Agonizomai: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Assurance and Obedience
Show me a person who does not have assurance and I will show you a person who does not have obedience.

Gleanings 6.216

Friday, January 30, 2009

Romans Chapter 3 - Universal Corruption
Man's Corrupt Character - Part 1
No one understands (the things of God) (v. 11)

Play in your default mp3 player

Romans 3: 10-11 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands..."

What, no one? What was all that communicating with Israel about, then? Why do we have the Word of God if we don’t understand it? How can there be teachers and preachers of righteousness without understanding?

First of all, it means that no natural (unregenerate) man understands the things of God…
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. {1Corinthians 2:14 AV}
This is evident from both our personal experience and our interaction with the world.

There was a time when the Bible was a dreadfully dull and dreary book to you. It was dense, uninteresting, opaque and utterly irrelevant to your life. You were unregenerate. You were unable to see the beauty and truth in it. You could not see them because you could not see Christ. You could not see Him because you did not know Him. The fact that you could not see Christ was not due to Him being secreted away. He was simply not in you at the time. It is still the same book today as it was then. The same wisdom and truth is writ large upon its pages. It was due to your utterly depraved heart being spiritually dead and unwilling to see Him because you loved only your sin. All men are like this, without exception.

Now that you are born again (one hopes) you take your light into the world. What do you see when you preach the gospel? Eyes cloud over. People get suddenly busy. They become evasive or even hostile. They are too occupied with loving themselves and their sin to see Jesus in you preaching to them. Whenever a person actually responds favourably it is due entirely to the operation of the Holy Spirit, Who draws people to Christ – often through the message you have been delivering, but also as a conclusion to a myriad of other things to which you are not privy.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. {1Corinthians 3:6}
Do you believe that people universally hate the gospel of Christ because they are enemies of God? Do you believe that it is God alone Who draws them, through whatever means He is pleased to use? Do you believe that, if He did not do so, then no one would be saved because no one understands the things of God? If not, see the next lament…

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Roxylee Rocks

I caught this song on one of the Christian commentary podcasts that I regularly listen to. Loved it. The words are given right below the flash player. If you have trouble playing it on my site then go to Roxylee's and feast on this and her other stuff. Her Creative Commons License terms can be found here.

Play in your native mp3 player

Get Out of the Pulpit

I’ve been hearing about abominations
Going on in the house of the Lord
Devils mocking holiness, who teach prosperity
Then take your hard earned money they will hoard

Preachers are now just pop psychologists
Stand up comedians, or worse
Repentance isn’t mentioned, sins are just mistakes
Nothing taught from chapter and verse

Get out of the pulpit
Go find another job
You have no business pastoring
You don’t care for the flock

You have your own kingdom
Your fear of man is cursed
Repent and preach the Bible
Or get out of God’s church

We now hear doctrines that are taught by demons
You need to be familiar with God’s Word
The guy up front who calls himself a teacher
Rambles on about himself, it’s so absurd

The good news of the gospel is fast fading,
Neo-universalism is p.c.
The “many roads to Rome” is now accepted
And the offense of the Cross is history

Get out of the pulpit
Go find another job
You have no business pastoring
You don’t care for the flock

You have your own kingdom
Your fear of man is cursed
Repent and preach the Bible
Or get out of God’s church

Jesus, fully God and man is Savior
He died, then rose again to make us free
We come to him by grace alone by faith in Him
For his atoning work at Calvary

Sola -Scriptura has become passé
As a smorgasbord of poison is our fare, if you’re
in a lukewarm driven, me me sensitive church Lite
Protect your family and Emerge from there!

Get out of the pulpit
Go find another job
You have no business pastoring
You don’t care for the flock

You have your own kingdom
Your fear of man is cursed
Repent and preach the gospel
Or get out of God’s church
I said repent and preach true gospel
or get out of God’s church

This sort of reminds me of one of my earliest articles in 2005 called "Get a Real Job". Give it a read if you have the time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Romans 3:9-19 - Chart - Universal Depravity

The charts are really helpful in following the argument. This one details the universality of sin among all men, Jew and Gentile alike. Click on the image for larger on line view.

If you downloaded the last chart in MSWord format, you will find this chart is page 2 of that download. If you didn't download the earlier file, here it is again. And you can download all of the charts here.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The End is in Sight!

As of today there are 20 posts left in the Romans series. If you remember, this series was mainly started in order to illustrate a gospel foundation that gets far less emphasis these days than Paul gave to it. That foundation is the sinfulness and consequent lostness of mankind down to the very last person, including you and me. It is the "bad news" compared to which the gospel of grace is the "good news".

