Agonizomai: March 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go
2Cor 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

I was reading this verse this morning, thinking about what the "therefore" was there for and my thoughts were led towards this song. For we have our ministry not by dint of effort, nor by reason of having kept laws ourselves, but by the grace of God through the work of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Now there, my dear brothers and sister, is the reason for hope. It is a hope not grounded in ourselves, in what we have done or will do, but in the certain facts and promises of what God has done and will do. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He will never leave us nor forsake even unto the end of the age.

[Notice - no applause afterwards. I like that very much]

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Lyrics by George Mattheson

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rev 1: 7-8 - The Day of the Lord Anticipated

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7-8 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

This worthy Jesus, this Son of God, this eternal Being who took on mortal human form to conquer sin and death and to set at nought the deeds of the devil - this conquering King who embraced His humiliation for our sakes is coming back with the armies (clouds) of heaven. Instead of a rag-tag band of weak and wavering men, this time He will come with a Kingly and heavenly retinue as befits His true status.

This is no secret appearance, but a public, visible, terrible, enduring lightning flash that illuminates all points simultaneously. There will be no doubt when the heavens unfold like a scroll and He once more steps out of eternity and into time. Every eye will see Him.

Yes, we all pierced Him - some literally, but all of us by the attitude of rebellion in our hearts. It was God’s purpose that He be pierced for our transgressions, and it was our responsibility that it was necessary. Yet even those who crucified Him literally will see Him, for though the dead in Christ shall rise first, all shall be resurrected in the body to receive due recompense for the deeds done therein.

We Who know Him do indeed already mourn in this life and are comforted in part now. But when He is revealed in glory, all shall mourn - both saved and unsaved. Humanity has killed its God and Maker in effigy, in heart and in fact.* How could we not mourn, for He bears the marks of our treachery eternally? But for we who believe, for the children of God, His appearing is not only a cause for mourning, but also a cause for joy. For this God Whom we killed* made our mendacity and rebellion a part of the very means of our salvation. How in all eternity shall such a thing be fully told?

For the lost, however, their mourning will be entirely without comfort eternally. It may contain some horror at what has been done, but it will contain, perhaps, far more regret towards self, bathed in the realization that it is too late to repent and that there is no appeal. What weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth there will be then.

For in His appearing He declares "I Am the Alpha and the Omega". This book is, perhaps, the final "I AM" of the Apostle’s testimony, having presented us with 7 great "I AMs" in his gospel. Here, He declares His sovereignty without any veil, without parable and with thunderous proclamation. He Who died is the Lord our God. He is the Almighty. He is the Son, yes, but fully God.

[* Strictly speaking God never died. The Son died in His humanity. But that humanity revealed the God that we wanted dead and so we did what we could do overcome the light.]

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sermon of the Week
The Radical Depravity of Man
Conrad Mbewe preached this sermon at the "True Church Conference, 2009" in association with Anchored in Truth Ministries. The latter is the ministry of Jeff Noblit of Grace Life Church of the Shoals, Muscle Shoals, AL. These people don't fool around; they don't gussy up the gospel; they don't sugar coat the hard stuff; they shoot from the hip and they usually hit right between the eyes. Great stuff.

In this sermon, Pastor Mbewe, paints a picture of the utter helplessness of the natural man in spiritual matters, and the reality behind evangelism in light of this truth.

The Radical Depravity of Man

Conrad Mbewe

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Hudson on the Miracle
God’s work, done in God’s way, will receive God’s supply.

Hudson Taylor

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rev 1:4-6 - The Trinity in Cameo

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4-6 John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Having told what the letter contained in the most general terms, the Apostle now begins to communicate the details of that message to the church. It is true that this is addressed specifically to the seven churches that are in Asia (which was a Roman province including present day Turkey) whose names we shall shortly be given, but these churches were not the only churches in Asia. It was the custom of all the churches to pass along teaching from city to city by copying and reading aloud the letters of the Apostles and others - so John knew that what he wrote would find an ear throughout Asia and, from there, into the Christian congregations throughout the Empire.

In other words, this is for all of us who profess to believe; each congregation, each person, has within them the weaknesses and propensities, as well as the potentialities that we shall find in Pergamum, Laodicea, Philadelphia and the others. We have a common Lord and Saviour precisely because we share a common fallenness as well as, hopefully, a common salvation.

Now, even though some of the churches addressed will be on the receiving end of some stern warnings it is worth noting that the message carries genuine invocations of blessings and peace from the Triune God. God is not like us. We, in our limited three dimensional natures and with our corrupted tendencies cannot manage to be both gracious and angry at one and the same time. We are told "be angry, but do not sin" as if that is something of which we are innately capable. We aren’t. Not apart from the grace of God Who alone is quite able to be angry without sin. And He can also be angry and gracious at the same time towards the same objects. His anger never morphs into malevolence. And His grace and mercy are over all His works.

