, will be delighted by what he finds there."

A.W. Tozer - "The Pursuit of God"
2Peter 1:15 - Preaching from the Grave
2Peter 1:15

15 And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

The Old Testament is God's self-revelation in preparation for His fuller revelation in Jesus Christ.Not only is Peter happy to keep on pounding into the saints the truths of the gospel, but he has gone to pains to see that the importance of these things is written down so that, even after he is dead, he will be harping on them from the very grave. In the face of this, how can we blow off a study time with the Lord and think nothing of it?

Will we learn the lesson? There is more in the Bible than we can possibly comprehend in eternity, let alone a single lifetime. The deep truths of God are contained in there and He has covered them with earth so that a person must mine for them. Each successive layer of earth reveals its own ore, but there is always another layer. God is infinite and His Word is eternal. We have a great treasure and we so often treat it with disdain. We will be held to account, because what we make of the Word written is closely tied to what we make of the Living Word.

Peter has the shepherd’s heart that Christ not only gave to him, but also nurtured in him and charged him with using diligently. That is part of the reason why Peter wants to keep on repeating the same doctrines, even from the grave. We should look for a shepherd like this. We should encourage that in a pastor. Biblical truth often has immediate application to our lives - but more often it is stored in our hearts so that we may be kept pure, and so that it can be brought to our remembrance in the needful hour by the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament is God's self-revelation in Jesus Christ.There is no other way to be sanctified than by the Spirit, through the Word (the Son), unto the Father - just as the proper way to pray is unto the Father, through the Son, by the Spirit. Would you know the Father? You must come through the Word by the Spirit. Christ is known through revelation of God and God’s revelation is in the Bible - all of it. Not some of it - all of it. And the revelation of Christ is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. It’s useless to be praying for a closer fellowship with the Lord so long as you have the written Word in your hands, but will not read it. The Holy Spirit may not reveal Christ in the Word to you as and when you would want, but He will not reveal Christ at all unless there is a thirst in you to know Him through the means already provided and ordained.

Does this mean that God never reveals Christ any other way? No of course not! God cannot be put in a box. But don’t make the mistake of the extreme Charismatics and all but ignore sound doctrine for the sake of a revelation that is "validated" by feelings and experiences, rather than truth. That is the way to error - the word of the LORD will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little; that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken. {Isaiah 28:13} It is the means by which some creep into houses and lead away silly women, led away by various impulses. {2Timothy 3:6} The same context speaks of those opposing the truth.

The way to be safe is to test everything, holding fast to that which is good - and the means by which everything is tested is the Truth, which is the Word of God. Peter repeated and repeated things for this purpose.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 20/05
"Free will has carried many souls to hell but never a soul to heaven."

C.H. Spurgeon
Stepping onto the Verandah
A change of pace.Three more posts and 2Peter Chapter 1 is done. However, the following post offers a short break. Sometimes it is good to change the focus for a moment - to get up from the desk and step out onto the verandah, so to speak. I always make sure, for example, to alternate my studies between Old and New Testaments. I will even break off from a long book to study a shorter one in the other Testament - before coming back to finish my original study.

The following is a thought from Ecclesiastes for today, in place of 2Peter. There will be other Ecclesiastical thoughts, from time to time - God willing.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans
Ecc 12:1-7 - Settling Out of Court
1 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, "I have no pleasure in them"; 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, 3 in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, 4 and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— 5 they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— 6 before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, 7 and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

It's too late to settle during sentencing.The life of regret is a terrible thing and plentiful are those who have pierced themselves with many sorrows. But the ultimate sorrow is to have lived a godless life unto the self, to have drunk greedily and without acknowledgment from all God’s goodness in the easy times, when we seemed immortal, and we felt ourselves capable of anything. But God is not mocked - for whatever a man sows he will reap.

When we are "immortal" we think this reaping, if it exists at all, is afar off. God is slow to anger and He forbears much in both the saved and lost. The lost may foolishly say in his heart, "There is no God." The saved may have that sort of attitude which asks, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation" {2Peter 3:4}

Yet God’s patience is not without limit. He Has drawn a line unseen by us, in each and every life. It is a line of death. Not only has He ordained the means, the day and the hour of the death of every man, but He has also set the limit upon each man’s hardening of his own heart; He alone decides when a man had hardened himself to the point of eternal damnation.

Every man has an eternal home (verse 5). And time inexhorably draws him towards that place. It is certain. It is inevitable. It will be sooner than any of us thinks. It might be with the next breath - a stroke, a heart attack, an accident... Solomon is fully aware of the principle at work in the world - that all things are subjected to futility by God. All things decay. All things wind down, break, lose their uselfulness. Even desire and pleasure fade.