They that are well have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. Conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of Christ crucified is a part of the process of salvation. It is means in the hand of God. He has chosen to save through repentance and faith which He both grants and gives to all who come to believe.

The only corollary I would make is to reemphasize that it is conviction by the Holy Spirit, and not by the preacher or teacher. The moment we make the transition from being faithful vessels of the Word and Spirit of God into being self-powered effectors of conviction we are in danger of become harpies, or shrewish, or capital judges. We are not to be any of these things. We are messengers. We are witnesses to what Christ has done and why He did it. And we testify to what God has spoken in Him.

The remaining posts will take us to mid February when I leave for Vancouver to visit my daughter. I'll try to have posts ready for the period when I'm gone, but I'm not sure I want to start the Revelation Letters to Seven Churches series while I'm away, so I might re-post some old articles from way back for a period of about 10-12 days. I'm scheduled to be back in the saddle on Feb 26th, but I will probably take a few days to settle in.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Romans Chapter 3 - All Are Consigned to Sin
Part C - Universal Sin
Man's Corrupt Condition

Play this in your default mp3 player

Romans 3:9-10 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one..."

This is a summary condemnation. It refers to the whole race of humanity, and includes all the specific transgressions listed afterwards. The nicest pagan person you know is not righteous, but totally depraved. His or her mind, emotions and will serve only their own interests, no matter how lofty their ideals in purely human terms. Human righteousness is a terrible red-herring. It is, by definition, self-righteousness, because it does not come from God. It is not pure, but rather alloyed with sin and therefore utterly sinful – since sin corrupts utterly, as Adam has shown.

As a Christian, you are not righteous. It is neither your righteousness plus Christ’s, nor is it Christ’s righteousness given to you – but it is Christ’s righteousness in you and you in Christ’s righteousness. You don’t own it. You will never own it. He may give it freely, but if you want to be like Him you will not grasp it. Do you begin to see? The moment you grasp it you lose it! Just abide in it.

God alone is righteous (Mark 10:18). Can we admit that to the very core of our being? It is liberating. At last you can be still and know that He is God.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sermon of the Week
God's Kindness and Severity
Here again is one of my favorite preachers, Doug VanderMeulen of the Community Baptist Church, Fargo, ND. I love how he preaches the hard stuff so gently. It's almost paradoxical.

There's some really good material in here about works righteousness and persistent heresies associated with it.

Kindness and Severity of God

Doug VanderMeulen

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Do You Need A Beatitude Adjustment?

Download and play in your default mp3 player

So often we look at scripture and see that we shall be blessed if we would only do something obedient. The tithe is good example of this. If we are obedient in giving a tenth of our income then God will open the windows of heaven and pour out His blessings. All of God’s commands and precepts work in a similar way. His blessing is in the doing, just as His curse is upon the disobedience.

But when Jesus spoke of blessings He put the credit where it is really due. He brought us to the next level of appreciation. He brought us to the fullness of grace upon grace. It is no longer a question of our performing in order to obtain a blessing, but of simply receiving through faith the blessing that grace pours out. Now, God is recognized not only as the dispenser of the blessing, but the originator of the act that allowed it to flow from the throne of grace. All circumstances in God’s providence for His people are a blessing – including those in which He has brought about the obedience of our faith.

In the Beatitudes we see that it is the poor in spirit who are blessed by their condition. Blessed are the poor in spirit – not blessed will be the poor in spirit for making themselves lowly. God ordained poverty of spirit for them, and that ordaining act was the blessing in which they would be freed walk in the kingdom.

Similarly, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are not credited with working up such a pious attitude. They are described as having been blessed with the attitude that will see them filled.

All of the other Beatitudes can be seen in the same light. The blessing precedes and is the cause of the result. It is the poverty of spirit, the mourning for sin, the meekness, the hungering and thirsting for righteousness, the mercifulness, the purity of heart, the peacemaking disposition that are themselves the blessing of God, given by grace. They are the characteristics of God Himself.

But God is a God of superabundance. To those who have shall more be given, but to those who have not shall be taken away even that which they have. So, when God blesses by giving a person that part of His own character that mourns for sin, He adds blessing upon blessing by also giving the comfort that is in Christ.

Try another one. When God purifies the heart of a person by sanctifying him, God makes Himself more visible to that person. That person sees God more and more clearly as the distortions of sin are brushed away. Filled up, pressed down and running over. Grace upon grace.

By embracing this understanding of God’s sovereign grace we
can come to a heartfelt acceptance of the last two Beatitudes. These are the harder ones. The ones that speak of being persecuted and falsely accused for Jesus’ sake. Such things are called a blessing and even a reason for rejoicing. But, in our Christian infancy, some of us may have thought that the Beatitudes spoke of rewards for the self-improvement we struggled to attain in order to please God. And when we came to these last two there was a full stop. We were not ready to go quite that far yet. We wanted the credit for being meek and mournful but not the responsibility of diving into persecution for Jesus’ sake.