God’s kindness in the face of rebellion or disobedience is meant to bring rebels and ingrates to repentance. God’s forbearance towards His church and His saints has the same objective. He corrects us because He loves us. He admonishes, rebukes, exhorts and corrects not because He desires to condemn, but in order that He will not have to. In fact, from the eternal perspective, He does so as the means by which His true children will be turned from their wicked and wayward ways back into the path. He hedges us in like a sheepdog worrying the dumb sheep of the scattering flock. He shuts us up to perseverance through the saving power of His Word. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for those that believe - not just those that come to a moment of salvation, but those who, having entered through the narrow gate, must now walk in the narrow way by the same grace that justified them.

The greeting is from the God Who is triune in His nature. Eternal Father (was, is, is to come) and the seven spirits (or seven-fold Spirit, denoting the scope of the ministries of the Holy Spirit) and the God-man, Jesus Christ. Saviour of the world. Note that Jesus is THE faithful witness and not A faithful witness. He is the only One Who is faithful and He has once for all displayed this by becoming the firstborn from the dead. No mere man is faithful, nor can he be. But once he is joined to Christ then some small imprint of Christ’s divine faithfulness can be seen through the veil of corrupt flesh. O to be free from the vain idea of being faithful to God of ourselves, and to cling to the idea of abiding in the faithfulness of Christ, the truly faithful one!

And see, Christ is not only the first born from the dead, but also the firstborn of the dead. He precedes, yes - but He also is the inheritor of all the Father has purposed for the one who overcomes. This concept is important because it keeps removed from us the temptation to regard ourselves as overcomers even though we are exhorted to be, and will ultimately rewarded for being so. We are indeed overcomers (and thereby inheritors) but we are only so because of Him.

He is, in this book, going to be revealed as the "ruler of the kings of the earth". This obscure Mediterranean peasant who died ignominiously after a short, controversial life in Roman backwater called Israel. This rejected one - scorned by his own people, brutalized and crushed by the powers of the world - this apparently weak and foolish disappointment of a man (as far as the world is concerned) always was and now will be, revealed to be the ruler of the kings of the earth. Oops! The mea culpa will be audible.

He will be seen to be what He always claimed to be, but what the world did not believe Him to be. Not only King of kings, but Lord of lords. Once He came riding on the foal of an ass, and now He will come riding with the clouds of heaven. First the humiliation and only then, the glory. {Php 2:8-11} Such a way is unthinkable to fallen humanity. But God gives grace to those he is saving to see the power and wisdom of God in it.

See it is His love for "us" (his church) that came and actualized our freedom from the penalty and power of our sins. See how he did it through the shedding of his Own blood - blood without the shedding of which there could be no remission. Remember that the blood of bulls and goats had no power to do this. They were mere symbols to be engaged by faith in the One who would ultimately provide the real thing. But now the precious life of the Son of God was in the blood of Jesus the Christ, and it was shed for us. The blood of a thing is the life thereof. {Le 17:11}

What a doxology here! See what Christ has wrought. It’s about him and not about us. He loved us, He freed us from bondage to sin, He made us his dwelling place, His temple, His servants and reconciled us to the Father. No wonder, then, that all glory and dominion is due Him forever. Was it not due before all of this? Yes! But it is doubly due and it is seen and agreed to be doubly due on account of what He has done. In this opening, then, the Apostle leaves no doubt as the deity, Lordship and worthiness of Christ, the God Who saves us.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Warning About Those "Others"

"For, such is the blindness with which we all rush into self-love that each one of us seems to himself to have just cause to be proud of himself and to despise all others in comparison. If God has conferred upon us anything of which we need not repent, relying upon it we immediately lift up our minds, and are not only puffed up but almost burst with pride. The very vices that infest us we take pains to hide from others, while we flatter ourselves with the pretense that they are slight and insignificant, and even sometimes embrace them as virtues.

If others manifest the same endowments we admire in ourselves, or even superior ones, we spitefully belittle and revile these gifts in order to avoid yielding place to such persons. If there are any faults in others, not content with noting them with severe and sharp reproach, we hatefully exaggerate them. Hence arises such insolence that each one of us, as if exempt from the common lot, wishes to tower above the rest, and loftily and savagely abuses every mortal man, or at least looks down upon him as inferior. . . . But there is no one who does not cherish within himself some opinion of his own pre-eminence."

Institutes of the Christian Religion ( 2.7.4) - John Calvin

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rev 1:3 - The Precious Word Is A Blessing

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3 Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.

The reading aloud of letters and documents was the common means by which the early church received doctrine, and news. The epistles were read by an elder in the presence of the congregation and copied and passed on to other congregations.

