2009-10-30

Bible Version Dispute Resolved - Romans 14 Adaptation

One person believes he may read many versions, while another person reads only one. Let not the one who reads many versions despise the one who reads one, and let not the one who reads one version pass judgment on the one who reads many, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

One person esteems one version as better than another, while another esteems all versions alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes one version, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who reads many versions, reads in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains from many versions, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.

By what you read, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. (That's not the purpose of the bible)

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of bible versions but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building.

But whoever has doubts is condemned if he reads, because the reading is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.

2009-10-29

Prodigal Son - Applied to Our Lives

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:11-24)



What principles can we take away from the Prodigal Son passage to guide us in our daily lives?

The Pharisees were so wrapped up in the letter of the Law that they missed the spirit of it. They used God’s Law to condemn people; they used it to make themselves feel holy while they could look at others with contempt. We should be careful to follow the example of Jesus instead of the Pharisees.

There is a saying that goes, “Law to the proud, grace to the humble.” The Pharisees were only about the Law, even when sinners would cry at their feet they would rather stone them than show them grace. Yet Christ over and over again shows us that we are to be gracious to the humble. We’re not to kick them when they’re down, but rather to point them to Christ and the hope that is in Him.

Repentant sinners are not to be looked down on, as if we were somehow better than them; as if our sins aren’t as bad as theirs. We are to welcome them and treat them as brothers and sisters in Christ. If our holy God can accept us, who are we to deny others?

If you lost your wallet or purse you would probably search feverishly for it. Do we search out the lost with the same sense of immediacy? Do we care more for what’s in our wallets than for peoples’ souls?

So let’s work on loving people more, valuing them more than we value material things.

And how do we love God? Do we love Him in the same way the unrepentant prodigal son loved his father…loved him for what he could get from him just so that he could spend it on what the world has to offer? I’m not talking about lip service here. Anyone can say that they love God more than the world, but does our walk match up with our talk? Do we yearn for time to spend with our loving Father, or would we rather spend time on what the world has to offer? How much time do we spend in prayer and Scripture versus sports, t.v., and all the other worldly things that attract us? Are we going to spend this upcoming Sunday with the Lord in worship, or are we going to be consumed with worldly pursuits? And if we can’t spend even 1 day in a week with our Lord, how will we be able to stand an eternity in Heaven?

Let’s ask God to renew our love for Him. That we would love Him with a devotion that is second to nothing else in our lives. Let’s make a commitment to fall out of love with the world as we fall into love with our Heavenly Father.

For those who have not come to Christ because you think that you are not wanted by God, you can see that God will welcome you back if you turn from your lifestyle of sin and turn to God and His lifestyle of holiness. Come to God and be clothed with Christ, put on your family ring, and walk in holiness through the Gospel of Peace.

Let’s check ourselves to see in what ways we might be acting selfishly and ask God that we would seek after Him and not after ourselves. We must realize that our selfish yearnings are nothing more than longing to work with pigs and their slop. Even those things that appear desirable in this world are but a shadow of the blessings that we have with our heavenly Father.

When we stumble and sin, we can be assured that coming to God in true repentance will restore us. Not because of anything we have done to earn His forgiveness, not because of anything that we bring to the Father, but because He loves His children and wants us to come back into communion with Him.

May God grant us a heart that seeks to be Christ-like. May He give us the realization that we have nothing to be proud of, and humbly submit ourselves to His will, loving others and forgiving them when they wrong us just as God has forgiven us in Christ.

What is Calvinism?

An Introduction to Reformed Theology

Calvinism in a general sense is most famously (or possibly infamously depending your leaning) known by the anachronism T.U.L.I.P., but it is a miss understanding to characterize the historic Christian Position by just those 5-Points, it is far more in depth than this…

There are many things that separate Reformed Christianity from mainstream or popular Christianity, a general and quick observation produces quite a list of Biblical Doctrines that are either ignored or even preached against:

The Five Sola’s:
1. Sola Scriptura – Scripture Alone is our standard
2. Sola Fida – Saved by Faith Alone
3. Sola Christus – In Christ Alone
4. Sola Gratia – By Grace Alone
5. Sola Deo Gloria – To God Alone be the Glory
The fore mentioned TULIP
Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace
Perseverance of the Saints
Christ Centered Worship
Christ Centered Worldview

The list could go on for quite sometime. There is also a score of criticism that could be fired at the mainstream/popular churches, but that is not the main thrust of this post.

Below is a list of excellent sermons to help you in your Christian walk and draw you into a deeper and more intimate relationship with the Lord of the Universe, Jesus the Christ.










2009-10-28

47 Lectures on End Times for free...

Hey Gang,
47 lectures by Kim Riddlebarger on End Times for free...
You want to know the most biblical and historical understanding of Eschatology then here it is...

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Joshua

Repentance/Return to the Father

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:11-24)


The order that this return to his father takes place is important. First, his mind is convicted that the life he is living is not the life that he should be living. Second, he makes the decision to makes things right. Third, he turns from his sinful lifestyle. And fourth, he makes his way back to the father in humility and repentance.

