The Approaching New Year

December 30th, 2010

I am not big on New Years Resolutions, never have been. However, the following prayer from Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers would have me make an exception. Wonderful.

O LORD,
May I never fail to come to the knowledge of the truth, never rest in a system of doctrine, however Scriptural, that does not bring or further salvation, or teach me to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, or help me to live soberly, righteously, godly; never relying my own convictions and resolutions, but be strong in Thee and in Thy might; never cease to find Thy grace sufficient in all my duties, trials, and conflicts; never forget to repair to Thee in all my spiritual distresses and outward troubles, in all the dissatisfactions experienced in creature comforts; never fail to retreat to Him who is full of grace and truth, the Friend that loveth at all times, who is touched with feelings of my infirmities, and can do exceedingly abundantly for me; never confine my religion to extraordinary occasions, but acknowledge Thee in all my ways; never limit my devotions to particular seasons but be in Thy fear all the day long; never be godly only on the Lord’s Day or in Thy house, but on every day abroad and at home; never make piety a dress but a habit, not only a habit but a nature, not only a nature but a life.

Do good to me by all Thy dispensations, by all means of grace, by worship, prayers, praises, and at last let me enter that world where is no temple, but only Thy glory and the Lamb’s.

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Five Points and Luke 6:45-49

December 29th, 2010

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” Luke 6:45.

Some time ago I heard a sermon on this and several following verses from Luke. I actually wrote about it elsewhere. The sermon made a number of good points surrounding human communications difficulties. The thrust of the sermon was that when words are exchanged (whether good or bad), it is not just the words that are important, but the fact that they implicitly reveal the state of the speaker’s heart. As such, communications problems (in this particular sermon, those between the sexes, often in the heat of the moment) must be addressed as heart issues as much as, if not more than, issues of verbal technique. A very good point! And to take it to the obvious next step, to alter the symptomatic expressions in a vacuum is unlikely to yield real, long lasting success.

Thinking about this, both then and later, it would seem that this principle should be extended to other communications, possibly even less direct modes of communication.

For the moment I wish to address only the case of the believer. For the believer, it struck me that one can delve beyond the initial reality that words expose the heart. The tone of that heart, expressed implicitly through the words, is a reflection or barometer of the speaker’s level of confidence in the Grace of our Lord, in a very personally sense. Surely the major component of the good treasure that is stored up in our hearts is the conviction and confidence that not only are we the Lord’s by His power and not our own, but also that in this belonging is an unchanging reality that was established by Him, not us.

If this is not the case, and if indeed the good or even the bad treasure of our hearts is established even marginally by us, then problems arise and our eternity exists on very shaky ground indeed. Scripture states that by virtue of its fallen nature the heart is bad (evil) and that none are worthy to be saved, not one. We are both collectively and individually portrayed as utterly lost in our trespasses and sin. These trespasses and sins are always against God, irrespective of the external circumstance, since He is the standard beyond all circumstance. Since (again from Scripture) bad can not create good of itself, we are without any ability to alter our basic nature. That being the case, intervention from outside our natural state is required for change to occur. There is no other possibility.

If whatever treasure is in the heart is established by us, outside His intervention, it can not be of Him and thereby can not be truly good – that is, of Him. In that case, any apparent good treasure must be from who we are naturally, and be jaundiced by that natural state from which it springs. What subsequently issues forth from that heart, appearances not withstanding, in the form of words can not be other than similarly jaundiced. This can in no way truly glorify a totally holy God.

Now, in reference to apparent good verbal acts of the unsaved, these are good in the natural sense. They can not, however, appear good to God since their root does not emanate from God. They must therefor fall short before Him no matter how they might appear in the world or what temporal benefit they might exact. They are based in the natural world and its standards of good. They are based on the standards of heaven, which are only achievable through the representation of Christ.

On the other hand, once the heart is changed by the Spirit (again, by the Spirit because the natural man is defined scripturally as completely lost, unable to create good from evil, and thereby unable to change himself) the good exists as the core of his nature, though not completely perfected until sanctification is completed. That path of sanctification, from imperfection to perfection, is certainly one of progressive and at times even faltering change. However, within is the heart claimed by God and regenerated with a core of good. Even at the beginning, but more as the process unfolds, the heart is progressively purified, and so must be the result in the words issuing from it, irrespective of the topic or situation.

A later point made in the same sermon was that, in the end, the heart issue comes down to the issue of rightness with God – that is, salvation. Clearly this is true, since it is from the movement of the Spirit, as evidenced in salvation, that the change of heart occurs.