Blessedness can be taken to refer to happiness. "Happy is he who..." Some (though not I) might use the word "fortunate"; "Fortunate is the one who...." But I prefer to take the word "blessed" as a reference to something received, rather than some mere feeling generated by it. "The one who reads (or hears) has been blessed (by God)" in the very act of reading or hearing. God’s wisdom has been ordained to pass into and through the mind and lips and ears that speak and receive these very words of God. Blessed are they upon whom this providence falls.

Do we have this attitude today? Is it counted as a blessing from God Himself that we can both speak and hear the Words that spring from the Divine Mind? Do we stop and think? Do we realize the value of the treasure that is entrusted to us? Do we savor it as it passes across our lips? Do we reverence God in His words as they reverberate in our ears bringing thoughts from the eternal Mind?

In Western Society we all too often take for granted what we have available in leather-bound, gold-edged super abundance. Where we have multiple copies of the Bible in versions galore, bound up with concordances and interspersed with commentary from the sages of the ages, the very glut seems to so dull our senses that we lose all measure of the preciousness of what we have been given.

Not so in the early church where scraps of Apostolic letters were hastily copied and passed from town to town, where they were read, often in secret. People didn’t have their own private copies of Paul’s letters all bound and gathering dust on the basement shelf. What they could get they devoured reverently and hungrily. It is the same today in prisons and mission fields and in the still deep dark holes of the world where God’s precious saints crave a single page of Holy Writ and where some have a few pages that must sustain them for untold periods. Some indeed have only what they have committed to memory.

But we upon whom the riches of plenty have fallen are often exactly like the Israelites of old, who either became dissolute in times of ease, or who complained and nit-picked at the provisions God gave.

John understood when God had spoken. He understood the eternal value of God’s thoughts. He revered the God who spoke and therefore received the privilege as a blessing from God to be treasured. Today he might be considered a Bibliolater, or the worshiper of a paper Pope for such a reverent attitude towards the "words" of God. But not by me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Blind" Faith Trumps Word/Faith
“It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.” – Fanny Crosby

Monday, March 23, 2009

Rev 1:1-2 Veiled and Unveiled

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1 The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw.

By the phrase "the revelation of Jesus Christ" John is not speaking of revelation from Christ, but revelation of His Person. Christ was, to one degree or another veiled throughout history and this holds true even during the incarnation. The Eternal Son Who was eternally in the bosom of the Father, having glory with Him before anything was made is not the picture that was available to sinful men. O, He could be seen to some degree - to a sufficient degree - through faith, even when He was veiled in His creation or in His earthly body; but the glorified Jesus Christ was seen only a few times and, even then, not in His fully vested eternal brilliance.

The Bible acknowledges the inability of our fallen flesh to cope with the beatific vision of Emmanu-El. To see God is to die, meaning that to actually behold the brightness of his majesty, the purity of his holiness and the inexpressible glory of his Being is something that fallen flesh simply cannot survive. In our present state, we can see him by faith, which is far better in many ways that to actually have seen him during the incarnation, or even pre ascension after the resurrection.{John 20:28-29}

Thus, the revelation of the glorified and ascended Lord in His ultimate vindication before all of creation is transmitted to the fallen apostle by means of a vision mediated by an angel. But the order of the revelation is this way: God gave it to Jesus Christ; Christ gave it to an angel; the angel gave it to John and John then gave to all the saints. God works through hierarchy and He uses means to effect His ends.

The vision described in the book that follows was of things that "must soon take place." That is that they were events that were future at the time of John’s vision and that these events were ordained of God because they "must" take place. God is the author of history, both past and future. The partially forgotten doctrine of Providence whereby God upholds and guides all things towards the preordained ends that He purposed from eternity is vindicated in these two little words "must" and "soon." The consummation of history lies in the hands of God the Almighty and He has so designed it that Jesus Christ is at the very center of it all. And by means of this vision God reveals to His saints how all things will be resolved.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sermon of the Week
On the Incarnation

Nope - this is not about Athanasius but Dan Phillips. The sermon below was delivered by him to the congregation at Sun Oak Baptist Church, Citrus Heights, CA.

None of us has a fully balanced understanding of the two natures of Christ. It is, in many ways, an impenetrable mystery while, at the same time, being an undeniable fact. I myself often dwell on the Divine nature of Christ at the expense of His human nature. Sermons like this one serve as a corrective to make my own perspective more Biblical.

In this sermon, Mr. Phillips goes all the way back to Genesis 3:15 and takes us on a brief journey of the highlights of both Testaments in order to make the case for the complete humanity of Christ.

