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Archive for November, 2008

I never post things like this, but I came across this video clip while reading James Grant’s exceptional blog (“In Light of the Gospel” found here http://www.inlightofthegospel.org/.)  I laughed so hard… I thought I would cry.  Then I pondered how true-to-life this clip is… and I felt like crying again.

What do you look for in a church?

Why do most people choose the churches they choose?

Is Hank Hill typical of the way in which most people choose a church?

Watch and see for yourself.  You can find the clip here http://www.christianclips.com/videos/entertainment/King_of_the_Hill_Church.

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The following video was posted by Desiring God Ministries to promote the upcoming Desiring God Pastor’s Conference, “Commending Christ: The Pastor, the Church and the Perishing”, February 2-4, 2009.  Listen as Mark Dever explains the gospel…

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9 Marks Ministries has recently posted an audio interview of D.A. Carson conducted by Mark Dever entitled “Observing Evangelicalism.”  These men are two of the sharpest evangelical theologians out there.  Don’t miss this interview!  You can stream it or download it here http://media.9marks.org/.

Also new to the internet is an interview of Jerry Bridges by C.J. Mahaney.  In this interview, Jerry Bridges describes how to “preach the gospel to yourself.”  It is a short interview (I would have loved to hear more…), ubt well worth your time to listen to it.  You can find it here http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Blog/post/Interview-with-Jerry-Bridges.aspx.

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I recently read “A Defense of Calvinism” by Charles H. Spurgeon and was struck by both the warmth and clarity of his arguments.  He opens this argument by lamenting the weakness which many have in their understanding of the gospel and how a solid grasp of the fullness of the gospel should be the desired possession of all believers… even new believers.

“It is a great thing to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different “gospels” in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey’s end, it would be difficult to predict. I thank God that He early taught me the gospel, and I have been so perfectly satisfied with it, that I do not want to know any other. Constant change of creed is sure loss. If a tree has to be taken up two or three times a year, you will not need to build a very large loft in which to store the apples. When people are always shifting their doctrinal principles, they are not likely to bring forth much fruit to the glory of God. It is good for young believers to begin with a firm hold upon those great fundamental doctrines which the Lord has taught in His Word. Why, if I believed what some preach about the temporary, trumpery salvation which only lasts for a time, I would scarcely be at all grateful for it; but when I know that those whom God saves He saves with an everlasting salvation, when I know that He gives to them an everlasting righteousness, when I know that He settles them on an everlasting foundation of everlasting love, and that He will bring them to His everlasting kingdom, oh, then I do wonder, and I am astonished that such a blessing as this should ever have been given to me!”

Spurgeon goes on to describe his understanding of the biblical gospel (i.e. “Calvinism”) in a later paragraph…

“…’Salvation is of the Lord.’ That is just an epitome of Calvinism; it is the sum and substance of it. If anyone should ask me what I mean by a Calvinist, I should reply, “He is one who says, Salvation is of the Lord.” I cannot find in Scripture any other doctrine than this. It is the essence of the Bible. “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Tell me anything contrary to this truth, and it will be a heresy; tell me a heresy, and I shall find its essence here, that it has departed from this great, this fundamental, this rock-truth, “God is my rock and my salvation.” What is the heresy of Rome, but the addition of something to the perfect merits of Jesus Christ—the bringing in of the works of the flesh, to assist in our justification? And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel, unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross; nor can I comprehend a gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called, and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having once believed in Jesus. Such a gospel I abhor.” (emphasis mine.)

But lest we accuse Spurgeon of being a “hyper-Calvinist”, listen to what he says about human responsibility:

“I do not think I differ from any of my Hyper-Calvinistic brethren in what I do believe, but I differ from them in what they do not believe. I do not hold any less than they do, but I hold a little more, and, I think, a little more of the truth revealed in the Scriptures. Not only are there a few cardinal doctrines, by which we can steer our ship North, South, East, or West, but as we study the Word, we shall begin to learn something about the North-west and North-east, and all else that lies between the four cardinal points. The system of truth revealed in the Scriptures is not simply one straight line, but two; and no man will ever get a right view of the gospel until he knows how to look at the two lines at once. For instance, I read in one Book of the Bible, “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Yet I am taught, in another part of the same inspired Word, that “it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” I see, in one place, God in providence presiding over all, and yet I see, and I cannot help seeing, that man acts as he pleases, and that God has left his actions, in a great measure, to his own free-will. Now, if I were to declare that man was so free to act that there was no control of God over his actions, I should be driven very near to atheism; and if, on the other hand, I should declare that God so over-rules all things that man is not free enough to be responsible, I should be driven at once into Antinomianism or fatalism. That God predestines, and yet that man is responsible, are two facts that few can see clearly. They are believed to be inconsistent and contradictory to each other. If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and if I find, in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other. I do not believe they can ever be welded into one upon any earthly anvil, but they certainly shall be one in eternity. They are two lines that are so nearly parallel, that the human mind which pursues them farthest will never discover that they converge, but they do converge, and they will meet somewhere in eternity, close to the throne of God, whence all truth doth spring.”

Spurgeon’s thoughts are worth meditating on and applying to our own lives.

If you are interested, you can read the whole thing here http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm .

 

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Tim Challies has some excellent suggestions about how to be a better reader.  Here is a summary of his 10 tips:

1)      Read (i.e. “just do it”!)

2)      Read widely.

3)      Read deliberately.

4)      Read interactively.

5)      Read with discernment.

6)      Read heavy books.

7)      Read light books.