It was due to a misunderstanding of the sovereignty of God. We didn’t realize that God could bring us to the point where we would rejoice in being persecuted for His name’s sake. We didn’t have to work it up, to steel ourselves, to grit our teeth. God has appointed us unto good works that He prepared before hand that we should walk in them. He will bring it to pass if He has ordained it. And there are times when a healthy fear of what He can do is not a bad thing.

But the truly great thing is that as we are blessed to be called, chosen and fitted by God for these things, we will receive the double blessing of knowing more fully our inheritance and co-heirship in all that is God’s in Christ. No one will be called to suffer persecution whom God has not already fitted for it. And no one will be called to such things without the sense of the great blessing that God has created for them through the suffering itself.

The martyrs, to a man (and woman), were given a martyr’s grace. They were made like Jesus Who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame. In fact, it was the joy and courage, the peace and assurance of Jesus Himself in these people that brought them all the way home. This is the sense in which Jesus promised that not a hair of our heads would perish.

So the Beatitudes are not a series of commanded behaviours that God will reward if we perform them. They are a list of the characteristics of Jesus, which He imparts to His people freely by grace, as a blessing from which both the behaviour and further blessings flow. And they are given so that we will come to just such an understanding, through faith.

What a God we serve! He not only gives life, but gives it more abundantly. He not only blesses, but fills up, presses down and overflows. What has God blessed you with? Has He made you hunger for Him? Has He humbled you? Has He convicted you of sin so that your heart is breaking? Has He subjected you to ridicule for His Name’s sake? Then bless His Holy name for His grace in doing these things in you so that you can also receive the reward that He brings with Him – both in the here and now and in the sweet by and by.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Romans Chapter 3 - All Are Consigned to Sin
Part B - My Sin

Play this in your native default mp3 player

Something that might pass unnoticed throughout the last 3 chapters is the narrowing of the language that Paul uses until he arrives at that place where he uses the personal pronoun “my” with regard to the sin of falsehood.
• In Chapter 1 he talks about what “they” do; “They are without excuse.” {Romans 1:20} “They were filled with all manner of wickedness” {Romans 1:29}

• Chapter 2 comes down to “You O man, who judges another, you are without excuse.” {Romans 2:1}

• Then in Chapter 3 it is “our unrighteousness.” {Romans 3:5}

• And finally, in the same chapter, it is “my falsehood.” {Romans 3: 7}
I believe that this is no accident. Paul is demonstrating that, regardless of how much we know about sin and its effects, its corruption of human nature, its abhorrence to God, its deserving of wrath and punishment - such things are only head-knowledge and are useless for our individual salvation unless we own our sin personally. In the end it all comes down not to what they or you or even we did, but to what I did. Every person is directly accountable to God for his own sin and must own up to it before Him. The more we look at the sin of others in this regard, the more we are prone to judge them (which we are not equipped to do) or to excuse ourselves (which we have no right to do).

This is the true root of why sin and repentance for sin must be a part of our preaching the gospel. Unless we preach law and the consequences of any transgression of it, however small, a person cannot be personally convicted. Unless a person is convicted he cannot repent. Unless he repents he cannot be saved. Let it be absolutely clear. As testifiers and preachers, it is not we who do the convicting. But our Lord holds us accountable for speaking the whole counsel of God in obedience to Him, so that He may convict by His Spirit, through the Word.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A "Flash" Light Turns On

I only recently found this out that some readers may be having problems actually listening to my audio on site. (Others may have a problem only AFTER listening to it, but that's another story [/smile])

Apparently the current player either doesn't show at all or shows but doesn't play the file. If you have the latest Adobe Flash Player installed and flash is enabled on your system you may be alright. But even then you might not be able to play the audio.

Derek Ashton at THEOParadox looked into the matter a little and figured out that because my audio files and player(s) are stored off site, and on different sites, the the filtering on some networks just won't let the info through. Apparently "proxy" sites are regarded as dangerous or suspicious. Sorry about that. Complaints and/or suggestions are invited. However, I can't afford to have a commercial site and be paying for storage and bandwidth.

Meanwhile, I will start to include a link directly to the mp3 file right under the player. Clicking it will download the file and open it in your native default mp3 player. I'm also going back to an older flash player for a few future posts to see if that helps. Why miss those mellifluous British tones, right?

Luther on Inspiration
... the Holie Ghost teacheth, preacheth and declareth Christ, all others do blaspheme him.