I was particularly blessed by the nuances of meaning that he exegeted from Genesis 3:15 and its context, opening my mind to things I had not previously known or considered. His insights are aided by his knowledge of the original language. Thank God for people who who have the talent and the dedication to study these things for the benefit of us all.

And Mr. Phillips also goes to great lengths to ensure in this sermon that, while we are learning about the humanity of Christ, we never fall off the other side of the horse and forget about His deity.

Christ the Son of Man

Dan Phillips

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Dan Phillips is a member of the Pyromaniacs team and also publishes a personal blog called "Biblical Christianity".

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Seed Lying Dormant Until the Time is Full
Isaiah 55: 10-11 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."

I've mentioned before (but only in passing) that when I went to Grammar School we still had corporal punishment. We wore uniforms, carried books in satchels, and got detention for not wearing our caps, or for non-regulation clothing. And we still had that grand institution called "morning assembly".

Every morning, before classes began, the whole school came together for the hearing of the announcements, to witness punishments, if any, and for the singing of a number of hymns. On special occasions the English teacher, whom we nicknamed "Biff" Bennett, would read some romantic ode in deep and honeyed tones that belied his rather odd and disheveled appearance. He was an eccentric. Lots of our teachers (we called them "masters") had nicknames; "Nobby" Kinder taught French, "Tilly" Thompson Drama, "Dickey" Douce Physics. And the headmaster, by virtue of his position, was called simply "The Beak". Don't ask me why. It was all still a bit Dickensian.

I bring these things up because of the hymns. Most days we sang at least three of these from actual hymn books. There was nothing particularly religious or spiritual about any of it. There was no sermon - not even a few words of wisdom - just blind tradition dictating that this was what happened in English Grammar Schools to get the day started.

But because they were, for the most part, hymns that repeated the word of God, that held God up as the sovereign of all things and that spoke of a Person called Jesus and of His life and death - because of these things, despite the preponderant godlessness of the hearts of we the participants, the Word was nevertheless sown into young hearts and minds, of which mine was one.

At Harvest Festival time, for example, (that would be roughly the same as Thanksgiving here) we always sang the old hymn "We Plow the Fields" (Matthias Claudius 1782) the first verse and chorus of which I render below:

We plow the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land,
But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand;
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.


All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

Like I said, most of us sang these songs in complete spiritual darkness and with utter indifference but, for me, the dormant seed sown into fallow ground by these daily ministrations would ultimately burst forth in my soul like light when I was spiritually reborn years later.

Without my having read much of the Bible I was full of the Word and of lessons from the scripture which exploded in vibrant color in my soul, and which took on wonderful new dimensions of understanding for me. It was so powerful, in fact, that it was quite frightening at the time.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say by all of this. Maybe it's a plea for a return to the scripturality of the old songs that lifted up God and left man as dependent and needy creature, and that actually put to verse the great truths of the Word of God. I know there are some good new songs, but so much of the new stuff falls short because it lacks the depth that only scripture can give it.

Maybe I'm just marveling at how God can use even lifeless rituals to sow the living seed into dead hearts, to be awakened at the moment of His choosing. It is, after all, the Living Word under the auspices of the Holy Spirit that makes the difference, and not the flawed instruments through which He condescends to work.

I can't help wondering if the same powerful seed is contained in much of the newer church music that I have witnessed over that last couple of decades. I admit it - I long for the old, old story told in the old hymns, written by men and women who were tried and tested in the fires of adversity and tribulation. Maybe it's largely nostalgia, but I frankly doubt it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Letters to Seven Churches

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We know that the whole of creation speaks of the nature of God and that it was all brought into existence through the eternal Son. {John 1:1-3} So God the Son is revealed in His creation, as we read in Romans 1:19-20. He is also God the Son revealed in the history and prophesies of national Israel from Abraham to Malachi. {Luke 24:25-27,Heb 1:1-2} By these things we know that God the Son was also the Christ who came from heaven to save his people from their sins. What nature revealed generally was revealed explicitly in the incarnation. God the Son entered into His creation, lived and died as a fully human being and made the Father known by his whole life. This was revelation - specific, historical, factual, actual, touchable, discernible, believable revelation.

But it was such a revelation as to be a terrible condemnation upon all those who refused to see and to receive what was plainly visible. {John 1:5,3:17-19} Yet for those whom he called by name, and in whom God was pleased to reveal his Son there was revelation of an entirely different sort - that form of revelation which is to the heart, through faith - and which shows forth to the child of God the beauty which is in Christ. Just as God acted to reveal Christ in creation, in history, in the prophets and via the incarnation - so it is God who acts to reveal Christ to the heart by faith.