8)      Read new books.

9)      Read old books.

10)   Read what your heroes read.

You can read the whole thing here http://www.challies.com/archives/articles/10-tips-to-read-more-and-read-better.php .

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I have often heard Christians state that it is not worth our time to enter into the debate between those who are Arminian and Reformed in their theology.  I have heard many Christians say, “What difference does it really make anyway?  If a person is ‘saved’… then they are ‘saved’?”

I would disagree.  There is a difference.  And the difference is not simply a matter of technical theology.  The difference lies in a fundamental understanding of the gospel. 

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from J.I. Packer’s introduction to John Owen’s book, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ.”  In this excerpt, Dr. Packer laments the modern loss of the full message of the biblical gospel and how this has resulted in much of the confusion found in evangelicalism today.  Dr. Packer then goes on to contrast the Arminian and Reformed views of the gospel in a very clear fashion.  According to Dr. Packer, the Arminian view of the gospel can be summarized as follows:

  1. Man is never so completely corrupted by sin that he cannot savingly believe the gospel when it is put before him, nor
  2. is he ever so completely controlled by God that he cannot reject it.
  3. God’s election of those who shall be saved is prompted by his foreseeing that they will of their own accord believe.
  4. Christ’s death did not ensure the salvation of anyone, for it did not secure the gift of faith to anyone (there is no such gift): what it did was rather to create a possibility of salvation for everyone if they believe.
  5. It rests with believers to keep themselves in a state of grace by keeping up their faith; those who fail here fall away and are lost.

Dr. Packer then goes on to summarize the Reformed view of the gospel in this manner:

  1. Fallen man in his natural state lacks all power to believe the gospel, just as he lacks all power to believe the law, despite all external inducements that may be extended to him.
  2. God’s election is a free, sovereign, unconditional choice of sinners, as sinners, to be redeemed by Christ, given faith, and brought to glory.
  3. The redeeming work of Christ had as its end and goal the salvation of the elect.
  4. The work of the Holy Spirit in bringing men to faith never fails to achieve its object.
  5. Believers are kept in faith and grace by the unconquerable power of God till they come to glory.

Dr. Packer follows up his summary of these two viewpoints with the following conclusion:

“Now, here are two coherent interpretations of the biblical gospel, which stand in evident opposition to each other. The difference between them is not primarily one of emphasis, but of content. One proclaims a God who saves; the other speaks of a God who enables man to save himself. One view presents the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind – election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit – as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly. The other view gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, all who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that man’s salvation is secured by any of them. The two theologies thus conceive the plan of salvation in quite different terms. One makes salvation depend on the work of God, the other on a work of man; one regards faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, the other as man’s own contribution to salvation; one gives all the glory of saving believers to God, the other divides the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.”

Granted… Dr. Packer is a Reformed theologian and some Arminians might take exception with his conclusion.  But his point is well taken.  These two understandings of the gospel are in opposition to one another.  They are not the same.  And it affects one’s understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ.

This difference is worth noting for it is a distinctly different understanding of the gospel!

Now the ultimate standard by which we judge our view of the gospel is Scripture alone.  All God’s people must strive to humble themselves before the Word of God and seek to understand the good news in the way in which God has revealed it.  But our responsibility does not end there.  We have an obligation to proclaim this gospel message to the world around us.  And our proclamation of the gospel should be robust, expounding the fullness of the glory of the message of salvation.  This means that we must deal with the issues at the heart of the debate between those who are Arminian and Reformed in their understanding of the gospel.  If we do otherwise, than we are not being faithful communicators of the God-given gospel message.

With this said, I admit that I adhere to a Reformed understanding of the gospel and therefore, I would agree with Dr. Packer that we as Christians need to be committed to proclaiming the fullness of the doctrines of grace in our preaching and day-to-day lives if we are to be faithful in our evangelism.  To do otherwise is to exalt the ability of sinful human beings to be… at least in part… saviors of themselves through the exercise of their free will to believe.  This is a distortion of the biblical gospel and must be avoided at all cost.  I know that this will offend some people, but we cannot allow our announcement of the gospel to be watered-down in an effort to avoid offending people.  (I would be quick to add that we don’t have to be pugnacious either.  Of all people… those who understand the sovereignty of God in His grace should be gracious people.)  We must endeavor to glorify the greatness of the God of our salvation through the explication of the fullness of the gospel.

There is a difference between Arminian and Reformed theology.  And… yes… the difference matters.

Be diligent in your study of the biblical gospel!

Be faithful in your proclamation of the gospel!

Be loving in your disagreements with others!

But above all… praise God for the salvation to be found in Jesus Christ!

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

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Dr. John Piper has posted some thoughts on how we should approach God when we are feeling lousy about ourselves.  Here is an excerpt…

“A vague bad feeling that you are a crummy person is not the same as conviction for sin. Feeling rotten is not the same as repentance.

This morning I began to pray, and felt unworthy to be talking to the Creator of the universe. It was a vague sense of unworthiness. So I told him so. Now what?

Nothing changed until I began to get specific about my sins. Crummy feelings can be useful if they lead to conviction for sins. Vague feelings of being a bad person are not very helpful. The fog of unworthiness needs to take shape into clear dark pillars of disobedience. Then you can point to them and repent and ask for forgiveness and take aim to blow them up.“

Dr. Piper goes on to point out a list of some of our most common sins and urges us to confess them specifically in faith that God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I Jn 1:9.)

Good advice.  You can read the whole post here http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1499_how_i_approach_god_when_feeling_rotten/

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