Martin Luther - "Table Talk"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Romans Chapter 3 - All Are Consigned to Sin
Part A - Jewish Sin (iii)
If our Sin Leads to God’s Glory…

Play this in your native default mp3 player

Romans 3:7-8 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? And why not do evil that good may come?––as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.

…why punish us at all? In fact, why not do evil that good may come? Paul does not actually stoop to answer this question. It betrays the true wickedness of the human heart and passes beyond the pale to the place where, rather than shame at his sin, man tries to make God complicit in it. What utter depravity is here!

God does not do evil, nor can He look upon it. He does not approve of it – in fact He universally condemns it. He is not complicit in it. He is holy. He dwells in unapproachable light. He is a consuming fire. How can a man say to God that evil means justifies godly ends? God does not produce the evil means by which His righteous ends are achieved. He merely uses the willful evil of His creatures to bring about good. It is a wonder! It is the mystery of the cross! It is God’s greatest glory.

The Jew cannot justify himself by tacitly smearing God. Neither can we. As Christians, let us not fall into the wicked error of justifying our sin when we see what the grace, the love and power of God does to use it for good. Rather let us strive never to sin at all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Deserving Grace

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I was once sitting with a group of Christian men when one of our number – a man filled with love and zeal for Jesus – said, “Everybody deserves to hear the gospel.” It sounded so right and so loving, so innocuous and so generous that even an old curmudgeon like me was almost captivated by it. Almost. But what this godly person had actually said was the absolute opposite of what our Lord says in His Word!

The Bible at all times and in all places goes to great pains to show us that absolutely no one deserves anything from God but judgement, hell and death. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” “The wages of sin is death.” Modern evangelism uses these parts of the “Roman Road” unashamedly, every day, to bring people home to Christ. Has that same modern view also produced Christians who simply don’t know the whole of the gospel they are preaching?

We preach a gospel of GRACE. Grace is unmerited favour shown by God towards undeserving man. Not one of us deserves to hear the gospel. What can any man do to earn the right to even hear of salvation, much less to receive it, from God? This is what undeserving means. It means that no man has the right to ever hear the gospel, especially not due to some merit within himself.

Thinking that men deserve to hear the gospel makes us think God unjust to those people who never hear it. It says that God owes them the right to hear. Everybody deserves a kick at the cat and to deny them that right is to be cruel and unjust. From this aberration comes the idea that those who die without hearing the gospel will be given a chance to hear it after their death. Never mind the Word of God that says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, and then the judgement.”

This kind of thinking adds one more humanism to the invasion of the church; one more twist of the truth from the father of lies; one more deception designed to weaken the foundation upon which we all stand. It detracts from the simplicity that is Christ by adding to the gospel what was never there in the first place in order to accommodate men’s fallen concepts of what the truth is.

It takes a pure and holy God, Who graciously provides the way of salvation for an undeserving race, and says that He is unholy and unjust if He does not ensure that every person that ever lived is given the opportunity to clearly understand and receive it. It turns grace into unholiness! It points the finger of judgement at God Himself! I know who it is that does such things. I recognize the fingerprints and I can smell that trace of fetid breath.

Yet I cannot hold a candle to the man who repeated this falsehood. He is a far better saint than I could ever be. He loves His Lord with a zeal I could only pray for. Like George Whitefield said of John Wesley when asked if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven I can only reply of this brother, “No I don’t think I shall see him. He will be too close to the throne and the light and I will be so far out on the fringes that I will not be able to see him.” He lives the Christianity of which I merely speak.

This man loves so much, is so grateful, so moved, so changed by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit that he is overcome by the desire to share it and to see all people in his life receive the same thing as he. He is an enthusiastic evangelist.

Yet I am compelled to challenge him, and all the others who did not stand to object when this falsehood came out of his mouth. His motive is pure, but his gospel is flawed.

Both zeal and truth are essential parts of the our obedience to Christ’s commission, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.” We must not preach another gospel; we must preach THE gospel. We must not withhold it but preach it to all, in season and out, without respect of persons.

Zeal without truth is not enough. Truth without zeal is hindered. Christ is the Truth and He was filled with zeal for His Father’s house. So let us pray to be made like Him in all respects, and to find ourselves filled with His love for God and man, which is able to encompass and reconcile both these things in our very own being.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Romans Chapter 3 - All Are Consigned to Sin
Part A - Jewish Sin (ii)
But our failure hasn’t spoiled God’s purposes…

Romans 3:5-6 But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) By no means! For then how could God judge the world?