We notice that it is as he returns to his father, even before he confessed, his father accepts him back. This is the love of a father towards his child…always ready to accept the prodigal back into the family.

Why did the father accept the prodigal son before he confessed? Well, I believe it’s because there was repentance. There was a turning from sin and a turning toward the father. And the father new that the son had turned from his sinful life and came back to life with his father. In the same way, our Heavenly Father seeks true repentance more than the words of a confession. He wants us to turn from sin and to Him in every area of our life. Notice that the prodigal didn’t take anything back from the sinful country, from the ways that he repented of. He simply came back to the father, empty handed, relying completely on the father’s mercy. And it’s in the same way that we must approach our Father. We must not hold on to our favorite sins when we come to Him, nor must we hold onto anything that we might consider righteous in ourselves…any kind of merit to come into the presence of our Father. We must come with nothing, relying only on His grace and mercy to restore us.

Confession is still an important part of the process. The Scriptures tell us that…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9)


And that…

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (Pro 28:13)


And the prodigal does confess. He confessed that he had done wickedly; that he rebelled, rejected, and sinned against his father. He went against all that his father stood for, and all that the father wanted for his son.

In my experience I have found that so many times in the Christian life we confess on a much more surface level than this prodigal has done. We say we’re sorry for our sins, rarely specify what those sins are, and then go about our business like nothing big just took place. And we wonder why the same sins keep giving us trouble even though we’ve confessed them. Well, maybe it’s because we’re not treating them as seriously as we should. Perhaps we think that our sins are just small ones, not even worthy of confessing specifically. Sure, if we killed someone we would be brought to tears in confessing to God, but we’re not that bad. Brothers and sisters, our sins are not so terrible because of the action itself, but because of who the action is against. Every sin is against God, and that’s why they are all so serious.

This is an example that I’ve used in the past, but if someone walked up to a man and punched him in the face that would be bad. If someone walked up to a baby and punched them in the face that would be much worse. It’s the same act, but it is directed towards a different person. So too, when we realize that our sinful acts are against One who is morally pure, perfect in all that He is and does we realize that our sin against Him is terrible, no matter what the actual sin is.

I have also seen the other extreme. I have seen folks be so consumed with the guilt of their sin that they never feel forgiven. They think that their sin is so bad that not even God Himself is able to forgive or make it right. We must remember that the Scriptures tell us:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1Jn 1:9)


So in the one extreme we fail to see the seriousness that God puts on sin. In the other extreme we fail to see the seriousness that God puts on forgiveness.

In our passage the father forgave the prodigal son. He not only accepted him back into the family and into his household, but he restored what the son had left behind to pursue his own selfishness. He was given the best robe, a ring, and shoes.

When we turn to our heavenly Father in repentance He forgives us in the same way. We are truly clothed with the best robe as the Father clothes us with Christ Himself. The Scriptures tell us to put on Christ just like this prodigal put on the best robe when it says that as many of us who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal 3:27). This robe that we adorn is the very righteousness of Christ. You see, Christ did more than die for our sins; He also lived a righteous life for us. When we put on Christ our sins are forgiven because of His sacrifice and His righteousness is placed on us. This robe is a garment of salvation; it is our wedding garment that is pure and spotless in presence of the bridegroom. This robe is not merely to cover our outward shame, as we use clothing to cover our bodies. Rather, it covers our naked souls from the wrath of God.

This robe is called the “best robe” in our Bibles. It can also be translated as the “first robe” pointing to the fact that the robe of Christ is secured in the Covenant of Grace even before Adam walked in the robe of innocence. This is why the Scriptures can tell us that we are blessed with spiritual blessings even before the world was founded. So this robe is not only the best, but the first, and it’s God’s whole purpose in creation so that He will bring Himself much glory.

The prodigal also has a ring put on his finger. This is a sign that the son is a true child of the father, he wears the family ring. With it he is able to act for the family and carry the authority of his father. So this signifies a believer’s adoption into God’s family. Once we are clothed with Christ we become fellow heirs with Christ, and members of God’s family.

Then he is given shoes for his feet. Slaves didn’t wear shoes, so this signifies that we are not mere servants of our heavenly Father, but also His children. It’s also a sign that God gives His children the means to walk in holiness. We are brought into the Father’s family for a purpose, and that’s to walk in holiness with the shoes that He has prepared for us in the Gospel of Peace.

So we are clothed with Christ, being made right in the sight of our Father, we are given authority as His children, and we are given a purpose – to live holy and acceptable lives before God.

The complete restoration of the prodigal son leads to a great celebration. Just as our Lord tells us of the joy the angels have over 1 sinner who repents (Lk 15:10) so too this household comes alive with celebration at the reconciled son. His brother is the only exception. We don’t have time to get into that aspect of the parable in detail. I will simply say that the son who stayed with his father probably represents Israel, and he is brought to jealousy with how the prodigal son is treated, who represents the Gentiles.

Paul tells us in Romans that God told Israel He would make them jealous and angry with a foolish nation, and that this would lead some to salvation.

2009-10-27

Should Christians Say That Their Aim Is to Convert Others to Faith in Christ?