What will be the nature of my eternal home? Will it be heaven with God or will it be the lake of fire with Satan and his angels? Will it be eternal bliss or eternal torment? Let he who has ears to hear seek the Lord while He may be found, for now is the hour of salvation.

For the thing all natural men rebel against, and absolutely refuse to either acknowledge or accept, is that their spirit - their breath, their being itself - is not and never was really their own. Not in an absolute sense. Everything belongs to God and always has.

Who is there beside Him? What can there be that He has not made and does not own as Maker? The fall and the redemption are surely illustrations of this strong delusion that hangs like pall over humankind - the illusion that we are our own; that even if there is a God we have been made separate and equal to Him in rights, if not in power. Our will is on a par with His will. We see ourselves as independent beings whose choices carry the same authority as the Maker of all.

The lie is put to this in the simple phrase,"...and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God Who gave it." Where’s the choice in that? We are all to appear before the judment seat of Christ. Better to make peace with our accuser before we get to court. Repent and believe the gospel.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Quote of the Day #1 - Nov 19/05
Of its own accord, the brain does not seek to understand and explain but to create explanations – and that is a very different thing. The explanation may be highly acceptable without having much relevance to what is being explained.

Edward de Bono - "The Mechanism of the Mind"
Quote of the Day #2 - Nov 19/05
The growth of ignorance in the Church is the logical and inevitable result of the false notion that Christianity is a life and not also a doctrine; if Christianity is not a doctrine then of course teaching is not necessary to Christianity. But whatever the causes for the growth of ignorance in the Church, the evil must be remedied. It must be remedied primarily by the renewal of Christian education in the family, but also by the use of whatever other educational agencies the Church can find. Christian education is the chief business of the hour for every earnest Christian man. Christianity cannot subsist unless men know what Christianity is...

J. Gresham Machen - "Christianity & Liberalism"
2Peter 1:12-14 - Harps for Saints
2Peter 1:12-14

12-14 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.

No! - Not this kind of harp!Peter is not ashamed to harp on the important things of doctrine. Here, he says that he intends always to remind the saints, regardless of how mature or learned they are - or think they are. He knows Israel’s history. He was right to be careful, for Israel’s history parallels that of the church. Israel knew God’s law. Israel had the covenants. Israel had Moses and the prophets. Yet Israel needed to be told over and over again.

Show me a professor of religion who thinks he knows it all and I will show you a person headed for trouble. Show me somebody who is not interested in hearing the gospels again , or the Exodus - or even the genealogies - and I will show you a person in deep spiritual danger. You cannot hear the gospel too often. You cannot sit under the preaching and teaching of right doctrine too much. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to those that believe.

It isn’t over just because you made a commitment, prayed a prayer or walked an aisle. It isn’t over because you answered an altar call or two, or three or more. It’s not over because you had "an experience" that blew your socks off and made you feel spiritual. It isn’t, "Give me no doctrine but Jesus!" - an idiotic concept actually propagated by some poor souls, to their great peril. Peter is saying that he was quite happy to keep on repeating the same truths over and over again endlessly. And the implication is that he was ready to do so because we are all basically remedial learners who will forget it, ignore it or twist spiritual truth between hearings. At the very least we fail to apply it. We need to be exhorted, encouraged and, yes, rebuked and reproved to stick with what we have learned and to live it out.

The most terrifying charge that can be laid at the foot of any pastor or teacher is that he failed to keep on repeating accurately the whole counsel of God to those in his charge. He can be the most loving, the most gentle, the most gracious, the most kind person under the sun by mere human standards, but if a person accepting responsibility for God’s flock fails to feed them, then he is in terrible danger of God’s severest chastisement.

How do we know this? What was the Lord’s last recorded conversation with this very same Peter who write this epistle? "Do you love Me? Feed my sheep...feed my lambs...feed my sheep!" Did Peter start out that way and then sort of say, "You know what I’ve been feeding them for the last 20 years or so and I can take it easy now. They’ve all got it straight." No! He heard Christ say three times what he must do, and he never ever forgot it. Three times! Three assertions of an item signifies great importance, since three is the heavenly number most closely associated with God Almighty.

He is saying that until his dying day he will not stop reminding and exhorting them to grow in grace through the putting on of Christ. Virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection and love - all leading to godly wisdom. And all of this comes through applying the knowledge of the Word by the grace of God through the obedience of faith.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Friday, November 18, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 18/05
God doesn’t command us to try. He commands us to be. Being can only come through faith pressing in to what He makes of us. Trying comes through faith in what we can make of ourselves.