But there will be a final revelation of the Christ. After the revelation of the Son in all the saints militant throughout the church age to which the unbelieving world will remain wilfully blind, then there will be the ultimate revelation of Christ as the One made visible to all men - the Christ Whose Name every tongue shall confess and at which every knee shall bow, to the glory of God the Father.

John’s vision, though variously interpreted by devout men in all ages, undoubtedly portrays Jesus Christ, the conquering King because He is the Lamb that was slain. He conquered by righteousness. He conquered through "weakness" in order to show the wisdom and power and glory of God. But at His final revelation the Son will be seen in all of His glory and righteousness, bright shining like the sun, with a sword in His hand to smite the wicked.

For a time He veiled his glory while in the temple of his flesh - but now He is risen, in a glorified human body, and has taken up once more the glory that was His with the Father before the world was made. In the fullness of time, when God has rendered all Christ’s enemies His footstool - at the end of the age when the last saint has believed - God will reveal His Son to all in the fullness of His glory.

John’s vision is an intense and sometimes controversial message written in the Hebrew apocalyptic style, full of imagery that is typical of the genre. Is it to be taken literally or is it written in idealistic symbology to picture the spiritual conflict that precedes the final conflagration? Is it a message in coded language to the saints living under the cruel persecutions of the Roman emperor Domitian? Is it a picture of as yet future events? Is it a blueprint for what will happen throughout the course of church history?

Good men throughout the age of grace have all held one or other of these views. Differences still abound. I myself have no fixed opinion on the matter. When pressed I would probably admit to a partial preterism but I would not be dogmatic about it. I have, frankly, avoided an exhaustive study of this book for reasons which I find difficult to share. Suffice it to say that the prevailing premillenialism of much of North American dispensational evangelicalism did me much harm in my early walk - harm that took decades to undo, and which still creates difficulties for me to this day.

All that said, John’s "Revelation of Jesus Christ" is the Word of God, fully inspired God-breathed truth given purposefully to the church for her use, benefit and edification. And while I have not come to a systematic understanding of it all, I can draw some extremely helpful lessons from it - especially the early part dealing with letters to the seven churches, which is the main thrust of this particular study.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Everlasting Arms
"Forsake me not. Father, forsake not thy child, lest he fall by the hand of the enemy. Shepherd, forsake not thy lamb, lest he wander from the safety of the fold. Great Husbandman, forsake not thy plant, lest it wither and die. 'Forsake me not, O Lord,' now; and forsake me not at any moment of my life. Forsake me not in my joys, lest they absorb my heart. Forsake me not in my sorrows, lest I murmur against thee. Forsake me not in the day of my repentance, lest I lose the hope of pardon, and fall into despair; and forsake me not in the day of my strongest faith, lest faith degenerate into presumption. Forsake me not, for without thee I am weak, but with thee I am strong. Forsake me not, for my path is dangerous, and full of snares, and I cannot do without thy guidance. The hen forsakes not her brood, do thou then evermore cover me with thy feathers, and permit me under thy wings to find my refuge. ‘Be not far from me, O Lord, for trouble is near, for there is none to help.’ ‘Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation!’"

Spurgeon’s “Morning and Evening” - Morning, May 24th

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Small Revelation

The study of the first three chapters of Revelation will be starting in two days time. This is something I put together 5 years ago (except for the first chapter, which I added more recently in order to put the letters to the seven churches in a proper context).

5 years ago I was struggling to understand how sovereign grace works in sanctification, and I did get a bit repetitive about the way that the commands of God are the very means He uses to preserve His people by their perseverance, through faith. If it gets to be too much for you then give it a miss and come back for the Malachi commentary in about three months.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

We Have Ways to Make You Talk
A brief humorous interlude follows before plunging into the next study. Also, I am under the weather at the moment and my energy level is low. As a consequence my posting frequency may suffer for a short time. Please be patient.

When I saw the hilarious video, "Emergent Village Hitler", posted by the Pyromaniacs a while ago (see the post below this one for a reprise) I was reminded of this humorous little piece showing that there is more than one way to skin a cat. Something about this one reminds me of how postmodern and emergent-speak often achieve their objective by redefining/re-imagining/reinventing everything. Enjoy...

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European nation rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replased with the "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agree that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

[author unknown]

Emergent Village Hitler
This hilarious spoof of the emerg*** movement appeared on Pyromaniacs a while ago, but was first put on YouTube by Hockeyhacker.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dying Sayings of John Bunyan

The end of affliction is the discovery of sin, and of that to bring us to a Saviour. Let us therefore, with the prodigal, return unto him, and we shall find ease and rest. A repenting penitent, though formerly as bad as the worst of men, may, by grace, become as good as the best.

To be truly sensible of sin is to sorrow for displeasing of God; to be afflicted that he is displeased by us more than that he is displeased with us. Your intentions to repentance, and the neglect of that soul-saving duty, will rise up in judgment against you.

