Agonizomai: June 2009

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Gath-Hepherite Respite

I've posted this study of Jonah before - more than once. But since I need a little break before plowing into Malachi I thought I would leave this up on the blog for a while so that readers can listen to the whole thing at their leisure.

There are 5 recordings, as you can see. They vary in length from 13 minutes to almost an hour - quite a bit longer than the average post here, but about the same as a number of the sermons.

Jonah - An Introduction (13 mins)

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Jonah - Chapter 1 (52 mins)

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Jonah - Chapter 2 (27 mins)

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Jonah - Chapter 3 (30 mins)

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Jonah - Chapter 4 (27 mins)

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For those interested, the text versions of these audios can be downloaded/viewed from the following widget.

[The "preview" function of this widget does not seem to be working at the moment. I'm looking into it. Meanwhile, the "download" function is working perfectly - so you know what to do...]

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rev 3:20-22 - Laodicea the Materialistic Church
Christ Excluded from His Own Church?

Rev 3:20-22 - Christ Excluded from His Own Church?

Rev 3:20-22 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

This verse, and the ninth verse of second Peter chapter 3 {2Pe 3:9} are arguably the most misused verses in the New Testament. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock" has become an evangelistic favourite, parlayed to almost every person to whom a witness is given. It is a standard exhortation given to those who come forward at crusades - to many who hear the gospel and are asked to "make a commitment to Christ".

But to whom is it addressed here? Is it to unbelievers or to professing believers? It is to professing believers. It is first and foremost an indictment to the Laodicean Church that the Saviour that they profess to love, and Whom they claim is living in them by the Spirit is actually on the outside, knocking to be let in. But they are so complacent, so self-satisfied, so sure that their religiosity is spirituality that they aren’t listening.

There may yet be in this church a remnant (for God has a remnant that He chose before the foundation of the world) and that remnant will be the ones, if any, who actually hear the knock and let Him in. They will repent of tolerating unwatchfulness in others and committing it themselves. They will repent of falling into the sin of self and of silently watching others do the same. They will repent of worldliness and compromise and of bringing it into the church and calling it godliness. And this repentance they will come to by the grace of the God Who both calls them to it and grants it to them.

Who will sit with Christ on His throne? Who will sit with Him at the wedding feast of the Lamb? Who will eat his flesh and drink His blood but those whom He came to save, being the same as those whom He actually justifies, sanctifies and glorifies? Who will conquer but those with the genuine saving faith that comes from God, and was wrought by Christ? They open the door not because they are smarter or better or more worthy than the others, but because His sheep hear His voice - they know His voice because He is their shepherd. It is not "if anyone wills (of himself) to hear My voice..." but "if anyone (does) hear My voice...." They will be drawn (literally "dragged") by the Father to the Son. {John 6:44}

Is there application for sinners in general? Yes. The same way that there is application through the ages for churches and saints that display the same obediences and errors that the seven churches show. Sin is common to all men. There is nothing new under the sun. The errors that men made in the first century have been made in different garb (but the same errors) down through the centuries to the present day. We don’t need a new "paradigm" to express or to understand what the Bible clearly says about our nature, our tendencies, our struggle to abide in the perfect salvation of our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And we don’t need a redefinition of any of the terms that describe the glories and perfections of God and His sovereign plan of redemption.

So there is a sense in which God, commanding all men everywhere to repent, taking no pleasure in the death of the wicked, calling many (even while choosing few) - there is a sense in which whenever the gospel is preached that Christ is knocking. When the gospel goes forth it is perfectly true that "whosoever will may come". Whosoever calls upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved. The blood of Christ, the sacrifice is sufficient for all - but it is only efficient for those whom God elected in Christ before the foundation of the world. For no man wills to answer the call of God unless God Himself enables Him. The order of events in salvation is as follows, according to the Ordo Salutis of some in Reformed theology:
The Effectual Call
We can therefore be confident that it is God at work when a saint comes to repentance and faith, and God at work when a saint perseveres to the end. The words of Paul confirm this...
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. {Ro 8:29-30}
It is not that the true saints can sit on their duffs because the have a free ticket to heaven - God forbid! It is that because they are assured of heaven and God’s eternal love for them in Christ, the true saints press toward the mark for the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus, {Php 3:14} relying totally upon His grace and power through faith in Christ. Do the saints conquer? Yes they do. But to Whom belongs the victory and to Whom do all saints bow down, casting their crowns before Him, knowing that it was all of grace? Christ!

This is the final demonstration, the proof if you like, that the nature of Christ has been wrought in us by grace. For, though we have pressed in we take no credit for it and are content to let our Lord and Master reward us as He wills, trusting in His perfect judgment. In a similar way, Christ came not to do His own will, but the will of the Father, and He could do nothing but what He saw the Father doing {John 5:19,30} - said nothing but what He heard the Father saying. {John 8:28,14:10} It is the Father Who glorifies Christ with the glory that He had before the world began. It is the Father Who gives Him a Name which is above every name. {Php 2:5-11} Do you see that parallel - the similarity? We follow the pattern by God’s grace alone, through faith alone and on account of Christ alone.

[Sorry for the rude and abrupt end. Not what you expect from a civilized Englishman, but I'm at the frontier and in the Colonies now]

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Secular Wisdom
Speech is conveniently located midway between thought and action, where it often substitutes for both.

John Andrew Holmes

Monday, June 22, 2009

Rev 3:18-19 - Laodicea the Materialistic Church
Put Trust in God, Not Materiality

Rev 3:18-19 - Put Trust in God, Not Materiality

Rev 3:18-19 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.

Those who buy from the Lord buy without price, but at the cost of everything. {Isa 55:1} It is like the parables for those who have been given to understand the things of the kingdom. The unregenerate see a mere contradiction. The children of God see wisdom. The foolish pass by while the wise know that in order to have everything in Christ they must lose all that is not in Him. They must lose their lives. They must be reborn. They "buy" with a worthless life that they must leave behind, and they receive the abundant and eternal life of Christ Himself. They give up what is worthless for what is priceless. Some deal!

The gold represents purity - but it is a purity that is refined in fire. God chooses to put his saints in the crucible to burn off the worthless vestiges of their fleshly nature and to bring forth the gold that is Christ in them. It is important not to think of the refining process as something that reveals the good in us by skimming off the bad. That would be an unscriptural, though commonly held belief in today’s society. What God does is to put us into the furnace with Christ (or to put Christ into the furnace with us) so that what we were is burned off and He is revealed in us.

