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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Albert Mohler Quote

“I fear that there are many evangelicals today who believe that God spoke but doubt whether He speaks.  They know and talk about the fact that God spoke in the Old Testament but think that now that He no longer does so and that they must therefore invent new ways to convince people to love Him.  But if you call yourself a preacher of God’s Word, and you think that all of God’s speaking was in the past, then resign.  I say that with deadly seriousness.  If you do not believe that God now speaks from His Word-the Bible-then what are you doing every Sunday morning?  If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.


But if you do believe that- if you truly believe that God speaks through His Word- then why would you substitute anything else in the place of the expository preaching of the Bible?” – Albert Mohler, “He is Not Silent” pg. 57-58

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Birthday Reflection: A Year of Restoration and 5 Recognitions

God will destroy us for our good.

It may sound counter intuitive to us, but love is always willing to wound.  A year ago I was wounded.  I was drowning in a sea of despair and barely skimming the surface.  I was gasping for breath.  Sure, I put on the face.  I attended all the social events.  I would even stand and preach the Word of God.  I would do everything I would normally do- but I was not the same.

In the course of the month I had lost everything I held dear: dear friends, a growing ministry, a girl I thought I was spending the rest of my life with, and my health was in a bad place.  I felt betrayed as all of them left.  To this day it doesn’t even seem real.  How does everything you love and pour two years of your life into just turn and walk away?  It began a year of spiral downward that echoed the words of David in Psalm 13, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (13:1-2).  People of faith suffer real pain.  I asked the Lord every day for a year, “Why?”  I could hear nothing, whether due to my stupidity or His gracious silence.

In my pride I was pretended there was not a problem.  I viewed vulnerability as an enemy, forgetting that confession has always been the pathway to freedom (Psalm 32:5).  The victory I’d preached from the pulpit felt like a distant memory.  “Who am I fooling? Lord, I’m not cut out for this.  I’m throwing in the towel.”  I would try to form cohesive words in prayer as I sobbed.  I was asking for the Lord to not just take me out of ministry, but I often asked him to take me out of this life.

Look how David continues in Psalm 13,

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken
– Psalm 13:3-4

I need an answer, but little did I know He was not finished with me yet.

No matter how much I desired to let go of everything I knew, He was not letting go of me.  Jeremiah was put in stocks by the priests and he declared, “O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed.  I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me” (Jeremiah 20:7).  But, in the midst of it, Jeremiah would also declare, “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot…Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hand of evildoers” (20:9, 13).

The good news has never been about how hard we hold onto God, but how hard God is holding onto us.  Jesus words in John 6 were warm sweet promises to me.  He had given me to the Father and I would not perish.  He has drawn me and He would raise me.  The will of the Father was that all who believed would be raised on the last day.  Jesus’ death absorbed all of God’s wrath toward me.  This suffering was not His wrath, it was for my good.  He was not inflicting me with Hell, but loving His child all the way Home.  He was keeping me, and sometimes keeping us involves taking things away.

Now, a year after my earth shattering heartbreak, I resonate with the words of Joel 2:25, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”  He has down a miraculous work in showing me more about friendship in ministry, giving me a great set of accountability partners, brought me into a new ministry, and brought me together with a helper who is beyond what I deserve.  My health is even far better!

Friends, restoration does not always mean you will be brought back where you were.  God’s exile out is often an exodus into something new.  I would love to say the story went back into a happily ever after, but the story isn’t over yet.  Chapters end so others begin.  Our happily ever happy happens later, not in this life.  But, even as our story unfolds, a few things have be reaffirmed to me even in the face of heart-wrenching despair.

1) Jesus is Lord.  He is Lord of salvation.  He is the Lord of life.  He promises that from beginning to end all His intentions will work toward His purpose.  He is gracious and is going to conform me into His image.  This is going to involve suffering.  God is passionately dedicated to blessing his people, but God blesses the bankrupt in spirit, but the banker (Matthew 5:3).  But in the gospel, suffering is a servant, not a serpent (Romans 8:28-39).  This truth has become even more precious to me.  John Piper says this, 

Outside of this promise of all-encompassing future grace there are straw houses of drugs and alcohol and numbing TV and dozens of futile diversions.  There are slat walls and tin roofs of fragile investment strategies and fleeting insurance coverage and trivial retirement plans.  There are cardboard fortifications of deadbolt locks and alarm systems and antiballistic missiles.  Outside are a thousand substitutes for Romans 8:28….The confidence that a sovereign God governs for your good all the pain and all the pleasure that you will ever experience is an incomparable refuge and security and hope and power in your life.”  - John Piper, Future Grace 122-123

      2) The doctrines of grace remain the only bed rock for deep suffering.  To know that my salvation is rooted in the sovereign election of God, the effectual calling of the Spirit, and the particular death of the Son is a firm foundation when you feel as if you don’t control anything.  Because, in honesty- we don’t.    The scandalous grace of God is the only answer for scandalous heartbreak.  Sure, our actions have consequences, but God is control of everything that occurs.  My salvation is never grounded in how I’m feeling from day to day, but in the work of the Triune God- and Him alone.  To the praise of His glorious grace (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14)

            3) Suffering is good for the stubborn.  The Lord has given me a much more vulnerable and pastoral heart through this suffering (something my stubbornness caused me to lack).  People hurt.  Life is far more complicated than I originally lived like it was.  God comforts us, so that we might comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4).  This means that God will wound us, but never without a purpose.