First of all, why am I asking this question? Three reasons:

1. Because in our delicate and dangerous setting of global religious pluralism, how we speak about our aims can get us kicked out of a country or worse.
2. Because we want to follow Paul’s pattern of honesty: "But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2).
3. Because we need biblical clarity about our role in converting others to Christ, lest we shrink back from the aim of conversion for mistaken reasons.

Let’s begin with a definition.

Christian conversion is the act or process of being changed (without coercion but through our own volition) into a person who believes and treasures Jesus Christ, his saving work, and his promises above everything else, including all that we were believing or treasuring before conversion.

Given that definition, my answer to the question is Yes, all Christians should aim to convert people to faith in Jesus Christ. This is one of our aims in all we say and do. We hope and pray that everything we say and do will have this effect. In other words, our aim is not to say things and do things that are ineffectual. We desire—we hope, we yearn, we pray—that what we say and do will have this effect: that people will treasure Christ above all. Not to want this is either unbelief or lovelessness.

But to say that Christian conversion is our aim does not yet define what our role is in bringing conversion about. That’s what needs clarifying from the Bible.

And here I only want to bring one clarification: The fact that God is the ultimate and decisive cause in conversion does not mean we are not causal agents in conversion. We are. And as God’s agents in conversion we aim at it—we choose what we do and say in the hope that it will be used by God to bring about conversion.

The fact that Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father” (John 6:65), does not mean we are not instruments in bringing people to Christ. “The Spirit and the Bride [the church] say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come’” (Revelation 22:17).

The Bible does not infer from God’s causing people to come that we should not say, “Come.” Our aim and effort is that they come. And God is decisive in whether they come. To say that we are not aiming that they come contradicts the command of Jesus (Luke 14:23), contradicts the human instrumentality of the gospel (Romans 10:13-15), and contradicts love.

Consider five other ways that the Bible talks about our role in the conversion of others.

1. Christian conversion involves spiritually blind people being able to see the glory of Christ. Though God opens the eyes of the spiritually blind (2 Corinthians 4:6), Jesus sends Paul to open their eyes.

I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins. (Acts 26:17-18)

For Paul to say that his aim is not to open their eyes would be disobedience to the mission Jesus gave him.

2. Christian conversion involves winning people from treasuring anything above Christ to full devotion to Christ. Though God is decisive in changing people’s affections (Jeremiah 24:7), Paul says his aim is to win people.

To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. (1 Corinthians 9:22)

For Paul to say that his aim is not to win people to Christ would contradict his mission.

3. Christian conversion involves bringing people back from the path of sin and destruction. Though God is the one who decisively brings us back to himself (Jeremiah 31:18; Isaiah 57:18), the Bible speaks of us bringing people back from sin and death.

Whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)

To say that we do not aim to bring people back from sin and death would put us out of step with this text and imply we don’t care about the death of unbelievers.

4. Christian conversion involves turning the heart toward the true God away from wrong ideas about God and wrong affections for what is not God. Though God is decisive in turning the human heart to himself (2 Thessalonians 3:5), John the Baptist was commissioned to turn the hearts of Israel to God.

He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.” (Luke 1:16-17)

For John the Baptist to say that he does not aim to turn the hearts of the people to God would make him disobedient to his calling.

5. Christian conversion involves being born again. Though the Spirit of God is the sovereign cause of the new birth, blowing where he wills (John 3:8), nevertheless, Peter explains that this happens through the preaching of the gospel by human beings.

You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. . . . And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” (1 Peter 1:23-25)

For the preacher of the gospel to say that he is not aiming at the new birth in his preaching would put him out of step with the Spirit and contradict the design of God in how people are born again.

Therefore, I conclude that it is unbiblical to say that we are not aiming at conversion because God is the decisive, ultimate cause of conversion. He is. But we are his agents, and he calls us to join him in this goal. Not to aim at it is to put ourselves out of step with his command and his Spirit.

For the cause of God and truth,

Pastor John

2009 © Desiring God

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.DesiringGod.org

2009-10-26

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

by: Dr. Martin Luther

1. A mighty fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing;
For still our ancient Foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and pow'r are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

2. Did we in our own strength confide,
Our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side,
The Man of God's own choosing;
Dost ask who that may be:
Christ Jesus it is He;
Lord Sabbaoth His name,
From age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

3. And though this world with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us
We will not fear for God hath willed,
His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of Darkness grim,
We tremble not for him
His rage we can endure,
For lo his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

4. That Word above all earthly pow'r,
No thanks to them abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours
Through Him who with us sideth;
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever!

Public Domain

2009-10-22

Realization that Selfishness doesn't work

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:11-24)


Instead of clothing himself with Christ the prodigal son clothed himself with the world. He left his father and his father’s covering by going to a far country. This far country was very different from the place that his father had prepared for him. It was full of sin, shame, and death. In this foreign land he lived a worldly life, a life where the lusts of his flesh could be gratified. The “riotous living” that he took part in probably included things like:


  • Reckless spending of his inheritance
  • Fornicating
  • Cursing
  • Gluttony
  • Drunkenness
  • Being immodest
  • Telling and laughing at off-colored jokes


The Scripture gives us an idea of what he might have been doing when they tell us what the works of the flesh are. In Galatians we read:

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)


So what made the prodigal son realize that this way of life, the way of life that he had probably dreamed of while still with his father, what made him realize that this way of life wasn’t working?