All this is to say that though words are a good barometer for the heart, they are an even better barometer for self analysis and accountability within ones self, and within our close family in the Lord. What is required is the courage to examine both aspects of our communications and their implications. Only we will truly see the dichotomy between our own heart, how we would like it to be, and the evidence of its expression. A powerful tool in the process, and one that should humble us.

Accordingly, the remedy for the communications slips that we all exhibited in our imperfect state is not communications training, but heart training. Since we, as natural men (or women) are incapable of exacting change from our natural state and can not train our own hearts, the only remedy is to humbly seek change from the Lord, in prayer and the Word. That is the only venue for this development.

Further, in this we can only seek His face. Since it is His sovereign hand that exacts the continued change, on His timetable, we can only bring supplication and worship in obedience. Therein lies the solution, the final part being to rest in confidence in His eternal plan, sufficiency and preservation of the elect.

And once again, I never said easy.

“the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart” Matthew 15:18

Further, for those who would object that we might be in some way entitled to understand the situation more completely, I would cite one of my favourites.

“”The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” Deuteronomy 29:29

I will pursue this more in due course…

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A Tale of Two Johns

December 27th, 2010

John Calvin and John Wesley, of course!

Continuing on Spiritual Warfare, let us now turn to responsibility and consequences. With the outworking of life as a reflection of that warfare, and active actualization of the battle between principalities and saints, where does personal outcomes as a result of individual actions fit in?

The Reformed premise of saving grace is that it is not of us: ” For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8 (NASB). We can not save ourselves, even a little bit, so what implication does this have in living in the world after He has called us to Himself?

We have already seen that we are actively involved in the divine struggle. Looking at the principalities involved, and our human affinity for the world of Natural Man, if we do not subscribe to the Perserverance of the Saints (the P in TULIP), we are in big trouble indeed.

Those who know that salvation is not of ourselves, but of the Lord, also know from Scripture that “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand;” John 10:27-28 (NASB). Thus they can rest in the knowledge that in the ongoing battle they are safe in His arms for eternity, worldly outworking notwithstanding.

For those who take the Wesleyan view, and see a human role in salvation, and more importantly a human role in maintaining that state, there are big worries and loads of jeopardy.

Since we are born to sin, and for all intents and purposes can not help ourselves in this regard, requiring His quickening in order to consider the promise of salvation other than foolishness, then even once we are His how could we maintain that state if any of the responsibility was ours? Clearly we could not, and we would be in constant danger if the end should approach at the wrong moment.

Thankfully, it is all of Him alone (Solus Christus), through His Grace alone (Sola Gracia). Since His will can not be thwarted, we as believers shall preserver into Glory.

Now, does the fact that the Wesleyan does not believe this mean that he, once saved, is in any actual jeopardy? The Wesleyan would likely say yes, but the answer must of course be no.

To say yes one must assume that there is an ongoing battle in progress of the actual salvation and that the believer participates actively in its determination. This is clearly wrong.

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Reformation Day!

October 31st, 2010

It is Reformation Day, the celebration of the event that is the source of all Protestant denominations.

Yet in 99% of North American churches, including the one I attend, not a single word is mentioned of this great event. It is truly a travesty and betrayal of all those saints and martyrs who went before us by the Grace of our Lord…

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Yikes, modalists among us!

August 28th, 2010

A few weeks ago I taught about the Trinity in our Basic Theology group. As part of the discussion we covered a number of significant heresies that had dogged the church in its early days (200~500BC). These erroneous beliefs had been declared as heresy and put to rest by various church councils. At least that is what we thought about them. They were well outside of the foundational orthodoxy and heterodoxy of all of the orthodox church landscape. But the work of the evil one is persistent.

One of the key errors concerned the Trinity, and was known as Modalism.

Okay, so there I was visiting a local nursing home this afternoon. I was chatting with a lady, and in brief the significant part went something like this (with the small talk left out):

Me: Where are you from?

Her: The ….. (a Pacific Rim country)

Me: I have a number of friends from there. I know them from church. Are you a Christian?

Her: Yes

Me: Do you go do church?

Her: Back home I did, but not here.

Me: Oh, what church?

Her: The Church of the One God.

And then she added “We don’t believe in the Trinity.”

Well, I don’t know if she saw my ears perk up or the “Say what?” expression on my face but…

Without being too pushy, I trolled a bit more and realized that I was in the presence of a real, live Modalist! I was back in the early church era!

Folks, just to be clear, this is not squabbling about drums in the worship service. This is serious stuff that can affect the very grounds and sufficiency of the Gospel.