         4) The church will let you down, but don’t give up on her.  Jesus didn’t.  In fact, nothing that Christians have ever done to me has ever been as bad as what Christians did to Him.  Jesus pursued a wandering bride.  He endured her spitting in His face, pushing Him away, but He still pursued her- even to death.  Most grooms wed their brides with a ring on their finger, but Jesus pursued His bride with two nails in His hands.  Don’t give up on the church, Jesus has not and will not.

      5) The mission of God is not about me.  His mission will be complete whether I am face down in the dirt, or whether I am out on the front lines.  God doesn’t need me.  He could raise us rocks to replace me (Matthew 3:9).  But, God has graciously invited us in and sent us out.  Why not give everything for the sake of the gospel?  It will involve this kind of heart-wrenching, soul-emptying, life-altering suffering I have described, but in the end those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4).  We will see His face (Revelation 21) and His mission will be accomplished.


In the end, God destroys us for our good.  He builds us up, or moves us away, or leaves us to taste mud with the pigs- all with the goal of building us up and bringing us back (Luke 15:11-32).  Life hurts.  God is good.  The gospel is true.  His mission is urgent.  He may take what is most precious to us to show us that He should be more precious than all of it.  Why should we delight in the gifts when the Giver is so much more satisfying?  In the end, God never answered David’s question.  God’s response in our suffering is not an explanation, but revelation.  God is giving us more of Himself.  In our midst of our questions, answers will not satisfy us, He will.  Even in the midst of devastation, may we find joy in Him more and more each day.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.
– Psalm 13:5-6

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

“We look to the professor leader with his big library and quick answers, and we think he’s the definition of biblical conviction.  In reality, he’s a distortion.  Our Christian solutionism is dangerous, because, like the Silicon Valley version, it’s permeated with misplaced eschatological hope.  The buzz about the latest conference, book, and blog is that they’ll help us “reach up to the heavens.”  But that’s not the message of the Bible.  It’s the message of Babel (cf. Gen. 11:4-7).  We somehow believe that having the right information will bring salvation.  But, while solutionism may work in principle, it fails in practice.  Ministry doesn’t function as simply as we hoped, so we just get angry, frustrated, and overwhelmed.  Like the Pharisees, we think that life is about mastering the Bible.  Convictional leaders haven’t master the Bible.  The Bible has mastered them.” – Daniel Montgomery.  “Leadership Mosaic” pg. 47-48 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Does God Still Reveal Himself Through the Avenue of Dreams and Visions?

Here is a copy of my paper I wrote for my Systematic 1 class at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on the question of, "Does God still reveal Himself through the avenue of dreams and visions?"  Hope it edifies the saints and exalts our Savior!  (In case you are curious, I got a 97! :D)


Issue


This paper will discuss the question, “Does God still reveal Himself through the avenues of dreams and visions?”  Definitions are key to this discussion.  Merriam-Webster defines dreams as, “a series of thoughts, images, and sensations occurring in a person's mind…”[1]  While Webster speaks of “dreams” as being experienced in sleep, in the Bible dreams and visions can happen while a person is fully awake.[2]  Dreams and visions are synonymous in that they are both audiovisual apparitions.[3]  Both dreams and visions are an experience or state in which thoughts, images, and sensations occupy someone’s experience.  In this paper we will not be debating whether God used dreams in the visions to reveal Himself in the past; we will be considering the role of dreams and visions for the believer today.  We will conclude that God may use dreams and visions as a form of general revelation, but since the canon of Scripture is closed, dreams and visions are not to be considered authoritative as special revelation.  I will argue this thesis by examining alternative views, presenting my view, and answering potential objections.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

Facinating Quote from James White

Though it may seem surprising to some, in many aspects the Christian scholar of today is “closer” to the original writings of the apostles than people who lived as little as two centuries later. Why? For one thing, we not only have ready access to the entire Bible but also many of the secular writings of the day that give us important historical, cultural, and/ or linguistic information. We have the Bible available to us in the original tongues as well as in many excellent translations. We also have access to a vast amount of writing from generations between then and now; we can read the works of men like Spurgeon, Warfield, Hodge, and Machen, and can glean insights unavailable to many over the centuries. While a person living in the sixth century might have been chronologically nearer to the time of Paul, he would not have had nearly as much opportunity to study the Pauline writings as we have today. We can include in our studies the historical backgrounds of the cities to which Paul was writing; we can read his letters in their original language. These days we can sit at a computer and ask it to provide us with all the aorist passive participles in his letter to the Romans. These considerations allow us to be far more biblical in our teaching and doctrine than the person who had to live his life in hiding due to persecution, resulting in limited access to the Scriptures and also to those able to teach him.

 – James White, Scripture Alone: Exploring the Bible's Accuracy, Authority and Authenticity Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

What an encouragement to pick up our Bibles!