The day came when he met with suffering and loss. Sometimes suffering and loss can bring us much closer to the truth than complacency or satisfying our lusts can bring us.

He suffered destitution spending “everything.” His…


  • Money
  • Property
  • Talents
  • Opportunities
  • Thoughts


Everything that he had was misused to satisfy the lusts of the flesh. That’s what the world, the country that is foreign to our God’s heavenly kingdom, teaches us to do, but God tells us:

…to present our body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God….Not to be conformed to this world, but to be transformed by the renewal of our mind… (Rom 12:1-2)


When we seek to satisfy ourselves outside of God’s design we end up destitute and frustrated, not satisfied at all.

Do we pattern ourselves after the prodigal son in this way? What do we spend everything that we are and have on? We may not spend “everything” on satisfying our lusts, but do we spend “anything” on it? We are called by God to be 100% sold out for His purposes and not to spend anything that we have or are on the lusts of our flesh, which work against God. The Scriptures tell us that the desires of the Spirit and those of the flesh are actually opposed to each other. In Galatians we read:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Gal 5:16-17)


So when we see that in our lives we have areas where we are walking in a way to gratify our fleshly desires, what do we do? Well, as the prodigal son did when he realized that the world’s way just didn’t work, so must we do. He realized his sin and went back to his father in repentance.

Do you want to be healed?

This is my first post here, I am testing the waters a bit... (pun intended). The richness of what is found in John 5 and the miracle by the pool of Bethseda speaks so well to attitudes of a kind of laziness of faith that can happen in all of us.

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids--blind, lame, and paralyzed [waiting for the moving of the water;] [for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water: whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.] One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?" The sick man answered him, "Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me." Jesus said to him, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed." But he answered them, "The man who healed me, that man said to me, 'Take up your bed, and walk.'" They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Take up your bed and walk'?" Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you." The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. (Joh 5:1-15)

Such a simple question "Do you want to be healed?"

What would you say? Yes, of course!

But the man said there was no one to help him down into the water. There he lay for so many years never finding what he sought, relief from his afflictions, just languishing away without hope. Well... hope in some superstition perhaps, but no real direction. Not only did he look to some supernatural myth but he rationalised that the problem was a lack of help and others receiving their healing when he could have gotten it. Maybe even a bit self centred.... focusing on himself like that, wouldn't you say?

It would even be easy to see that if he had gotten healed he might have ended up right back at the pool eventually seeking restoration. Back to square one, back to not believing and once again tortured by doubts and misery. Would it be that some Christians even fall into that kind of thinking? Don't we sometimes hear of those that have to "re-confess", "re-dedicate their lives", or even choose by their own will to believe and have faith. That is what the man thought he could attain, if only he could finally do it... and if someone would just help him even!

A funny thing happened on the way to Jerusalem... as Jesus dropped by the Bethesda pool... there was that man mired in his situation, and for a long time at that!

What if Jesus wasn't there? And what if one day the man just decided to get up and walk? Do you think he could do it and for how long? How soon the doubts might get the better of him, a little fatigue one day, a sore muscle the next day and he might think his "problem" is coming back and he needs to go down to the pool again.

Many want their sins forgiven but they go about doing this according to their own ideas. They go to church. They try to do good things. They want to hear "feel good" sermons that mask their condition. They seek out smooth talkers that tickle their ears with how to do it. Some go to great lengths to talk about their sins and how things just aren't working for them. Or worse, how they just need to turn their lives around and finally get right with God.

Ah yes, just choose the right path and all is well. And so they prostrate themselves around the pool of false hopes. Never mind that only the Holy Spirit can change them, that someone would come up to them and say "pick up your bed and walk", and that it would be effectual. The cure is not at the side of that pool but at the feet of Christ. The heart is convicted of it's sins when asked metaphorically by the Law "do you want to be healed" and with opened eyes it is confronted with the foreboding reality that those waters are unreachable.

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Gal 3:22-26 )

Through the Gospel we hear "Get up!, Get up and walk in the newness of life!". What Christ has done is sought you out and redeemed you through His death and resurrection. No longer at that other pool of despair need you go but to the fount of living waters that flows eternally. Throw off these shackles of the darkened mind, stop looking for an answer in rituals and rules crafted by depraved ingenuity, leave behind the old nature and the old man. It isn't your choice when told by Christ to pick up and go.

Or as it says in Gal 5:16 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

So then what holds us back, is it sin? Then we repent and walk onward. We no longer are to live our lives filled with doubt and excuses, wallowing in our misery and failure. Reflect Christ victorious in our lives.

2009-10-20

Fruit of Selfishness

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:11-24)


This empty conceit and selfishness that are seeds in the prodigal son’s character leads to a particular fruit…as all seed leads to its own kind of fruit. This kind of seed produces the fruit of suffering. We see in our passage that the prodigal son suffered in 5 things.