Repentance carries with it a divine rhetoric, and persuades Christ to forgive multitudes of sins committed against him. Say not with thyself, Tomorrow I will repent; for it is thy duty to do it daily.

The gospel of grace and salvation is above all doctrines the most dangerous, if it be received in word only by graceless men--if it be not attended with a sensible need of a Saviour, and bring them to him. For such men as have only the notion of it, are of all men most miserable--for by reason of their knowing more than heathens, this only shall be their final portion, that they shall have greater stripes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Living Out Sola Fide

It is fitting, in coming to the end of our Romans study that we should listen to the second of Dr. James White's addresses at the Sola Conference at Countryside Bible Church. In this presentation, he summarizes the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement and salvation/sanctification by faith in the finished work of Christ.

He has a lot to say about peace with God, but also about the need for sinners to come to the place where their tongues are stopped and their heads bowed before God's holiness. He is also not afraid to buck the ecumenical trends towards embracing Roman Catholicism nor,
by making thinly veiled critical references to the Grace Evangelical Society, to put a stake in the heart of some who pervert the concept of the need for fruit to appear in the Christian's life.

And finally, he does a brief, but clear exposition of James 2 on the need for faith to be evidenced by works (or fruit), refuting both the RC and GES misreading/misapplication of the text. Absolutely stellar stuff!

Dr. White's YouTube channel can be found here.

And His blog is called "Alpha and Omega Ministries".

(Please note - no comments from GES purveyors will be entertained here. If you have a problem, take it up with Dr. White.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Romans Chapters 1-3 - An Epilogue

Well, it's all over! What started as the desire to see the universal human condition displayed in it's true light, rather than the air-brushed vacuousness that is often put forward in modern so-called evangelicalism, has now come to a conclusion.

Next on the menu is the first three chapters of Revelation - Letters to Seven Churches. After that, Malachi and then something on Hebrews that will take us into the next decade - or will at least feel like it.

There is no written post today - just the audio epilogue to the Romans study listed below. If you're not accustomed to listening, then here's your chance to do something different.

Listen in your default mp3 player

Friday, March 13, 2009

Romans Chapter 3
God's Righteousness Supplied
The Consequences of God's Salvation
1) Proud human nature is humbled.

2) The true character of God is presented.

3) The perfect law of God is confirmed as good.

Listen in your default mp3 player

Romans 3:27-31 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On the principle of works? No, but on the principle of faith. For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

All religions other than Christianity are based on keeping laws. They are founded in the idea that we must do something, whether it is to crawl on our hands and knees to Mecca, or to meditate and to work our way up the ascending ladder of creaturely complexity until we attain to “Nirvana” or “nothingness”. Christianity, properly preached and understood, is the only belief that says that we can do nothing whatsoever for our salvation – for our right relationship with God. Fallen men (and all beliefs except Christianity are the work of fallen men in the hands of demons) only know how to “merit” something themselves, which is why their worship/religious systems all depend upon what they do.

But God has shown His saints in Israel and in the church age that man can never have a relationship with Him based on doing something to earn His mercy or to give Him pleasure. Hasn’t Paul demonstrated this sufficiently already? All men are without the righteousness of God – apart from which they rest under God’s just condemnation and wrath. God’s solution to man’s helpless, lost and rebellious condition is quite simply to regard as perfectly righteous all those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. Justification in God’s eyes is entirely through faith and does not depend in any way upon man doing anything.

Paul underscores that Jews who had the law, and Gentiles who did not, are all justified on the ground of faith alone. Faith in the God of the promises that He and He alone would save them. What then is faith? More properly, what is Biblical faith? "Faith is, in general, the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true. Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true and therefore worthy of trust." (Easton’s Bible Dictionary) This is illustrated in examples of justification through faith from history.

If the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from works of the law, is what justifies a man the question becomes, “Is the law abolished – rendered null an void – made invalid – by this grace?” Does grace cancel law? Paul says it does not. He says that justification through faith upholds the law. How? By the fact that the penalty demanded by the law was paid.

Christ paid on our behalf the full penalty demanded by the law for every transgression we have committed. The penalty was not waived by the system of grace and faith – it was paid in full. God never ceased to demand the full and exact penalty of the breaking of His good and holy law. In fact, that penalty is still in effect and will be demanded in full of all who are not justified through faith in Jesus Christ.

Right here a moment should be taken to fully grasp the utter change in the way God sees those who are in Christ, and the way we who are in Christ must see ourselves. Since our righteousness is “apart from works” we no longer need to feel that we must justify ourselves. God has justified us. We are regarded in His sight as completely righteous. There is nothing we need to add, nor is there anything we can add to what God has already done. It is finished. We are reconciled to God. He is our Father and we are His children forever. We have passed from death to life, out from under condemnation and wrath and into the kingdom of His Son. God is now dealing with us solely on the principle of what Jesus, His Son has done for us.