Reflection on Marriage

God created marriage with the purpose of displaying His glory and His gospel.  God is displayed as a single-minded pursuer, a single-minded covenant maker, and a single-minded vow keeper.  Even from the beginning, God has always been the pursuer.  Adam in the garden, Noah and his family before the flood and afterward in a drunken stupor, Abraham in his sojourning, the people of God in the desert.  In fact, of the people of God, God speaks through Amos that He “knew” them more than all the nations of the earth.  Even in the New Testament we see the Father lovingly pursuing a particular people for His glory.  Even before creation, Ephesians 1 tells us, God has had His eye on His bride.

Even when Jesus comes on the scene, we see God as a single-minded covenant maker.  Jesus himself spoke of the “ones the Father gave Him” saying, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”  The Father had given Jesus a particular job- redeem the Bride.  He did not waver from this mission, in John 17 we see Jesus praying, on the night before His death “not for the world, but for those given to Him out of the world.”  He said that He had sanctified Himself for that particular people, and His mission would be accomplished. At the last supper He said His blood would make a covenant with His disciples.  As Landon’s wedding ring will adorn the finger of Megan- and Megan alone- so Christ, the wedding ring of redemption, has been placed on the finger of God’s People.  For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross.  He paid the debt due sinners, he rose again, all to win His bride to Himself.

God’s pursuit and His promise will not be in vein.  Just as Landon will stand up and seal his vows to Megan, so the Holy Spirit comes and does that in the life of believers, through the vows of His promises.  The Spirit seeks, the Spirit seals, the Spirit secures.  God keeps His vow to His particular people.  He woos and wins His Bride gladly to Himself.  We love because God first loved us.
Now, there are 5 possible applications I feel need to be emphasized from this. 

First, just as God loves His Bride and does not wavor or look to any other, so a man must do in marriage.  “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church…” we are told.  Just as God has seen all that we are, and all that we will be, but has sought us, bought us, and secured us in His unwavering love.  God’s eyes do not wander, so we must be reminded as ours are tempted to.  God humbled Himself to win His woman, may Landon (and all of us men) follow suit.
Second, God pursued imperfect people, with the purpose of perfecting them.  Ephesians 5 tells us that the purpose of marriage is sanctification.  You are a sinner marrying another sinner- just as your perfection is a process- show grace toward one another.

Third, God’s bride is called to submit to her Bridegroom.  We do this happily for such a bridegroom as ours!  The point of John 2, the Wedding at Cana, is not to tell us that Jesus liked to party (though He did), but to show that He supplies what the other bridegroom failed to.  Megan, Landon is an imperfect bridegroom, but hallelujah our eternal bridegroom is not!

Fourth, recognized the assurance of being both fully known and yet fully loved.  Tim Keller wonderfully said, “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”  Find comfort in the single-mindedness is our pursuer, covenant maker, and vow keeper.


Fifth, let this ignite us each to mission, both in our marriages and our singleness.  May our passion be single-minded, just as God’s!  May we recognize that our mission is won, our hope is secure, may we rise up on mission and proclaim the gospel of grace to our families, neighbors, classmates, and to the nations.  God has won a Bride for Himself out of all the nations- may we go with confidence knowing He has promised for us to be means of accomplishing this mission.  Paul knew this assurance.  In Acts 18 as He was discouraged from preaching to the Corinthians, we read, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.”  May give ourselves to this single-minded cause: for the glory of our God.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 4)

We must love in truth because deception abounds.  This is the message John was wanting to deposit to this local church, and one which through the ages remains essential to the people of God.  This balance is something that evangelicalism struggles to strike.  Some value truth, but do so with cold hearts (think of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2).  Others love, with a loosey-goosey grip on the central truths of the gospel.  Once one is lost, so is the other.

John had just finished warning the church to watch out for false teaching, and continues in this vain. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  Obviously new teachings had entered into these churches.  Christianity has never been about adapting to the new or to fads.  He calls them back to Christ's teaching.  Teaching that has authority.  To reject these teachings was to reject God himself.

These teaches may have started out as orthodox, but one of things we see in the ministry of the apostles, if we look, is that many of their best and brightest wandered. Demas left Paul, in love with the world (2 Timothy 4:10).  These men left John for a fad- and by doing so had forsaken Christ himself.  So many in our culture have chosen popularity over the gospel- may we not do the same. John is clear with this heavy warning.

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

To our 21st century eyes, this makes us sit up straight in our seat.  "Wait, we're not supposed to welcome them in?"  A few things need to be said in way of background.  First, the church or churches John is writing to most likely met in houses.  So, to welcome someone into your house was not saying not to have them over for dinner, but to welcome to them into the body as a brother.  IT assumed them to be a true Christian. Second, the first century gathering was not a place to reach unbelievers but a place to equip believers.  In the first century, death would await the Christians who gathered, so these Christian worship gatherings were not a place to invite their Pagans neighbors who would have had them arrested and/or killed.