He suffered being destitute. He spent all that he had, he wasted his entire inheritance and had nothing to show for it. He lost his:

  • Money
  • Property
  • Talents
  • Purpose
  • Opportunities


All of these things he used to fulfill the lusts of his flesh. All of these things that should have been a blessing to him, turned into a curse because he fed his flesh and not his spirit. This son misused the gifts that his father had given to him, and it lead to utter poverty. This son rebelled against his generous father…and the gifts that the father had given him, that should have been used to bring honor to the father, were used to further sin by feeding the son’s lusts.

How many times have we used the gifts that our Heavenly Father has given us for our own lusts? How many times have we used money, property, talent, and opportunities to further our own little kingdoms instead of using them to further the great and awesome kingdom of our God? I fear that it’s too many times to even count. Do we spend our gifts on the God who gave them to us or do we spend them on ourselves? Do we walk in the Spirit in all that we do or do we walk in the flesh, which lusts against the Spirit?

One of the greatest gifts that God gives us is time. I realize this more and more as I see people who die in their prime of life. Time is a gift that we must use while we have it because every moment that we neglect is a moment that we have lost, we can’t get it back. God tells us in His Word to:

Look carefully how we walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. (Eph 5:15-16)


Are we making the best use of our time? Are we living the life that Christ died for us to live? A life that is patterned after Christ, not the world? Or are we living a life that looks no different from those whom Christ has not redeemed? How much time do we spend at work, watching t.v., going to sporting events, going to movies, and on and on? Compared to that, how much time do we spend in prayer, reading the Scripture, evangelizing, communing with the saints? I would encourage all of us to take a serious look at how we spend our time, that we may learn how to better use it for the glory of God.

This prodigal son clothed himself with the world. He tried to find satisfaction in the world and to be comforted by the world. Make no mistake; we can’t be clothed both by the world and by Christ. Being clothed by the world leaves us just as it did this prodigal son, alone and destitute. Being clothed with Christ leaves us always in the blessings of God because in Christ we are:

Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3)


If we truly put on Christ why do we look so much like the world and so little like Christ? Our Lord tells us to

walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Rom 13:13-14)


Can any of us accomplish what God demands of us here? Can we work to make no provision for the flesh? We are helpless and completely unable to do this, but that is why we are first told to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” For though it is impossible with man, all things are possible with God (Mk 10:27). There is one thing that we are called to do in order to make no provision for the flesh…put on Christ. Some may say, “But wait…what about the armor of God? Surely that’s many things that we must put on.” Well, let’s look at that. In the armor of God we have:


  • Belt of truth – Jesus is the truth
  • Breastplate of righteousness – Jesus is our righteousness
  • Shoes of the Gospel of peace – the Gospel of peace is the work of Christ
  • Shield of faith – our faith is in Jesus
  • Helmet of salvation – salvation comes from Christ
  • Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – Christ is the Word, and He will slay His enemies with the sword of His mouth


So you see, the armor of God is nothing less than Christ Himself!

2009-10-19

Selfishness

And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate. (Luk 15:11-24)


The selfishness of the prodigal son is seen in his words “give me.” Though this was a natural son of the father, he didn’t love his father. Now when I use the word “love” I use it in the sense that God uses it, not in the way that the world does. The world tends to call love that warm fuzzy emotional feeling that we can have for something or someone. God’s Word uses love in the sense of giving oneself to another. That’s why God doesn’t just tell us to love those who evoke that emotion from us, but to even go so far as to loving our enemies. Clearly if we are to love our enemies, love is not some emotion that happens to us but rather a willful act of putting another above ourselves.

The prodigal son saying “give me” shows that his concern was for himself above his father. We have very similar signs of selfishness in today’s Church.

In marriages that are falling apart we hear things like “I want this from my spouse” or “I want this out of my marriage,” but we rarely hear “I need to do this for my spouse” or “I need to do this for my marriage” or “in what ways can I do more to put my spouse’s interests above my own.”

In church membership we hear things like “how can this church bless me” and “what programs are in this church for me”. When what we should be hearing is “how can I bless this church” and “how can God use me here.” The Scriptures are where we get God’s idea of what a Church is supposed to be, and I don’t think He mentions programs at all. A Church is really about the communion of the saints, the preaching of the Word of God, and the administration of the sacraments.

As parents many of us have witnessed selfishness in our children. They are very bold to make selfish statements like “I want”, “give me”, and will even throw temper tantrums when they don’t get their way. Let’s not fool ourselves, adults aren’t much different – we just hide it better. It’s really only as we grow in God’s grace that we’re able to be less interested in our own desires, and more interested in the desires of God and others.

As we look at how the prodigal son was selfish and the results of that mindset, let’s take a close look at our own hearts and see where in our lives we are still like the prodigal son.