…so why are we still held to account? If it all turns out God’s way in the end despite our failure why not overlook the failure? The proper answer to this question is crucial to understanding the relationship between God’s sovereignty and our responsibility.

It is true that no matter what we do we cannot thwart the predetermined purposes of God…
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and his anointed, saying, "Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, "I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill." Psalm 2:1-6

"Remember this and consider, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it. Isaiah 46: 8-11
…He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. {Revelation 22:13} So neither the Jews nor we Christians ought to discount the idea that God does as He pleases and accomplishes all He purposes to do. God does not fail to do all His predeterminate will. If He did He would not be God.

But as God, He has the sovereign right to demand that we love, fear and obey Him. He requires that we expend effort – in fact our whole being – upon loving Him, and all that it implies. {Deuteronomy 6:5} God can do this because He is concerned with our hearts and not our results. Outcomes are entirely His. He judges the heart. This is why two people faced with an identical situation can make precisely the same choice, and to one it is sin and the other righteousness.

God couldn’t care less about our producing results - He wants our loving obedience. Result orientation is a vestige of our carnality. The thought that we were ever able to effect an end of ourselves is specious. We are only able to dwell in an end that God is effecting with either a right or wrong heart. Now, don’t make the mistake of thinking that this means we don’t have to do anything. We do – that’s why its called the obedience of faith. But when we do things in faith we understand that the result is entirely in God’s hands. (Proverbs 16:9, 33) It would be arrogant and foolish to think that because we obeyed God from the heart in His power, according to His will with whatever essence, resources, skills, gifts and talents the Omnipotent creator ex-nihilo of all things had graciously given us – that we were effecting anything at all. God is effecting it through us. His glory, our amazed adoration.

And conversely, when we do not abide in God, it is not our outward failure that condemns us, but our very failure to abide in Him. So God is righteous to judge the Jews, and all men, for their failures of the heart – their intentions – He does not demand results of themselves. Results are the fruit of abiding and obeying.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Piper Plumbs Cowper's Depths

John Piper of "Desiring God" has done brief audio biographies of many men of the faith from times gone by - Newton, Owen, Gresham-Machen, Edwards and others. I have enjoyed listening to quite a few of them, but the one that most resonates with me is that of William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper"), poet and hymn writer.

Cowper's anguished soul, his almost overwhelming depression and his suicidal temptations served as the fount through which sweet praises of God and of His grace were distilled for the blessing of us all. Most of us would not wish to experience the great darkness of the soul that was Cowper's lot - but we would still like to have the insights into Christ that can only come through walking with Him through the maelstrom.

I know something of Cowper's journey, having spent the eternity of 2 long weeks locked up in ward for the insane in my younger years, and having endured 6 months of intensive treatment in later years at a hospital for people incapacitated by severe depression. Of course, I never produced the sweetness that came from Cowper's pen - but we shared the darkness to some degree, and we were preserved by the same gracious Savior.

Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Soul of a Saint
Reflections on the Life of William Cowper

by John Piper

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sin and a Changed Nature
It is true the believer many fall into sin, gross sin; but he cannot reflect on it without shame and sorrow. There will come, as a result, a determination to guard against the commission of sin in the future. He cannot consent to sin. It is against his will that he sins. There will be a universal and particular opposition to sin; the former is hatred of all sins, the latter is a determination to rule out every false way. A new creature in Christ cannot live in the old life. He has received a heavenly birth which delights in the source of its life.

"Regeneration" - Ferrell Griswold

Friday, January 16, 2009

Romans Chapter 3 - All Are Consigned to Sin
Part A - Jewish Sin (i)


I have broken this section down into 3 parts as follows:
A) Jewish Sin

B) My Sin

C) Universal Sin
Beginning with the first part, the Jews are seen as likely to ask a number of questions in seeking to understand their situation under the gospel. Behind all of them lies the natural, fallen tendecy of all men towards self-justification. So, it's worth a warning to (we) Gentile saints who may be tempted to regard these specious arguments of the Jews with some disdain. That would be a grave mistake. We can easily fall prey similar thoughts.

A) Jewish Sin:
i) So What's the Advantage of Being a Jew?

Romans 3:1-4 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God. What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, "That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

The Jew might argue by asking that, if only faith is needed, and not the law or circumcision – things actually given by God Himself – then what’s the advantage in being a Jew at all? “Aren’t we supposed to be special? Didn’t God Himself make us special when He chose us? Don’t His dealings with us in history prove that we are specially regarded by Him?”