So, to invite someone into your house was to welcome them fully as a trusted member of the body.  But, those who do not abide the teaching of Christ should not be given that welcome.  They are not brothers, they are enemies of the teaching of Christ, and could possibly sell these First Century Christians into the hands of the Romans.  Also, to fully embrace them as a brother or sister would mean to fully embrace their false teachings about Jesus which is dangerous for them, but false teaching is also to the congregation.  As Paul writes, sound doctrine saves both the believer and their hearers (1 Timothy 4:16).  It was for the sake of love and the sake of the truth that they did not welcome false teachers into the body.

John loved these people, as is clear as he closes his letter to them.  He has so much he would like to say, but he can't.  His joy would not be complete until they see each other face to face.  As the last two verses read,
Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete. The children of your elect sister greet you.

Love and truth bind us together and create joy-filled community.  Of all John could have said in his epistle, their are certain things he just desired to say to their face!  Nothing can replace the local church in John's heart.  Even if he could have live-streamed the gathering, it would not be a proper replacement for being bodily present in the gathering!  His love for the truth was a desire for their joy.  Deception abounds which seeks to kill our joy, but the local church exists that we our hearts may be on fire with love for God, and our minds might be captivated with the wonderful truth of Himself.  The local church is not an option for the Christian, it was not seen as an option for John, but it existed that we may love and treasure God more- for our joy and His glory.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anthony Hoekema on the Optimism of Amillenialism

"Yet, since we know that the victory of Christ over evil was decisive and that Christ is now on the throne, the dominant mood of amillennial eschatology is optimism — Christian optimism. This means that we view no world crisis as totally beyond help and no social trend as absolutely irreversible. It means that we live in hope — a hope that is built on faith and that expresses itself in love.

Amillennial eschatology, therefore, gives us a realistic, yet basically optimistic world-and-life view. It is an eschatology which is exciting, exhilarating and challenging. It is an eschatology which gives us an inspiring vision of the lordship of Christ over history and of the ultimate triumph of his kingdom."

You read the whole piece, much of which I would endorse fully, here and read his whole book entitled "Amillenialism" here

Monday, May 2, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study of 2 John (Part 3)

John is writing this letter to spur the church on toward loving others in truth.  He takes a sharp turn in verse 7 to tell us why this is such a necessity for believers.  “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…”  We are to love in truth because deception aboundsWe need to notice that John’s warning is not a new warning.  The Spirit has been issuing this warning from the very beginning.  In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth without sin.  He created man and woman in His image to live and propagate His glory in all the earth.  God gave one command- do not eat from the tree of the in the center of the garden.  Many find this to be a silly command, but if we think from Adam and Eve’s perspective, disobedience in actually the stupid action.  Adam and Eve could have everything in all of God’s creation except the fruit from one tree.  He even issued that there were consequences for their actions, if they eat of it, they will die.  If you had a nut allergy, why would you give up a steak for a cashew?  Adam and Eve were deceived by the serpent and fell to choose cashews over stake.

Why is this significant?  Because just as the deceiver tempted the lady in the Garden, so the deceiver tempts the “elect lady” (the church) to choose cashews over stake.  The devil’s promises are always cashews compared to the four course meal of God’s promises.  The story remains the same for the church today.  What is one of the deceiver’s primary deceptions?  It isn’t found in eating a fruit, but in  forsaking the identity of Jesus Christ.

“…those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.”  One of the primary deceptions of the devil is doctrinal, specifically Christological.  The person of God is always under the direct attack by the serpent.  His question to Eve, “Did God really say…?” echoes today, saying, “Did Jesus really say…?”  First, this shows the supremacy of Jesus.  Why would Satan go after something that wasn’t supreme?  Second, this shows us the necessity of doctrine.  We must feed our people on the meat of the Word- because that is the food Satan wants to swap out for salty snacks!  Notice what is being denied in this letter by John- the humanity of Jesus.  Not just His past humanity, but the Greek denotes the action continuing to take place.  Jesus Christ has come and lingers in the flesh.  Satan takes joy in taking split hairs if splitting hairs involved splitting salvation from man, and God’s glory from Himself.  Jesus Christ is human, and His humanity is central to the gospel, because if Christ is not fully human, He cannot be our perfect substitute.  Christ must also remain human to be able to sympathize with us as a high priest (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:16-18).  By splitting this hair, our salvation is lost.

We need Bible teachers who will split the hairs and deeply love the tiniest truths about the person of Christ because the deepest truths of Christ are what Satan and his false teachers hate the most.  We are commanded then to “Watch ourselves” against such “deceivers and antichrists.”  The former describes the false teacher’s relationship to us, the second their relationship to God (opposed to Christ).  To be opposed to the teaching of Christ is to oppose himself, and this we must stand on truth.  Truth matters.  Love must also not be forgotten for love is what drives us to watch ourselves.

The central point of 2 John begins to form- we must love in truth because deception abounds.  There is much on the line in John’s command.  We must watch the doctrine of ourselves and those around us because our reward is on the line.  “Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.”  The glories of our reward in Christ are on the line, and thus if we love people we will speak to them in their deception.  Eternity is on the line, and thus we must love those around us who are caught in deception and with the truth point them to eternal reward.  The reward which our Savior defines as the joy of the Master- the eternal joy God has had within Himself for all eternity.  How can we not open our mouths and in love speak the truth when deception is holding back these treasures and offering false promises?  False promises which, I remind you, lead to eternal destruction and not eternal life (Jude 5-8, 23).  Let us love people because deception abounds- and eternity is on the line.