Now, admittedly, there are lots of people in today’s evangelical church who hold slightly Modalistic views without realizing it. They have never been exposed to the biblical truth (shame on their church and Pastors – but that is for another post some time later). For example, they regard the Holy Spirit as only an extension of God’s power, rather than a full person of the Godhead with the same being, power and authority as the Father and Son. This, however, appeared to be much more than that. This was flat out denial of the Trinity, period.

I am still somewhat in dis-belief.

I will certainly meet this lady again and I will plum the depths of this some more. At her relatively young age, it is most certainly a result of bad and heretical teaching, but it does show that there are large groups of people who have run seriously amuck and into dangerous territory.

The doctrinal wolves among the sheep indeed.

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What is the specific error?

August 10th, 2010

The local church in this case is saying that we choose Christ, triggering (that is, causing)  Him to appoint us to eternal life. There is not mention of any prerequisite work of the Spirit. This means that we are at some point in the process completely responsible for initiating our salvation and that we are capable of doing so as we stand. This is the error.

This vests the decision of who is save and who is not solely in the hands of a man, making him sovereign in initiating his ascension to eternal life. One can argue semantics but that is what they are saying.

Scripture, on the other hand, is unequivocal that the decision of who is to be save and who will believe is made solely by God BEFORE creation.

Further, Scripture makes it clear that man can NOT turn to Christ in his natural, unchanged state. Only the work of the Holy Spirit BEFOREHAND changes a man’s heart so that he can turn to Christ.

The Scriptural truth places the decision of who is saved, as well as how and when, solely in the hands of  God.  God is therefor solely and wholly sovereign in the ascension of the sinner to eternal life.

By take a ‘high view’ for man’s sovereignty, the belief under review demeans the sovereignty of the Creator. Man is conceived as not only sovereign over himself, but since his action causes God to act, God is in fact obligated to act on man’s behalf subsequent to the belief  ‘decision’.

Man is no longer the humble clay before the potter, but the sovereign clay who controls the potter’s action. This is a recipe for pride and hubris in man and for the believer to feel exalted in himself.

Once a believer casts himself  into this salvation creating role, the proper biblical attitude of obedience and acceptance toward God will surely evaporate over time. Man’s role will expand in significance to one assuming a God who is not omnipotent but limited.

This is an afront to and direct challenge to the God of the Bible. Throughout redemptive history, such attitudes have not been well received before the Lord…

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Subtle but dangerous error…

August 9th, 2010

I came across the quote below in the Doctrinal statement of an unnamed emergent church plant…

“When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction. We become the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 6:19). Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5).”

Sound pretty good? Appears to be based in Scripture? Looks can be deceiving. Please read it again.

It denies the foundational and critical sovereignty of God as clearly stated in the bible. Let’s see how…

Reducing their statement to the logic and intent we have  “When we put our faith in Christ, it triggers a spiritual chain reaction…Our names are written…”.

Action -> Result 1 and Result 2

You put our faith in Christ resulting in your inclusion in the Book of Life

I honestly can’ t see that anyone could interpret this any other way.

Well, to be blunt, that is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Let’s look at the truth of Scripture in Ephesians 1:4-6
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (italics mine)

Their statement stays that the believer was were chosen after they believed and because they decided to believe.

Scripture says that the believer was  chosen (and thus written in the Book of Life) before creation. These verses contain no caveats, individual conditions or other provisions for later causation.

These are two opposite positions, and they can’t both be correct. If the Bible is the sole statement of truth (Sola Scriptura), then this doctrinal statement is in error and at completely odds with Scripture.

So what? Next, we will examine why this is significant for all believers…

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All I can say is Yahoo!

August 5th, 2010

I should add that I am not endorsing all of his other preaching, but this message is good.

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Election does not bring complacency

July 31st, 2010

“[A Christian] does not make election his opiate and say, I am safe, O may sleep or wake as I please. He says, I am safely but this only makes me doubly vigilant that I may not dishonor Him who has saved me; and even though I may not finally fall away, I know no how much I may lose by one day’s slothfulness or how much I may gain by maintaining that watchful attitude to which, as the expectant of an absent Lord, I am called. ‘Blessed is he that watches,’ and even though I could not see the reason for this, I will act upon it that I may realize the promised blessedness. He who has called me to vigilance can make me partaker of its joy. He can make my watchtower, lonely and dark as it may seem, none other than the house of God and the very gate of Heaven.”

– Horatius Bonar from The Everlasting Righteousness


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Sound Doctrine

July 1st, 2010

I saw this image on the net and it needs sharing. It certainly expresses our desire to humbly seek and share the Truth of Scripture.

sound-doctrine

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