Well, as we shall see, you are only “special” if you exhibit the obedience of faith. Remember the inseparability of faith and obedience? If you truly believe God you will obey Him. But did the Jews do so? Though they were, above all things, entrusted with the very Words of God they turned them into a carnal, outward set of rules, rather than receiving them as spiritual and inward principles governing a personal relationship with Him. They rejected God’s written Word long before they rejected His Living Word. With great blessing comes great responsibility – and failure in that responsibility brings proportionate judgment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grace That is Greater Than All Our Sin

For some reason I can't quite fathom, my post "A Saint's/Sinner's Prayer" struck a chord with more people than I usually get visiting my little blog. Praise the Lord that a few were blessed in some small way.

In the course of responding to comments I was reminded of Julia Johnston's wonderful hymn, "Grace That is Greater Than All Our Sin". What a wonderful prescription (the old guys would say "physic") for the mourning soul, by which God is able to comfort us. I found the organ music on YouTube under someone named Lance's channel here and the words are provided below.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured,
there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.


Grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God's grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!

Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold,
threaten the soul with infinite loss;
grace that is greater, yes, grace untold,
points to the refuge, the mighty cross.


Dark is the stain that we cannot hide.
What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide,
brighter than snow you may be today.


Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,
freely bestowed on all who believe!
You that are longing to see his face,
will you this moment his grace receive?


Lyrics by Julia Johnston

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Romans 3:1-20 - Overview Summary Chart

The following chart details the fact that Jew and Gentile alike are all sinners, and summarizes the first 20 verses of chapter 3. A larger on line view can be had by clicking on the image.

I highly recommend downloading the chart in MSWord format from here. It will make following the argument easier. Part 2 of the chart (originally on the back) will be posted later, at an appropriate time. Or you can download all the charts here.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's All Greek to Me

I've posted stuff before from Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. Unlike me, he is an expert in Biblical languages - especially the Greek. The following short
(20 min) video highlights the value of an good understanding of the original language(s) of the Bible, and a proper application the grammar in order to arrive at right doctrine.

Some of the time (perhaps a lot of the time) even pastors and scholars get the process reversed - importing a tradition based doctrine to the text and forcing it to say what it doesn't. Take, for instance, what is perhaps the most famous verse in the New Testament - John 3:16 which in the ESV, like most modern translations, reads as follows:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
The English translation is often used to imply meaning that the verse does not actually contain in the original language. What follows is what the Greek looks like, with literal word meanings inserted. It may help you to follow what Dr. White is explaining.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Romans Chapter 2 - Review
But Aren't the Jews God's Chosen?

Romans 2:28-29 For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.

Recalling the place we came to at the end of Chapter 2, we see that the Jews, like the Gentiles, were only ever justified by faith. Those who trusted in the promised Messiah, according to whatever measure of light they had, were justified. Those that did not, were not – even though they were of the chosen nation according to the flesh.

Do we see? The distinction is being made between the spirit and the flesh – between things carnal – mortal, lost, dead things – and things of eternity – things of the spirit. Between faith in God’s promised and full solution to sin, and man’s dead, carnal self-justifying works. When we believe, then we are seated in the heavenly places (spiritual realm) in Christ Jesus, and we are laying up treasure in heaven. When we do not, or when we are faking it, we are still earthly and our trust is in our own faculties. But God has warned us:
Thus says the LORD: "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. - Jeremiah 17:5-6
Jew or Gentile makes no difference, for we are either spiritual and thereby alive, or we are carnal and still dead in sin. Faith and faith alone in God’s promised solution to sin is our hope and our salvation, as God said:
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit." – Jeremiah 17:7-8
Even though this truth of justification by faith alone is plain, such is the case of the Jews, and their history with God, that there is tendency for them to grasp at some residual means of self-justification. This is dealt with in verses 1 to 6 of Romans Chapter 3, as we shall see. Don't forget to download the chart you will find in the following post. (That would be on Wednesday Jan 14th)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Hemmings Hones in on Hope

A lot of recent stuff has been about wrath and judgment. And there's nothing wrong with that. But a balanced diet is always better in the long run. Law and gospel are both needed. Bad news and good news. Rod and staff. Conviction and then comfort.

Gerard Hemmings of Amyand Park Chapel, Twickenham, UK is a Calvinist and a fundamentalist, in the classic sense of the word, though I doubt that label would sit well with him because of all the baggage it comes with these days. But he is a brother in the Lord speaking truth to God's children. And he's English, to boot. The following sermon is all about assurance and contains a lot of clear, uncomplicated teaching that is both encouraging and helpful.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Saint's/Sinner's Prayer

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!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Romans Chapter 2
Excuse #7 - I Am Religious
Response: God's judgment is according to reality, not religious profession.

Romans 2:17-29 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth–– 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” 25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.