We will conclude our study through 2 John in the next post.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Truth and Love: A Study of 2 John (part 2)

As we continue in our study of 2 John we are reminded that John is writing to a local church, reminding them of the importance of love and truth. He gets more specific this week as he continues.

“I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth…” John has apparently seen the lifestyle of the people in this church. Their obedience brings him joy. Great joy. This lifestyle is habitual and faithful (noted by the use of the term “walking”). We also note that this joy was found in seeing “some” of then walking in the truth. All of the children had not been walking in this way. This should in some ways comfort us in knowing that when God calls us “children” it means he doesn’t expect us to stand on our own right away. It is also comforting to note that he does celebrate progress.

It cannot be escaped that the Holy Spirit through John is highlighting “the truth.” A fixed, body of eternal truth. Relativism is incompatible with a Christian worldview and incompatible with Christian living. We cannot live out truth if truth is not fixed and knowable- “just as you were commanded by the Father.” Truth is knowable because God has spoken.

With this foundation, John continues with his point in writing. “I ask you dear lady” He begins by pointing two things, first that his exhortation is not given without deep care for them. John models what this book proclaims, truth must be declared in love. He notes first his love for the church (the “lady”). Then he declares that what he is going to exhort them in is truth by saying, “not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning.” By this he is saying that he is not writing a new command (though he could, he had the authority to do so), but that this truth is truth which John himself, and this church, knew well. In fact, it reached all the way back to the days of Moses. His command was “that you love one another.” This command reached back into the book of Leviticus, but certainly its echo was fresh in the ears of the disciples from the Lord Jesus. In His last week of earthly ministry He commanded His disciples to “love one another” and that by doing so the world would be “know that they were his disciples.” Love proclaims truth. But, as John points us next, love does not exist apart from truth.

“And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” John goes so far as to explain how we love- through obedience to God. Love does not exist outside of obedience, and therefore; love can never be without truth. The most loving thing we owe Christians and non-Christians around us is to live an authentic life of obedience to God. 1 John is all about how this plays out in the Christian life. But, this should be the central point we walk away with from these verses in 2 John; “We must love one another in truth…” Loving one another in truth begins by living as an authentic witness in our life. Obedience is not just done to declare our love for God, but our love for others. We must reminder these essentials as we look next at why he so concerned with love: because deception abounds!  See you next week.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Election Fuels Mission

http://biblia.com/verseoftheday/image/Ro9.16?width=700
It is often charged that if you believe in election then you won’t evangelize. But the same Lord who gave is the Great Commission spoke of the “elect.” It is also said that, “If you believe in election then you believe that people are created for Hell, and therefore you have no consistent reason to share the gospel.” A.W. Pink talks more about this in his book, “The Sovereignty of God.” Honestly, this response to the doctrines of grace is partially right and partially wrong. Do those who believe in election believe people are “created for” Hell? If by this they mean that God creates an individual fully knowing their eternal destiny, then yes. I would say that every Christian believes this. If God knows everything, then He knows the eternal destinies of those He creates when He creates, thus He creates people knowing they will not repent. I disagree, as does the Bible, that this leads to fatalism and to lack of evangelistic zeal. In fact, God’s sovereignty in salvation becomes a fuel for Paul in one of the Bible’s most controversial chapter: Romans 9. To this we will turn and see how unconditional election empowers and emboldens personal evangelism.

In Romans 9, Paul is speaking of the glory of God’s sovereign mercy, he also writes of the glory of God’s sovereign wrath. This is usually where people begin to raise issues with the doctrine of unconditional election. But Paul never made it a barrier to his evangelism, but saw it as a boulder that crushes human pride! He begins the conversation in Romans 9 speaking of Israel and of God’s choosing of Jacob over Esau (before either were born or had done good for bad – Romans 9:11-12). Paul, anticipating a heckler responds back, “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means!” (Romans 9:14). His response? God is God and you are not.

Paul gives yet another case study, the Exodus. He draws his readers back to Moses and Pharaoh. Similar to what he does in v. 22-23, he begins by speaking on God’s mercy. It depends not on human will or exertion but on God’s who gives mercy verse 16 tells us. He even quotes from Exodus to further prove his point! He then turns to the other side of the coin- God’s severity. He quotes from Exodus 4:21 to say, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” God’s purpose in the life of Pharaoh was to show his wrath and power through him. This would proclaim his name in all the earth!

Pharaoh was an example of what happens when you rebel against God and God let him rebel. He freely let him pursue what He wanted- disobedience. Disobedience through a hard heart always gives way to further hardening. In fact, Romans 1 makes clear that the judgment for a hard heart is a harder heart. Hard, disobedient, hearts are, apart from God’s grace black holes of God’s judgment, never emptying. Such is the severity of our sin! And God choosing to judge and further harden the heart of Pharaoh’s heart is an example of us of God’s severity and provides a basis for our message. The darkness of our sin only makes his mercy shine brighter! This provides a foundation to declare the sinfulness and emptiness of sin. It also provides a foundation for declaring the judgment of God against sin, without which we cannot understand the mercy of God in Christ!