Because of this, all who God has saved are naturally anxious to please Him, to grow in grace – but our standing with God does not depend upon these things. On the contrary, these things depend upon our standing with Him. We love Him because He first loved us. We did not love Him so that He would love us. He saved us while we were yet sinners and rebels, not after we had turned to Him, cleaned up our lives and made ourselves acceptable in His sight. This way, God is the instigator, the prime cause, the source of all that is good and right in our relationship with Him.

I am not justified in God’s sight by what I do after He has saved me. I had justification from God as a sinner, not as a saint! No amount of “saintliness” will increase my justification, just as my failures cannot decrease it. But we must be careful here. We must not pass from a grateful response to what God has done into using this as a license to live as we please – for then we might discover that we were never saved to begin with. An antinomian, profligate, worldly lifestyle lived under the Christian banner is not indicative of a grateful response to what God has done, and so suggests that He never really did it. Such people are deceiving themselves.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Science Fiction as Truth
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

Philip K. Dick, "How to Build a Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later", 1978

[Please don't Make any more of this than it is. Dick was a troubled man, even more so from 1974 until his death in 1982 - plagued by encounters and visions that I could only describe as demonic, and which did not bring him the peace that a saving encounter with the true living God would give. This citation is, however, an ironic truth.]

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Romans Chapter 3
God's Righteousness Supplied
The Concern of God's Salvation

Listen in your default mp3 player

Romans 3:25b-26 This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

1) To display the Divine perfections of God

When we speak of the fact that God is righteous and that He displays that in His plan of salvation we must be careful not to use our old human standards of righteousness as a yard stick. It has been proven in this letter that our own so-called righteousness is filthy and ineffective; it is dark and inward; it is selfish and impure; it is, in fact, sinful – because no matter how altruistic our motives, they are tainted by sin.

The whole point is to get our eyes off the deception of our self-righteousness and onto the perfect righteousness of God made manifest in the advent, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God – and imputed to all who receive Christ through faith.

God’s righteousness is perfect. This is a concept that we have no real means of apprehending in anything but an incomplete way. Think of the most righteous person you know and God is infinitely more so. Think of the most righteous person you know and realize that their righteousness is a smudged impression from the foot of God, made in miry clay. One day, yes, the righteous shall shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43) – but until that day we can but appreciate what minor rays of God’s glorious light shine through the veil of our dying flesh.

But this is often all we can bear. Being in two kingdoms, being in the (as yet) unredeemed flesh, the fullness of the perfections of God in His glory would most likely be more than we could bear.

But there is more than the perfect righteousness of God proven by the coming of Christ. There is the perfect justice and mercy of God, too. The Jews had a long history with God. They understood that God was perfectly just in all His ways. The prophets preached it. The Psalms declare it. But it was on account of this knowledge that the justification of the ungodly was a conundrum to men. How could a perfectly just God forgive sinners and put away their sin. That would be to call the unrighteous “righteous” and to be accursed. But God cannot be accursed.

The Jews also understood God to be merciful. Again, the prophets and Psalms are full of expressions of gratitude for God’s forbearance and mercy. They knew God to be merciful. Jonah, for example, even had the temerity to complain that he knew that God would be merciful to spare the Ninevites.

But these two perfections in God were ultimately irreconcilable to the thoughtful human mind. Only by hoping against hope, and through faith in the God Who promised that a reconciliation would be manifested could the peoples carry on. Their hope was for God to make a way where there was no way – else they were all doomed, for God would in no way excuse sin; and they knew it.

So the question remained – how could righteousness and mercy be reconciled? And, lo and behold! We find here the explanation that it is in the Person of the Eternal Son, living a fully human life of perfect obedience and suffering the just punishment due to His people.

2) To reconcile His justice and His mercy

The tension between God’s love and His holiness that had always been present since the fall, when God did not immediately release the full weight of His just wrath upon Adam and Eve – and throughout history by His forbearing and restraining that wrath which demanded full and immediate payment – that tension between God’s justice and His mercy was like a grain of sand in an oyster. It chafed and irritated. Men knew that something had to happen but they could not truly grasp what that something was. But just like the oyster, the end of all that chafing produced “the pearl of great price”.

God cannot be at war with Himself. God is perfect and God is One. God’s thoughts are perfectly conceived and are absolutely right the moment they emanate from the Divine Mind. He never second guesses Himself. He never has a plan “B”. And yet there is conflict in God’s universe. There is perversion, evil, injustice and violence in what was once a good creation.