The same process of trial is visited upon the just and the unjust alike. What is it that makes the difference? This is the victory that overcomes the world – even our faith. {1Jo 5:4} But it is faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, our Saviour. Who makes one to differ from another? Who makes one to be saved and to persevere in the faith while another remains lost or overcome by the world? Christ!

So the Laodiceans are reproved and rebuked and exhorted by Christ to come to Him as the sufficient and sole supplier of all that they need. All it will cost them is their lives - the lives that they are spending upon themselves, their lusts and conceits, their wants and their own foolish pride. And they will be rich in return, for Christ will be in them working to refine them into pure gold. They will receive righteousness (imputed and experiential) represented by the white garment which is the righteousness of Christ both imputed to and manifested in them.

The shame of their nakedness is the same shame that led Adam and Eve to cover their bodies - but their efforts were mere human works. God gave them the symbol of the atoning sacrifice by clothing them in skins at the cost the life of an animal. Now God speaks of the clothing in righteousness that He gives to all who believe on His Son’s atoning work. The sin nature, which the nakedness represents, will forever be covered by the righteousness that comes from God - the only righteousness that could ever stand His scrutiny, His presence from which earth and sky flee away, His perfect holiness that consumes all that falls short in the least way.

Not only this, but God is the One Who opens the eyes of the blind. He demonstrated physically what He came to do in the hearts of men by the Holy Spirit, His vicar. Such things were acted parables. He will open the eyes of anyone who draws near, having counted the cost by His grace and being committed to the course. In fact, those whose eyes He has opened will draw near and receive that salve which will heal and open them more and more to the eternal Truth and enable them to see past the curtain of lies that Satan has drawn over the entire world. And, unlike the careless Laodiceans, we must continually come to Him so that our eyes may remain open - lest we also be deceived.

God’s discipline is always in love. God’s goodness in this is meant to lead to repentance. His forbearance is meant to lead us to repentance. In fact, all things work together for our good - for those that love God and are (the) called according to His purpose. And those not so called will have no excuse because the same forbearance and discipline that grows a Christian by grace is there to teach a pagan even though he will not hear. And those that will not hear sooner or later, like many if not most in Laodicea, become they that cannot hear. And those that cannot hear become them that shall not hear.

So long as God is calling (and He is very patient, though His patience towards men is not infinite) there remains hope. Today is the time. {Heb 3:7,15,4:7} Let us not harden our own hearts. Let us receive the discipline of the Lord as from His hand and be brought to true repentance through the zealous (eager, enthusiastic, striving, exerting) application of His guidance.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Introducing...Blasts from the Past

The following sermon was delivered more than 150 years ago by C.H. Spurgeon. Many of you will know that Spurgeon was a great English preacher in the Victorian era. In fact, he has been dubbed "The Prince of Preachers". Under his ministry and preaching, mostly from the New Park Street pulpit of his London church, more than 10,000 people came to salvation.

Spurgeon was an unabashed Calvinist in a time when liberalism and Arminianism were in the ascendant. He fought the spirit of the age clearly, faithfully and with vigor. Never more so than in this early sermon (No 52) explaining the true nature of the will according to proper Christian doctrine.

This recording is obviously not Surgeon's voice, but the narrator does have a English accent which, one hopes, will lend a degree of authenticity to the experience. A word of warning to the faint hearted...this sermon is nearly 50 minutes in length. That is almost three times the length of the sermon in many churches today. But take heart - I could have chosen George Whitefield, who often preached for three hours at a time. Enjoy this...


Free Will a Slave - Spurgeon

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Paradox of Preaching
It must be hard for new preachers to eventually come up against the mundane mechanics of preaching. Preaching is gift - yes - but it is also a discipline. It is an art - yes - but also a science. It is supernatural - yes - but it uses lowly, common, human means.

Gleanings 16:107

Friday, June 19, 2009

Rev 3:15-17 - Laodicea the Materialistic Church
Confusing Material and Spiritual Blessings

Rev 3:15-17 - Confusing Material and Spiritual Blessings

Rev 3:15-17 ‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

Being neither hot nor cold is very convenient for men. It is, in their minds, to be free from risk and above error. It is to be complacent; happy with the status quo. It is to be unself-critical. It is to fail to be watchful. It is to slip into slumber. It is to apostatize by degrees. It is to be anaesthetized into the flames of hell. In short, it is to be the "boiling frog".

Churches are full of people like this. They are the professors of religion, smugly satisfied that their tithes and their efforts are enough to keep them in God’s good graces. They have a form of religion which is outward. It can seem very pious to men, but on the inside they are full of dead men’s bones. They are the new Pharisees. What they do does not spring from the love for God that His grace alone places in His people.

If such people stepped back and saw themselves as "cold" towards God then they could yet be helped. There would be room for repentance. If they were already hot - though they might be in error yet their direction could be amended. But they are neither. They are smugly self-righteous and very "religious".

Prosperity and the blessings of God, because of the objects upon which they are bestowed by grace, are themselves more often than not the means of apostasy to the unwatchful. Better to be poor or to have little than that abundance should work upon our unguarded corruptions. The Psalms and Proverbs warn us of the dangers often enough.
Ps 37:16 Better is the little that the righteous has than the abundance of many wicked.

Pr 15:16 Better is a little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble with it.

Pr 16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice.

Pr 19:1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

Pr 28:6 Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

But if that is not enough, God has given us the illustration of the Nation of Israel. Whenever they were blessed they apostatized. Each time they began the gradual but great slide from gratitude for deliverance into compromise and, finally, full-blown assimilation into the surrounding culture. It was not the blessings themselves that were the problem. God does not give stones when we ask for bread, nor serpents when we ask for fish. All that He does is good. His blessings of grace are wonderful and free gifts, bestowed upon base and undeserving men. Of themselves they are pure and undefiling.

The problem is not with the gifts of benevolent grace towards men. The problem is within men themselves. Christ knew what was in man. He never trusted Himself to any man, but to His Father alone. It is in our fallen nature to misunderstand, to misapply and to misuse what grace gives freely to us. Yes, we Christians understand that "If any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creation." {2Co 5:17} But we had better have a firm grasp upon the fact that we still dwell in sinful flesh. If we do not, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the flesh daily then we are not walking in the Spirit. If we do not watch and wait, if we do not take up and put on the whole armour of God and cover it in what Spurgeon called "all-prayer" - then we shall fall to the enemy that roams to and fro seeking whom to devour.

The Laodiceans had either failed to be watchful, or they had never been saved to begin with. There were then, as now, false conversions. Many, as now, were virtually indistinguishable from the real McCoy. They said the right things; they knew their scriptures; they undertook great social works; they were hospitable; they sang loudly and sweetly and with enthusiasm at the meetings; they taught in the church; they were respected both in church and in society for their great piety. The only problem is that all the attributes of true salvation can be faked. Only the new birth - an act of sovereign grace actually changes a person’s heart. And God looks upon the heart. He looks for that very life that He Himself put there.

Guarding against such people is not done as we fallen men might think. Covert apostasy and hidden paganism are not discovered by witch-hunts. They are uncovered by sound preaching, teaching and doctrine.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. {1Jo 2:15-19}
Sound doctrine and preaching delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit, will lay bare the hearts of all men, especially those who, for a pretense sit amongst the faithful (or even worse, preach and teach to them) to lead them astray through compromise with the world. They will be offended in the truth and will go where they do not have to suffer the hearing of it.

The evidence of apostasy in Laodicea is found in the complacency of the people. Material comfort - even giftedness itself - has led to the self-congratulatory, prideful, self-deceit of self-sufficiency. But the Lord said that "Of yourselves you can do nothing." We press against rocks as God demands and directs - but it is always God Who moves them - never we ourselves. We are His means of accomplishing His ends, by His grace in Jesus Christ. We are included by grace and not on account of anything we have done, are doing, or will ever do. Christ touched upon this in the following teaching...
"Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty." {Lu 17:7-10}
We can add nothing to God. Our attitude should always be that we can do nothing for Him in the sense of accomplishing something that He Himself cannot do. He is the source of all goodness - so if we accomplish something good it was He Who was in us to do it. {Eph 2:8-10,Php 2:12-13} When we do, by God’s grace and in His power the goodness that He purposed from all eternity and brought us to by His sovereign providence - then what is left but for us to give thanks?

But we see it is in the nature of deceit to deceive. Far from understanding their own terrible condition before God the Laodiceans are quite taken away with themselves. Perhaps they see (wrongly) material blessings as a sure sign that God is pleased with them. We are never far from such distortions of the gospel, even in this present age. The "health and wealth," "name it and claim" it crowd of apostates and heretics still lives among us. They have built an entire Theology on the incomplete, perverse and foolishly unscriptural concept that God wants us to be healthy and wealthy. The teachers who in whole or in part subscribe to this error today include Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Joel Osteen.

The deceit that is evident in Laodicea has utterly blinded them. They are in that most horrific of places where Satan has turned things upon their heads to make them call evil good and good evil. Where the lie is so enormous and so obvious that they entirely miss it on account of being too close to it. They are like people who cannot see the forest for the trees. Lost. Deceived. Bereft of any concept of their own true condition. Unaccustomed to examining themselves to see whether they are truly in the faith at all. {2Co 13:5-6}

When things get to this state there is little hope for the deliverance of people. Not no hope, but little hope. God is great and nothing is impossible for Him. But He is the God Who also sends strong delusions upon people. He is the God Who sends deceiving and lying spirits in judgment on people’s pre-existent refusals to heed His Word. {1Ki 22:15-23} It is God who grants repentance to {2Ti 2:24-26} people, but when people consistently refuse to hear then God is able to harden hearts that have already hardened themselves so that they cannot repent. Such a case was Pharaoh. Such a case was Ahab. Such a case were the Jews who rejected and crucified their Messiah.

Such is near the condition of Laodicea. They have allowed themselves to be deceived and have become self-deceived. They have hardened themselves to the point where God is ready to harden them beyond repentance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Ends

Well - we are coming to the end of this study of "Letters to Seven Churches". I'm so glad to have stopped before getting to all that confusing and sometimes contentious eschatological stuff in the chapters that follow. I have promised to start Malachi next, followed by something very long and heavy on Hebrews. Malachi will be interesting because it is another "last" book (at least in our Western Christian canon).

I see the parallels between waiting for the promised (suffering) Messiah in Malachi's time, and awaiting the return of the glorified Messiah in the church age. Like matching book ends, Malachi and Revelation bracket the gospel age and the New Testament writings with hope, promise and warnings of judgment.

Since it takes time to prepare the material in audio form and to coordinate it all for Blogger, I may take a week or so off from posting between series.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rev 3:14 - Laodicea the Materialistic Church
Christ the Only True Witness from Eternity
(Loading for Bear!)

Rev 3:14 - Christ the Only True Witness from Eternity - (Loading for Bear!)

Rev 3:14 And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

Finally we come to the deluded, self-satisfied church of Laodicea. In order that the contrast might be that much more convicting, the Lord is described as the "faithful and true witness" when, as we shall see, that is the very last thing that Laodicea can be called.

By comparison with Christ, of course, we all fall short in faithfulness and truth. Compare the statement in Re 19:11 where He is called faithful and true or the declarations of John 1:17,14:6 where He is identified as truth personified. Compare the statement in Lu 4:18-21 or Heb 10:5-7 where he is seen as the willing fulfillment of the (eternal) purposes of God and Php 2:5-8 where His faithfulness to the will of the Father was expressed in the putting off of glory for the ignominy of a criminal’s death.

He is also the last Word on everything - the "Amen." What has been freed or bound in heaven by Him shall be freed or bound on earth by Him, through His people. {Mt 16:19} He has dominion and authority over all things, and He was before all things. He is the beginning of God’s creation - not meaning that He Himself was created first, because He is the Eternal Son (remember Miguel Servetus’ error), but that He is the Creator Who was in the beginning. {John 1:1,Col 1:15-18}

These Names of Christ not only describe He who is about to pronounce upon the faithless, but reflect His supreme authority, His right to judge and the absolute finality of His judgments. It is as if Christ is "loading for bear" here in a moment of final call to the deadened consciences of the Laodiceans. All warnings are potential blessings. All threats are the appeal of love to repent before it is too late. But there will come a moment when repentance is no longer possible. Remember the words of that little poem by Dr. J. Addison Alexander ...
There is a time, we know not when,
A point we know not where,
That marks the destiny of men
To glory or despair.

There is a line by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.

How long may we go on in sin?
How long will God forbear?
Where does hope end, and where begin
The confines of despair?

An answer from the skies is sent;
"Ye that from God depart,
While it is called today, repent,
And harden not your heart."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

God's Decree and Man's Judgment
Here, as promised, is James White expounding on matters of predestination, responsibility, judgment and theodicy in answer to certain questions he has received.

Some old canards are shot down and some questions which are hard for some people to come to grips with are answered fairly, in accordance with the Biblical principles which guided the people who wrote the Westminster Confession of Faith.

There is heavy stuff in here - but if you never lift any weights at all, your muscles are likely to atrophy.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Rev 3:11-13 - Philadelphia the Obedient Church
Overcomers Will Be Eternal Testaments to God

Rev 3:11-13 - Overcomers Will Be Eternal Testaments to God

Rev 3:11-13 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. 12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. 13 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

The promise for all believers in all ages since the ascension has been, "I am coming soon." This is not to be understood in any particular time frame. "Soon" is a comparative term. In God’s view all times are "soon" for He inhabits eternity, and touches time at every point from Genesis to Revelation. But neither are we to think that His return is not imminent all the time. It is one of the cardinal points of our faith that God keeps us faithful partly by continually encouraging us to be mindful of the Lord’s return. We are to savour the idea. We are to hope in it without wishing to hasten it one second sooner than God’s eternal plan has purposed since before time itself began.

By the blessed hope and the watchfulness it engenders in all the saints (not wishing to be ashamed at His coming) we are further moved to eschew evil and to abide in Him as we wait upon Him.

To this particular church at Philadelphia the promise of His coming is no different. It is that exhortation which is given in order to keep them faithful, and to bring them to endure all the persecutions of both the synagogue of Satan and the cruelties of Rome under Trajan. This is accomplished by them abiding in Christ by faith. In this they hold fast to what they have, and what they have is all things in Christ - including eternal life. No one can seize that from them because they are in the hand of Jesus and the Father, and no one can snatch them out of Their hand. {John 10:28-29} But they can lose their reward by stumbling. The "crown" here is more like the laurel that is awarded to the victor in a race, or to a general victorious in battle. It is an honour, but not a symbol of actual power. It is an awarded, not an inherited crown.

All the saints will conquer in one sense, because all rest in the victory of Jesus over sin and death. All abide in His righteousness. All bear the fruit of the Spirit of God by grace. All are eternally secure. But there is another sense in which they must conquer, and that sense is exhibited in the obedience of faith. Not saving faith, for all the true saints have that - but sanctifying faith in which a man must strive to be found in the will of God by the grace of God. Though justification is what is imputed to a person it, being forensic (or legal) in nature does nothing to actually change the person. Yet all whom God justifies He also glorifies and, by implication, sanctifies. It is in sanctification that the responsibility of man to strive is exhorted, though the result of his striving will always be due to the grace and power of God. And, in fact, the fact that he strives at all will be seen to be the grace of God at work in him. {Php 2:12-13-10}

There is a lot about names here, particularly the Name of God. In the case of the Name(s) of God, a name is more than simply a "handle" identifying one person from another by purely visual association. A name in the Biblical sense is descriptive of the nature and character of the person alluded to. And, while we associate names with faces on a purely physical level - this is Joe and that is Fred - the recognition of God by His Name(s) is a matter of spiritual perception engendered by God’s self-revelation to the understanding of believers.

We know the Truth (one of His Names). We know the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. We know the Wonderful Counselor. None of our recognition of Him in His Names is by dint of our perceptiveness or our deductive powers or our wisdom. It may be that the depth of our understanding of His character by these names yields to persistent and faithful and diligent pursuit of Him. But the fact that we recognize Him at all (that is, His character as revealed in His Name(s)) is entirely due to His grace shed abroad in our hearts.

And for Him to write on a person His very Name is symbolic of Him both showing ownership and (more importantly) actually putting His Character itself upon them. He is saying, this is a man after my own heart because I have put a new heart within him. It is final glorification. Remembering that we never earn our salvation (including our glorification) we must be careful not to read from this that we receive God’s Name because we ourselves conquer. That would contradict what the Bible clearly teaches elsewhere - and the Bible cannot contradict itself. If it seems to, then it is we that are mistaken in our understanding.

The fuller understanding sees that we conquer because He is in us to do it and we have trusted and obeyed Him in the fight because of the faith He initially gave to us when He called us out of the world. God will commend us for our diligent use of His gift or rebuke us for our lassitude. And we, not being God, must be diligent to make our calling and election sure by "proving" to ourselves that we are indeed in Him. We must strive and press and labour to be certain that we are truly in the faith and do not prove to be reprobates.

So the writing of the Name of God upon the conqueror is the consummation of the salvation that comes from God. {Jon 2:9} It is reminiscent of Ezekiel’s vision in which all those who mourned for sin committed in the city of Jerusalem received the mark upon their foreheads and were thus spared from the coming destruction. {Eze 9:3-4} It brings to mind the gold platelet bearing the phrase "Holy to the Lord" that adorned the forehead of the high priest. {Ex 28:36-38}

This is Christ speaking to the pastor of the church at Philadelphia. He speaks of three names. The Name of His God (the Father), the name of the city of His God (the new Jerusalem) and His Own new name, which no one knows. {Re 19:11-12} Whatever these things mean, the sense of establishment, acceptance, communion and permanence are all a part of it. There is great inclusiveness here. We ourselves shall bear the Name of Christ because we shall in some mysterious and glorious sense partake fully of His nature. And it will be all of grace. Sola Gratia, Sola Fides, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.

Again it should be noted that this encouraging truth is for those who have an ear to hear. Not all do. Only those to whom it has been given. The rest flounder in the morass of human blindness just as we all once did. And they do it, as we did, because it is what they want.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Death is Not Dying
No - I have not suddenly joined those who see nothing wrong with women preaching and teaching men. This address was made to a gathering of women in Vancouver BC by Rachel Barkey. It is the spellbinding testimony of a dying woman.

In any church community women are fully vested in all the gifts of God, including teaching, for the building up of the church in love. The only restrictions God places upon them is a hierarchical one in that they may not be elders, nor preach/teach to men directly, within the fellowship of the church. But this in no way means that men do not have a great deal to learn from our fellow saints who happen to be women.

Some of you may recall that my daughter lives on the left coast. She, like Rachel, attends a Mennonite church, though not the same fellowship as Rachel. And while I have a few theological nits to pick with the Mennonites, all my dealings with them have shown them to be a community of Christlike and caring people whose floors I am not fit to scrub. So this post is about what all the true saints have in common, regardless of denominational affiliation or sex, rather than the differences which sometimes get in the way.

So when Rachel, in this talk, applies 2Peter 3:9 to ALL mankind, or when she speaks about God not being present in hell, I pass over these things and don't let them get in the way of her message. There is a place for discussion of these things, but it is not here. They are of minor importance compared to the message of a sincere humble hope, displayed in the face of great tribulation that characterizes this lady. It is as powerful as any of the sermons that are posted here - not because she is a woman, nor yet because she is a dying woman - but because she is a Christian who is dying the death of a true believer, by the grace of God.

Death is Not Dying - Rachel Barkey

Watch the video of this talk on Rachel's site

Saturday, June 13, 2009

God's Decree and Sovereignty
Calvinism could be described as that system of theology wherein the emphasis is always upon the Sovereignty of God. But that happens to be the way all Christianity should be. After all, what use is there to believe in a God Who, in the end, abdicates His perfect wisdom and purposes from eternity to eternity into the hands of anything or anyone less. Anything short of God's absolute sovereignty in all things actually falls short of any meaningful sense of "God" at all. Absent the Calvinistic understanding, you are left with a "god" who is ultimately a derivative being, moved and controlled by his creation, and, in the end, is no more god-like than the petty, warring, dualistic, spiteful inventions of the Babylonian or the Greek pantheons.

Well, James White isn't having any of that, and neither am I. Dr. White has a robust belief in a truly sovereign God. God as God. And so he is not afraid to tackle theodicy issues in light of it all. A God Who is sovereign is big enough to account for all that goes on in His created universe, including the worst evils that both man and spirits have invented or committed. His antagonists have such a shallow, self-contradictory and illogical theology that there isn't a chance that they they would ever even attempt to come to serious grips with a topic like the one in this video. Instead they resort to the equivalent of putting their hands over their ears and screaming "Na na na na na..." as you will see.

Next Tuesday (god willing) I'll post another video from Dr. White dealing with questions surrounding these issues.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rev 3:9-10 - Philadelphia the Obedient Church
Vindication Before Slanderers and Enemies

Rev 3:9-10 - Vindication Before Slanderers and Enemies

Rev 3:9-10 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.

There will be vindication before their enemies for the faithful. Those who persecuted and ridiculed and hated and killed them will one day understand the horror of what they have done. They will come to see the truth about their victims - the truth that their victims had proclaimed all along - that they belonged to Christ and witnessed the Truth about Him. And the time will have come for the woe that befalls all who persecuted Christ in His saints.

Many have been the saints of old who have inquired of the Lord as to how long the wicked would prosper and how long God would suffer them to oppress His people.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? how long shall mine enemy be exalted over me? {Ps 13:2}

Lord, how long wilt thou look on? rescue my soul from their destructions, my darling from the lions. {Ps 35:17}

How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked? Selah. {Ps 82:2}

LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? {Ps 94:3}
This and the next few verses bring the Philadelphian faithful (and, by implication, all the faithful) to the anticipation of that moment of final vindication when the Lord returns. Then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun. {Mt 13:41-43} Then shall Christ be (fully) glorified in His saints. {2Th 1:5-10} One is reminded of that famous sermon "Payday Someday" by Baptist Preacher R.G. Lee.

Note that the ultimate retribution that will be paid upon the persecutors of the true church is not that people will learn that the saints loved God - but that they will learn that Christ the God/man loved His saints. They are the apple of His eye. They are such that woe is unto those who cause one of such little ones to stumble for it would be better for them to have a millstone tied around their necks and they be cast into the sea. Like Judas, it would be better for them never to have been born because insomuch as they did it unto one of His little ones, they did it unto Him.

Can you imagine the terror of such a realization - the cold dawning of understanding when it is too late for that understanding to avail in repentance? That moment when it is perceived that all sin is against God - even and especially sin against His own beloved sheep? Not for nothing does the Lord call the professing children (unbelieving Jews) "the synagogue of Satan". It is strong language. It is strong language to call them liars (v.9). They are not simply deceived, but they reject the light and, in deceiving themselves, lie about themselves and the true saints. The father of lies - he who was a liar from the beginning - is the true spirit behind their words and actions.

Now, I don’t know much about eschatology - whether I’m "pre" or "post trib rapture," whether "pre," "post" or "a-millennial" - because I haven’t gone to study on it. But the initial implication here for many is that the faithful saints will be raptured before the tribulation. The only problem with that view is that the promise is given to a real church that was obviously not raptured. Neither the rapture nor the tribulation has yet come and 1,900 years has passed. But we know that the Lord would never make a promise that He did not keep. So there is a bit of a conundrum here.

The promise of His coming for His church {Re 3:10} is the true hope of all believers in all ages and so it does apply to the Philadelphian faithful, but the promise of deliverance does not refer to the tribulation at all, but to its precursor - the "type" - of the tribulation contained in the persecutions under the Emperor Domitian. Christ is promising this particular church that He will keep them from the Domitian persecutions because of their faithfulness - because they have patiently endured in their weakness the "lesser" tribulations of the hatred and opposition and accusations of the unbelieving Jews.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Looking for Work

Looking for Work

Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. These are great promises that have been relied upon by countless saints throughout the ages. And God has been faithful, otherwise we would have heard news to the contrary. For the devil would never miss an opportunity to broadcast the least slip, the tiniest untrustworthiness in God. That is Satan’s currency now, as it ever was.

But there are always more subtle tacks that the adversary can employ. If God will not prove unworthy then perhaps the saints can be deceived into receiving His graces unworthily. It’s a poor second best but it beats just sitting around twiddling his thumbs and waiting for the final demise.

For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What a great promise! And what a terrific reminder that perseverance will be rewarded. One remembers that great passage in Hebrews that speaks of how God is, and how He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Or again, it evokes the idea of striving to enter in at the straight (narrow) gate. The parable of the importunate prayer also comes to mind.

From these and many other exhortations we can readily gather that God wants us to apply ourselves heartily and wholly to seeking Him and His kingdom. Man has always been required to work. It is true that, after the fall the work became toil – but there was never a time when we creatures were not expected by our creator to apply ourselves with energy and enthusiasm to seeking and doing His will.

But…and it is the biggest “but” of the Bible – a “but” upon which St. Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther and millions of saints have hung their hat – it is not work that has the effect but grace. God requires us to work but He does not need us to work. He requires His saints to seek Him and to press into the kingdom but He neither needs them in the kingdom, nor their work in pressing into it. He is able, indeed he has already done all that is necessary for the saints. He could translate them to glory instantaneously without affecting His justice one iota. Christ finished it all.

In God’s kingdom it is attitude that counts and not results. Producing results is man’s way, but bearing fruit is God’s. Working for outcomes is the way of the world that ends in death because it ties human effort to results rather than recognizing God’s sovereign hand of grace in all things. A simple attitude of obedience in abiding in His Word bears fruit not only in the abider, but in the whole kingdom. Results happen as we abide, not because we work. And often the results are not those we expect.

Then why work at all? Why not sit and await God’s good pleasure to call us home? Because our Lord Himself excoriated the slothful and wicked servant who hid his talent in the ground rather than diligently investing it. Surely that is enough authority for any of us. We had better not do the same! It is plain that God requires us to work. Our work is the means by which God is pleased to bring the results that He desires. But our work does not cause the result and we need a serious attitude adjustment when we believe it does.

Scripture abounds with admonitions against the error of confusing our work with His providential sovereign grace. "A man’s mind plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps". "The king‘s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will". God’s pronouncements against Egypt in Ezekiel 29:9-10 speak with anger of man taking credit for, and pride in, the things that God’s providential grace has supplied. Examples are endless, for that is the essence of the message of the gospel and the revelation of Jesus Christ. Man has no power to produce or guarantee results no matter how hard he works, but he can rest upon God to bring about the right end. It is God dwelling in the work and the worker that has effect.

So let us distinguish the subtle deception that corrupts the perfect way because our fallen minds rush to what they know best. God’s ways are not our ways. We think that it is our work that produces results but God tells us that it is He Who does it. We think that if we work in seeking God that our work secures the result of finding Him. Not so! What guarantees the result of our finding Him is not our work but His grace, His effectual call, His faithfulness, His reliability, His lovingkindness towards us. Our work is only the means by which He is pleased to lead us to see and to experience these things.

Would I rather be pleased with myself because I worked harder or longer than a brother in seeking God and His will? Or would I prefer the meek and humble acceptance of the fact that it is all of His grace. In all things, an attitude of gratitude always surpasses the thought that it was wrought by me. Perhaps I ought to revisit more often the parable of the labourers who received the same wage, though some worked from the 1st hour and others only from the 11th. I must not allow trust in works of any kind to obscure the truth that all things are from and through and to Jesus Christ – even the effect of my labours.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rev 3:7-8 - Philadelphia the Obedient Church
God's Strength Made Pefect in Weakness

Rev 3:7-8 - God's Strength Made Pefect in Weakness

Rev 3:7-8 And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. 8 "I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name."

The "True One" here is, of course, Christ - Who is speaking to the pastor of the Philadelphian church. This must cause a conundrum for the Roman dogmatists in that the "key of David" {Isa 22:22} is to be understood as the key to the church proper. Christ holds the key and not Peter, nor his successors. He opens the kingdom for those given by the Father and He closes it to those who will not hear.
"To you (the disciples) it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’" {Lu 8:10}
It is the Word that both condemns and that saves - for by it all men shall be judged - and by the hearing of it comes saving faith. This same "Word" is also, mysteriously, Christ Himself - because He will be the judge of all men and in Him alone is salvation to be found. In terms of their working and their purpose the Word written and the Living Word are the same. They speak identically. They bring an identical message. They effect one purpose, which was determined before the world began - to save God’s people from their sins.

In much the same way, John Calvin said that the Word and the Spirit are the same. The same in that they speak identically. The Word never contradicts the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit never contradicts the Word. This is how we know what manner of spirit it is with which we are dealing at any one time. It is by the Word. And apart from knowledge of God’s Word we have no way of discerning the spirits because there is no way for them to witness one to another. But it is impossible for God to contradict Himself, whether He speaks as Father, Son or Holy Spirit, since the LORD, the LORD our God is One.

The statement that Christ alone (meaning God, for they are one and the same) has the key to salvation and that people enter only when and if He opens is absolute anathema to human pride. It has been said that the doctrine of grace is admired by many who will hate you for it as soon as you make application of it. We all say we were saved by grace but few understand that salvation is by grace alone. Forgotten today are the five "solas" of the Reformation...
Sola Gratia - By grace alone
Sola Fide - Through faith alone
Solus Christus - In Christ alone
Sola Scriptura - As revealed in the Scripture alone
Soli Deo Gloria - To the glory of God alone
Salvation is of the Lord. {Jon 2:9} It is not of the Lord plus man. It is not God saving with man helping. Such thinking is not only wrong but is actual heresy. God alone saves. He does not need the cooperation of man in order to make salvation either possible or effective. He uses men to preach the gospel and to bear witness to Himself - and He brings men to do these things, and to be both grateful and willing - but (and it is the "but" upon which the "solas" hang) salvation is all of grace and is a work of God from start to finish.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. {Joh 1:12-13}

So it (election unto salvation) depends not upon man’s will or exertion, but upon God’s mercy. {Ro 9:16}
When people hear this truth they react in one of two ways. Either they are utterly humbled and enter into a new dimension of understanding God, and a changed relationship with Him - or they are enraged and will rail against the messenger and the message itself. People don’t mind having a God so long as it is a God that needs them - a God that has to have their help or cooperation in order to accomplish His will - or that man is not fallen at all, and has in his natural state the ability to find his own way, unaided at all. But this heresy is nowhere taught in the Bible. Pelagius was twice condemned as a heretic in the 4th/5th Centuries for advancing such humanistic notions. But it is a heresy that will not die, and it revives in various forms continually.

In this verse (verse 7) we encounter yet another affirmation of the sovereignty of God in salvation. The language is unmistakably that of sovereignty. It brings to mind other, more ancient verses that speak of similar things...
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand. {De 32:39}
There is finality, authority, sovereignty and ultimately an underlying reference to omnipotence in all such statements. God is the Alpha and the Omega. He is omnipotent. He is transcendent as well as immanent. He is perfectly able and perfectly justified to say, "This I do and who can question it? Who can oppose it, for who has resisted My will?"

So then, Christ is sovereign in the lives of His faithful and they are faithful because He is sovereignly in them. He has opened up a door for them to enter into His everlasting habitations that no one can shut. They are faithfully pressing in to Him, conscious of their lack of power and, thereby, reliant upon Him. When they are weak then they are strong, for God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. What they have done is to keep His Word. And what does this mean?

Well, firstly it means that they must know what it is that they are to keep. They must know what it is that God says to them - and the way to do that is to study closely what God has said. The church is the pillar and buttress of what? {1Ti 3:15} The Truth! And truth resides in information. Truth must be communicated, weighed, understood, adopted and acted upon. Truth speaks first and foremost to the mind. And once having apprehended truth about Christ and the truth in Christ, and that Christ is the Truth then the faithful follower keeps that Truth by obeying it. All the truth in the world is useless unless it is applied. And it is in the application of the Truth in our lives through faith (knowing our own dependency) that the power of God works through our weakness. If we believe God we will act upon what He says. If He is in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure then we will desire to obey Him.

The Philadelphians knew – they believed and then they acted upon that belief. Faith comes by hearing the Word, and knowing (assurance) comes by the doing of it. When a person acts upon the Word of God by the prompting of the Holy Spirit within, then His very acts are the will of God. As Oswald Chambers would say, "Then you are the will of God." When a person acts upon the Word then they understand that it is God working in them and it thrills the soul. But God will not act for you. You must step out in the knowledge and the faith you have been given by grace.

In Philadelphia there was only a small fellowship of the faithful but they were truly poor in spirit - conscious of their poverty and consequently able to see and to rely upon Christ’s riches of sufficiency. Despite persecution - despite living in the very midst of pagan culture and the hatred and opposition of the Jews.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Learning to Be Still
You must suffer your inadequacy until it becomes perfect dependency.

Gleanings 16:109

Monday, June 08, 2009

Rev 3:4-6 - Sardis the Counterfeit Church
God Saves for Himself a Remnant

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Rev 3:4-6 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’

What view can one take of Christianity here, when it once more seems that a person must actually perform in order to be assured of salvation? In some ways, it is not surprising that the Roman church gravitated to including good works as not just an adjunct - not merely the fruit - but as an actual necessity for salvation. On the face of it this once again seems to be what is being stated here.

But once more we need to understand what it is that causes a person to walk unspotted from the world. If you believe, as many do, that it rests within a man of himself (that is, in his natural fallen state) to find love for God and to be obedient to the heavenly command then you will go down the wrong sort of Roman road. You will effectively be a cohort of that twice condemned heretic, Pelagius.

No! The gospel unequivocally states that a person must be born again of the Spirit of God, and supplements that requirement by the teaching that this birth is entirely due to the supernatural working of God Himself. We repent. We believe. But we do these things on account of God Himself and His elective grace at work in us. In this way, a man who does not repent cannot blame anyone but Himself for his damnation (he cannot blame God for not saving him because salvation is a matter of grace, not of justice) and a repentant sinner cannot take the credit for his repentance and faith.

Once a person is born again he does have a responsibility to grow in grace and to learn obedience - but he will soon enough discover that every step of the way he must rely upon His God to lead, direct, empower and guide him. His ears are opened by God to hear the heavenly directive and to receive it with understanding. His heart is inclined by the indwelling Spirit to seek and to follow his Saviour. He has both the right (exousia) and the power (dunamis) to be a child of the King though, like all children, he must learn how to walk in them.

Yet this walking is unlike anything he has become accustomed to through walking in the world. In the world every man is a law unto himself. He serves himself. By and large, he pleases himself. He knows nothing else. He makes a direct correlation between what he does by dint if his own effort and intelligence and what effect and/or reward he garners in the world. The kingdom of God is not like that. There are rewards - yes. There is the requirement to perform and to obey and to achieve - yes. But the way in which it all transpires is foreign to the nature we have inhabited since birth. This is why we are born again - so that we unlearn (die to) the old way and learn as little babes the heavenly way of living.

And the heavenly way of life is not in doing, but in being. It is not in first doing, but in first being. But this is not a self-existent "being." It is you being in God and He being in you. There is personality, but it is expressed in unity. We are reborn and remade in the image of God, living and being in the Spirit in the same way that God lives and is in the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. We are not God. We shall never be God. But we share His life. Rather, He shares His life with us, through Jesus Christ. This necessarily involves submission, obedience, worship and love.

So, when we are found obedient it is the sign that we are one with God for it is only in His Son that true obedience was found amongst men. And we are one with God in His Son, Jesus Christ - who is both God and man, forever. Our obedience is in Christ. It is only as we abide in Him that we are found obedient. This is not simply in a judicial way, where Christ’s obedience is accounted to us as righteousness through faith - but in an experiential way wherein, on His account and by His grace and in His power, we learn righteous living. This is why Jesus asked the religious leaders, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." {Mr 10:18} Irony, yes - but also a revelation of the Way. He also said, in answer to the question of what they should be doing to be doing the work of God, "This is the work of God - that you believe in Him Whom He has sent." {John 6:29}

So, the faithful at Sardis who have not spotted their garments are found that way only because they have all along been faithfully abiding in Christ, who is their righteousness. They are worthy, not in their own right, but on account of the One in Whom they abide. They obeyed. They watched. They abode in Christ. But they did so on account of the same grace by which they were first saved. Every instance of obedience to God, if it is not at once given back to He Who is its source anyway, becomes an unholy boast. God has designed our new lives in such a way that He must ever and always be both the source and the object of our righteousness, our love and our life.

So they presently walk in unsoiled garments (verse 4) and yet they will, in the future, be clothed in pure white. Presently they abide in Christ, their righteousness, in an incomplete way - for their spotlessness is not yet glorified holiness. But it will be. "...and those whom He justified He also glorified..."{Ro 8:30} They will be worthy - not because of their own worth (for apart from Him they never had any) but on account of the worth of Christ in Whom they have been abiding.

The steadfast who trust in Christ, their Salvation and their Power, to overcome, will indeed be conquerors - conquerors who cast all their wreaths at the feet of their Redeemer, their God and their friend. These are those given to Christ by the Father before the world began - those for whom He came to die - whose names cannot be blotted out from the book of life - not because they can prevent it by dint of their own efforts, but because God is in them to perform what He purposed to do from eternity.

If you, or anyone else (and there are many who may) come into the presence of Christ at the last holding forth your own performance, your own unspottedness, your own cooperation with the divine will as in any way contributing to your justification before the judgment seat of a thrice holy God then there is a big surprise awaiting you. It is God that justifies. {Ro 8:33} It is God that brings to completion in His elect that good work which He started at the Day of Jesus Christ. {Php 1:6} His sheep hear His voice and they know Him and follow Him. He knows them by name and they follow Him. {John 10:4,27-30} Woe betide you if you did not strive to enter in at the narrow gate. But your striving of itself carries no weight for your acceptance with God. Your striving is your duty as a creature. Your acceptance is only, and all, of grace.