In fact, later in Moses account of Exodus, God makes this clear to Moses, saying, “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.’” - Exodus 10:1-2

Moses is told to preach to Pharaoh “for” God had hardened his heart. For means because. His hardening provided a basis for him to do so. This text gives us two primary reasons which we have seen throughout. First, Moses is told to speak so that God might show signs. Signs of his power. The plagues. He wants the Israelites to know that He was the Lord of power! Second, Moses is told to speak to show “how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians.” Speak so that I might show the severity and vanity of sin! Pharaoh was a test case of the life in the pursuit of sin! It doesn’t end well. It ends in judgment. Pharaoh is what happens when one tastes the bitterness of hatred for God and doesn’t taste deep of humility and kindness of God. This is even given as a foundation for teaching the future generations of Israelites! Flee to God’s mercy where is may be found! The sovereign judgment of God gives the basis and foundation for preaching the bad news- which gives way to the glorious news of God’s mercy and rescue!

Paul continues this theme as he continues in Romans 9. He writes in verse 22-23,

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory

He juxtaposes God’s judgment with God’s mercy showing that God has created a world in which both of these will be displayed to the glory of God. The darkness of judgment makes mercy look brighter. While many will want to point a finger at God for the dark side of unconditional election, they will not rest in the brightness of God’s unconditional mercy. Unconditional election does not just show us the severity of sin, but it shows us the glories of mercy. He chose to extend mercy so that we might know the riches of glory. Those whom He has chosen are the vessels of mercy, and He has chosen for us to know riches. The greatest riches in all the world is the glory of God through redemptive history. Ephesians 1:3-6 brings this truth to the forefront,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

He chose us before the foundations of the world. He chose us knowing all we would be, past, present and future. Charles Spurgeon said it this way, “I believe the doctrine of election, because I am quite sure that if God had not chosen me I should never have chosen him; and I am sure he chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me afterwards; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should have looked upon me with special love.”

God’s predestination of us should lead us (the vessels of mercy!) to gaze upon God’s glory and to fall before Him in worship. We are predestined according to the purpose of His will for the praise of His grace. Sovereign grace leads to praise. We treasure His mercy more when we recognize that it wasn’t a response to foreseen faith, but solely out of His kindness. We proclaim what we treasure. Treasuring His grace empowers the proclamation of grace. 1 Peter 2:9 further brings this out when he writes, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

We have been chosen to proclaim His excellencies. His excellency is declared in His sovereign mercy and His sovereign judgment. Once we wrap out minds around what we can of God’s eternal rescue plan through our election, our purchase through Christ, our calling, our eventual glorification, it will stop our mouths. Not from declaring His gospel, but from declaring our supremacy. How are we to talk back to God? He is the potter, we are the clay (Romans 9:20-21).

Paul continues in Romans 9 to give further hope. In fact Romans 9 is sandwiched between two heartfelt pleas and desire for men to be saved! Paul wished himself a accursed that others may know the riches of mercy (9:3)! His hearts desire and pray that men would be saved (Romans 10:1)! Paul could feel this evangelistic agony not in tension with the doctrine of election, but precisely because of it!


The doctrine of election gives the hope that even the greatest outcast to be saved. Paul continues in Romans 9,

even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
"And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’
” - Romans 9:24-26

God’s vessels, his chosen ones, are not a select few, but a multitude from every tribe on earth. It was not just the Jews who had the covenant, and the worship, and the Old Testament, (9:4), but God even chooses and calls and saves the furthest from God! God calls the Gentiles. The ones who were not his people are now His beloved. This gives us hope that even the most vile, God-hating, resistant people we know can be offered the gospel. We don’t know who the elect are, and this is exactly why we must declare the gospel to everyone we know! No one is outside of rescuing power of God. Those who freely rebel against Him can be rescued if His Spirit draws. The hope of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is extend to all whom we share-

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

“Such were some of you.” There is much hope found in these words. We pray, we anguish, we labor, because God is sovereign and uses these means to accomplish his saving purpose! All things will be conformed to the “purpose of His will” (Eph. 1:11), but He has chosen the proclamation of the word of truth to be the means by which he rescues sinners. God’s sovereignty does not empty the use of means, but fuels the use of means. Sovereign grace fuels the proclamation of the gospel.

In fact, this is the last point that needs to be brought out. Not only does sovereign grace fuel gospel proclamation, but it fuels long term gospel endurance. We can endure the trials of life and ministry as a Christian because God ensures the success of His Word and the accomplishment of His mission. Sovereign grace fueled Paul in Corinth when he felt hopeless to see results the Lord came to him in a vision. Acts 18 records this event

And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.”  And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them. - Acts 18:9-11

He tells Paul to continue to endure in ministry because He was with him, He was sovereign to protect him and because He was sovereign to save those who are “His people.” God can save whom He will save, and this empowered Paul to stay for 18 months teaching the word of God. Election empowered this. Election fuels the fire of Paul’s passion to see souls saved and keeps it burning through the long restless nights of ministry! So election will do for His people today and for endless ages to come. The words of Issac Watts echo the cry of a soul gripped by the doctrine of election. May it be our song as well.