God has permitted by His eternal decrees that such things be promulgated and perpetrated in His creation by responsible agents. These agents are the devil and his angels, and Adam and Eve and all their progeny. All of these are agents, fully responsible in their own right, appointed by God for the purpose of providing the environment and means by which His justice and mercy could be reconciled through the grace shown in Jesus Christ towards lost and depraved men. It is all to the praise of the glory of His grace – a heretofore unknowable Divine perfection of God. If there had never been sin, then how would this particular aspect of the glory of God ever have been made known for creatures to adore and to be thrilled by the knowledge of it all.

The crucifixion and resurrection were ordained before the world was made. He whose hands fashioned the world would one day offer those hands to the nails of the world’s betrayal, and the piercing of the Father’s bottomless wrath. Unthinkable! Unimaginable! If we think we take it in we deceive ourselves. We can’t possibly take it in. And, ironically, the more we understand the depravity of our own souls, the less we can take it in, yet the more we marvel at it; the more we magnify the Name above all names. O the depth of the wisdom of God – how unsearchable are his thoughts and His ways past finding out!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Taylor Made for My Reading List
One of the best books I have ever encountered exposing the fallacies of the so-called "scientific" understanding of origins is "In the Minds of Men" by Ian T. Taylor. I read someone else's copy of this book more than 5 years ago and was impressed enough to order a copy for delivery to my father in England.

I had hoped that it would reverse some of the poisonous evolutionism and scientism that have polluted his mind since he was a young family man, just after WW II. He is the living proof that evil ideas have evil effects upon the mind and soul. I don't mean that he is an evil man - no more so than any of us - but that his mind has been warped and poisoned against the truth by the twisted and wicked lies of 19th Century rationalistic world view.

Francis Schaeffer and Os Guinness have explained better than I ever could how the "dust of death" residing in humanistic ideas, originally conceived in the intelligentsia and then propagated through the higher learning institutions, finally came to corrupt the minds of people in ordinary society through art, books, music, education and popular media.

My Dad had entered the war as a callow, idealistic and naive youth and exited it as a penniless married man, the father of two, with the prospects of returning to a job filing brass doorknobs all week and hacking up his lungs all weekend. As an intelligent and sensitive person he was ripe soil for the popularization of rationalistic ideals because he had certainly been disillusioned by the loss of his youth and the horrors of war.

Regrettably, the book seemed to have little effect on my father. After having him lend it to my (ex-Moonie) brother, I had him send his copy to my Son-in-Law in Vancouver, because he had been asking questions about origins and other things. As a Veterinary Doctor,
swimming against the prevailing scientific wisdom would have been hard for him. I don't know if he read the book before he died. But I came across it on my daughter's bookshelf while I was there last month and borrowed the book, bringing it back with me for a second read. It's still that good, even though the edition I have is a bit dated.

From time to time I might post the odd excerpt as I ramble along at my ever slowing pace. It may be the only way some of you can even get the feel for this work since the book is presently out of print.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Romans Chapter 3
God's Righteousness Supplied
The Core of God's Salvation
Faith in Jesus Christ alone as the blood atonement for your sin.

Play in your default mp3 player

Romans 3:24-26…they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

Let us be clear – the God who cannot look upon sin never winks at sin, nor does He ever excuse it. All sin must inevitably be punished by incurring His just and holy wrath. So, when it says that God’s righteousness is shown by His “passing over former sins” we had better be sure to clarify what that means. It does not mean that God remitted former sins, but that He forbore to punish them at that time. Remission of sins is not – it is never – through the forbearance of God.

Thus, though He did not appear to be righteous (it was not “manifest”) in passing over the sins of believers under the ancient economy, His righteousness is now manifested in providing remission through faith in His blood for both those who believed then, and those who come to believe in the church age. Ancient saints like Adam, Abraham and David are saved through faith – looking forward to the promise, and those since Christ are saved through faith looking backwards at its fulfillment.

The good news is that all of God’s people are justified through faith alone, by the grace of God alone which was fully manifested in Jesus Christ alone.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sermon of the Week
The Repentance of Nineveh

I've never listened to this preacher before but I was drawn to the subject matter, having myself delivered a series of Sunday School lessons on the book of Jonah, and which I may re-post here at a later time.

I liked this man's sense of humor, which was never at the expense of his message. He takes a gentle dig at our Arminian brothers and makes a few swipes at many modern church trends and fads - but never with bile or bitterness in his tone.

He may be a little more ready to picture God as "changing His mind" than I would, but it is only because we express the same truth with a slightly different emphasis. I liked the sermon most of all because he illustrated, from the Word of God, that right evangelism delivers God's message in God's way.

This message was originally delivered at the "True Church Conference, 2009". Enjoy...

The Repentance of Nineveh

Rev. David Miller