Harlan Ames - Gleanings 5.175
2Peter 1:10-11 - The Full Court Press
2Peter 1:10-11

10-11 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall; 11 so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Whatever verse 10 means, it does not mean that our salvation depends upon us. Salvation is of the LORD. But our salvation is evidenced through our character - and that through changed behaviour. And our character (not our personality) is being changed from glory to glory into the image of Christ, if God is at work in us.

While we are chasing after Him, He forms Christ in us.The Greek word spoudazo translated "be diligent" has connotations of labour, study and exertion. It is a conscious pressing upon God for the very things talked of in the last few verses. It is a pressing into God for them. It is a laying hold of what God has given us in Christ. It is not making ourselves Christ-like.

I hope you see the difference. In the one, it is human effort that changes us and in the other it is God that changes us because we supplicate and press Him for what is our own by dint His grace in Jesus Christ. It is the process of the revelation of Christ in us. We press into the promises that God has given us because we are His - and God, in His infinite wisdom and timing, grants the fulfillment of them in us.

Be diligent to make your calling sure. Are you truly called of God? Have you been invited to the wedding feast? No one that has not been invited can enter and no one who has not been invited has a garment. So be sure that you have been invited by God and that you have not simply jumped on the bandwagon, followed the crowd or snuck in over the wall. Beware of thinking that you are saved because you go to church, you pray, you know the Bible, you do good things, or you are a nice person.

This verse is not in the Bible for fun. It is not here for you or anybody else to pooh-pooh or to give cursory acknowledgement to. It is certainly not there to ignore. Nothing in the Bible is there without a purpose. It is all God breathed. There are people in every congregation in the land who think they are saved when they are not. They are self-deceived. Don’t be one of them. Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith and be diligent to make your calling sure - that is to be sure you have been called.

And here is a wonderful truth...if you are unsure of your calling, and you hear this message with understanding then you will look for the grace to truly repent and believe, and God will grant it to you, just as He purposed to do in opening your ears to the message.

Be diligent to make your election sure. Firstly, a few words by way of introduction. Election is, was and ever will be the prerogative of God. It is according to God’s will and choice alone. It is not based upon anything we are or do. This is the most universally hated truth in the Bible. It is the ultimate expression of the sovereignty of God (His godness) and the depravity of all men. People, including professing Christians, will acknowledge and profess the sovereignty of God as a given, so long as that truth is never actually applied. But apply it just once and the universal hatred of the human soul for the Lordship of the One True God will come to the fore. We want to act as we please, even though we are mere creatures - but we are outraged at the idea of God acting as He pleases.

You cannot ensure your election, but you can be sure you are one of God’s elect. It is not necessarily a one time thing. The way to be sure is to keep pressing in for the grace to grow in Christ. Stop pressing and you will lose your assurance. Your assurance, but not necessarily your salvation. But, stop pressing and you may discover you were fooling yourself into thinking you had been born again, when you had not. It is evocative of the picture of the donkey and the carrot on a stick. It is a continual falling into God. So long as we are falling into Him - so long as we are resting on the everlasting arms, so long as our faith and hope is in Christ alone - for our sanctification as well as our justification - then we can be assured that we are elect of God.

Let us examine ourselves. Is there evidence of Christ in us? Are we growing in grace? Is our character being conformed to His? These matters are too important to brush off without stopping to examine them. Your eternal soul is too valuable to trifle with. What can a man give in exchange for it? So go, sell all that you have, and buy the field in which you have discovered treasure. Press in relentlessly and diligently and you will know that you are both called and elect of God. Ignore the message and you will be unsure about the most important question in the universe for you.

If you do so you will never fall. You will never fall fatally. You will still make mistakes in choices. You will still commit sin. But the one looking to Christ looks to Him for correction of his choices and for training in righteousness. He does not bury his talent in the ground in fear of making an error. God isn’t interested in standing over you with a big stick waiting for the smallest possible mis-step because he relishes the idea of whacking you one. He is much more likely to whack you one when you refuse to apply the grace and gifts given to you simply because you think of Him in that way. And the one looking to Christ will look to Christ even from out of the midst of his sin - from the self-dug pit in which he is wallowing in torment.

So the "never falling" here refers to a permanent shipwreck. If you are pressing heavenward by the grace of God, then you cannot fall earthward, even if you are bumbling and making all kinds of mistakes while you are pressing. It is not the errors that will kill you - it is the not pressing into God. Luke warmness will result in the spewing out of them that abide in it. Absolute coldness will evidence that there was no true spark to start with. Be sure.

... so there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we are always growing in grace, and the evidence abounds in and through us, then we shall be great fruit-bearers as we enter heaven. Of the few that will be saved, some will bear more fruit than others and some will be saved, but as if by fire. Their fruits (works) will be burned up, though they themselves will be saved.