So we know this selfish mindset led the prodigal son to want things other than the Father’s love. Instead of saying to the father, “give me your love” he said, “give me my inheritance.” And because this son took the inheritance and left the father to go spend it on himself and his lusts, he also said “give me my independence.” How many times do we fall into this same pattern with our heavenly Father? How many times do we ask our Father for things so that we can spend them on our lusts? How often do we approach our glorious heavenly Father with worldly requests? Instead of being transformed by God’s presence so that we seek His holiness and piety in our lives we try to pull God down to our worldly level. In James 4 we have this warning…

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (Jam 4:3-4)


This prodigal son was not only selfish, but he was also rude and unkind. He didn’t say “please give me” or “may I please have”, he simply said “give me.” As a matter of fact, he told the father to give him the inheritance as if it was his right. He said, “Give me the share of property that is coming to me.” The idea behind what he’s saying here is basically, “give me what belongs to me.” As if the father had no right to the son’s inheritance before his death. Some commentators have even gone so far as to say that the son asking for the inheritance in this way is tantamount to saying that he wished his father was dead so that he could have his share in the inheritance.

This rudeness is a direct result of a selfish mindset. When we are consumed with ourselves we treat others as mere objects in our quest for self-satisfaction. We use them and think of ourselves and our own interests as being more important than theirs. This self-centeredness is evidence of a worldly mindset. The selfish are interested in what the world has to offer. They are consumed with coveting and lusting after what the world seems to offer them. The Scriptures have many things to say about this kind of self-centered, worldly mindset:

It chokes out the Word of God that’s planted in our heart:

but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mar 4:19)


It gives the wrong idea of what our lives are all about:

And he said to them, "Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." (Luk 12:15)


It is the root of all kinds of other evils:

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Ti 6:9-10)


These passages are a strong warning for us against such a mindset. We’re not to be worldly minded, but spiritually minded. We’re not to put ourselves above others, but others above ourselves.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Rom 8:5)


Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Phili 2:3)


So the Scripture doesn’t leave us wondering what mindset God desires us to have, He tells us quite plainly in His Word. So the question we should ask ourselves is, “how are we conforming our lives to the Word of God in terms of our mindset?” Are we setting our minds on the things of the flesh or of the spirit? Are we putting ourselves above others or do we esteem others as more significant than ourselves?

Let me point out that the term “conceit” in Philippians 2:3 is really “empty conceit” and the term “humility” is really “humility of mind.” The only reason that I point this out is to show that whatever conceit we have is empty, there’s nothing in us that deserves to be exalted. We are just fooling ourselves when we are conceited and think of ourselves above others. And that’s why we are called to have humility of mind. If we don’t understand our true state of lowliness any humility that we acted out would be just that, an act. But when we truly understand how lowly we are, our humility is naturally manifested. This is only done through a work of God as it is only in the light of His countenance that we can be truly mindful of the nature of our own lowliness.

2009-10-17

The Old Gray Dog Ponders . . . Covenant Theology

Posted here with the permission and encouragement of The Old Gray Dog

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broke for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.

I Cor. 11: 23-26


We can chart the path to the future clearly and wisely only when we know the path that has led to the present.

Adlai Stevenson



Perhaps nothing helps us understand God's relationship with humanity better than covenant theology.


History is divided into two major covenant relationships with God:

*the covenant of works;

*the covenant of grace.


This duel approach to the human/divine relationship is clearly taught in the Westminster Standards:


I. The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

II. The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and personal obedience.

III. Man, by his fall, having made himself incapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second, commonly called the covenant of grace; wherein he freely offereth unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ; requiring of them faith in him, that they may be saved, and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life his Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.

IV. This covenant of grace is frequently set forth in Scripture by the name of a testament, in reference to the death of Jesus Christ the Testator, and to the everlasting inheritance, with all things belonging to it, therein bequeathed.

V. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foresignifying Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the old testament.

Westminster Confession of Faith, 7. 1-5


I. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts, and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of his obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God's approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man's doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law; and, not under grace. Westminster Confession of Faith 19. 1, 6

Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.

Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant, in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a mediator, and life and salvation by him; and requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God, and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.

Q. 33. Was the covenant of grace always administered after one and the same manner?
A. The covenant of grace was not always administered after the same manner, but the administrations of it under the Old Testament were different from those under the New.

Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all foresignify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised messiah, by whom they then had full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.

Q. 35. How is the covenant of grace administered under the New Testament?
A. Under the New Testament, when Christ the substance was exhibited, the same covenant of grace was and still is to be administered in the preaching of the word, and the administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper; in which grace and salvation are held forth in more fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations.

Q. 36. Who is the mediator of the covenant of grace?
A. The only mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Q. 97. What special use is there of the moral law to the regenerate?
A. Although they that are regenerate, and believe in Christ, be delivered from the moral law as a covenant of works, so as thereby they are neither justified nor condemned; yet besides the general uses thereof common to them with all men, it is of special use, to show them how much they are bound to Christ for his fulfilling it, and enduring the curse thereof in their stead, and for their good; and thereby to provoke them to more thankfulness, and to express the same in their greater care to conform themselves thereunto as the rule of their obedience.


Westminster Larger Catechism, Questions 31-36,97



The Covenant of Works


This is the covenant God made with Adam before the Fall. In the covenant of works, God promised to bless Adam as long as he obeyed God's commands.


Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."

Gen. 1: 26-28


Judgment would be the consequence of disobedience.


Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

Gen. 2: 15-17


Adam's (in)fidelity was the determining factor in the covenant of works.


Like Adam, they have broken the covenant - they were unfaithful to Me there.