How sweet and aweful is the place, With Christ within the doors,
While everlasting love displays, The choicest of her stores!

Here every bowel of our God, With soft compassion rolls;
Here peace and pardon bought with blood, Is food for dying souls.

While all our hearts and all our songs, Join to admire the feast,
Each of us cry, with thankful tongues, “Lord, why was I a guest?

“Why was I made to hear Thy voice, And enter while there’s room,
When thousands make a wretched choice, And rather starve than come?”

’Twas the same love that spread the feast, That sweetly drew us in;
Else we had still refused to taste, And perished in our sin.

Pity the nations, O our God! Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad, And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full, That all the chosen race
May with one voice, and heart and soul, Sing Thy redeeming grace. 
- Issac Watts. "How Sweet and Aweful is the Place" 1707

Monday, April 18, 2016

Truth in Love: A Study in 2 John (Week 1)

Not sure how I feel about this,
but it will work for this short series. =)
Size matters.  When we are buying clothes, we want clothes of a certain size.  When we are buying food, we want a certain size.  In fact, in the case of the latter, bigger is often better.  I fear we as Christians take this ideal to our Bibles.  The bigger books are not more important.  The bigger books do not contain “deeper truth.”  We often put the shorter books of the Bible on the back shelf for the days we oversleep and need to get our “quiet time” in.  But, if we slow down in these books, and allow the Spirit speak, we will discover God can say much with very little. 

I discovered this recently as I was studying the book of 2 John.  Over the next few posts we will be diving into this wonderful letter from the apostle John.  Today we will introduce it by looking at the author, the audience, and the affection of the letter.

John begins by referring to himself as “the elder.”  A term which obviously would denote age, along with it authority, respect, and wisdom.  John is known to not use his name in his writings (the only time he does is once in the book of Revelation), which I denote as a sign of humility.  In 1 John he remains unnamed, 3 John he is “the Elder” and in the gospel he is “the one whom Jesus loved.”  John seems to desire to exercise his authority, while getting his identity out of the way.

Another important thing to note in his opening is his audience.  “…to the elect lady and her children.”  Commentators are divided on who exactly this lady is.  John MacArthur and Matthew Henry both comment that John is writing to a godly matron (perhaps one who hosts a church in her home) desiring to encourage her in the face of false teachers.  Others argue that John is using the language of a “lady” and “her children” to denote a local church.  Four reasons I take the latter view:

1) John uses the image of the church in feminine terms in his writings (Revelation 21:2).  Also, throughout his first letter John refers to believers as “children.”
2)  It is very odd for John to command a woman and children to “love one another.”  This seems to fit better with the idea of a church.
3) Commentators note that John is using the second person plural throughout his letter.  Thus he is writing to many people who were able to understand his words (and thus “children” could not have been primarily in view).
4) The last verses of 2 John seem to denote children of an “Elect sister” language which fits a church better.  Notice, the children greet the lady, not the sister. 

All this seems to point to the fact that John has the local church in view.

Looking at the author, then the audience, we can jump into the rest of his greeting which is focused on his affection.  He writes of his “love” for the church “in truth” and this love is not simply his, but “also all who know the truth.”  Truth and love are at the heart of John’s message in this letter.  In fact, John is communicating that Christian love is always defined by truth.  One does not exist without the other.  Even when John states the reason for his love, it is “because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever.”  Christian love is not based on social class, or race, or economic level.  Christian love is based on eternal unchanging truth.   We’ll close by looking further at why this is.

First, our relationship to God is based on love and truth.  Look in verse 3.  
“Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love.”  

The little words are important here.  First we must notice that grace, mercy, and peace come from God (both the Father and the Son).  These promises only come by the Father and through Christ.  Without them none of these blessings are yours.  Second, we notice that they “will be with us.”  Future tense.  God’s unmerited favor, his unconditional forgiveness, and his incomparable peace are not simply realities for this moment, but reach forward into every step we take.  Not a moment for the Christian is without access to grace, mercy, and peace.  Thirdly, we must notice the means by which we access these gifts.  “In truth and love.”  The means of truth and love are how we access God’s infinite well of grace, mercy, and peace.  Truth and love are continuous means of accessing the gospel treasures of grace, mercy, and peace.  Truth and love bind us to God, but they also bind us together.

Notice, in closing, verse 1 again.  If the “lady” is the church, and the “children” are the congregation, than certainly all Christians share the same identity together. We are all children together.  Each of us have received grace, mercy, and peace through the Christ, so that we as fellow children can extend grace, mercy, and peace to each other.  We love each other in truth- yes perfectly- but we do so grounded in our identity as children.  This means Christian community should expect imperfection.  It should be the hallmark of Christian community- we haven’t got it all together yet.  Also, notice the sort of commitment this should give us to the local church.  We are children together of God and of “the elect lady” the church.  Sure, mistakes will be made, people may mistake “care” for many other things, but truth stands and unites and love emboldens us to go forward both in our relationship with God, and our relationship together.