Jewish Religiosity

Paul gives a small introduction to the whole question of God’s dealings with the Jews and their response to those dealings. God gave them two notable things, in which they came to glory. One was circumcision and the other was the Law.

Circumcision was the outward sign of belonging to the descendants of Abraham according to the promise, and it was regarded as the seal of the covenant between God and the Jewish nation. Its symbolism became an idol, in a way. They mistook the symbol for what the symbol represented and made the outward sign dominant over the inward duty. It was given as a symbol of devotion to the God of the promise – of a heart thirsty and eager to serve and honour Him by believing in Him like their father, Abraham, by trusting God to perform all that He had promised to perform on their behalf. God would do and they would believe, showing that faith through their obedience. Does this sound familiar?

The Law, to which we shall come in much more detail later, came in three parts, namely – Moral, Ceremonial and Civil. The Moral Law is the Ten Commandments. Though given at Sinai, we should not think that this was the first time anybody had ever heard of such things. It was not. Recall that even pagans, who never received the Moral Law and mostly had never heard of it, nevertheless had it written on their hearts:
When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. {Romans 2:14-16}
All men have the law of God written on their hearts. Their conscience reminds them when they are violating it. It may be that God’s eternal moral law in fallen human hearts is a mere shadow of what it was – but I doubt it. I believe it is writ just as large and plain there as ever it was. The problem is not with the law or its faintness, but with the human heart and its self-hardening, ear-covering, conscience-searing preference for sin, which are the real reasons that God’s law glows so faintly within.

So the Jews, though they received the written code on tablets of stone directly from the finger of God, were receiving that which reminded them of what all men’s hearts really know to be true. How symbolic that they received the law on tablets of stone, for the stone surely represented the deaness and hardness of their hearts, and of all humanity’s, too.

But the Jews did with God’s law what they did with the symbol of circumcision – they carnalized it. They gradually perverted it by ignoring its spiritual nature, constantly hardening their hearts and turning to false, perverted, idolatrous ways, finally making it into a mere outward observance, ritual and tradition. Thus they came to the place Paul describes where they were willful law breakers, rendering the sign of circumcision no more than a meaningless vestige of history.

All of the benefits of being God’s chosen people were not simply in the symbols or the outward things, but were supposed to be in the inward parts – in the reality of a reverent and obedient heart devoted to God. As a Nation, they failed in this. And God’s judgment upon them came with terrifying wrath in AD70 when Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, and the people were banished from Palestine. Their religiosity did them no good then, and it will not help in the Day of Final Judgment, either.

Christian Religiosity

What happened to the Jews is a warning to the church. Everything in Paul's argument regarding the Jews' false claim to self-justification - namely their chosen nation status and their religious system of worship – can be applied to today's church – simply substitute the words "Christian" for "Jew", "gospel" for "law" etc.
"If you bear the name of a Christian, and rest on having the gospel, and glory in God, and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the gospel; and are confident that you yourself are a guide of the blind, having in the gospel the form of knowledge and of the truth…"
Then would follow the searching questions of verses 21 and 22:
"…for do we not know teachers that teach others, but refuse to follow their own teaching? And preachers that denounce stealing, but are accused by the world of being themselves money-grabbers?"
So it would read:
"You who glory in the gospel, through your disobedience to the gospel, do you not dishonor God? The name of God is blasphemed among the unchurched because of you! Being a church member indeed profits if you are an obeyer of the gospel; but if you are a refuser of a gospel-walk, your so-called ‘membership’ is as good as being unchurched. If therefore a non-churched person obeys the gospel, shall not his stature be reckoned for ‘church-membership’ ? And shall not the unchurched, if they obey the gospel, judge you, who with the letter and ‘church-membership’ are a refuser of a gospel-walk? For he is not a Christian who is one outwardly, nor is that ‘church-membership’ which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly; and ‘church-membership’ is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God."
This last form of self-justification, namely that we are observing religious things, is surely the most infuriating to God. Jesus hated religious hypocrisy and often preached and warned against it. It would be better for the Jews never to have had the law than to have so wickedly misappropriated it by keeping God's way of righteousness to themselves and turning it into a man-made means of self-justification.

And it would be better for false professors of Christianity never to have heard the gospel than to have turned it into the grace abusing, no-Lordship, carnal believism that poisons much of what purports to be Christianity today. A religion that is full of outward form, but lacking in inward reality, where there is little to distinguish us from the world, and where our meeting places have become entertainment centres to attract the ungodly, or to encourage the carnally minded with “clubby” social activities.