Hos. 6: 7



The Covenant of Grace


This covenant is with Christ, the last Adam. This arrangement is called the covenant of grace because it was made through Christ's death and resurrection.


He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will . . .

Eph. 1: 4-5


The covenant of grace is the historical expression of God's unconditional election of a people for Christ.


All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.

John 6: 37


The covenant of grace is the practical manifestation of God's eternal plan for His children. It's first promise is found in Genesis:


And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel."

Gen. 3: 15


One day, the seed of the woman (Christ) would crush the head of the serpent (Satan). After this, the covenant of grace was revealed in five stages.


I

The covenant given to Noah


And God said: "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. 14It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." And God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth."

Gen. 9: 12-17


This covenant provides a stable natural order within which God's redemptive plan would unfold.


II

The covenant given to Abraham


When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram and said, "To your descendants I give this land. . .

Gen. 15: 17-18


This covenant begins several stages of covenants made with the nation of Israel as God's Chosen People. Abraham's descendents would receive great blessings and be God's instrument of blessing all the elect.


III

The covenant given to Moses


Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, "This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 'You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.'

Exodus 19: 3-6


The covenant of the Law was given to guide the nation to greater blessings in the Promised Land.


IV

The covenant given to David


You said, "I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to David my servant, 'I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through all generations.' "

Psalm 89: 3-4


God made a royal covenant with David in which He promised that the King of His people would be of the seed of David.


V

The New Covenant established by Christ


"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah-- 32not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,
says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Jer. 31: 31-34


This covenant comes in three stages:

1. The first incarnation of the Christ;

2. The Church;

3. The Second Coming.


As the covenant of grace was progressively revealed to us, the various stages did not differ in substance, were not contradictory, but were one and the same under various dispensations. (WCF, 7.6)



The New Covenant: The Supreme Expression of God's one eternal covenant of grace


But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Heb. 9: 11-15


The duel framework of the covenants of works and grace describe the whole of God's sovereign relationship with humanity. We are dead in sin. God unconditionally chooses to redeem us. Christ offered Himself as the substitutionary atonement for sinfulness. The Holy Spirit regenerates our sin-dead hearts and draws us to Christ. In Him we are eternally secure. This is how lost sinners become eternally secure saints.

Salvation comes to us because Christ fulfilled the requirements of the covenant of works through His perfect obedience. As a result, our salvation is covenant salvation: Justification and adoption, regeneration and sanctification are covenant mercies; election is God's choice of the members of His covenant community.




God is Sovereign


Whether it was with Noah, Abraham, Moses, or David, one thing is abundantly clear: The covenants were not negotiated. They were the unconditional, irresistible arrangements of our sovereign God made with a limited number of people chosen according to God's will. The free will of the recipients had nothing to do with the promises of God. That is true of the covenant of grace as well. God does not require our permission.


Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

John 14: 6


Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4: 12

God has provided one way, and one way only, to Himself: Jesus Christ. It does not matter how much we may like our non-Christians friends, God's covenant of grace is only through Christ.

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

John 15: 16

The difference between Christianity and all other religions is this: God chose us; we did not choose God. God unconditionally chose to include us in His covenant of grace.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

John 6: 44

We do not initiate the covenant relationship; God does.

Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."

John 10: 25-30

The covenant is not for everyone. But to those of us who have been drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit, the promise is sure: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.


Faith and Certainty

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.

Heb. 11: 1-3

Our Christian faith is an absolute certainty. It is not a matter of personal opinion; it is a matter of divinely revealed fact. What God has promised in His covenant of grace will be fulfilled in our lives. In the early days of the Church, a humble Christian was brought before a judge. He told the judge that nothing the state could do would shake his confidence in God's covenant of grace.

"Do you really think," asked the judge, "that the likes of you will go to God and His glory?"

"I do not think," the man said, "I know!"

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

II Tim. 2: 15

When Christians rightly understand the Word of God, we KNOW. Until Christians grasp the essential tenets taught in Scripture, they will not know the peace and comfort of their faith. They will not have the courage to be fruitful members of God's covenant community.

+Apart from Christ, everyone is dead in sin (Eph. 2: 1,5); that's total depravity.
+God unconditionally chooses those who will serve Him (Eph 1: 4; 2: 8-10); that's unconditional election.

+Christ died on the cross to pay the price for the sins of the chosen (Col.1: 21-22); that's limited atonement.
+The Holy Spirit draws all the chosen to Christ (John 6: 37,44); that's irresistible grace.
+All the chosen will go to Heaven (John 10: 28-29); that's perseverance of the saints.


All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

II Tim. 3: 16-17

Unless Christians are equipped with these eternal truths, we will not be responsible members of God's covenant community.

*We may bring our children to the Church for baptism, but we will not know how to bring them up in the care and nurture of the Lord.

*Our young people may become communicant members of the Church, but they will not know how to resist the temptations of the Evil One.

*We may bury our dead with a Christian service, yet not know the peace and comfort of our faith because all anyone ever taught us was that God is good and we should be, too. So, as we stare into the grave, we wonder: Was _____ good enough? Am I?