Pressing into Christ to make one’s calling and election sure will provide benefits not only here on earth - in our Christian walk - but, because of our walk, will have great benefit for us in the eternal realm. I have to confess to being personally uncomfortable with this teaching. Not unbelieving - just uncomfortable. In my hyper-spirituality I don’t want my motivation in anything to be what I can get out of it. I am too "good" for that. I want it all to be about Christ. But, in reality, what really motivated me to want to be saved in the first place. It was a selfish motive. I wanted to be preserved from my situation, my condition and my condemnation. So I am not as "selfless" as I pretend to be.

But I cannot yet in my mind utterly divorce the idea of striving for rewards from the worldly concept of competition. This is surely not what God has in mind. The heavenly runner runs against himself - not the other runners. He is striving to be the best he can be, by appropriating the life of His Saviour to do His will, regardless of how others are doing. The standard for all is Christ. All is done unto Him. All is wrought in Him. That is the right picture. Our heavenly rewards are based not on how we do compared to others, but what we make of Jesus Christ. And this is an intensely personal, deeply realized individual relationship in the unfolding of each person’s salvation.

In the end we will arrive commended for some things done that we had given no great importance in our minds, and rebuked for other things we believed were of great service and spirituality, but which were quite unimportant to our Lord. It’s fearful and humbling to know these things.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Quote of the Day #1 - Nov 17/05
Do I believe that Almighty God is the source of my will? God not only expects me to do His will, but He is in me to do it.

Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest - June 6th
Quote of the Day #2 - Nov 17/05
Sinners may have sparing patience exercised towards them; and yet, not have converting grace revealed in them.

William Secker - "The Nonsuch Professor"
2Peter 1:8-9 - Growth and Stagnation
2Peter 1:8-9

8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Things previously listed in the last 2 verses. If these are yours and abound or are increasing... We were exhorted to add these things to our faith. It all started with the belief in Christ that we have been given by God. With this gift of faith we were made partakers in the divine nature and given the means by which to grow in grace.

Applying the gift of faith we are exhorted to add virtue, knowledge, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love. We live in a dynamic environment and our relationship with God is a living one. Though maturity may come in one area or another sooner rather than later, or vice versa, these things come to us through our seeking of Christ - through our God-given desire to abide in Him, and for Him to be formed in us. Our striving is more "getting out of the way" than it is helping God. We put to death the deeds of the body as God is at work in us, experientially perfecting us in Christ.

This is all a part of His gift to us. We could have been perfected at a stroke. God chose not to do that. He gives us the experience of participating in the process of our sanctification. We do not sanctify, just as we did not justify and will not glorify ourselves. That is in God’s purpose and power alone, in Jesus Christ. We do not sanctify. We walk in the process of our sanctification. We do not sanctify, but we seek, we knock and we ask. We recognize that inability and weakness in us that needs the grace and power of God to be at work in us. That is the gift we have been given - to know what we are apart from God and to know Who God is and what He is able to do.

So the things added to faith through the process of our seeking, and of God sanctifying, make us effective and fruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Whereas the word "knowledge" listed before was the Greek gnosis, the word here is the Greek epignosis. The first means "factual knowledge" and the latter means "wisdom", which is knowledge correctly applied to life, relationships and circumstance - steadfastly, over a long period of time. It is in actual fact another way of describing character. The knowledge of Christ applied in life (wisdom) is the formation of the character of Christ in us.

The knowledge of Christ is in the doing of His Word. He is the Word. When we obey, then we are letting Him abide in us and act through us. Since He is a living Being, it is in His living in and through us that we know Him. We obey His Word, do His will and let His Spirit reign in our hearts. This is the epignosis spoken of here. It is not simply the amassing of information about Christ. It is not memorizing the Bible. It is not knowing theology. It is not doctrine for doctrine’s sake. It is the obedience of a faith enlightened by His Word, exercised in prayer and outworked in the power of His Spirit.

Millions sit in churches today who feel themselves secure because they know the doctrine - though they live as though the God of the doctrine was either remote or dead. Millions more do not even know the doctrine because they sit under apostate and even heretical preaching and teaching. They are kept as lambs on milk, even years and years after their conversion. The answer is not to throw out, or minimize, the doctrine and the deep truths of the faith, as some elements of the Charismatics have done. Nor is it to deny the experiential nature of religion as some traditionalists do. The answer is to know Christ from His Word so that Christ, the Word, may be known in us through the obedience of faith. This is what the Apostle is talking about here.

Living faith is an active application of the Word of life in the life of the believer. It is not a series of experiences for the experience’s sake. Neither is it knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Both are errors. And the whole process is not about us, but about God. God Himself can make it applicable to us, but we had better make it all about Him. Not to do one leads to the abominable and excessive errors of modern feelings-based religion that has ruined many a Christian’s fruitfulness. Not to do the other leads eventually to a hard, dry, mean, superior, proud and utterly useless dogmatism.

9 For whoever lacks these things is blind and shortsighted and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.

Continuing on the topic of "these things" - these being the addition of virtue, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love to the faith we have been given.

The last verse spoke to what the presence and growth of these things indicated. This verse speaks to opposite - what the lack of any evidence of them indicates. Unfruitfulness in the character is evidence of (spiritual) blindness and/or dim-sightedness. In other words, the person is either not saved at all, or is a mere smoking flax. In either case, the responsibility rests upon the person, and not upon God.

Blindness as a Biblical symbol refers to lack of understanding - absolute ignorance of God where His light is not, in fact, seen at all. Blindness is not a halfway thing. Either you’re blind or you see - period.

Short-sightedness is not blindness. It is vision impairment, but there must first be vision in order for it to be impaired. This is why we must not judge the person of a brother when we are discerning his condition. He may be unsaved or he may be simply stalled. He may be blind or just vision-impaired. God alone knows those that are His. We can get some pretty good indications, but for the purposes of ministry only. The blind need the gospel and the vision-impaired need brotherly love, exhortation, admonishment and reproof from the Word.

Yet short-sightedness in this context can be a willful fault, and it can show a picture of the one who deliberately will not look afar off. It evokes the sense of the person who professes to be saved and has a form of religion, but who sets his sight only upon the "near" things of this world and not upon the "far" things of heaven. Was he really cleansed from his old sins? Was there ever truly saving faith present?

As stated, we cannot know for certain. But the terms here ought not to do either of these two things in us...

1) They ought not to evoke in us the thought that the Bible teaches that there are two types of Christian - the carnal and the spiritual. There are not. There are Christians and non-Christians and that is all. And each person, as we shall see in the next verse, is responsible for knowing which he or she is.

2) They ought not to generate in us a sense of complacency about the state of our brethren. We have a duty to warn them. When we see a brother failing it is a loving thing to do to exhort or rebuke or reprove or admonish Him - in a spirit of gentleness, when we can. {Galatians 6:1}
The question of such a person having been forgiven for his "old" sins is neither a proof that true salvation can be lost, nor that a person can be a "sleeper" Christian - one barely in through the door but who then lives as he pleases, without losing his salvation. There is too much scriptural evidence elsewhere supporting the eternal security of the believer. And there is no shortage of teaching that for a professor of Christ to continue in willful and unrepented sin is actually evidence of a false profession.

So whatever is meant by this phrase as it applies here it cannot be the loss of salvation. The "having forgotten" (in the literal Greek) carries the concept of letting go of something. False professors of Christ may, for a time, hold onto the truth, having, in fact, received it with joy. But because they have no root in themselves they wither and die when the sun comes up. They considered themselves to have been forgiven of sin, but they were never true believers to begin with because they had not truly repented. It was an "experience" that may have been intense, but which was not based in fact. In the parable of the sower, only the seed that eventually bore fruit was sown in the properly prepared and receptive soil. Only a heart that is prepared by God - convicted of sin and that turns from it, repents and amends its ways is evidence of the supernatural work of God.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 16/05
The grace of God, his love for the unlovely, for the guilty and polluted, is represented in the Bible as the most mysterious of the divine perfections. It was hidden in God. It could not be discovered by reason, neither was it revealed prior to the redemption of man. The specific object of the plan of salvation is the manifestation of this most wonderful, most attractive, and most glorious attribute of the divine nature. Everything connected with our salvation, says the Apostle, is intended for the "praise of the glory of his grace" {#Eph 1:6} God hath quickened us, he says, and raised us up, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order "that in the ages to come, he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus."

Charles Hodge - Systematic Theology
2Peter 1:5-8 (d)
Taking The "Scenic Route" to Real Love
The up hill and down dale, through the bush scenic route.

5-8 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Some translations have us adding brotherly affection "and" love, or "leading to" love - but both the AV and the NIV regard these as two separate additions. "Add to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness add love."

"Philadelphia" is the Greek word for brotherly kindness or affection. It is related to the world phileo - a word used for the sort of love that is moved by something in another person. Our phileo love is love that finds its motivator in something lovely in its object. It is love that responds emotionally to an attribute or characteristic of another. I love my friend because there are things in him that I find lovable. I looked upon him/her and I was moved, attracted or drawn by something in them. That is phileo.

Is what you feel looking at this image agape or phileo?It is distinguished here, and throughout the Bible, from the word translated as love in verse 7, which is agape. Agape love does not need to find anything in its source that moves it to love. Agape loves as an act of the will. Phileo love, for instance, will often characterize the beginning of a marriage relationship. But for the relationship to endure there must also be agape. There will be times when a spouse seems most unlovable, and it is then that the will to love must be found. And when it is, then it is the beginning of true godly love.

In the normal order, because God has ordained that we must grow in grace, the lesser thing necessarily comes before the greater. We learn to express brotherly love first because we are not ready to express the more complete form of love. God weans us from milk to meat. He allows us to love our brothers based on emotional preferences - personal likes and dislikes. In this we can go quite deep but we will not attain to the exhibition of agape. We can be civil, considerate and tolerant within the realm of brotherly affection. We can have sacrificial love within its bounds. We can die for a brother or sister. But the Apostle Paul put it best when he said...

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. {Romans 5:7-8}

The love of Christ for His people is agape love. It is love that finds no beauty or redeeming quality in its object, but that is an expression of the will. It is the expression of a will belonging to the Eternal and Almighty God Who is, Himself, love. God’s love, then, finds its impetus not in men, but in Himself - and is an expression of His nature through His will.

Look at my self-portrait here and see how God's agape love sees us.This sort of love loves the unlovely. It loves the enemy. It loves those that behave evilly towards us, and who speak ill of us. It does not need to find loveliness in the one being loved because agape love is expressed in a decision to love the utterly undeserving. Nothing recommends the object of agape love to the one loving. This divine attribute was shown towards us, His people, and it is an attribute that God will display through us as we yield to Him, and as we grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Agape love is the last item on the list for a reason. That reason is that, for many of us, the sort of love described comes after a great rolling road along which we have been led and during which we have been traineded to put to death much of that self-centred and inward looking affection that would chafe at the idea of loving the undeserving. We can speak lofty words about love, but to actually abide in such a love, and to evidence it, we must be emptied as Christ was emptied. This is true experiential religion. It is growth in grace. It is graduating from breast to bottle, to pap, to meat. We want to get there now. God so often seems to have ordained that, though we strive as we must, we shall get there in His time. We must oft-times take the scenic route.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Quote of the Day #1 - Nov 15/05
When you come to a fork in the road - take it!

Yogi Berra
Quote of the Day #2 - Nov 15/05
The hardest road to take is the one that leads back to the fork in the road where you took a wrong turn in the first place.

Harlan Ames - Gleanings 5.186
Outlook Expressed, Grimly -
With Hope of Change
I wish I could say "I got my M-SOE workin' (but it just won't work on you)" Unfortunately it won't work on anybody. What's my M-SOE? Read on...

I have been very satisfied with MSOutlook Express for a number of years. My friend, Peter, has often tried to encourage me to use the heftier MSOutlook but, though MSOutlook has more features, those features are ones I neither need nor want. And there are some things the beefier program either won't do, or won't do the way I like, that just turn me off.

That said, Outlook Express just jumped up and bit me in the last few days. You kinda expect software to have a hiccup once in a while, and I am not one of those who blames Mrs. Gates' little boy for all the ills in the world. But when things go wrong for me in Redmond they go wrong with a capital "S" (that's "S" for SNAFU which, in case anyone doesn't know, means "situation normal - all fouled up").

At this point, the really discerning reader will notice that Agonizomai uses a "Hotmail" account, and may wonder why I'm unfairly blogging about blaming Messrs. Ballmer and Gates for my e-mail woes. I'm not, actually. But even I have a life outside of the blogosphere (though sometimes not much of one) and for that life I use a different e-mail address, which is on my ISP's server. To access that account I have traditionally used MSOutlook Express. Phew! Glad I got that all down on paper.

Yesterday, for no appearent reason, MSOutlook Express threw a hissy-fit and refused to load, sticking its tongue out at me and declaring, without a hint of shame, "Outlook Express could not be started because MSOE.DLL could not be loaded." But, like I said, it's software and every now and then something is bound to go wrong. All you have to do is fix the problem, right? Find out how - and then fix it. Simple.

A Whirling Dervish Actually Whirling

That was said with all the naivté of a non-techie ignoramus. Nothing is simple in the unseen world of zeroes and ones that whirl around like light-speed Dervishes to produce the neat little boxes on our screens. I found this out when I Googled the problem, hoping to horn in on the collective wisdom of those who had gone before me - sorta like reading all those Christian authors from bygone ages in order to benefit from their collective wisdom, and to avoid reinventing the wheel (or the entire faith).

Well, the best I could come up with was some guy advising a re-load of Outlook Express after backing up the files (mbx, idx, wab etc.) I thought about that - for a New York minute - and realized that my own copy of Outlook Express had been installed from ISP's software about half a century ago - and had been updated from time to time via the Windows Update facility. I could have copied the necessary e-mail files to a folder on, say, the desktop easily enough - but I had a gazillion Microsoft IE patches installed that my old software would probably take one look at and go shrieking into the ether, complaining about how things are not the same as they used to be; kinda like all those people in the church who hold to tradition as a means of denying change. (You see how you can't win whichever way you go!)

Theseus Slaying the Minotaur

So I broke down and went to the Microsoft website expecting that a solution was just a keystroke away. Fat chance! Four times I got absolutely lost in the Minotaur's maze that they call a download section. Four times I fought my way out (Theseus eat your heart out!) - but without the information I needed. I circled the site like a wolf looking for a weakness - an opening - that would give me the chance to dart in and pounce on the paltry packet of data that I needed. It was them against me - a primal dance of predator and prey. At last I found something that looked like it might do the job - a modest and disarming little creature called "ie6setupOe.exe" which I was assured would enable me to reload Outlook Express and - away to the races...! I walked right over the seemingly inoccuous notice that advised me that this file was packaged together with an Internet Explorer update. My bad!

Breathless with anticipation, I downloaded that baby, made a copy of my critical data files, closed all my other programs and hit the launch button. At which point another tongue was stuck out and a glib message appeared saying "Installation cancelled because a newer version of Internet Explorer has already been installed." Grrrr... Now, unlike my Agonizomai account at Hotmail, my regular e-mail account does receive more than one item a month. I depend upon it for communication with friends, family and to receive a number of newsletters that interest me. I don't like to be without it. So I wanted a fix - desperately.

For a moment I thought about asking my friend, Peter, to help me sort it all out - but then I had my own moment of madness and downloaded another mail program that promised to be every bit as good as Outlook Express and then some. With a heavy dose of the faithless thought "Yeah, that's what they all say!" running through my head I did it anyway. I downloaded the "
Mozilla Thunderbird" e-mail client - more out of desperation than conviction (because, like the people I criticized obliquely above, I hate change myself).

Normally, I am one of those people that can take a small problem like the one described here and, by applying all my intelligence and creativity, make it 10 times worse than it was to start with. Let's say I am sometimes the Stan Laurel of solutions. So, when I installed this "Thunderbird" thing I was almost expecting a complete computer meltdown. But - O, happy day! It not only installed itself flawlessly but also gathered together all my necessary Outlook Express data files and settings, making a seamless transition from one application to the other. There wasn't even the hint of a problem. In fact, I was, perversely, a bit insulted that after initial startup the installation program didn't see fit to ask me a single question. It didn't need me at all. (Which reminds me of another doctrine of Scripture - but I won't go into that right now).

Thunderbird has the look and feel of my old mail program but with a number of advantages, such as its ability to handle RSS feeds from news sources and from other blogs. I like it already. And already, I don't care if the mavens at Microsoft have a hidden "fix"that will get my M-SOE working. In fact, I'm beginning to wonder if Mozilla Firefox might just not be a better bet than MSIE 6. Who knows, I might get to actually like change? - Nah! But there's always hope...

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Monday, November 14, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 14/05
When looking back on the lives of men and women of God, the tendency is to say, "What wonderfully keen and intelligent wisdom they had, and how perfectly they understood all that God wanted!" But the keen and intelligent mind behind them was the mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the divine guidance of God being exhibited through childlike people who were "foolish" enough to trust God’s wisdom and His supernatural equipment.

Oswald Chambers - Oct 26
2Peter 1: 5-8 (c) - Steadfastness and Godliness
2Peter 1:5-8

5-8 For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.



Self-control by itself is not enough. We may all exhibit a degree of self-control in one area or another, or for a period of time - but we must be sure that this is not mere human effort. By human effort we can cork up anger and feel very self-righteous about it. We can suppress sins of the mind and body like addictive smoking, pornography, excessive drinking. We can squelch the lust of the mind, the unbridled tongue, the jealous thought, the hateful hope. But if it is we who are doing it then the top will blow off sooner or later. Like the man who quit smoking for years and upon lighting a single cigarette went right back to the habit, only now smoked 2 packs a day instead of one.

Biblical self-control is not what the world thinks of as self-control. Worldly self-control is using the power of the human will to overcome. Biblical self-control is submitting the will to God. If you don’t understand the distinction then I urge you to pray for light. If you are walking in the Spirit then you know the difference already. One redounds to human credit and relies upon the carnal nature to suppress the carnal nature. But a house divided against itself cannot stand. The other relies upon the power of God to exhibit the life of Christ in him. The strong man (Christ) has first come in and overpowered the man of the house so that he can despoil his goods.