God still hates hypocrisy. He hates self-justification because it compounds sin by hiding the plain truth - that all men everywhere need to repent because they are sinners through and through. There is a remedy – but there can be no remedy for those that are not sick, as Jesus pointed out…
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." Mark 2:16-17
Try to think of it this way – preaching God’s unvarnished, undiluted truth about their condition to sinners is somewhat akin to putting a Medical Reference Volume in a room full of sick men. Some will soon enough begin to see in themselves the symptoms of every disease in the book, and will hurry off to the physician.

This is why Paul lays down the foundational argument in Romans that all men are "totally depraved" and all are equally and justly under condemnation and wrath. Unless men know this then how will they understand that they are sick? And how will they even know that they need a Saviour? This is the single most damnable fault of the purveyors of the modern neo-evangelical gospel – that because of a misplaced desire to attract people to the church they have gutted the gospel message of its power, neglecting the doctrines of the faith, including the total depravity of man and the need for heartfelt repentance from sin. For fear of offending people they put them instead in an even greater danger of hell. Imagine the shame, if not outright wrath, stored up for the gospel diluters - and tremble for them!

Next we shall come to Paul’s fuller treatment of some special objections of the Jewish Nation, God’s chosen people, before Paul summarizes his arguments to date, with support from the scriptures he had available at the time, showing that sin is a universal condition.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Is Your Pastor a Bible Teacher or a Philosopher?

This is as a video made by Mark Kielar, Pastor of First Baptist Church, Boynton Beach, FL - and posted on YouTube by Lane Chaplin.

On listening, you will note that, though Pastor Kielar doesn't name names, this doesn't stop him from calling a spade a spade. I recognized Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn from the clips he included. There may have been others. In any event, this sort of direct, gently confrontational teaching is what is lacking in so many pulpits today. We don't need a steady diet of it, but neither do we need to be starved to death. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Romans Chapter 2
Excuse #6 - I Try To Be Good
Response: God’s judgment reaches the secrets of the heart.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

And here is the real coup de grace - that God looks upon the heart and not the externals when He judges. He sees right into the very essence of what we are, and He is not fooled regarding our motives. In the end, we must agree that we sin because we are sinners by nature. Sinful deeds are merely the fruit of spiritually dead, willfully rebellious and depraved hearts.
And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man." Mark 7:20-23
God is telling us that no righteousness can issue from anything in the natural man. We are "altogether gone out of the way". Left to ourselves, and apart from the gracious influences of God's Spirit, we are dead already, under condemnation and liable to the wrath of God, "having no hope and without God in the world", like the Ephesians had been. (Ephesians 2:12) We recall the pronouncement of God upon the ante-deluvian world which is unequivocal in its comprehensive indictment of the hearts of humanity:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. {Genesis 6:5}
Though not yet broached in Paul's argument to the Romans, it is plain that the condition of all men is a result of their very nature, and that it is the nature that must change in order for any righteousness to be even possible.

The cry that we are trying to be good betrays an unwillingness to admit that there is no goodness in us – nothing that can withstand the unapproachable light of God’s holy countenance. Not anything that is unalloyed with sin. Yet the only standard of righteousness by which anyone will ever be measured is God’s righteousness. Sinners must be brought, through the preaching of the truth but by the Holy Spirit, to the admission of this fact in their own hearts. Mere human argument cannot achieve it. There is no persuasion that can be brought to bear by one man upon another. There can be no reliance upon the flesh in the preacher, just as there must come an abandonment of the flesh by the hearer. Only the Spirit of God can do this.

In the modern church we utterly underestimate the lostness of humanity. And why not? How often do we hear it preached to its fullest? We assume first that a person is able, out of himself, to reach out and grab the dangling offer of a pleading God. Then we assume that we are able to so apply ourselves and our techniques that the right mood can be set, or the right moment manipulated, by us, for a person to be manhandled out of perdition into the glorious kingdom of God. No! The work of salvation is entirely God’s. It is beyond human power or understanding to comprehend or to imitate what God does:
For it is the God who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. {2Corinthians 4:6}
We in the church have to ask ourselves what our part is in the salvation of souls – both our own soul and those whom we evangelize. We have gradually moved away from, through faith and obedience, giving all power to God in our minds, to an attitude of heart where we think that we have to finagle the results. We fail to trust God’s “foolish” way – that of preaching the gospel and leaving the results to Him. It’s too simple for us. It doesn’t give us room to wangle, control, manage or finagle our way into the glory. Where’s the self-satisfaction in admitting it is all of God and all of grace?

We are carnal when we think that way and when we add to God’s perfect plan for building His church. We ourselves get caught trying to be something, trying to do what only God can do, just like the pagan who wants to find some vestige of righteousness in himself, to have just a little piece of his own justification before God. Surely the very means by which we were brought into the kingdom is the same as the means by which we will abide there and call upon others to enter it.