Continue with me the next three Mondays as we continue through this amazing letter from John.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mark Webb Quote on Election

“After giving a brief survey of these doctrines of sovereign grace, I asked for questions from the class. One lady, in particular, was quite troubled. She said, ‘This is the most awful thing I’ve ever heard! You make it sound as if God is intentionally turning away men and women who would be saved, receiving only the elect.’ I answered her in this vein: ‘You misunderstand the situation. You’re visualizing that God is standing at the door of heaven, and men are thronging to get in the door, and God is saying to various ones, ‘Yes, you may come, but not you, and you, but not you, etc.’ The situation is hardly this. Rather, God stands at the door of heaven with His arms outstretched, inviting all to come. Yet all men without exception are running in the opposite direction towards hell as hard as they can go. So God, in election, graciously reaches out and stops this one, and that one, and this one over here, and that one over there, and effectually draws them to Himself by changing their hearts, making them willing to come. Election keeps no one out of heaven who would otherwise have been there, but it keeps a whole multitude of sinners out of hell who otherwise would have been there. Were it not for election, heaven would be an empty place, and hell would be bursting at the seams. That kind of response, grounded as I believe that it is in Scriptural truth, does put a different complexion on things, doesn’t it? If you perish in hell, blame yourself, as it is entirely your fault. But if you should make it to heaven, credit God, for that is entirely His work! To Him alone belong all praise and glory, for salvation is all of grace, from start to finish.” 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

God's Gracious Restraint, Removal, and Renewal (Reflection on Hosea 2)

Source of cool graphic
The book of Hosea is a movie-like depiction of God's pursuit of His rebellious people. God, through Hosea, pleads for His idolatrous, unfaithful people to return to Him. Like any good movie, the characters, purpose, and plot are introduced in chapter 1. Chapter 2 opens with God, through Hosea, pleading for His rebellious bride to return to Him. Verse 5 describes God’s people as going after other lovers who will, in the end, not satisfy. God promises to respond in three ways to the idolatry of His people.

First, He says He will block her way.  God restrains.  He describes hedging “up her way with thorns,” building “a wall against her.” He does this so that we may not find the idols we seek, so we may turn back and see that He all along was the one who satisfied us along the way (2:5-8).

Second, He says He will take back what is His. God removes.  His people may begin to worship the gifts instead of the Giver- so for their good He may withdraw His gifts. God is one who gave these blessings, and they to be enjoyed rightly- giving honor to their Giver. But, when we let the gift become a substitute the Giver or give glory to a false giver, we cease to enjoy His gifts rightly. It is for our joy that He takes these gifts away (2:9-13).

Third, He draws us to Himself. Through this, God brings renewal.  Taking the language of a husband and wife, He promises to allure His people, to speak tenderly to them, to bring transformation and renewal to the relationship- the covenant which His people broke. Verse 15 describes this in two ways. The Valley of Achor was once a dark spot in the history of Israel, will instead be a place of hope. Their relationship will be like the days of Israel’s youth, when He brought them through the Red Sea.

God brings further transformation by taking the idols away and by transforming the hearts of His people. If God has taken something away from you, or kept you from something, He may have been taking an idol out of your life. Check your heart. In the end God is after the glory of His own name, which is the greatest joy of His people. Our joy in God may be dependent upon something being taken away or something being kept from us. God's restraint and removal of idols is for our good- and one day will be full and final.

He abolishes the bow, the sword, and war. He will bring His people back to Himself and in “righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy” God will dwell with His people. This is obvious New Covenant language. Through Christ God allures His wayward bride, transforms their sinful desires and recreates them for His glory. In Christ he shows Mercy to those whose name is “No Mercy” and creates a people out of those whose name is “Not My People.” Relationship with God forever restored. One day soon all things will be recreated and God will remove and recreate anything which stands to allure His people away from Him or stand in their way. All things will be set right; His people will dwell with Him forever.

What is worth holding onto in light of this reality? What is worth fighting with God for in light of this glorious destiny? The closing words of John’s first epistle show us both God’s tenderly care, and His passionate warning in Hosea, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Let God restrain, let God remove, let God renew- cause He does it for our ultimate good, and His ultimate glory.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Matthew 25:31-46 and Justification

Source
The gospel is too important to get wrong. I have had many conversations about the gospel where the text Matthew 25:31-46 has come into discussion. Usually the person bringing up the text will protest, "See! We are not saved by faith alone, but faith *and* our own service of the poor." In this post we will look at Matthew 25:31-46, a glorious passage in the Scripture, and see how it does not go against the biblical and historical doctrine of justification by faith alone.

The words from Jesus in Matthew 25 provide a sobering picture of the Final Judgement. Verses 31-33 depict Jesus as standing in judgement- on the throne of His glory, with His mighty angels surrounding Him, and the nations before Him- separating the sheep (believers) from the goats (unbelievers). The sheep he puts to His right (a place of prominence in Scripture, such as Psalm 110:1-2) and the nonbelievers to His left. He begins to speak to the believers first as recorded in verse 34-36 saying,

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me."