We fool ourselves all the time. The unsaved religionists do it by professing faith while inwardly relying upon themselves. Believers do it by failing to trust God in all things, and by having to learn trust in God even though God has proven Himself over and over as worthy of that trust. We are basically unbelieving people at heart, but the grace of God is at work in us.

So, adding steadfastness to self-control is the means by which the true nature of the controlling power in us is exhibited to us and to our brothers. If we are steadfast in virtue, increasing in knowledge without wavering, and we are self-controlled as a way of life, demonstrated over time - then we are encouraged ourselves and we are an encouragement to others. It is the proof of the grace and power of God at work in us. We understand Who it is that is making us to stand and to grow, and so do other believers - and all the glory goes to God. Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t fool yourself into mistaking your own efforts to suppress your old nature with the true grace and power of your redeeming Lord, at whose feet you have laid your old nature, knowing that nothing springing from it is of any avail whatsoever.

Steadfastness is a form of "proof" and the fact that the Bible so often warns against putting younger men or recent converts in positions of responsibility is itself a warning that outward virtue, knowledge and self-control can be mistaken for the real thing until they have been evidenced for a long period in a person.


Piety, holiness, reverent respect. These are the meanings of the Greek word eusebeia. Reverent respect for God, for God’s people (on account of God) and for God’s creatures comes upon the understanding that steadfastness brings. When we know that it is God that is making us to stand through faith - when we see that it is His power that we abide in - when we begin to abandon all hope and faith in ourselves, in the old carnal nature and in all other men - then we start to enter into true creaturehood in the hands of omnipotent God, and we begin to find that reverent fear which is the beginning of wisdom.

Be still, and know that He is God. It is not the whole story. God is omnipotent and He is Sovereign, but it is not the whole story. It is, however, where the whole story begins. God is God and we are not. To get this simple truth into the depraved hearts of fallen men took nothing less than the eternal Son’s incarnation, death and resurrection. Both His death and His life. When He died, we died with Him. When He rose, we rose in Him. And the life we now life we live by the faith of the Son of God. O that the truth would dawn in my own heart with all the brightness of the rising of the Day Star! O that I would let God be God with my every thought and word and inclination and deed!

But I do not. I need grace and mercy even for this. Though I have all that pertains to life and godliness in Christ Jesus, and though I must move in it, apprehend it, give myself to it, claim it as my own - yet I do not. I need to hear that truth preached because it is in the hearing that my own inadequacy, my impotency, my unwillingness, my unbelief, my inertia are all confronted with the truth. It is in hearing of it that I am brought to understand that only Christ in me can overcome. Christian heart-life is a paradox. It is contrary to the carnal nature and its understanding. In order to live I must die. In order that the life of Christ may increase in me, my own life must decrease.

Only when I am dead am I truly alive because Life Himself lives in me. I know this, as do all Christians, and yet I draw a curtain over all that it implies. I speak to it and then act contrarily. I say that rivers of living water will flow out of my belly if I receive drink from Christ, and then I live as though I was in control. I regulate my spirituality. I am afraid to vacate my hovel so that the King may move in and act like the King that He is.

Godliness can come only from God. It cannot come from God on my terms, or me helping, or with my fingers in the pie. It isn’t a negotiation worked out between two equal parties and then implemented. It isn’t me and God hashing it all out with a resulting compromise of both views. It is an all-or-nothing thing. Either God is in me to do His will and I am yielded to that, or I am doing my own. He won’t help me with following my own will. He’s not interested in that. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That is the key to godliness. And it must be God in us doing it while we are continually and consciously acknowledging that fact.

When we are doing God’s will (it’s called obedience) then God is being seen in us, we are abiding in His perfect love and will, and all of our actions, thoughts and words will be godly - they will be true and loving and will exhibit all the fruit of the Holy Spirit Who is in us to empower and to move them in us. They will be the manifestation of the character of God because we are displaying the Christ that is in us. That is what we were made and saved for - to magnify God by being the glorified objects of His abiding grace and love.

My moniker - that's John Henry to Americans

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Quote of the Day - Nov 13/05
But ignorance, the mother of all these (heretical errors), is driven out by knowledge. Wherefore the Lord used to impart knowledge to His disciples, by which also it was His practice to heal those who were suffering, and to keep back sinners from sin. He therefore did not address them in accordance with their pristine notions, nor did He reply to them in harmony with the opinion of His questioners, but according to the doctrine leading to salvation, without hypocrisy or respect of person.

Iraneus - "Against Heresies" - Book III, Chapter V