We can spell out ethical imperatives, but if we don't equip Christians with a clear, unequivocal understanding of how they move from being lost sinners to eternally secure saints, we are just sending them off on a guilt trip.

Christians who have not been equipped with the sound doctrines of TULIP will never know the peace and confidence which is ours as members of God's covenant community.

And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

II Tim. 2: 2

We need Christian leaders who are able to teach sound doctrine to others. We don't need clever clich├ęs and pious platitudes; nor do we need ungodly chatter which turns to gangrene in the body of Christ.

Garbage In, Garbage Out


Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.

II Tim. 2: 15-16


I believe with all my heart that the Bible is the infallible rule of faith and life. But the key is rightly dividing the word of truth. The Bible is not a magic book; we can't just close our eyes, open it, put our finger down and expect to find the answers to our problems. We must understand what the Bible is teaching us from Genesis to Revelation. Lacking that understanding will inevitably lead to profane and idle babblings.


The doctrines of God's grace -- TULIP -- are not all that the Bible teaches, but without understanding them the rest is impossible to discern.


T is for total depravity. Humanity is not basically good, but dead in sin. If you read the Bible with an understanding that people are all basically good, you cannot help but be confused by what you read.

U is for unconditional election. We contribute nothing to our salvation. It is an unconditional gift from God. If you read the Bible with an understanding that people have a free will in choosing redemption, you cannot help but be confused by what you read.

L is for limited atonement. Christ did not die on the Cross to make salvation possible for all, but a surety for some. In other words, Christ's atonement is limited in scope, but not in power. If you read the Bible with an understanding that Christ to save everyone, you cannot help but be confused by what you read.

I is for irresistible grace. Everyone God unconditionally chose, and everyone Christ redeemed on the Cross, will be irresistibly drawn to Christ by the Holy Spirit through spiritual regeneration. If you read the Bible with an understanding that people are responsible for "saving souls," you cannot help but be confused by what you read.

P is for perseverance of the saints. No one chosen by God, redeemed by Christ, and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can ever lose their salvation. If you read the Bible with an understanding that people must merit going to Heaven by their good works, you cannot help but be confused by what you read.


All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

II Tim. 3: 16-17


When a saint rightly understands the great message of the Bible, it will enable him to profit from the doctrine taught, the reproofs given, the corrections made, and the directions given for right living. Only then will we be equipped for every good work which God created us to do.



Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.

II Tim. 2: 16-17


The Church is God's covenant community. It is not a day-care, a bridge club, a dating service, or a forum for pop psychology. A denomination which neglects the essential tenets of Scripture will soon find itself accommodating sexual immorality as an alternate lifestyle; killing the unborn as birth control; and ultimately, the denying the Lordship of Christ in the name of ecumenism.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

Romans 10: 14

Our mainline denominations will remain apostate until their clergy have the courage to preach God's unpopular truth:

*People are not basically good and decent. They are totally depraved sinners, deserving God's wrath, not His blessing.

*People don't have a free will to choose whether to be part of God's covenant community. God's election is unconditional.

*Christ died to redeem the elect, not to make salvation a possibility, should we choose to accept.

*God's grace is irresistible. God does not need our permission to love us.

*Saints persevere. The rest perish.

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

II Tim. 4: 3-4

That time is here. We are too often choosing our clergy on the basis of their personal charisma, rather than on their ability to teach sound doctrine.


"This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me."

For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes.


It is time for all of us to get back to being the covenant community He died for.


Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man's chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

Westminster Larger Catechism

A young man worked very hard to save up enough money to take his first vacation, an ocean cruise. He carefully pack all his clothing, and toiletries. Then, because he would be gone for a week, he packed cheese and crackers for him to eat. When evening came on the first day of his big adventure, the young man noticed other passengers going in to the dining room and having a delicious dinner. He returned to his cabin and ate cheese and crackers. The next morning, he noticed people eating a wonderful breakfast in the dining room. He went back to his cabin and ate cheese and crackers. So it went until the last day of the cruise. By then, the cheese and crackers were quite stale, and the young man became desperate for a "decent meal." He went to the ship's steward and begged him, "Please, sir! I will do anything for one good meal before this cruise is finished!" The steward looked at the young man in astonishment. "Sir, are you not a passenger? Has your fare not been paid? You are entitled to eat any of the food offered abroad this ship. Everything we have to offer became yours when your ticket was purchased. All the young man could say was, "I didn't know."

How can we glorify God and enjoy Him forever if we do not fully understand the basis of our covenant relationship with Him. Before we entrust anyone to lead us in the 21st century, we had better be sure they are able to teach the truths revealed to us in the 1st century. Before we claim to be the people of the Word, we had better be sure we understand what the Word says.

Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Heb. 13: 20


We praise Thee, O God, our exceeding joy, who daily pourest Thy benefits upon us. Grant, we pray, that Jesus our Lord, the Hope of Glory, may be formed in us in all humility, patience, and absolute surrender of our souls and bodies to Thy holy will and pleasure. Instill in us the confidence which is ours as members of Thy covenant community so that we may be conducted safely through all changes of our condition here, in an unchangeable love to Thee and in holy tranquility of mind in Thy love toward us, till we come to dwell with Thee and rejoice in Thee forever. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen