>Thoughts on the Doctrine of Election

>December 28, 2009

Preface:
This is going to be kind of lengthy. Enter at your own risk. Also, this post is really for Christians. If you aren’t a Christian then you are welcome to read it, but it may just confuse and/or upset you.

“And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”
-Luke 18:7
“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.”
-Romans 8:29-30
“Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.”
-Romans 8:33
“though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls—”
-Romans 9:11
“What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened,”
-Romans 11:7
“As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.”
-Romans 11:28
“he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,”
-Ephesians 1:5
“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,”
-Ephesians 1:11
“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”
-2 Timothy 2:10
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,”
-Titus 1:1
“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,”
-1 Peter 1:3

By reading the above verses you must realize that at some point in their reading of the Bible, any student of the text must wrestle with the concepts of God’s predestination and His election. There is no way around it. And any person who believes that the Bible is true, also believes that God elects people unto salvation. To deny that, would be to deny a mountain of Scripture.

The problem then becomes not whether God elects people, but how? Some have reasoned that God’s election is unconditional. He chooses some people to save, and lets the rest of mankind remain under their due condemnation. Others reason that God knows who will choose to believe in Christ of their own accord before He creates them. He only elects them because He knows they will choose to believe His gospel.

Those of you that know me well enough, know that I am convinced of the former view. That being, God elects people of HIS accord, not of theirs. Salvation is based on God’s choice, not man’s. Let me begin my explanation by referring to mankind’s spiritual condition.

Jesus describes those who don’t believe in Him as “condemned already” in John 3:18. This is consistent with Paul’s understanding in Romans 5:18 where he writes that Adam’s trespass led to condemnation for all men. So, I conclude, all men are condemned to hell. We all deserve hell because we hate God and show that hatred by slandering His name, committing acts of sexual immorality, gossiping, lying, cheating, and any other number of evil things.

In the ever-popular, Romans 3:23, Paul writes that every human has “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So, no human has escaped sin. We all act sinfully. Nobody gets around it. Our condition is: sinful.

And in Ephesians 2:1, Paul describes humans as “dead in trespasses and sins.” I think this description of humans really drives this point home. Can dead people believe in anything? No. They are absolutely, 100% helpless. When you say a dead person needs a savior, you mean that they REALLY need one. They are utterly in need, with absolutely no hope.

So what is to be done about all these dead people? Well, one thing God decides to do is send them to hell to be punished for their sins. Another thing He does, is save people from their just punishment. Matthew 25:31-46 contains Christ’s teaching on the Final Judgment. In this section He distinguishes sheep from goats. In verse 34 Christ welcomes His sheep into the kingdom which they are to inherit for eternity. Then in verses 41 and 46 He condemns the wicked to their eternal punishment by fire.

So let me circle back to my first question: how does God elect people? How are they saved? Look back up to Ephesians 1:5 which I quoted earlier. God predestined His people to be adopted “according to the purpose of His will…” He predestines, elects, saves, and adopts sinners to satisfy His will and His purposes.

Salvation is something that God accomplishes. Psalm 3:8 says clearly that “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” God saves. People benefit from being saved, but they don’t make it happen. They are dead, God calls them to life by the power of His life-giving word. There is no prerequisite, God does it. If you champion anything other than that, then you don’t give God the proper credit for salvation. You then make salvation contingent on people. And if salvation is contingent on people, then nobody would be saved. What kind of person, in their flesh, would choose to put their faith in God? Nobody would! Dead people can’t put their faith in anything. According to Ephesians 2:8, even saving faith is a “gift of God.”

I say all this to make one point: if you have saving faith in Christ, it’s because God elected you to salvation before the foundation of the world. You would never have chosen Him, but you didn’t have to. He chose you! In this way you can glorify God completely, knowing that He saved you when you were dead in trespasses and sins and utterly hopeless. Just as Lazarus was dead and Jesus brought Him back to life by His spoken word, He has done the same with your soul! Oh how sweet the sound of amazing grace!

Let me wrap this up by asking one more question: why is this doctrine important? Firstly, it’s Biblical. It is all over the Bible, which makes it of supreme importance. Secondly, it makes the recipient immeasurably grateful. When you realize that God saved you without your help or your choice, you can’t help but be thankful. The only thing that stood between you and eternal punishment was God’s choice, not yours. Thirdly, it puts a fire in you to proclaim the Gospel of truth. Since God has done such a great thing for you, you must proclaim it to all you come in contact with. You must pray that God saves and trust Him to do it. You must pray that God speaks His words of life through you, to breathe life into dead sinners. Your words and your reasoning are of no worth, unless God calls the dead to eternal life.

I expect there to be some criticisms of what I’ve written. That’s fine. I didn’t come up with this stuff. All I ask is that you make your responses respectful and Biblical. Please don’t just go off on an emotional tangent. Make clear responses. I understand that this may have come across as harsh, but that’s not what I care about. I care about the truth of salvation being made known to the saints. So let’s hash it out.

May God grant us all a greater understanding of the riches of His grace in Christ Jesus!

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>The Love of the Trinity

>December 1, 2009

“What did Christ gain by dying for His people? Nothing.”
-Tim Keller

This quote probably throws you off, but that’s only because you haven’t heard it in its context. Keller goes on to explain that Christ already had love and affection granted to Him by the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Trinity which existed well before mankind. God didn’t need to make a people to glorify Him, He was already being glorified and loved within the Trinity.

Yet it is common to think that God must have created man because He needed worship and adoration from them. Unfortunately, that belief is a common heresy. God does not need man. He is completely self-sufficient, self-sustaining, self-giving, self-glorifying, and self-loving.

Mankind is simply an outflow of the joyful love that occurs within God. He made man in order to bring them into this beautiful relationship that the Trinity has. In the Trinity, each member is focused on loving and glorifying the other members. The redeemed are enabled by the sacrifice of Christ, to enter into this love that the Trinity shares. It is a glorious truth for believers, and a truth that those without faith in Christ should consider seriously. The offer of Christ is one that allows you to trade wickedness, discontent, and shame for righteousness, love, and satisfaction. Lay hold of that and cast yourself upon the magnificent, eternal grace of Jesus Christ!

Brothers and sisters in Christ, thoroughly enjoy the love relationship that Christ has brought you into! You are able to experience the perfect love that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share. God be praised that He has brought us in!

Unbeliever, the offer of Christ is extended to you. Jesus says in John 6:29 “This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent.” God’s requirement of you for salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ. So do it, believe and trust completely in Christ Jesus and what He has accomplished through His sacrificial death!

May the love of God be made manifest to all of you in Christ Jesus!

P.S. Follow this link to listen to Dr. Keller’s message on the Trinity, it is well worth your time:
http://sermons2.redeemer.com/sermons/father-son-and-holy-spirit

>Calvinist Relates to Arminian

>September 24, 2009

John Piper posted this today and I thought it was incredibly valuable!

A 250-yr-old Model: How Calvinist Simeon Related to Wesley
September 24, 2009 | By: John Piper | Category: Commentary

Today, 250 years ago a great pastor was born, Charles Simeon. He was called to Trinity Church, Cambridge in May of 1782. And he endured fruitfully there through much fire for 54 years until his death November 13, 1836.

Simeon never married. He “had deliberately and resolutely chosen the…celibacy of a Fellowship that he might…better work for God at Cambridge” (Moule, Charles Simeon, 111).

His greatest influence was probably through sustained biblical preaching for 54 years. This was the central labor of his life. In 1833, he placed into the hands of King William IV the completed 21 volumes of his collected sermons.

He tried to be conciliatory in doctrinal disputes. Here is an example of how he conversed with the elderly John Wesley:

Simeon: Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Wesley: Yes, I do indeed.

Simeon: And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Wesley: Yes, solely through Christ.

Simeon: But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

Wesley: No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Simeon: Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

Wesley: No.

Simeon: What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

Wesley: Yes, altogether.

Simeon: And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Wesley: Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Simeon: Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree. (Moule, 79ff.)

>Hearing From God

>September 17, 2009

Every Christian at one point or another has probably either heard someone say, or has said themselves, “God told me…” The tough thing about this statement is that it is phrased as objectively true, when it is typically completely subjective. The problem is that unless God spoke in an audible voice and other people heard, there is no way to know that the person claiming this actually heard God speak. Many cults and odd religious groups were started because their leader “heard God speak”, but then failed to weigh it against any objective truth. People have committed murders because “God told them to.” Also, many Christians have acted in an impulsive and damaging way, stating that God told them to do it.

I know the above paragraph is rather negative, but I say all that to beg the questions: how do we hear from God? Is the Bible our only tool for hearing His voice? Does the Holy Spirit speak as a voice in our heads or by impressing thoughts on our minds?

Firstly, you can always rely on the Bible. I will refrain from a lengthy write-up on why the Bible is reliable, but those of you who are Christians should already be on board with me. If you want to hear from the Holy Spirit, then read the Bible, He inspired and orchestrated it’s writing.

Secondly, any thought or idea you have should be weighed against the Scriptures. Obviously, if you feel like killing somebody, committing adultery, or knocking somebody out, you probably don’t need to look up a Bible verse to know those are bad ideas. Beyond this, the Bible deals with financial stewardship, parenting, friendships, relationships, and any other ethical question you may have. Mine it for information first.

The questions we ask God that are the most difficult to deal with are things like: Should I take this job? Should my wife and I have a child? Should I attend this school? These are all very specific questions.

We should most definitely pray that God would give us direction in these things. The next step is to gather as much wisdom from godly men and women that you can. Don’t make the decision on your own, get input and prayer from others. Above all, the most important thing is trust. You have to put your trust in the sovereign hand of God. At the end of Matthew chapter 6 Jesus instructs His followers not to worry about material goods but to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The most important thing in life is not your job, your family, the school you attend, the church you go to, or the ministries you serve in. Your highest calling is knowing the One, true, living God and being conformed into the image of Christ. Make that your focal point and all the other details in life will be subject to your pursuit of God and your inclusion in the expansion of His kingdom.

Blessings to you as you pursue our incredible God through Jesus Christ!

>The Wisdom in Fearing God

>July 24, 2009

Proverbs 1:7 is an extremely popular and oft quoted verse where Solomon writes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The placement of this truth at the beginning of the book of Proverbs is no coincidence on the part of Solomon. Everything in the rest of the book is couched in the idea that wisdom is rooted in fearing God. I would like to present a few ways that the fear of the Lord should be present in our minds and hearts.

1. Terror at the wrath and judgment of God against sin.
The transliterated Hebrew word for “fear” in Proverbs 1:7 is “yir-ah.” It does not usually mean “reverence”; it usually means “terror.” So consider: what has God said He is going to do about the sinful and the wicked?

“…and He shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips He shall kill the wicked” (Isa. 11:4b).
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12).
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

God will harshly deal with sin in that He will destroy those who act wickedly. When we understand the severity of His judgment, then we understand the depth of His love and grace in forgiving us our sins. Our understanding of God’s mercy will only be as deep as our understanding of His coming judgment on the wicked since we are deserving of that judgment. Yet God, being so immeasurably rich in mercy, delivered us from His own righteous judgment through Christ Jesus (see Ephesians 2:1-10).

2. Fear of God keeps us from doing evil.
Proverbs 16:6 reads, “By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.” A proper fear of God turns the believer from sinful actions. When we are terrified of how God deals with those who commit evil deeds, we will not walk in them. This is absolutely necessary since we who died to sin should no longer live in it (Romans 6:2). Being fearful of how God deals with sin is intensely practical. Are you struggling with a particular sin? Perhaps it is lust, pride, covetousness, lying, or stealing. God detests those things and is going to judge those who do them. Meditate on that and see if the desire to sin persists. I do not believe that it will.

3. The love of God is poured out on those who fear Him.
Psalm 103:11 proclaims, “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him.” Fear of God puts our hearts in a posture of humility toward Him. When we realize that we are deserving of His righteous wrath, then we are to receive His abundant grace. Repentance and humility are God’s criteria for salvation and eternal life. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psa. 51:17). God will not despise or reject those who come to Him in true repentance for their wickedness. In fact, they are the ones He takes for Himself, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies. Fear God so that He may overwhelm you with His steadfast love!

>Rejoicing in Our Salvation

>July 9, 2009

One of the reasons that I love leading worship through music is the joy and passion that I have the opportunity to express through it. There are few things more satisfying to me than singing passionately about the attributes of God (His power, might, glory, love, mercy, justice, etc.) as well as His saving work in my life and in the life of His people. I am so taken by the glory of God in all that He does.

Today, I’m moved to write specifically about our response to God’s saving work, our salvation. The fact of the matter is that God has worked in and of Himself to save His people from the wrath and eternal torment that they deserve. We all lie, cheat, steal, murder, lust, break the law, and do every other manner of detestable thing. We have done those things, are doing them, and will do more of them. Each sin that we commit hurts others, hurts us, and most of all dishonors God. God has already determined to punish these sins. After Paul lists out a number of different sins in Ephesians 5 he states clearly in verse 6, “for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Sin prompts God’s wrath. And then consider the psalm quoted by Paul in Romans 3, Psalm 14:3, “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Friends, we are drowning in our sins!

But then, here comes our precious hope and joy! “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a). By His wounds our wounds are healed! How beautiful is the broken body, the blood, the thorny crown, and the cross of Christ Jesus! Our rescue is in the horrific and glorious sacrifice of Christ.

Brothers and sisters, if we truly believe that, then how could we keep from rejoicing?! Why would we sit in our pews while the person leading music in church sings:

“Oh precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow
No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

My exhortation is a simple one: rejoice in the salvation given freely to us by Jesus Christ our Lord! When we worship God, whether in song, or in tithing, or in serving, or in praying, do it with a joyful heart! Allow the passion of Christ and our passion for Christ to permeate how we act, what we say, and what we do. Don’t settle for anything less than a joyful, satisfying, wonderous, and God-honoring faith.

Zechariah 9:9:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey…”

May your joy be complete in Christ Jesus!

>The Hard Truth

>June 24, 2009

“Soft preaching makes hard people. You preach a soft message and you’ll have hard, selfish people. You preach the hard truth and it will break the hard hearts and you’ll have a soft people.”
-John MacArthur

MacArthur makes an incredibly true and bold statement here. The message of Christians is a difficult one. The gospel is a challenging message to understand. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing…” Our message is literally a foolish message to the world. Also, think about John chapter 6 where Jesus teaches that only those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will live forever. It says in verse 60 that many of his disciples said “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Then in verse 66 it says that many of his disciples no longer walked with Him.

Not only is it difficult to understand, but it is also a demanding message. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23 record the same words of Jesus when He teaches that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The gift of salvation through Christ is a free gift that also requires the whole life of the recipient. We all know Romans 6:23 which says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The evidence of soft preaching is crusty, immoral, and spiritually-dead Christians. By soft preaching, I really mean not teaching the whole counsel of Scripture. This includes focusing only on God’s forgiveness without His justice, His love without His hatred of evil, and His mercy without the coming Day of Judgment. God has and will exhibit all of these things. When Christians aren’t exposed to all of it then they become indistinguishable from the world around them. And yet Christ has called His people to be a “light on a hill”, “holy and blameless”, and “pure.” He taught in Matthew 5:19 that whoever “relaxes” any of the commandments from the Law and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. What Christian could then go on justifying any type of immoral behavior? Yet it is all too common.

On the other hand, when the hard message is received the heart is ready to experience the overwhelming tenderness and compassion of God. Only when a sinner has come to that place of realizing how dreadfully they have sinned before God can they be forgiven. It is then that God abundantly pours out the riches of His grace in Jesus Christ on the repentant sinner. The need for forgiveness must be seen first, before a person will ever ask for it. And only when a person asks God for it, will they be forgiven. And only the Spirit of God can accomplish this work in people’s hearts, so let us pray to Him that He would work mightily.

Brothers and sisters, I pray that God would break our hard hearts down with His powerful Word! I pray that we would be humble before Him and submitted to Him. I pray that we would love Him with all that we are, and then that we would love our neighbor as ourselves. Let us be the people, the church that Christ has ordained us to be. Let us not settle for mediocrity, but be good stewards of the powerful message the Lord has entrusted us with. May we all magnify the glorious gospel with our lives!