The conquerors whose names are confessed by Christ will be shown to be the names of the very same people who were given to Christ before the world began. The lost ones whom He came to seek and to save, and for whom He died. No wonder they will therefore be confessed! It was the will of the Father from the beginning - a purpose fulfilled in the Son and applied by the Spirit - all of the One True God, the Three Persons in the perfect unity of the Godhead. It was impossible that He should fail and it will be seen that He accomplished all that He purposed to do - to the praise of His glorious grace for eternity.

The message is, therefore, "for he who has an ear". The true sheep still hear His voice and they still follow Him. Which are you?

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sermon of the Week
Fundamentals of Spiritual Warfare Pt 1

Here's Roy Hargrave of Riverbend Community Church, Ormond Beach, FL preaching some hard truths in his unique gravelly voice.

This sermon is the first in a 3 part series on spiritual warfare. Here he uses texts from 2 Corinthians and Romans in a hard-driving wake-up call to both the saved and the unsaved about the nature of the spiritual battle behind the scenes.

This is a great parallel resource to the post made on May 1st dealing with the Smyrnan church. Many of the same themes are mentioned - such as suffering, tribulation and truth. And I loved the bit about the Christian's attitude to death at the hands of persecutors.

The only caution I have here is that this particular sermon is heavy on law and light on gospel. Both are there, but I would have liked to hear more on how the weakness and powerlessness of the Christian (both true) are there so that we will abide in Him Who has done all, and Who will do all in and through and for us - by our faith in His completed work. Here are his sermon and his text...

2Cor 10:1-6 I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of Christ––I who am humble when face to face with you, but bold toward you when I am away!–– 2 I beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of walking according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6 being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

Fundamentals of Spiritual Warfare - Part 1

Roy Hargrave

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

A Mess of Pottage

"The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 14:18-20). The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable and almost incurable."

John Piper - " A Hunger for God"

Friday, June 05, 2009

Rev 3:3 - Sardis the Counterfeit Church
The Commandment Revives the Faithful

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Rev 3:3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.

"Remember what you received and heard!" Remember the Word of Truth the gospel - the teaching of the Apostles. The remembrance contemplated is more than just a bringing to mind. It is a remembering to do that which is already revealed. It is the opposite of hardening. It is the application of the truth. It is walking in the truth. It is obedience to the heavenly message that has been given to them.

Now it may be that, by lack of vigilance, they had let slip some of the doctrines of the faith and begun to rely upon human teaching - or upon their own instincts, talents and reason. Who can say how the world and the flesh and the devil infiltrate the heart and the congregation? There are no doubt a million different means by which we become deadened or cold or misled - but there is only one way, and that is by lack of vigilance. Failure to watch and wait. The Truth is sometimes assailed head-on through persecution, but is often corrupted by gradual degrees - here a compromise, there a tolerance, over yonder a reinterpretation to fit modern custom or usage.

What Satan cannot destroy outright he pecks to death. It is all the same to him as long as the gospel is not rightly preached, if it must be preached at all. When persecution would serve to purify the saints he prefers to pander to them. People wonder how the pioneering communities of modern third world mission fields are so vibrant and much of the Western church is so lifeless.

It is because of these principles, which are not new. One has only to look into the history of Israel to see that they besought God rightly when they were afflicted and fell away when they had their ease. But this in no way absolved them of seeking God at all times. All it did was to demonstrate the longsuffering and lovingkindness of God - and the depravity, spiritual bankruptcy and utter need of the natural man.

So often with God, the warning itself is the very means that God uses to keep His saints on the right pathway. Those that belong to Him hear His voice and obey. Those that are not His continue on towards their destruction. Of course, the obedience of the few is far from a cut and dried matter. At any given time, in actual practice, some reprobates may appear obedient and some true saints may seem to be beyond the pale.

If we examine ourselves at various times it may be that even we are confused about our relationship to Him. We may come dangerously close to perdition, to apostasy, to reprobation, before the grace of God operating upon our hearts turns us back into the path. If we fall over the edge we cannot blame God for not saving us. It will have been our own fault for disobeying - or for not coming to Him to beg for the grace to be found obedient, and then doing all as if we had been granted it.

The security of the believer in Christ is always balanced by the admonition to be in Christ. To abide in Him. And God will hold all accountable who do not harken to His just admonishments and commands. But what does He mean when He speaks of coming as a thief in the night?

Firstly the Lord refers to the unexpectedness of His arrival. It is true that all believers are to look forward to the Lord’s return and, though that is not specifically what is meant here, the principle always holds true that if we are looking for His coming we shall ever be on guard. Surely it is not possible to hope in Christ’s glorious return and to be continually casting one’s mind upon that hope, while at the same time being disobedient to the One in Whom the hope rests. Hoping in His return while not abiding in Him in the present is what Mr. Spock would call "illogical".

So - the unexpectedness of His coming in judgment to those who refuse to be corrected is akin to His coming in glory to bring the final judgment. God alone knows the time. He knows the place. He draws the line and says, "Thus far and no further shall you go." There is no knowing and no appealing that stark moment when He Who is patience and forbearance itself chooses to cease exercising those mercies.

Second - and already mentioned - beside the unexpectedness of the judgment there is the finality of it. For when God comes against a person then who can be his defender? Where is there any strength to resist? Will God, the source and sustainer of all strength, grant the power to overcome He Who grants and judges all things? Will He make a rock so big that He cannot move it? Of course not! It is a foolish question. God is not a paradox to Himself. He acts and who can hinder Him?

So let all men hope never to bring God to that point through perverse disobedience to His revealed will. Let us not exhaust His patience and, thereby, come to the end of His mercy. His patience is great and His mercy is wide, But He Himself chooses to limit both and He alone sets the boundaries of those limits.

But we must remember that, for those who truly are Christ’s, there is no judgment unto condemnation because they have passed from death to life. The dire warnings may serve to bring straying sheep back to the pathway, but the same warnings also serve to condemn those who were truly goats all along. God alone knows for sure which is which. He will separate the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the chaff and the crop from the tares. Those who persevere will do so giving glory to God for His saving and sustaining grace in Jesus Christ. Those who fall in the way and do not get up, do so on their own account and out of their own choice and will be rightly condemned by God.

It’s not a difficult gospel to grasp if you will just believe what God says. You can’t save yourself. You can’t sustain yourself. You must believe in the God Who both can and does do both. But you must believe with a faith that acts upon the truth it knows. Fruit-bearing is the only reliable indicator of saving faith.